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I don’t know the true reasons as to why so many British people are leaving the little island in the North Atlantic, but Canada is one of the most popular destinations. A few years ago I joined the long list of defectors and haven’t looked back. Since emigrating to Canada from the UK I’ve enjoyed the benefits of living the North American life style but this does have some draw backs. Coming from a country where more than 60 million people are boxed into an island approximately 4 times smaller than Ontario, the sheer amount of space is very different than what I was used to. Even though I’ve lived in Canada now just over 5 years and managed to go back to school and secure full-time employment it was all a learning experience I’ll never forget.
Canada Compared To UK
Here are just a few of the other differences I’ve found…..
- Housing: Houses aren’t necessarily what you’d call cheap where I live but what you get for your money is quite different to what you would get in the UK. Here you can get a 1500 sq ft residence with a garage as opposed to 600-700 sq ft with no basement or garage for roughly the same amount.
- Farming: Large range of locally produced foods, which depending on the season, gives you better tasting fruit and vegetables instead of eating that imported tasteless stuff from the southern states or Central America. It’s not tasteless because it comes from those areas, it’s tasteless because it’s not ripe when it’s picked and it spends a ridiculous amount of time in transit. Eating local also stimulates the local economy. A lot of fresh produce is imported in the UK.
- Vehicles: Domestic vehicles are relatively cheap, cheap to buy parts for, you only have to get an E-Test every 2 years and a safety inspection when you buy or sell the vehicle. Owning a car in the UK is a little different other than the blatantly obvious fact that we drive “on the wrong side of the road”. Vehicle owners in the UK get the wonderful opportunity to take their car for a safety inspection every single year as well as an E-Test.
- Cheap gas/diesel: You may think that statement is completely nuts but my parents inform me that the current price of diesel where they live in the UK is £1.39 a litre or $2.17 a litre with gasoline prices not much different. Could you live with paying that much at the pump?
- Taxes: Here HST is 8% and GST in Ontario is 5% for the grand total of 13% Tax on purchases and services. If you think your getting fleeced by the taxman, my fellow Brits pay 20% VAT (Value Added Tax) on a wide variety of purchases and services.
- Booze: Alcohol is government run here in Canada and it’s reflected in the prices. In the UK you can buy alcohol at the corner shop (off licence) or the supermarket and due to the increased competition this leads to cheaper prices.
- Dairy: Cheese, I don’t what it is but it just isn’t the same. We’ve tried more mature cheese but it’s still not as strong as what you can get back in Europe. What’s even worse is the imported cheese from Europe is very expensive compared to what I used to pay.
- Yogurt: I can only thank the Canadian that eventually found that Greek Yogurt existed. If you haven’t tried it, buy some and tell me that it isn’t the best yogurt you’ve had. There is a draw back however and that is the price. I used to buy it for 50p (about a dollar at the time) but you’ve got to fork out $5 here?
- Weather: On the odd occasion that Britain gets a warmer than normal summer everyone tries to cool the house down by having all the windows wide open during the night. Here we just turn the central air conditioning on, because hot sweaty summers are pretty much a sure thing. If you thought you knew snow, you don’t know snow until you’ve lived in Canada, enough said. I must admit that it is nice to experience different seasons other than the “rain season” we get in the UK.
- Travelling: Travel is expensive and you have to go along way before hitting a completely different culture. From here, Central and South America would be my choice to go and explore. Mexico is off limits for me as it’s already been taken over by resorts.
You can find similarities and differences all over the place living in Canada vs the UK and I probably noticed more in the first year I was here. After you’ve grown accustomed to your new life in another country you tend to go with the flow and accept the changes. After all, if living in another country was going to be the same where would the fun be? Probably the most changes had to come from me. If you’re unwilling to accept differences and change accordingly you’ll get frustrated and come to the point where all you want to do is give up and return home.
For 99.9% of Brits coming to Canada there should be next to no real culture shock, but I can understand how other nationalities perceive the culture and why they tend to congregate in areas. People staying together in their own little communities is not just a Toronto thing with little China or little Italy. Years ago when Spain was becoming the destination of choice, the British invasion happened and huge amounts of coastal villas were bought up. The British all tended to stay together because they hadn’t mastered the Spanish language. You see it in every large city, until the 2nd generation grows up, everybody that speaks the same language stay together.
Culture shock can be a killer for some people who emigrate. Personally I had to slow my speech down and use less slang because I just lost people in the middle of conversation. Even though Canadians and British people both speak English, it’s not as easy as that and at times I felt misunderstood. There are multiple subtle differences, mainly in choices of words and names for objects or places and how they are pronounced. The trouble with slowing down your speech and using less slang is that you tend to come cross as really posh which I can assure you is not the case.
Having travelled quite a bit in my 20’s I never really found myself homesick or out of my depth. Travelling to wild and unusual countries when you’re young as opposed to going on holiday and sitting by the pool on a resort drinking yourself stupid are two different things. Travelling and getting right in with the people gives you more of a sense of losing yourself in the country you’re visiting. I have many memories of odd and unusual incidents while travelling, it gives you a different perspective on life.
I once went to the hardware store because I was doing a plumbing repair and needed an “olive” and all I got was strange looks. An expat from further north than where I came from happened to work there and heard my accent and interrupted. The “olive” that I was looking for here is called a “ferrule” and is part of what’s called a “compression joint”. The problem with British English is the fact that we as a nation tend to destroy our own language with slang and the fact we love to shorten just about everything.
Examples of how Canadians might find British English confusing:
Spanner = Wrench
Sounds easy enough until you find out that a person can also be a Spanner simply by being stupid or doing something stupid. “You spanner”
Pants = Trousers
Pants are underwear but can also be part of a statement. “That’s total pants” as in that’s total rubbish.
The benefit of sounding like you’ve just got off the boat is the fact that it can be quite the conversation starter. It doesn’t matter if the other person is a fellow Brit or a Canadian local, getting to know the surrounding population leads to acceptance and being friendly with people will always get you further in life than being ignorant. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still proud to be British, but I’m also proud to say I’m part way to being Canadian. I once was lost but now I’m found as I no longer feel like a stranger in my new home- Canada!