LIVING IN CANADA

The Country

Canada, that vast expanse of land over the United States, is one of the most beautiful stretches of Earth on the planet. With lush mountainsides and gorgeous snowcapped landscapes, sitting in Canada is like sitting within a painting. But Canada also has a top-notch higher education system that gives the country brains in addition to beauty.

Most people are surprised to learn that 'Canada is the world's second-largest country in total area, after Russia.' It stretches from the northern border of the continental United States all the way up to the 'Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert on the northern tip of Ellesmere Island...just 834 kilometers (450 nautical miles) from the North Pole.' Within this expanse of land lie a variety of cultures and peoples that is as diverse as that of any nation in the world. From the French-speaking residents of Montreal and Quebec to the inhabitants of the rugged Yukon Territory, Canada's population runs the gamut from urban to rural and encompasses everything in between.

Climate

Canada has four very distinct seasons: spring (March-May); summer (June-August); fall (September-October); and winter (November-February).

While temperatures in the far north climb above 0°C only a few months of the year, most Canadians live within 300 kilometres of the country’s southern border, where warm springs, hot summers and pleasantly crisp autumns prevail for at least seven months before winter sets in.

For average seasonal temperatures and detailed weather information by city, visit the Government of Canada's Weather website.

Winter Survival Tips

The following tips will help you prepare for the winter months:

  • Listen regularly to weather forecasts on the radio or check the Internet to avoid being caught in a blizzard or other active weather system.
  • Winter clothing is not a luxury. You will need it to stay warm and enjoy your time here. Invest in a good winter jacket, gloves, a warm hat, a scarf and boots.
  • Dress in layers so that you can adjust to the variable temperatures inside and outside.
  • Be sure to eat a nutritious breakfast; you’ll stay warmer outside if your body has fuel to burn.
  • Prevent dehydration in cold weather or from dry indoor heat by drinking water regularly and using a moisturiser on your skin and lips.
  • Wear sunglasses and sunscreen on clear days as sunlight reflecting off snow can be very intense.
  • Remember there is a wind chill factor. High winds blowing on a cold day lower the temperature further, so -20°C with a wind of 16 km/hr can feel like -25°C.
  • Beware of frostbite. Ears, fingers, toes or cheeks exposed to very cold temperatures for just a short period of time can become frostbitten. Should any part of your body feel numb or become pale or slightly blue, seek medical assistance immediately.

NOTE ON HOME HEATING IN WINTER: Individual homes and some apartment tenants pay for the heat they use, whether it is gas, oil or electricity powered. Verify if heating costs are included in a rental unit, or whether you are responsible for your own bill. Pay heating bills on time to avoid having the service shut off.

Communications

Canada has a comprehensive and modern communications network with first-class infrastructure that offers easy access to a wide variety of technology.

Internet services

Internet service is readily available at all academic institutions and you will get a free college or university email account once you begin your studies. Internet cafés are also common, particularly in metropolitan centres, and they offer reasonable rates.

Consider bringing your wireless-enabled laptop to Canada as most colleges and universities offer wireless Internet on campus. You can get high-speed Internet installed at your home or apartment through a telephone company; a monthly fee will apply.

Postal services

Canada’s postal rates are among the lowest in industrialized countries. Mail prices are based on size and weight. A standard letter mailed within Canada starts at C$0.61 for up to 30 g. A standard international letter costs C$1.80 and takes one to three weeks to deliver.

Cell phones

A large percentage of young people have cell phones (mobiles); monthly plans start at about $20 per month, and there are pay-as-you go options. The minimum term for most phone plans is 12 months. A new phone can be purchased for under $100. Your existing mobile phone may work in Canada if it is compatible. Check international roaming charges, which can be expensive.

Accommodation

It is always best to stay on campus. Not only are the basic amenities easily accessible but also on-campus life allows students to gradually integrate into the student community under the guidance of peers and staff. If on campus option is not available then one should look for the home-stays or rented accommodation. Home-stays provide family life and are usually cheaper than on campus accommodation. Depending on your location, home-stays usually cost 800-1000USD a month on single occupancy room basis, including meals. Students who decide to rent an apartment can also get valuable help from the university student association.

Driving in Canada

If you are staying in Canada for less than three months, you can use a valid driver’s licence issued by your country. If you are staying longer than three months, you must obtain an international driver’s licence (IDL) from your country of residence. An IDL is a special licence that allows motorists to drive internationally when accompanied by a valid driver’s licence from their country of residence. You must have this licence when you arrive in Canada; you cannot apply for one once you are here.

Learner’s permits, probationary licences and temporary licences cannot be converted to a Canadian equivalent. Contact the Ministry of Transportation in the province or territory in which you will be living to find out whether you will have the right to drive.

Car rentals are available. Generally, the minimum age to rent is 21 and you must hold a valid driver’s licence. Drivers between 21 and 25 years of age may have to pay a surcharge.

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