7 Things That Are Way More Expensive In Canada Than The UK — According To Someone Who Moved
Canadians are forking out so much more for these products and services.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.
Back in 2019, I packed my bags and took a leap across the pond, trading the lush landscapes of the United Kingdom for the vast, awe-inspiring vistas of Canada. And, while Canada's breathtaking scenery left me utterly mesmerized, it was the hefty Canadian price tags that truly caught me off guard.
Canada is renowned for its picturesque landscapes and diverse culture, but it's no secret that the cost of living can be quite steep. I quickly learned that everyday expenses such as groceries and rent often come with a sizeable price tag.
In fact, according to the latest data from Numbeo, the average cost of living in Canada is 9.2% higher than it is in the U.K. Similarly, rent costs in Canada are a staggering 12.4% higher, meaning Canadians are generally digging deeper into their pockets compared to their British counterparts.
As I settled into my new Canadian life, I definitely noticed that I'd started paying more for things like groceries and rent, but it wasn't necessarily those costs that surprised me the most. Instead, it was the random products and services that I didn't even realise were cheap in the U.K. until I moved to Canada.
I also learned the hard way that one of the best things about buying products in the U.K. is that all of the tax is included in the item's ticket price, so you know exactly how much you're paying before you get to the cash register. It's a pretty painful experience the first time you buy a full cart of groceries to find out it costs a whole lot more than you planned.
So, from cell phone plans to tips, these are the costs that definitely made me do a little "Whoa, Canada!" the first time I experienced them.
While I am a firm believer that Canada's second-hand clothing scene is much more impressive than the U.K.'s (I loved Value Village when I lived in Canada), I am equally convinced that the U.K. offers a better selection of high-quality, affordable, high-street fashion compared to Canada.
No matter where you call home in the U.K., it's so easy to find stylish, budget-friendly clothing options that don't compromise on quality. What's more, renowned U.K. fast-fashion giants like Primark and Boohoo have become synonymous with affordable fashion essentials, and are Brits' go-to for basics like underwear, socks, shirts, and workout gear.
During my time in Canada, I never really came across an equal alternative to these types of British stores.
In the U.K., it is really easy to find super cheap non-prescription medicine. For example, you can run into almost any grocery store, convenience store or pharmacy and pick up full boxes or packets of ibuprofen or paracetamol for less than 50p (which is around 80 cents).
You can also buy unbranded cold and flu medicine, heartburn medication, allergy tablets and so much more from almost anywhere in the U.K. for just a couple of pounds, if that!
However, in my experience, medicine in Canada is pretty expensive in comparison, and you can expect to fork out a whole lot more than a dollar or two for even basic painkillers and over-the-counter remedies.
Why is cheese so expensive in Canada? No, really, it's so expensive. I was genuinely taken aback by the cost of cheese when I first moved to Canada, especially given my love for it.
In the U.K., it's pretty affordable to buy at supermarkets, with Numbeo suggesting that a 1kg block of local cheese costs around £6.21 ($10.21). In Canada, exactly the same thing will set you back almost $15 (£9).
It was a pretty hefty difference that really made me appreciate the cheesy bargains I'd left behind at home.
Cell phone plans
This one's a real eye-opener. In fact, ask anyone from the U.K. who's made the move to Canada and they'll likely pinpoint this as the most painful cost disparity.
I was genuinely shocked by the price quotes I received for cell phone plans upon my arrival in Canada, especially considering I owned my own phone outright and just needed service.
Back in the U.K., there are so many options for affordable mobile plans with generous data allowances and comprehensive coverage, all without burning a hole in your pocket. For example, you can pay as little as £5 ($8) per month for the cheapest plan — and you'll still get thousands of minutes, texts and a decent data allowance.
Currently, I'm paying just £10 ($16) per month for 27 GB of data, along with unlimited free calls and texts across the U.K. Meanwhile, my Canadian friends were shelling out anywhere from $50 to $60 and even beyond for a similar type of deal.
Numbeo's data backs up this stark contrast, reporting that U.K. cell phone plans average around £12 ($19) per month, while Canadians are forking out a comparatively-hefty $57 (£35) each month. Ouch.
One of the things I absolutely love about the U.K is just how easy it is to get your hands on your favourite alcoholic beverage. Gas stations, grocery stores, supermarkets and convenience stores — they've all got you covered. Even better, it typically comes at a lower cost than in Canada.
According to the data from Numbeo, the price of a beer at a restaurant is fairly similar in both countries, but where Britain shines is when you head to the supermarket to stock up on brews.
Numbeo's statistics say that a 0.5-litre bottle of domestic beer in the U.K. will only set you back about £1.84 ($3), while a 0.33-litre bottle of imported beer hovers around £2.12 ($3.50).
Comparatively, Canadians are forking out $3.60 (£2.18) and $4.24 (£2.58) respectively for the same thing.
Another thing that costs a whole lot less in the U.K. is the cost of tipping. In most service industries in the U.K., employees don't rely on tips to earn a living wage, so there's much less of an obligation to leave anything extra if the service isn't top-tier.
In some cases, satisfied customers in Britain will choose to leave a 10% tip, but it's neither expected nor required, generally. It's especially rare for Brits to leave a tip in any self-serve environment or during quick stops for fast-food or coffee.
It's pretty different to Canada, where tipping is a more ingrained practice and is often expected. Etiquette experts say that the standard tip when eating out in Canada is now between 18% and 20%, depending on the service received.
The biggest difference, in my opinion, is that in Canada, gratuity is usually expected, even if the service doesn't quite hit the mark. So, you'll often find yourself digging deeper into your pockets for your meals or beverages, regardless of the service quality you've received.
Living in the U.K., one of my favourite perks is the accessibility of affordable international flights, especially if you have some flexibility in your travel plans or can travel off-season. The U.K. boasts a well-connected network of British and European budget airlines, making it a breeze to hunt down budget-friendly flights, particularly within Europe.
The relatively short distance from the U.K. to nearby countries means it's not uncommon to find one-way flights to vacation hotspots for under £50 ($82). If you plan wisely and stay flexible, you can even find international return flights for under £100 ($164).
And while Canada's proximity to the U.S. does present some budget-friendly flight options, in my experience, they don't quite match up to the deals you can get in the U.K. However, it's worth noting that Canada seems to have expanded its roster of budget airlines since I moved there in 2019 and it does look like Canada's cheap flight options are on the rise!
Despite the occasional budget surprise, my time in Canada was pretty incredible. The landscapes were breathtaking, the people were friendly, and the poutine was perfect.
Sure, there were moments when my wallet felt the strain, especially when it came to things like cell phone plans and tipping at restaurants but, honestly, all of the experiences and memories were totally worth it in the end!