11 Things That Totally Surprised Me When I Moved To Canada From The UK

Milk comes in ... BAGS?! 😅

11 Things I Learned When I Moved To Canada From The UK
Senior Editor

Back in 2019, my boyfriend and I decided to pack our bags and move to Canada. After growing up in the U.K., then living in Australia for a number of years, we were ready to test out a colder climate.

Although we were prepared for snow and hoping (naively) for any sort of bear encounter, we arrived ready to be surprised — and we were.

Here are just a few examples of what surprised me most when I left the U.K. to live in Canada and everything I've learned so far:

The food

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Before arriving in the country, I thought the Canadian love for maple syrup and poutine was simply a stereotype. How wrong I was! During my time in Canada, I've tried every variation of maple syrup and poutine imaginable — and I couldn't believe the latter was even available in McDonald's.

I learned that a Caesar is not a type of salad, but a cocktail, and it's totally acceptable to have one at any time of day (even with breakfast!).

I have also found that butter tarts, BeaverTails and Montreal bagels are totally worth the hype. Yum!

The seasons

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While Canada is known for its extra cold and super snowy winters, I was amazed by just how perfect each season seems to be.

There's sun and hot temperatures in the summer, glorious orange foliage and gusty conditions in the fall, bitter cold and deep, fluffy snow in the winter and then bright, flowery vibes all through the spring.

In my hometown of Wales, on the other hand, autumn and winter often blend into one extremely damp blur, while summer is usually just as rainy as every other season.

The wildlife

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Oh, Canada. One of the main reasons we decided to head to the True North was for the diverse and majestic wildlife, but I have still been surprised by the furry friends I have been lucky enough to encounter.

In addition to iconic creatures like bears, moose and whales, critters like marmots and raccoons have stolen my heart, too. Sadly though, I am yet to spot a beaver in the wild.

I also found out that Canada geese are just as terrifying as everybody says they are. That said, you must always, always, always stop your car to allow them to cross the road.

While Wales is lacking in the bear and moose department, we do have more sheep than people.

The size

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I knew Canada was going to be big, but I didn't expect it to be as gigantic as it actually is! Who knew you could drive for hours and hours and still be in the same province. Even more surprising is Canadians' perception of distance. If they say "down the road," expect to be driving for at least three hours!

In Wales, you can drive from one end of the whole country to the other within four or five hours, provided you don't come across any sheep, of course.

The prices

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I had been warned that Canada could seem pretty expensive in comparison with the U.K., although there were certain costs that surprised me more than others. In particular, the cost of things like haircuts, groceries and beer.

Don't even get me started on the price of cellphone bills in Canada! My British cellphone plan costs just £10 (around $17) for unlimited calls, texts and more data than I could ever use.

The expense of many services and goods is made extra painful by the tax thing.

The tax thing

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In most parts of the U.K., tax is already included in the cost of something and does not get added at the register. This means that the price tag and what you pay is exactly the same.

I was surprised to learn in Canada that this is not the case, and that sales tax is added when you pay.

For those of us who are bad at math (me) this is pretty confusing and makes it a little harder to work out what you're going to owe by the time you reach the cash register.

​The slang

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Canadian English is almost like its own language, especially if you're unprepared for all of the slang.

Terms like "toque," "loonie," "toonie" and "the 6ix" totally threw me initially, let alone "double double," "triple triple" and "Timbits"

The coffee

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Ah, Timmies. While there are a couple of Tim Hortons locations in the U.K., it wasn't somewhere I had visited prior to arriving in Canada. I was (and continue to be) amazed at how there are Timmies almost everywhere and how affordable it is compared with British alternatives.

In the U.K. 's Costa Coffee, you can expect to pay double-double!

The pandemic

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When I made my way to Canada back in 2019, I wasn't expecting to experience a global pandemic less than a year later.

Despite the stay-at-home orders, lack of toilet roll and endless bread-baking, I still managed to enjoy a slice of Canadian life.

The people

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Per the stereotype, I expected Canadians to be nice. But I didn't realize just how lovely they would be.

From the moment I landed in Toronto, I was offered help with directions, assistance with the subway and was smiled at, waved at and told to "have a nice day" countless times.

Welsh people are famously kind too, but I've found most Canadians to be more helpful, friendly and accommodating than I could have ever imagined.

The milk

OK — nobody told me the milk often comes in a bag. Admittedly I was alarmed when I was first offered some sack milk, but have since got over it.

What a fun quirk, eh? Love ya, Canada.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.

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Helena Hanson
Senior Editor
Helena Hanson is a Senior Editor for Narcity Media, leading the Travel and Money teams. She previously lived in Ottawa, but is now based in the U.K.