What To Know

Canadian life is well known for good standards of living, safety and security, cultural diversity, beautiful surroundings, human rights, weather for all the seasons, vast open spaces and warm, welcoming people.

Here are some things that will help you to prepare in advance for your new life in Canada

Geography and demography

Canada is the second largest country in the world in terms of land mass. The population is almost 38 million people, with much of the country sparsely populated, dominated by forest and tundra. The country is divided up into 10 provinces and three territories. The Capital is Ottawa in the province of Ontario.

Quebec – the country’s largest province in terms of land area, and second largest for population and economic output, with Montreal the largest metropolitan area. Quebec City is the capital of the province and the oldest city in Canada.

There are two official languages in Canada – English and French

The Canadian flag carries the symbol of a maple leaf and in turn symbolizes unity, tolerance and peace.

The Quebec flag is blue and white recalling an ancient French military banner, and the four fleurs-de-lis are symbols of purity.

The Weather

The weather and average temperatures vary a great deal across the country throughout the year. We are lucky to truly experience the 4 seasons and all the different conditions they bring with them.

Winter 

Canadian winters are usually cold, with regular and sometime heavy snowfall. Usually the snow starts in December, sometimes in November, and can carry on until March. When the sun shines and the sky is blue, the landscape is bright and the temperatures colder.

Spring

The spring brings the big thaw, as the weather slowly warms up and the mountains of snow on the ground start to melt away. It takes some time for the ground to thaw out and the greenery to start to grow again, and there can even be some late snow storms into April. Snow turns to rain, temperatures are milder.

Summer

Summers are usually very warm and sunny. The grass, trees, plants and flowers are green and vibrant, the days are longer and the temperatures can be hot and humid throughout the day, and even at night.

Autumn 

The fall is possibly the most spectacular season, with the famous changing of the colours in the trees, bringing breath-taking beauty all around. The warm summer temperatures can linger on into September, but it becomes cooler heading towards October, especially at night. As the leaves fall from the trees and November arrives, wind and rain are common.

 

This chart shows average temperatures in the Saguenay region throughout the year:
January -10°  /  -19°
February -8° / -18°
December -7° / -15°
March   0°  /  -10°
April   8°  /  -2°
May 17° /   5°
June 23° / 11°
July 26°  /   14°
August 24°  /   13°
September 17°  /   7°
October 10°  /   2°
November 2°   /  -4°

Canadian Society

Canada is a democracy and a constitutional monarchy, with a Prime Minister as the head of Government. It is also a realm within the Commonwealth of Nations. Queen Elizabeth II is the Queen of Canada, although her role is mainly symbolic.

Ranking as one of the highest in International measurements for civil liberties, quality of life, economic freedom and education, it is one of the most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, as a result of large-scale immigration from many other countries.

Canadian Legal

As an international student in Canada, you will have the same rights and be protected under the same laws as Canadian citizens. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982, part of Canada’s Constitution, sets out those rights and freedoms that Canadians believe necessary in a free and democratic society, including:

Freedom of religion

Freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression

Freedom of association and peaceful assembly

Right to live and work anywhere in Canada

The Canadian Constitution is the set of rules that defines the powers and structure of the government, and the civil rights of every citizen. Canadian law, based on British common law, applies equally to everyone living in the country, nobody is above the law, and we all have a responsibility to respect and uphold the laws, or risk prosecution or even expulsion form the country. As a newcomer to Canada, you will have the full protection of these laws, which have principles such as:
  • Everyone is equal under the law
  • An accused person is INNOCENT until proven guilty
  • Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law
  • The right to a fair trial in court
  • The right not to suffer cruel or unusual punishment
Canada is very proud of its free, open, accepting and multi-cultural society, and there are laws covering discrimination. The laws say you cannot be discriminated against because of:
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Race or birthplace
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marriage or family status
Laws do vary from one province to another, so if you do travel outside of Quebec, important to be aware of this.

National and Provincial Holidays

In Quebec, we celebrate many of the Canada-wide holidays, and there are a few statutory holidays that are specific to the province. Often you will find that on these statutory holidays, many services and business/shops are closed for the day.
HOLIDAY DATE OBSERVANCE
New Year’s Day January 1st Nationwide
Easter Monday Can be in March or April Quebec
Victoria Day/National Patriots Day in Quebec Monday before May 25th Nationwide
Fete Nationale – Jean Baptiste Day June 24th  Quebec
Canada Day July 1st  Nationwide
Construction Holidays* Last two weeks of July Quebec
Labour day First Monday of September  Nationwide
Thanksgiving Second Monday of October Nationwide
Christmas Day December 25th Nationwide

* Holidays apply mainly to construction industry. Businesses and services still running.

A few useful tips and guidelines when coming to Canada and the region, to
help you settle and integrate with the local people and culture.

Cell/mobile phones

Canada is notorious for expensive cellphone plans, especially with data plans, so be careful about your usage and use Wi-Fi where possible. This guide will give you some helpful tips

You may be able to bring the phone that you already own and simply take it to a Canadian cellphone Bring Your Own (BYO) company and sign up for a contract, but there may be compatibility issues with the phone, and the SIM card will probably have to be unlocked. This site is really helpful for checking if your phone will be compatible in Canada:

New phones can be very expensive to buy, but generally with a contract, the cost is offset on the monthly bill.

There are a number of cellphone service providers, all with different packages and advantages, we will provide help in understanding all that is on offer and finding the best option for you.

This site might help to make your way through all of the different offers

Canadian power supply and adapters

In Canada the power plugs are of type A and B. The standard voltage is 120V and the standard frequency is 60Hz.

In many other parts of the world, the voltage is higher, 240V, so it is important to think about this before arriving with your electrical items.

However, nowadays many devices are configured to automatically switch to the network voltage (look for input rating on plug 100-240V) – this is often the case with mobile phone chargers, laptop chargers, USB chargers, etc. (modern, low-power devices). In these cases, you would just need a travel adapter, like the generic on in the image, which will allow plugs type A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M and N into a Canadian B power outlet.

Higher power use items, like a hairdryer, that generate heat, are more of a problem, and a step-up voltage converter may be needed as well.

Tipping

Different from many other countries, service charges are NOT included in restaurants, salons and taxis, and servers generally only make minimum wage with tips expected as part of their salary. The minimum is 15% on top of the bill, or more if you were really well looked after.

Politeness

Canadians are well-known for their politeness, and simple things like “please”, “thank you” and “sorry” are important and part of a social standard. Also, be patient when waiting in line or for service.

Being on time

Try and always arrive on time, or even better, ahead of time, whether it be for your classes, or an appointment or interview. If you think you will be late, let those waiting for you know and apologise. If you have a job interview, make sure you arrive in advance!

Sales Tax

Unlike many other countries, the price you see on the ticket is not the price you will pay at the counter. Federal and provincial taxes are added to almost all items at the point of payment, so be prepared that the items you are buying will cost more at the checkout.

Building construction

This one might sound strange, but it is important to remember that most residential buildings in Canada are made from wood and plaster board, not concrete, so they are much more vulnerable to water damage.

Budgeting

Keep A weekly/monthly budget to allow you to plan your spending on every day expenses, like groceries, pay your bills, like your rent, and save money for activities or shopping.

Balance your life

It is important to manage your life and schedule, as your week may be busy with studies, work, French courses and day-to-day chores and activities.
  • Plan your weeks in advance
  • Make a to do list and keep it up to date
  • Prioritize
  • Take some time from your obligations and enjoy a hobby or relax.

Alcohol consumption

The legal drinking age in Quebec is 18 (although this is not the case in all the provinces, some have a minimum age of 19). In order to buy alcohol or consume alcohol in restaurants or bars, you will need to prove your age, with a photo ID. There are many laws covering the purchase and use of alcohol, and serious criminal charges can be faced if these are broken, including:

  • Underage drinking, or providing alcohol to minors
  • Operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol
  • Behaving in a disorderly manner in or around establishments licensed to serve alcohol
  • Cooperation with the Police

The last thing anyone wants is problems caused by too much alcohol, so know your limits, go out with friends and be sensible, take taxis home and drink responsibly.

Canadian money

Canada’s currency is known as the dollar, and $1 is divided up into 100 cents. There are 5 bank notes ($5, $10, $20, $50, $100) featuring pictures of important national symbols, and 5 coins in circulation (5¢, 10¢, 25¢, $1, $2). While cash is still used, most people use credit or debit card for purchasing items.

For lots of other good tips and help preparing to come to Canada, check out these articles

Some useful things to remember if you are feeling a little overwhelmed
by the new culture, climate, people or surroundings:

ASK QUESTIONS

People are very friendly and happy to help out, so don't be shy to ask questions, whether at college or in town.

GET ENOUGH REST

With the travelling and new surroundings, important to resr well, and stay noursihed!

KEEP ACTIVE

Activity is good for the mind, so get out and try a new activity or keep fit.

EXPLORE

The province is spectacular, with so much to see and do, so take the time to explore.

STAY CONNECTED

Remember to keep in touch with family and friends back home regularly

STAY WARM

Yes, the winter can be seriously cold at times, so dress well and wrap up warm!

TALK TO SOMEONE

If you need help or support, don't hesitate to communicate with someone at the college or a friend, don't be alone.

MEET AND INTERACT

Get to know your fellow students, and take part in group and integration activities.