Advice

Seven things Aussies might find hard to get used to in Canada

No two countries are the same, and there will always be things that surprise you in a new place. Here are seven things Aussies will find different and little hard to get used to when they move to Canada (and some of these apply to the USA as well).

1. Lower pay

Across the board, it is almost certain that you will make less money here for doing the exact same work you were doing in Australia.

Example, when I was working at McDonald’s Australia in 2006, I was getting paid $21AUD per hour. The minimum wage in Ontario at that time was $7.75CAD.

In 2012, I was working at Sydney Airport for $24AUD per hour, increased to $27AUD per hour if my shift was between midnight and 4am. I moved to Toronto and got the exact same job two months later and was paid $12CAD an hour.

The minimum wage in Canada varies by province. In Ontario it’s $14 an hour. With the current AUDCAD exchange rate where 1CAD = $1.09AUD, that’s $15.26 an hour before taxes.

And it was only raised a couple of years ago. From $11.40. Which means that a lot of roles that were above minumum wage, paying $14 to $16 an hour, were considered “good” pay, and not all have caught up and increased their pay.

So you could be doing work like office administration and be getting basically minimum wage.

2. Less vacation time

Oh cute, did you think you were going to come do a working holiday in Canada and then spend all your free time travelling everywhere?

Well good luck doing that with only ten paid vacation days PER YEAR. And most of the time, you can’t let them roll over into the next year.

Coming from a country where most jobs give you about 4 weeks of paid vacation, it’s a bit of a shock to the system when you come here and learn that every year, your employer will only give you ten (10) paid vacation days.

Unlike doing a working holiday in the UK, where you can fly to another country for the weekend and pay a ridiculously cheap fair – flights within Canada are pretty pricey, and, as outlined in point number one, you’re not getting paid a lot here.

Sure, you can drive – but car rentals are also really expensive, and Canada is the second largest land mass in the world, which means it takes a LONG time to travel by car.

Are you okay with not going back to Australia until your visa is done? Or if you do stay here, only going once every few years?

Because your ten paid vacation days equal one decent trip to visit home per year. If you choose to use your vacation in another way, such as a few days in Vegas or going to the UK for a week, you can kiss the trip home goodbye. So you kind of have to choose between taking vacations elsewhere, taking a “stay-cation”, or using the time to go home.

Unless, you take the last week in December and the first week in January off. That way, you’re only using 5 of the days per year.

Or, it IS possible to go to Australia for a week. I’ve done it. I don’t recommend it, because you spend about as much time on a plane as you do in Australia, but it’s definitely possible!

3. Tipping

Yes, if you’ve been to the USA or Canada once in your life, you know that you’re supposed to tip wait staff and bartenders.

But, did you know you’re also expected to tip for other services? Cab and Uber drivers? Delivery people? Hairdressers? Estheticians? Movers? The list is substantial.

Which brings me to number four.

4. Taxes not being included in the price

In most cases, the marked price you see is never what you’re going to pay. From food to electronics to your monthly phone plan, you always have to factor in what the added taxes are going to be when you get to the checkout/receive your bill.

Not only does it trick you into thinking that things are cheaper than they really are (because those $50 jeans are really $56.50 with taxes) but it also makes it really hard to budget.

When you factor in taxes and then add on a tip if necessary, it gets pricey!

I have no idea why it’s like this and it’s really annoying. Canadians joke that it’s the government’s way of keeping their citizens’ math skills sharp, or it’s so you know the retailer isn’t ripping you off.

Well that’s all fine…. but can’t we just include the taxes in the price??

5. Disgusting processed food

When I first moved here, unless it was fruits, veggies and animal products, everything I ate made me feel sick. There are so many crazy ingredients in processed food here, it’s scary to read labels.

Like bread! It basically tastes like cake, with all the sugar they put in it, and the enriched wheat flour doesn’t help.

Chocolate and sodas are sweetened with corn syrup instead of cane sugar, and they taste much sweeter than those same products in Australia.

I’ve been a choco-holic sugar junkie my entire life, but after moving here I greatly reduced the amount of that stuff I was eating, because I found it tasted awful (probably a good thing, I know).

The best example are McDonald’s fries. In Canada and the USA, they’re made with NINETEEN ingredients!!! In Australia, it’s only THREE.

I bought a generic brand of vanilla “ice cream” the other day without reading the label. It tasted like egg whites so I threw it out. The garbage bag I had put it in had a hole in it, so the remainder melted and dripped through. All that dripped out was sticky corn syrup. It was so disgusting! My floor was covered in goo! Where was the melted milk/cream? How is that ice cream???

Unfortunately, to avoid the nasties, you have to spend more money. It’s really tempting to buy the $1 chips instead of the $4 ones, until you turn the package over and find and additional 5 gross ingredients on the $1 one that you just don’t want to put into your body.

You start to get really good at reading labels.

6. Watching what you say/how you say it

I’ve written about this before with specific examples (read it here), but the Australian vernacular can be quite a lot to take, because we tend to speak in a straight-forward way.

Canadians are more reserved, which is one of the reasons they have a reputation for being so nice. Sometimes, you can accidentally put a Canadian off by using a phrase that is considered friendly in Australia.

A great example: When you do something nice for someone in Australia, or give them a gift, and they say “thank you”, you respond with “that’s alright!” which is the equivalent to “my pleasure”.

But in Canada, “that’s alright” is used more when someone apologises for something. So it’s a little weird for them to hear you say “that’s alright” because it kind of sounds like you were doing them a favour. It’s more polite to say “you’re welcome.”

This is just one example that I noticed in my interactions with people here over the years. It’s not a hard and fast rule and it doesn’t apply to everyone and everything!

7. Being inside a lot

This one is specific to Eastern Canada.

Unless you enjoy a wind chill of -12C blowing on your face, or tiptoeing on icy sidewalks, you’d better get used to an indoor life from as early as November until as late as May.

Thankfully there are many facilities around the country where you can enjoy “outdoor” activities indoors, such as indoor golf courses, indoor soccer “fields”, indoor walking tracks, and so on. But being in the fresh air and surrounded by nature usually requires some level of being freezing.

So there you have it, seven things you might have to get used to if you choose to live here! Prepare yourself!

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Advice

The top things to pack when you move from Australia to Canada

When Aussies are preparing to move over here, a question that is commonly asked is “What are some absolute essentials to bring from Australia when you move to Canada?”

Honestly, the answer is nothing. Canada will have pretty much anything you need, but it will be different brands or look different. But there’s hardly anything you can get in Australia that you can’t get here. You could technically come here with just the clothes you’re wearing and your passport, then head straight to the mall (or even order online) anything and everything you can think of to get you started – from furniture to underwear!

Prices here for a lot of things are really similar. Some things are more expensive, but some are cheaper, so overall, it ends up being similar.

But you might find that you don’t like the Canadian version of some of your personal favourites, so take advantage of the generous North America luggage allowance and load up on them!

Even though a lot of the things you will need are available here, unless you’re coming with endless amounts of money, it’s a good idea to bring as much as you can to get started (and not spend your fun money on things you already own but left in Australia). On flights from Australia to North America, your luggage allowance is two bags at 23kg each. That’s almost 50kg of stuff you can move over, included in the price of your ticket. Take advantage of it.

Aside from that, there are some Aussie goodies you’ll want to bring with you because you won’t be able to find them here (or if you do, they’ll be really expensive).

1. Vegemite

Vegemite on toast

I’m aware not every single Australian citizen enjoys Vegemite. But in both the Aussies in Toronto and Aussies in Canada Facebook groups I am a member of, it is one of the most frequently asked questions. Previously fairly easy to find, it was recently pulled off the shelves and now people are clamouring for it.

It’s bad out there, guys.

But please do yourself a favour and pack the ones in the plastic containers. Unless you are a packing wizard, it’s likely the glass jars won’t hold up in your luggage. I’ve seen quite a few tragic stories of Vegemite jars travelling across the Pacific only to arrive as a gunky heap of broken glass. R.I.P.

2. A cell phone

Because buying one one on a plan is expensive here. You’re obviously going to come here with your own cell phone from home anyway, but make sure it’s a good one that you’ll want to keep during your time here. Don’t be planning to buy a better phone when you get here thinking it will be cheaper. It’s obviously a lot cheaper to go on a “bring your own device plan” especially for iPhones.

3. Lucas Paw Paw ointment

Lucas paw paw ointment

If you’re a devoted paw paw user, like a lot of Aussies are, be aware that it’s not available here (and is a god send for those chapped winter lips!) If you’re already here and you’re sans paw paw and desperate, you can order it on Amazon for a hefty mark-up.

4. Snow/Winter gear

But only if you already own it

If you are someone who goes to “the snow” in Australia and has your own collection of proper winter gear, and you are planning to continue doing winter sports when you arrive in Canada, bring it with you. Otherwise buy it when you get here. Not only is it much more affordable here, you also won’t be taking up precious space in your luggage on the trip over.

5. Aussie foods you love.

While some things are starting to appear on Canadian shelves, there are other things you’ll start craving that you won’t be able to get here- think Milo, Allen’s Lollies, Twisties, Cherry Ripes, Picnics, Shapes, etc. (Note: you will see tins of Milo on supermarket shelves but it’s imposter Milo.)

some Australian snack foods

6. A voltage converter

Not just an adapter, but a converter, unless you want to blow up your single voltage devices. The voltage in North America is only 120 volts versus the 240 volts in Australia. I did not know this and upon arrival I immediately destroyed my $300 Parlux hair dryer (and my not so expensive Babyliss curling iron). Oops. Thankfully my laptop survived.

Even then, voltage converters are generally better for short-term use. If you use your hairdryer several times a week and you stay here for 2 years, you’re not going to want to rely on a voltage converter. I’ve heard stories about devices not operating as well as they used to while using them through a converter. It’s better if you purchase appliances that are dual voltage (this way you can take them back home and use them there with just an adapter) or purchase new appliances that are rated for the North America voltage . Thankfully, compared to Australia, many of these appliances are reasonably priced for decent brands.

7. For the ladies – Bonds undies.

Okay, this is a weird, very specific one, but it’s really hard to find 100% cotton women’s underwear here for some reason! I have seen a lot of men’s underwear that is 100% cotton in many places though. But for women, it’s a lot of microfibre, or lycra, or 96% cotton/4% spandex, or something else. Maybe I haven’t been looking in the right places, and feel free to correct me, but I’ve been here for 7 years and I still haven’t found them – not in La Senza, Victoria Secret, La Vie En Rose, Walmart – anywhere. I gave up looking after a few years. Maybe that’s why. Anyway – if you love your Bonds undies, bring several!

So there you have it. Seven things you definitely need to include in your “I’m moving to Canada” packing list!

What else would be on your list? Let me know in the comments!

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