A Working Holiday in Canada is an amazing chance to live and work like a local for a year or two. Over the months, there are aspects of Canadian life you’re bound to adopt immediately and others that will remain puzzling, annoying or just too weird—either way, enjoy the cultural shock, it’s part of the adventure!

Here’s a roundup of the 10 best and worst aspects of Canadian culture according to forum members. Note that most contributors are from continental Europe, so don’t hesitate to add your own culture shock if you’re reading this as an Aussie, a Kiwi, a Brazilian and more!  

What’s awesome in Canada

1.The general vibe

“The way people (friends or perfect strangers) help each other and show kindness.”

“Women and LGBTQ+ rights. We still have a long way to go in Europe and I find it awesome to see equal rights in action in all aspects of daily life in Canada.”  

“You can leave home dressed like shit—no one cares!”

“People really trust each other. Still blows my mind.”

“Generally speaking, Canada is pretty laid back. People are on a first-name basis, nobody seems to be having a hard time, really easygoing folks. Like, your blood pressure isn’t gonna spike in Canada. Everything is al-right!”

2. The land

“The landscapes, the northern lights.”

“Even in cities, nature is never far away.”

“Plenty of room, nature, and lakes.”

“The fact that the country is big, very big, like, huge. Seemingly endless land.”

3. The seasons

“Cold, dry and sunny winter days.”

“Fall colours with pink, yellow and green leaves. It’s quite an impressive sight.”

“Sports and outdoor activities in the summer—lake fishing, forest hiking, mountain biking, BBQ, gatherings with friends, etc.”

“Harsh winters that make you appreciate summertime.”

“Four distinct seasons.”

“Spring, when people seem to come out of their ‘cave’ and everybody is rediscovering patios.”

“Winter sports and activities—hockey on frozen lakes, ice fishing, Skidoo, ATV riding, etc..”

“Different seasons with breathtaking landscapes!”

4. The wildlife

“Accidental face-to-face encounters with animals I would have seen in a cage or on video back home (‘hi, groundhog!’). And this is in urban environments. Out in the country, you’ll spot animals you assumed were extinct—‘Wait, did we just see a whale from the coast? What the hell are we going to meet if we take a boat tour??’

“Wildlife everywhere when you go for a hike.”

“Wildlife. I get to see deer and wapitis every day. Okay, sure, I live in a natural reserve but still.”

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5. The work environment 

“A work schedule that gives enough time for family, a social life and various activities.”

“Hiring managers don’t just look at degrees and credentials—work experience and motivation are defining factors as well.”

“The tipping culture! Yeah, many hate it, but I’m a waitress!”

“A laid-back work environment. Everybody is on a first-name basis, structures are less hierarchical and a more flexible definition of ‘performance.’”

“Biweekly pay.”

6. Multiculturalism

“Multicultural pluralism.”

“Having friends who speak other languages, being able to ask them something in French and having them reply in English. Hearing so many different languages and people who are truly bilingual.”

“The cosmopolitan side of the city.”

“Meeting people from all over the world—Australians, Germans, Italians… people are pretty outgoing too.”

“Chinese food on the table yesterday, Afghan feast today, Japanese food tomorrow maybe, and Ethiopian delicacies the day after.” 

7. The safe environment

“The overall quiet atmosphere.”

“Streets that feel completely safe.”

“Clean, peaceful streets, and quiet, well-behaved people. Okay, sometimes it’s a bit too much but it’s nice, though.”

“Canadian women seem to be okay with showing skin and they don’t get harassed when wearing micro-shorts.”

8. The overall efficiency

“How easy it is to sign a lease. Like, landlords don’t ask for millions of things.”

“How straightforward it is to open a bank account, get a phone, sign a lease, etc.”

“Smooth administrative processes. Okay, finding an apartment is as difficult as everywhere else and 40 potential tenants show up to check out the place you love but if you do sign a lease, no deposit, guarantor or references are required.”

9. The business hours

“24/7 Tim Hortons and convenience stores.”

“24/7 supermarkets.”

“Shopping centres that close at 9 p.m.”

“Businesses open on Sundays.”

“Being able to eat something anytime.”

10. The food

“One word—poutine!”

“The number of coffee shops—I can’t live without my $3 morning coffee and cookie now.”

“Bagels, maple syrup, pancakes, maple toffee.”

“Amazing brunches, blueberries, bacon, split pea soup, and crêpes.”

“Peanut butter, REESE’S candies, Oh Henry! Bars and anything with peanut butter.”

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Other reasons to love Canada

“Supersize cereal boxes.”

“Debit cards with purchases deducted immediately from your bank account.”

“Being able to watch American series as soon as they are released on the US market.”

“Perfect queuing etiquette.”

“Hockey, the Superbowl, chicken wings and my Habs jerseys.”

“Being able to go to the US easily.”

“Grid street plans, super easy to find your way around.”

What’s not so great in Canada

1. “How are you today?” as a greeting

“The ubiquitous ‘How are you today?’ in customer service. Like, are you actually asking a question or saying, ‘hi!’”

“Overfamiliar check-out assistants.”

“I find it super annoying when I’m greeted by ‘How are you today?” It’s pointless and hypocritical because no one is going to say ‘not great.’”

2. Political correctness

“Nobody shall be offended, like ever. And activism must remain an ‘enjoyable activity’ (sic.). Welcome to North America where people mostly care about their own little world and where people can just let you down anytime, or worst, just ghost you.”

“Relationships are often superficial.”

“People not showing any collective spirit or social conscience both at work and outside. Comparing what Canadians call a ‘union’ with what we have in Europe is pretty funny. There are no associations, no groups organizing anything, and forget about social protests (even though there are things to protest about…).”

“Prevalent ‘right-thinking.’ I must admit I found it relaxing at first but after a while, I felt like starting a riot and a fire in the middle of the street.”

“Virtue signalling and the way Canadians always ostensibly comply with laws and rules without questioning anything.”

3. The food

“Unhealthy and tasteless food.”

“Having to go to a million shops to pick up acceptable foods—sour cream in one place, salami in another, going somewhere else for lardons and pie dough, super pricey duck breast fillets… like, we wouldn’t be able to survive without a car because we spend our time going from shop to shop to find affordable ingredients.”

“I freaked out at the grocery store last week. Where the hell can I buy lardon, puff pastry, cheese, heavy cream??”

“Food quality is so so and imported products are super expensive.”

“Very few deli meat options, plus it’s expensive. The same issue with cheese. The bread sucks.”

4. The American lifestyle

“Money rules.”

“Their damn cars… Make them big and noisy and they’re happy.”

“The whole financial system based on credit, buying and credit scores. Unbelievable.”

“Daily life seems to revolve around working and making as much money as possible, driving back to your big house in your big pickup truck and spending weekends at the cottage.”

“Overusing energy. Like the lights are always on, everywhere.”

“It’s impossible to enjoy the backcountry without a big vehicle. The land as a giant outdoor playground? Yeah, good luck getting around without a 4WD.”

5. The healthcare system

“Having to show up at the ER at 8 a.m.  just because you need to see a doctor.”

“Waking up with strep throat, seeing a doctor for one minute top, being billed $100 for the consultation plus $45 for prescriptions.”

“The emergency department. You can just die ten times before triage.”

“Healthcare access and cost—20 phone calls to end up paying $275 for a consultation in the private system, $50 drugs that cost €2 back home and $0 covered. I’m lucky my job offers great benefits.”

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6. Local driving skills

“Canadian drivers are almost as stupid as French drivers. It looks like they’ve never seen a red light before and OMG so much honking.”

“Roads are in terrible condition.”

“In Quebec, drivers passing on the right. It’s illegal in the province but they do it anyway.”

7. Endless winters

“Winters never bloody end. It’s okay until March but it’s infuriating when it’s still snowing in May.”

“Black ice on sidewalks. Yes, it’s slippery and yes, you’ll fall.”

“How dirty streets are after winter. It doesn’t last long but still.”

“Long, long, loooong winters.”

“It was so hot in the subway last winter that I fainted twice. Yeah, kind of hard to take off your coat and sweater when subways are completely packed.”

8. Telco prices

“So-called high-speed Internet which is like the speed of a regular Internet connection deep in the country back home. Oh, and paying $120/month for a landline, Internet access and cable. I used to pay $45 for that back home with added perks like free calls on international landlines and Internet fast enough to download a movie while I was making microwave popcorn. I miss it.”

“Internet access, overpriced cellphone plans. Like, you’re billed for incoming text messages.”

“Shitty and overpriced Internet, cellphone plans and cable.”

“Why on earth are we charged for incoming calls? I asked customer service and no one could justify it.”

“Paying for outgoing calls, incoming calls, outgoing text messages, incoming text messages, voicemail, balance information…”

9. The cost of living

“Prices without tax and the fact you have to tip everyone all the time.”

“Cheese is more expensive than foie gras with truffles.”

“The goddam taxes! I keep on reading the price displayed as the price I’ll pay.”

“Taxes and tips. It took me five days to figure out how to calculate tips and it’s annoying to do the math all the time.”

10. Bugs and pests

“Mosquitoes, black flies and other bugs. I have yet to meet them but I have the feeling I won’t be a fan.”


“Bears ramming into your vehicle. Not a pretty sight.”

“Squirrels digging into the garbage and crossing the street right in front of you when you’re on your bike.”

“Bed bugs and other pests that require major extermination services.”

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“Not being able to enjoy a cigarette on patios.”

“No proper wood shutters anywhere.”

“Ski resorts with 30-second slopes.”

“How hard it is to make Canadian friends.”

“Clouds of weed everywhere, even more so since it’s legal.”

“Basement apartments.”

“The obvious gaps between the rich and the poor.”

“Paper-thin walls.”

“Job interviews where the HR manager is overfriendly then ghosts you.”

“Buses that are always late.”

“Needing a car to go places on your own terms.”

Don’t hesitate to add to this list, leave a comment below!


En PVT au Canada de novembre 2021 à 2023, je répondrai à vos questions avec plaisir. Pour le premier trimestre 2024, direction l'Amérique latine !

I moved from France to Canada on a WHV from November 2021 to 2023, followed then by spending the first quarter of 2024 in Latin America! Happy to answer all your questions.

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