Canadians in the US – how to deal with culture shock

While many Americans consider moving to Canada, Canadians in the US are a less common conversation topic. However, when the work and family planning call, there are people who will make this move. And no matter how close and culturally similar these two Northern American countries are, the differences are many – don’t let them catch you unprepared. Our handy guide on how to deal with culture shock is there to help.

Maple, the symbol of Canada
What should Canadians consider when moving to the US?

The Basics

USA standards of living and guidelines on how to deal with poverty are largely outdated, with some of the rules dating back to as long ago as 1961. A Canadian should be wary of this, so it’s important to mind all the below factors.
In terms of education, the US is much less forgiving than most of the developed world. Schooling your children will take a significant amount of planning and, perhaps, a dedicated savings account. American colleges are famous all over the world for their unique culture of living, but also the price ranges that are hard to comprehend at first.
A long distance move will take some additional planning as well.

Health Care

USA health care system is less forgiving. While Canada possesses a universal health care system, the Americans have made theirs more complicated. Some jobs may or may not come with both medical and dental insurance and sometimes you will have to mix-and-match your and your partner’s insurances in order to create the most affordable health care plan for your family.
Canadian law provides much better care for new mothers – you can get anywhere between 17 and 52 weeks of maternity leave. For fathers, it’s up to 35 weeks, if necessary. The USA allows mothers only 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

Housing and Social Assistance

There is a lack of affordable housing in many metropolitan areas of the USA, while this is not the case in Canada. Many Americans move to smaller communities relatively close to large cities, which in turn creates another important factor in budget planning – the price of everyday commute to work. Canadians in the US should plan this carefully and find what works best for them.
What is considered the poverty line in the US does guarantee some benefits, but the said line is so low that many people not considered poor still find themselves struggling.


Americans do not use the metric system. This is one of the things you will not able to avoid in all expects of the daily life – from reading the traffic signs to buying at grocery stores. Download a converter application to your favorite mobile device and start practicing now. You would not want to slow down traffic on a busy road!
With all of the above considered, you might want to reconsider your budget and your needs and consult a moving expert, likeĀ

Two 20 Canadian dollar bills
Mind your budget when moving to the US.

Canadians in the US vs. Americans

Many stereotypes regarding how Americans see the world are exaggerated. But a great deal of them will be true – at least to some extent. This is what will be pervasive in day-to-day life and what might cause you to roll your eyes at first. Some of these topics are sensitive, some may strike you as banal, or even ridiculous.

  • You will know more about America than an American knows about Canada. While the common running joke about Americans not being aware of where Canada is is a stretch, they might not know what the capital of your country is.
  • Americans will bring up the glory of their country when you are least expecting it.
  • Ironically, they can and they will bring up their own stereotypes related to us. Fair enough, ey?
  • They know their politics. Canadians in the US should keep informed on the last antics of Donald Trump and his peers, whether they like it or not. In the USA, politics are a part of folklore.
  • The presence of religion in everyday life will undoubtedly be more than you experienced back home.
  • Yes, Americans love their guns and some are pretty vocal about gun control. Related issues such as death penalty may come up as conversation topics. Keep the differences in mind and remember that Canada’s less violent culture might even appeal to some Americans.
  • American junk food is more junk than anything else. A lot of frozen and fast food will make poutine look like the food of gods.
  • They move. A lot. A job across the country will take the whole family and their belongings elsewhere.

Once immersed in the American way of life, you might find yourself moving more than once as well. Luckily, there are many reliable moving assistance options to choose from.

Other things to consider

Having Friends and Family in the US

For Canadians in the US, support is a must, especially in earlier stages. If any of your friends or relatives moved earlier and they have accommodated to living in the States, consider asking them for help. Knowing somebody who’s already been through the entire process is a good thing.

Where to move?

If you opt for a remote job or are not up for a huge change, anything close enough to the border will be a logical first choice. If you are from Toronto, Chicago is right across and many Midwest cities will not be drastically different from home. The urban areas, specifically. Later on, as you immerse in American life, you can explore other areas of the country.

Checklist? Yes, please.

Do you have a moving checklist? If not, make one. In some cases, your moving countries may just be a trial and you would not want to bring everything and the kitchen sink with you.

Plan, plan, plan!

Moving from Canada to US
Canadians in the US – an adventure worth taking!

Overall, as Canadians in the US, you will experience challenges much similar to those that you would if you were moving to another continent. But it’s the closeness of our countries and the assumptions about their many similarities that make the cultural shock so much bigger. If this is the right thing for you – go ahead and live your very own American dream!