Once you move to a new country, it’s inevitable that you are going to make comparisons with your home country, so I decided to do a short blog about the differences I’ve noticed between Canada and Ireland. Some of these differences may not be Canada-wide as it’s a big country! Some differences are good, while others are “strange”, so let’s start with the good!
After living and working here for only 3 months, we were entitled to OHIP – Ontario Health Insurance Plan. With the OHIP card, you get free healthcare, yes you read that properly, FREE healthcare. It’s covered by your taxes. So, you need to see the doctor? No worries, with your OHIP, you won’t have to pay to see the doctor. Hospital visits and stays are also covered by OHIP, ambulance services, abortions are some other things that are covered by OHIP. As an Irish person, this is an absolutely amazing service as in Ireland you pay at least 50e a pop each time you visit the doctor.
2. Work Benefits
Although this depends on your job, from what I have seen, most jobs in Ontario have excellent benefits which include dental coverage, vision care, massage therapists, physio visits and drug cards. Since I started working here I have not had to pay for any prescription medicine, because its covered by my work benefits and I can claim back money on massages, physio visits and visits to the dentist. Again, this is amazing and I don’t think this level of benefits is available in Ireland. I also get my glasses and eye exams covered!
This may seem like a weird one, but they actually have seasons here in Canada, or at least in Ontario anyway. If you’re from Ireland, you get used to just one long season of damp, rainy weather, with the occasional sunny (or snowy!) days thrown into the mix, but here we actually get our four distinct seasons, which is great! Although I will say winter and spring seem to be turning into just one long winter these days! But it’s great to know that you are guaranteed to have a nice, warm summer ahead of you, especially when you’ve been in your winter coat for the past 5 months lol. Summer and Autumn (or Fall as it’s called here) are my favourite seasons and I think if I ever do move back to Ireland, it will be a difficult transition going back to the unreliable weather and not knowing what kind of summer we are going to get.
Toronto is one of the most, if not the most, multi-cultural city in the world. There are people from every corner of the world that call Toronto home and it’s one of the reasons why I love Toronto so much. You can meet so many different people here, from different walks of life, who are different races, different religions, different ethnicities and I love it. For the most part, everyone gets on and people don’t seem to care about skin colour, or religion. Now don’t get me wrong, that’s not to say that there is no racism in Toronto, far from it, they still have a ways to come in that regard, especially where indigenous people are concerned. There is racism everywhere in the world unfortunately. But I am saying that Toronto, and probably Canada as a whole, is more accepting of other cultures and more open to inviting them here, in my opinion anyways, from my white viewpoint. Between November 2015 and February 2016, Canada welcomed more than 25,000 Syrian refugees alone and this is one of the reasons why I’m happy to call Canada home.
Due to the multi-cultural aspect of Toronto, it has led to amazing food choices. Each group of people who have migrated here have brought their local dishes, or a take on their local dishes with them. You can get every sort of food imaginable in Toronto, and I mean every. Pick a country in the world, and you can sample their cuisine here, from Ethiopian to Afghan to Sri Lankan to Korean, we are spoiled for choice in Toronto. It’s another reason that I love this city so much, I love trying new types of food and new cuisines and Toronto is the perfect place to do this. This would be another aspect that would impact me severely if I moved home. If I moved back to Portlaoise, I would find it very hard not having the food choices that I have here, I don’t even think you can get sushi in Portlaoise! Heck even Galway and Dublin, while obviously have amazing restaurants and lots of fantastic food to offer, they just don’t have the variety that Toronto can offer and I would really miss the freedom of trying out all these different dishes whenever I want.
6. Summer Hours
I talked about this on my instagram recently but many places here seem to have embraced summer hours. This is when you finish work early on Fridays during the summer. It’s implemented in various ways accross different workplaces; some might get a half day every Friday, others might finish at 3pm and I’ve even heard of places that give every second Friday off during the summer. In my last workplace we got a half day every Friday for the summer, but we had to make those hours up, so we essentially still worked the same number of hours per week and got a half day on Friday. In my current workplace we finish 1 hour early every Friday, and we don’t have to make that hour up, it’s a free hour off! Apparently this started in New York back in 2008 ish but it seems to be something that Canada has embraced. Not every wokeplace will offer summer hours but many do, everywhere I’ve worked has done it. It makes sense because our winter’s are so long and miserable, it’s really nice to gain back some time over the summer to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather!
7. Scenery and outdoor activities
Canada is really set up as a place to enhoy the outdoors – in all seasons. In Spring and Summer we have so many beautiful lakes and hikes to choose from. There are so many gorgeous parks with walking trails, and then of course we have beaches too. In Winter we have the slopes and Canada is home to some amazing slopes if you’re a snowboarding or skiing fiend. You can see the Northern Lights here too (it’s on my list!). And in Quebec there is a hotel made out of ice that you can stay in, it’s rebuilt every year (also on my list). Canada is a stunningly beautiful country and it really does boast so many outdoor activities throughout the year and it’s something I really appreciate about it!
Did you know Canada is a big winemaker? I know when I’ve mentioned this to people at home they had no idea that Canada makes wine! Niagara is a huge wine making region and its only just over an hour away from Toronto. Prince Edward County (a favourite of mine) is wine country at its best boasting over 40 wineries. Quebec makes wine too and I’m sure there is winemaking in the other provinces as well. This of course means wine trips and wine tasting which is something I never get sick of! I was also only introduced to “ice wine” here in Canada. It’s a dessert wine and is super sweet but tastes amazing poured over ice cream. Try it!
Now onto the “weird” parts of Canada
The weirdest thing for me, when we first moved here and we were opening a bank account, the guy asked us if we wanted cheque books. Myself and Phil looked at him in disbelief and were like “ah no thanks”. Like who uses cheque books? Old people, that’s who (sorry ma and da!). But we had to eat our words as when we rented our first place we quickly realized that we did in fact need a cheque book as that’s how rent is generally paid here. So we had to go back to bank with our tails between our legs, and ask for the cheque book lol. Phil also gets paid by cheque. It’s just unfathomable to me, I really thought that cheque books were pretty much obsolete – but not here!
2. Milk in bags
I’ll never get over this one and I’ll never really understand the reasoning for it, but the most common way milk is sold here is in bags, yes, BAGS. Now granted, I think this is an Ontario thing rather than a Canada thing, but I just don’t get it. Why? Why do I want my milk in a bag? I’ll take my milk in a good old-fashioned carton thanks very much!
3. Taxes and Tipping
Like the US, tipping is pretty much mandatory here and taxes are never included in prices. And while I’ve gotten used to tipping (doesn’t mean I like it), I’ll never fully get used to the price on the price tag not actually being the price you’re going to pay. Why can’t the tax just be added into the price, and then put that price on the price tag you ask? I don’t know why it’s done that way here, and I’m pretty sure it’s only done in North America but I’ll tell you that it is pretty annoying when you’ve what you think is the exact change ready and then it’s actually more expensive. Now tipping, don’t even get me started… I understand that we have to tip because servers are not paid very well, but therein lies my issue. Why aren’t servers paid properly? Granted, here they are better off than in the States but still, in my opinion, no one wins here only the business owners. Why are they allowed to pay their staff an inappropriate wage and then rely on the general public to make up for it? I don’t get it. To me, someone should only be tipped when they deserve it, ie they gave you excellent service, or they really went above and beyond. They should not be tipped for simply doing their job. I really wish the Government would step in and declare that servers actually have to be paid a livable wage by their employers rather than relying on tips. And please note, I do tip, I always tip, I just don’t like the whole system behind tipping. I am so used to tipping that when we were home last summer I kept tipping at the bar haha!
4. Stag and Doe parties (sometimes called Jack and Jill parties)
A Stag and Doe, or a Jack and Jill party absolutely boggles my mind. Basically, it’s a fundraiser for your wedding. Now call me old-fashioned, but I’m of the opinion that you shouldn’t be getting married if you have to fundraise to do so. They seem to be parties that are held and guests are invited and there will be games, raffles etc. So you might have to pay for a ticket to go to the party, or else buy things at the party and the bride and groom to be keep the money for their wedding. The kicker is, that apparently sometimes people will invite guests to the Stag and Doe party that they aren’t even going to invite to their wedding. I’M SORRY-WHAT? You want me to help pay for your wedding, but you’re not going to invite me?? RUDE. Like, in Ireland if sometime tried to do this, they would be (rightly) told where to go!! In saying that, stay tuned to deets about mine and Phil’s Stag and Doe party hahaha. I will say that I don’t think all Stag and Doe parties are as I’ve described above and sometimes there are just done for fun, which is completely fine and I’ve no problem with that. But if you’re having one like what I’ve described then don’t invite me!
5. Cell Phones
Or mobile phones as we call them! In Ireland, straight forward process to buy a phone and off you go. Here, you have to decide on what things you want included in your package, like you’ve to pay extra if you want voicemail. WHAT? Yep, it’s not a standard serve and with most providers, you’ve to pay extra if you want voicemail. Crazy, I know. Also, long distance calls are quite confusing. With a lot of phone providers, calling someone outside your main city is considered long distance, so even if you’re calling someone in Ontario, if they are outside Toronto, it may be considered long distance. Never mind if you’re calling Vancouver or somewhere in Quebec. With some providers if you’re in a different province from your home province and calling someone in that same province, you can b charged long distance charges because you are not in your home province. It’s very confusing, and ridiculous. overall, Canadians are being ripped off when it comes to cell phone bills, apparently here, we pay more on cell phone bills than any other country.
6. Vacation Days
This one obviously had to get a mention and its one of the weirdest things about Canada and also the thing I hate about living here most. For such a progressive country, why do you give us so little time off? I don’t understand. The work life balance here isn’t great at all and Canada could really do with looking at European countries and taking some notes. Obviously I can only speak to Ontario, as that’s where I live, but I’m pretty sure all of Canada is the same. In Ontario the legal minimum vacation days they have to give you is 10. 10 vacation days per year is a joke and honestly, is bad for your mental health to only have 10 days to take off in a year. I’m a firm believer in a good work life balance and living your life to the fullest, and unfortunately, Canada just isn’t there yet. I’m lucky in that I get 15 vacation days per year, I mean it’s still not great but better than 10. Phil only gets 10 though and honestly it’s awful. He usually uses the 10 days in one go and then that’s it he has no more days to take off. Compare that to Ireland, where the minimum days off you are entitled to in a year is 20, 10-15 day is really pitiful. I live in hope that one day Canada will wake up and realize it’s working it’s people to death. I actually penned a (satirical) open letter to Justin Trudeau about this very topic ages ago, so if you havent read it, check it out here.
7. Housing market
Don’t even get me started on the housing market here because it’s just unbelievable. Right now in Toronto if you can’t afford to spend minimum $1.2 million then you are never getting a house. And the sad part is $1.2 million won’t even get you a fantastic house, that’s for a small run of the mill house that needs work. Condo prices are also going up up up with no end in sight, so while we are lucky that we bought our condo in 2017, and the value has increased since then, even with the money we would make if we sold our condo, we can’t afford to upgrade to something bigger so we are essentially stuck.
But aside from the prices, there’s something else I find strange about buying property here. Now, I can only speak to Ontario because that’s the only place I’ve bought property but the system here is when you place your offer, you don’t know what the other interested parties have offered. You are never allowed to find out what they offered so your real estate agent might come back and say “someone else bidded more than you” but you have no idea if they bidded $5,000 more than you or $50,000. This leaves people in the dark and means they can end up overpaying all in an effort to try and outbid the other secret bids. It also gives room for re estate agents to act in a dodgy way to benefit themselves.
8. Giant gaps in public toilets
This may seem trivial but it’s something I’ve noticed here and I find it so odd. Public toilets here have these massive gaps on each side of the cubicle door, like I’m talking a huge gap so big that you can see out very easily, meaning people can see in! The toilets in workplaces are like that too. I find it very unnerving that I could be on the loo in work and someone else could be washing their hands, and we could make eye contact in the mirror (shudder). No one has been able to explain to me why the toilets have these gaps, so please if you have a theory, I need to know!
Let me know if there’s other weird or wonderful things you’ve noticed about Canada since moving here!
Until next time 🙂