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USA vs Canada

Whilst the USA and Canada share many similarities, there are some striking differences, both positive and negative, that play a big role when deciding which country is best to call your new home.

A recent Reddit post gives some valuable insight into the experiences of US expats living in Canada that could help future expats from both the US and elsewhere make a more informed decision.

The post asks…

“Americas who actually moved to Canada: How would you rate the decision and why?”

Here are some of the best responses.

The top comment, posted by user GingerMau, reads:

Just moved to Ontario a few months ago.

Two really positive things, so far:

  1. I am amazed by how civil everyone is on the roads. People actually merge calmly and sensibly. Yeah…there are a few exceptions, of course, but generally speaking–the stereotypical niceness is real.

  2. My husband broke a bone on a Saturday. We were at the hospital for less than a full hour before he was ready to go home. Total cost (no healthcard for us) was about $50. NOT $50 copay and 250 bill for radiology later. Actually just $50. Even without access to the health care that Canadians get, it was still faster and cheaper than any hospital visit we’ve had in the states.

Apart from Canada’s famously friendly culture, the comparatively low cost of Healthcare is one of the main points repeatedly mentioned throughout the post.

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User, corrado33 had this to say:

Wonderful.

Have run into a few health problems since moving up here that would have left me bankrupt in the US. And, for the record, no, there is not a months and months wait to see a doctor here. There is no real longer wait than what you’d get in the US. Wanna know how easy it was to get my healthcare card? I walked into the non-government run registry place, waited maybe 5-10 minutes, showed proof of residence and my visa, they said, ok, here’s your temporary card, a permanent one will be mailed out to you soon. And a few hours later I went out and used that temporary card with absolutely zero issues. Talk about no stress. Wonderful experience.

Would definitely recommend.

User, MyOwntediousthoughts answered:

Been here since 2002. Am generally very happy to be here. People are kinder, less religious nutbars, more respectful in general.

Although, he goes on to mention that a higher cost of living is one negative of life in Canada compared to the US:

Excluding healthcare, cost of living is higher. Gas, food, booze, housing. Big discounts in shops (like bargain racks with 50-75% off stuff) are few and far between. Wages don’t always keep up compared to U.S. I live in border area so I can always do some cross border shopping.

Another user touches on the gun culture in the US and how much it differs in Canada.

Something I didn’t expect after I moved, but getting away from the guns was huge. Guns are a way of life in the US. Hell, I even had them when I lived there. Guns just aren’t a thing up here (in Canada). I know people who have guns and go shooting, but it isn’t a cultural necessity. That fear of needing a gun is gone. I guess since I grew up under it, I didn’t realize it until after I was away from it.

Education is also mentioned as a common reason for moving to Canada:

I moved here because of university, and that alone was one of the best decisions ever. I got Canadian citizenship from my father and my total bills for four years will be $20k for tuition. At my home state Uni, that would be only one year.

Cons, of course, are the very high taxes, things generally being more expensive, etc. but I feel like I can live with that. It really isn’t that hard once you become financially responsible and learn how to budget yourself.

So far the majority of responses revolve around Healthcare and how much cheaper it can be in Canada. Clearly, if good/cheap Healthcare is a priority for you, choosing between the States and Canada is an easy decision. However, with Healthcare aside, some of the negative responses focus on matters such as tax, cost of living and wages.

Been here for 5 years. I moved to Montreal and eventually Vancouver for work. I mean it’s alright, Vancouver especially mostly just feels like another US city, but the taxes and general cost of living is insane. Combined with the lower wages compounded with a terrible exchange rate it just doesn’t make financial sense, and I’m a proud American that identifies more with US culture anyway. Work permits and general immigration obligations have been a huge pain.

Clearly, Canada isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re living on a tight budget. With added pressure from higher taxes, higher cost of living and lower wages, for some, the US seems like a much more attractive place to call home.

Another user responded with:

I lived in the rural south for the better part of a decade, lived in Boston for a few years, and have been living in Toronto for the last two or so years. I am currently self-employed and have primarily lived alone.

Overall I would say life in Canada has been adequate if nothing else. While Canada is a bit different from the US, it isn’t strikingly so. If I were to make a choice, however, I would definitely prefer to live in the US.

Culturally speaking Canada and the US aren’t particularly different, and as such, day to day life didn’t take much adapting to at all. I will say, however, that I find Canadians to be quite cold despite the stereotypes. Where most interactions I had with people in the US were very captivating and almost spontaneous, most Canadians with whom I have interacted come off as a bit less interested in socializing. 

A recent trip back to my home in Boston accentuated this quite drastically; restaurant servers, uber drivers, as well as complete strangers were very friendly and almost too eager to have meaningful conversations. In Canada I find people to need a bit more of a prodding, so to speak, to engage in conversation.

This individual’s experience seems to run counter to the stereotypical friendly culture that most people expect from Canada. They go on to add:

Goods and services are a bit more expensive as well, when compared to the US. While the relative strength of currencies plays a role here, I also find most goods and services in Canada to be quite expensive. I consider myself spoiled by the mere 6.25% Massachusetts sales tax, as after coming here and seeing things taxed as high as 13% I feel slightly demotivated to go shopping or go out and eat as the bill typically comes quite higher than I would initially anticipate.

For what it’s worth, Canada is a nice place; I simply do not see much benefit to it over the US. I suppose anyone who is a student, skilled worker, or business owner may want to consider moving / expanding to Canada, but to most people I do not believe there is much benefit. Each person’s experience is likely to vary and as such I’m sure my words are in no way gospel; I simply wanted to share my experiences and findings after having spent some time abroad.

One user took the time to put together a helpful list of some of the pros and cons from their experiences:

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All in all, the responses to this question vary and give some great insight as to what life is actually like in Canada from the perspective of a US citizen, and whether moving there was a good decision in hindsight. These insights can help you make a more informed decision on your move, whether you’re moving from the US or from somewhere else, such as the UK.

There are lots of other valuable responses to this question, and unfortunately, we can’t cover them all here, but you can read them all by viewing the Reddit post:

Americans who actually moved to Canada: How would you rate the decision and why?