6 Mistakes Newcomers To Canada Always Make, According to Someone Who Learned The Hard Way

Think before buying more winter gear than you can carry!

Janice Rodrigues taking a selfie. Right: Janice Rodrigues buying a winter coat.
Associate Editor

Janice Rodrigues taking a selfie. Right: Janice Rodrigues buying a winter coat.

This Opinion article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.

Moving to Canada is a popular decision for people from all over the world, and the country has even been ramping up its immigration plans lately, too.

However, shifting to a new country is a lot of hard work, and it's easy to underestimate how hard it is to acclimate.

From finding housing and budgeting with a new currency to looking for a new job, there are so many things to keep track of – which can translate into loads of really common mistakes.

As a newcomer myself — I moved to Canada in March — I've made my fair share of them. And there are some things that I've heard other people complain about, too.

So, here's my humble list in the hopes that it can spare other newcomers time, money and energy.

Don't compare prices to your home country

If you've come from a country with a very different cost of living situation, brace yourself, because Canada isn’t cheap!

A lot of newcomers really feel this pinch, especially because they're comparing Canadian dollars to their home currency and figuring out how much more they're spending in the process.

I get it, it does not feel good. Especially when you know you could get the same goods or services for so much cheaper back home.

But, be warned, there's really no point in doing this!

Keep in mind that there are other perks here. Like the fact that salaries in Canada are generally proportional to the cost of living and there are other benefits like the public healthcare system.

It will all eventually balance out. Or, at least, that's what you have to tell yourself.

Don't move during the winter

No matter which part of Canada you relocate to, if it's between November and February, it's going to be cold as heck.

This is fine if you're used to subzero temperatures. But if you're not, don't even try it.

Apart from the fact that the weather can be extreme in certain places, a lot of other things slow down during the cooler months.

This includes activities, meetups and the opportunity to make new friends. Moving to Canada during winter can feel pretty bleak and taint your entire initial perception of the country. Stick to the sunny season, folks!

Don't overstock on winter clothes

Janice Rodrigues in one too many winter accessories.

Janice Rodrigues in one too many winter accessories.

Janice Rodrigues | Narcity

We've all heard the horror stories about how cold it can get in Canada and that can prompt people – myself included – to buy one too many winter coats.

This is a bad idea. For one thing, winter clothes are bulky and take up a lot of luggage room. For another, chances are you're buying them in a country with much milder temperatures – and they were just not made for harsh Canadian temperatures.

And finally, as I've learnt, you don’t need a ton of winter things. Just one great winter jacket, one warm one for spring and autumn, good boots and so on. Quality over quantity, baby!

My advice would always be to actually do your shopping once you land in Canada, so you end up buying stuff that's useful and durable.

Also, don't underestimate the Canadian summer like I did. I travelled from a country with over 45 C temperatures and I still felt the heat here.

Get a credit card ASAP

I know that here in the Great White North, not having a credit card in your wallet is quite unimaginable.

But in many other countries, it's common not to have one at all. People save up and pay for big expenses in one go. Bigger expenses (like houses) are taken on loans.

This is why newcomers to Canada can be wary about getting them right off the bat because they may have never had one before. But you'll find out pretty quickly that having one is important.

The credit card system in Canada can dictate a lot more than mortgages – it also helps you rent an apartment or house, buy a new car, even book a hotel room or an activity.

If you are heading here, you might want to get one ASAP and start building that credit score. Luckily, many banks in the country do offer appealing options for newcomers.

Don't rent a basement if you love natural light

Plenty of properties in Canada offer cheaper basement rentals. There are a lot of great reasons to take them up too. As well as the lower cost, they're pretty much a regular apartment, with the additional privacy of your own entrance.

That being said, some of them simply don't get enough natural light and there are always the odd horror stories of really rundown spaces.

This, coupled with the fact that the weather sometimes makes it too cold to head out every day, and you might be stuck in a space you don't love for long periods.

With that in mind, I'd always recommend you visit a place for yourself before signing a lease and agreeing to stay long-term.

And staying in a condo – while expensive – also gives you a chance to use additional facilities like gyms and common areas when the weather doesn't allow for outdoor activities.

Forgetting to bring your original driver's license

This is an easy enough mistake to make.

You can't really use your driver's license from your home country in Canada – so there's no point in bringing it, right?

Well, as it turns out, wrong!

Depending on which country your license if from, you might be able to skip a few steps in the application process and therefore save precious time and money if you bring your original one.

So, do your research, and if you're in doubt, just bring it with you anyway.

So there you have it. These are some pretty common mistakes that people make when packing up and moving to Canada.

The good part is that almost all of them can easily be avoided.

Good luck, newbies!

Janice Rodrigues
Associate Editor
Janice Rodrigues was an Associate Editor for Narcity Media focused on Canadian immigration and passports, and is based in Scarborough, Ontario.