How To Survive Your First Year In Canada (8/10)


Welcome To Canada! Wel­come to my new “How To… Canada” series! In this series, I’ll try to put my knowl­edge to good use and shed some light on my new coun­try: Canada. You will learn how some immi­gra­tion tips and tricks, how to improve your pro­fi­ciency in both offi­cial lan­guages, how to find a job, how to set­tle in Canada etc. I’ll pub­lish a new “How To… Canada” post every Saturday.

Your first year in Canada will most likely be one of the most inter­est­ing year in your life. You made it, after all! Yet, adapt­ing to a new cul­ture and to a new coun­try takes patience and time. Here are my tips to sur­vive your first year in Canada.

Sur­viv­ing your first Cana­dian win­ter:

  • Buy warm clothes and dress in lay­ers: save your money, buy win­ter clothes in Canada. A French jacket will never be as warm as a Cana­dian one… The best way to keep warm is to dress in lay­ers: out­door is freez­ing but indoor is often very well heated. The most impor­tant thing to remem­ber when you go out is to trap the body heat: for­get about these low-rise pants and invest in long shirts, sweaters, gloves, good socks etc.
  • Do check the fore­cast: the weather can change very fast in Canada. The first thing I do in the morn­ing is often to check the ther­mome­ter out­side, as I quickly learned that sunny days in win­ter can be extremely cold (we’re talk­ing below –20C here!). You will also want to know if it’s likely to snow dur­ing the day, and if it does, how many inches are fore­casted. Trust me, 30cm of snow can make a huge dif­fer­ence in your day.
  • Plan trans­porta­tion ahead: if you drive, you may need to plug your car (block heater) in the morn­ing to warm it up. If you take the bus, you may have to allow allow extra time to get to the bus stop dur­ing a snow storm. If there is freez­ing rain, you don’t want to be caught on the free­way as roads are extremely slip­pery.
  • Must buy win­ter acces­sories: a shovel (if you live in a house) to dig your way out. If you don’t trust me, check out Bliz­zard… Checked or The Weather! Keep a snow brush and an ice scraper in your car as well, because just between us, a credit card isn’t that great to scrape the ice from your wind­shield… no mat­ter how good your credit is! As for clothes, gloves and a hat are indis­pens­able. I also like large scarves that can cover your mouth in your nose..
  • Read more: on Seven Cana­dian Win­ter Facts!

If you’re homesick…

  • Read, watch TV, lis­ten to the radio in your mother tongue: check out your local library which will prob­a­bly have books in your mother tongue. You can also pick up a com­mu­nity news­pa­per, most of them are free in big cities. Alter­na­tively, you can watch OMNITV, a chan­nel that has a diver­sity pro­gram­ming with news, movies and doc­u­men­taries in almost every language.
  • Con­nect with other immi­grants: Canada is a very mul­ti­cul­tural nation and chances are, you’re not alone! Some com­mu­ni­ties have their own dis­trict (like Chi­na­town or Lit­tle Italy). You can also visit a new­comer cen­ter (such as the YMCA) or a com­mu­nity cen­ter in your neigh­bor­hood… even libraries in big cities have an info desk for immi­grants! You’re also likely to meet peo­ple attend­ing a lan­guage class or a training.
  • Blog about your expe­ri­ence: it’s always fun to share with fam­i­lies and friends back home! Plus, you can inter­act with other immi­grants in Canada. I have been vir­tu­ally in touch that way with Aiglee (who is from Venezuela and lives in Toronto), with Expat Trav­eler (who is from Switzer­land and lives in Van­cou­ver), a US fam­ily liv­ing in Saskatchewan, Johnada (who is Amer­i­can and lives in Toronto)… and I also exchange with expats around the world!

Liv­ing up to your expectations:

  • Cul­ture shock is to be expected: most peo­ple — includ­ing me — though that because Canada is a first world coun­try, the cul­ture shock won’t be as bad as if, let’s say, you were to move to India or China from West­ern Europe or the U.S.A. Truth is, Canada won’t make you “wow” right away. But this doesn’t mean you know every­thing about it! The cul­ture, the peo­ple, the eti­quette etc. will be new to you and you may find your­self clue­less in social set­tings. Food is dif­fer­ent, and so is the weather, the trans­porta­tion sys­tem etc. Even Eng­lish speaker may need to adjust their vocab­u­lary to “speak Cana­dian”! For more details, read my Cana­dian Mind­set, or Stuffs Cana­di­ans Like Part I and Part II arti­cle.
  • You will find your dream job: most immi­grants, no mat­ter how qual­i­fied they are, find them­selves start­ing from zero. If you man­age to find a posi­tion in your field when you arrive, you may have less respon­si­bil­i­ties than before and a smaller pay­check. You may also have to work a “McJob” to pay the bills while look­ing for a bet­ter posi­tion. Don’t take it per­son­ally. We have all been there and it will get bet­ter.
  • It takes time to improve your lan­guage skills: if French or Eng­lish isn’t your mother tongue, fear not: you’re not alone (see Cana­dian Mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism). There are some great pro­grams to help you with your lan­guage skills, but you need to be patient. It takes time to be com­fort­able speak­ing a for­eign lan­guage! I had been liv­ing with an Eng­lish man for five years when I started this blog and I still wasn’t con­fi­dent enough to write in Eng­lish (Do You Speak Eng­lish). It does improve over­time though and you will swear per­fectly in Eng­lish soon enough!

Immi­grat­ing to a new coun­try is a bold move. You will find what you are look­ing for but you will also expe­ri­ence ups and downs, like every sin­gle other immigrants.Good luck!


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. hi i am john from cochin, india got hooked by your site and pics.…
    now it is 1:55 am and feel­ing ener­getic and blessed to view your site…
    all the very best… keep writ­ing… john

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