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8 Things More Expensive in Canada than in France

French Graffiti, Ottawa, Spring 2011

Comparing cost of living between two countries is a national sport among immigrants. It’s a touchy debate because unless you’re an economist, it’s hard to make an accurate cost of living comparison. First, it depends on where you lived before (for instance, life in Paris is invariably more expensive than in Brittany) and where you are in Canada (you can’t compare Nunavut with Saskatchewan). Second, our perception is also easily skewed even though economically it all comes down to purchasing power.

I found this tool that make a cost of living comparison between two given countries and picked France and Canada. You can see the results here… no wonder French have purchasing power blues! In a nutshell:

  • Consumer Prices in Canada are 12.67% lower than in France
  • Consumer Prices Including Rent in Canada are 9.87% lower than in France
  • Rent Prices in Canada are 2.97% higher than in France
  • Restaurant Prices in Canada are 24.07% lower than in France
  • Groceries Prices in Canada are 17.15% higher than in France
  • Local Purchasing Power in Canada is 22.50% higher than in France

The results didn’t surprise me as I’ve always thought that life in Canada was cheaper than in France. So, what’s more expensive in Canada? According to the tool: imported beer, milk, bread, water, wine, cigarettes, local transportation, utilities, Internet services and one-bedroom apartments.

So what do I really find is more expensive in Canada than in France?

Some specialty foods — I used to love all kinds of cheese, the stinker the better. Unfortunately, cheese is expensive in Canada, unless you fancy eating yellow or orange processed cheese (no matter the colour it tastes like plastic). I sometimes treat myself to a piece of blue cheese bought in Lebanese stores but it costs around $6. Even the cheap Laughing Cow cheese is expensive here! French pastries are also pricey, as well as yogurts.

Wine I don’t care too much about alcoholic drinks because I’m not a fan but all French immigrants complain about the price of wine and beer. Plus, in Ontario, you must buy it from LCBO which can be inconvenient.

Some beauty products Forget about Chanel, Dior or Lancôme unless you really want to splurge. These brands aren’t cheap in France but in Canada they are downright expensive. Even “cheap” French brands such as L’Oréal, Garnier or Yves Rocher are more expensive on this side of the Atlantic. Fortunately, some U.S or foreign brands are much cheaper here than in France, for instance Clinique. It’s also funny to notice that French and North Americans have a total different attitude towards their “imperfections”!

Haircuts Some may disagree but I still think haircuts were cheaper in France, especially considering tipping is not a custom. Other services such as manicure and pedicure or massages are more affordable in Canada, though.

Internet services Harvard University reports that Canada has some of the slowest and most expensive internet access in the developed world. Not as bad as in Australia (where it was very slow!) but the country definitely lost the edge it had a decade ago.

Cell phone plans I had a lot of trouble understand how cell phone services worked when I first came here. The biggest difference with France (and most countries as far as I know) is that in Canada, you pay for incoming calls, and “options” such as voicemail and call display (which aren’t “options” anywhere else). It’s common to be locked into a three-year contract (!) and there are tons of hidden fees. CBC and the rest of us wonder: What’s behind those hefty charges?

Some banking services On both side of the Atlantic Ocean, banks are here to make money. No news here. But I was surprised to learn that in Canada, cheque weren’t free. Granted, Canada doesn’t rely on cheques as much as French still do, most people use Interac, the debit system, or credit cards. Typically, you get a few free cheques (usually five) when you open a bank account. Then, you must order them through a supplier. On the plus side, they are often personalized. On the downside, it costs around $35 for 50 basic cheques!

University studies In France, I had a scholarship to attend university and only paid about 400 euro a year (and that included my student health insurance). In Canada, tuition fees are about $5,000 to $6,000 per year at the University of Ottawa. Granted, university campuses are much nicer in North America but I’m still glad I completed my undergrad studies in France… at least I’m not in debt. I take some classes part-time whenever I have time (and I haven’t this year) but I’m grateful that I have a job and can pay for these upfront.

What do you think? Done any cost of living comparison?

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