Canada has a very good brand, which is why millions of people dream of moving to this country, and we were one of them. Until they encountered the side that they do not write about. Let me tell you what we didn’t like. I will not paint the pros and cons separately, but I will break it into some categories.
My wife and I moved to Vancouver in February 2021. Now I’m a developer at Amazon, before that I worked for Aviasales for several years. My wife Anya is a product designer. Before Canada, we lived 2.5 years in Phuket, before that – 10 years in Moscow. In May 2020, after a successful interview, I received an offer from Amazon with relocation to Canada.
In the article I will rely solely on the experience of our family and my friends.
We lived in British Columbia, in the city of Vancouver. This is one of the warmest places in Canada, it is even called Canadian California. I don’t know who calls him, maybe only Canadians. The climate is mild, there are all 4 seasons, there are no sudden temperature changes. There are so few of them that from month to month the average temperature changes by 2-3 degrees, no more.
Everything would be fine, but the winter is too rainy. Yes, yes, it is rain, there is practically no snow here, a maximum of a couple of weeks in December. But it can rain every day for eight months. It can be a light rain, it can be like a bucket, all 50 shades of rain.
Summer is beautiful, just like everywhere else. But you either need to love the rain very much, or leave in the winter for a couple of months in warm countries, as many do here. And comparing our previous experience of living in Thailand, the climate could be much more interesting.
Canada is a country of immigrants. There are really a lot of them here, for example, there are practically no native Canadians in downtown Vancouver, all people are from different countries of the world. We never felt like immigrants because we were among them.
During the two years of living in Canada, we made many Canadian acquaintances. We went to CrossFit, chatted with them before training and after, but none of them managed to go for coffee, although we offered. People did not refuse directly, but always found an excuse to avoid meeting. At the same time, we had friends in Vancouver from Latin America, India and Europe, and there were no such problems with them.
3. Work culture
In Canada, as in the United States, the work culture is very different from what we are used to. You can communicate with colleagues only on work topics. Any other questions are answered dryly and politely turn the conversation back to work. Of course, many people conduct Small talk (small talk), which, after two years of my life, I still did not understand. It seems to me that people are afraid to just be silent and discuss the weather for the tenth time or how they spent the weekend. I am not at all turned on by such topics, and at some point I even thought that something was wrong with me.
It soon became clear to me that in Canada people have a clear separation between work and personal life. And mixing one with the other is not accepted.
There was another funny story that happened to one of my Russian-speaking colleagues. When he first joined the team, he started posting funny memes to the general Slack channel. And after a few days, our general manager told him not to do that again, because “it’s not accepted.” It almost took my heart out of this. There were no more memes. And with this colleague, I quickly found a common language, and we still communicate.
But do not exaggerate the interestingness of working in super large American companies.
FAANG has some cool and super complex projects. But this does not mean at all that you will be in one of these teams.
Perhaps everything will be quite the opposite. For example, the corporations listed above are known for non-open-source technologies that only they use. And we, as employees, must be able to use them. The problem is that these technologies are useless outside the company.
People are very tolerant of everything. This is both good and bad. No one will say that you are somehow not dressed the right way, you walk the wrong way, you talk the wrong way, and so on. On the other hand, there are a large number of freaks who do all sorts of not very dangerous game on the streets and no one tells them anything, not even the police.
For example, in Kitsilano, in front of a pharmacy, a homeless resident set up a tent and lived, played the guitar. He did not have a toilet there, and he used all the surrounding corners for this.
In Canada, medicine is free, if something happens, they will not let you die. In non-critical cases, you need to contact the walk-in clinic or the family doctor. My wife would put this item at the top of her list. She was on the waiting list for a gastroenterologist for 6 months and never got in. The root of the problem, in my opinion, is the lack of private clinics.
Another case about medicine. We had a friend who is kiting and wears a neoprene suit. He developed a rash on his back. He also tried to make an appointment with a dermatologist by phone. He was asked to send a photo of his back. Then they put me in a queue to see a dermatologist. I managed to get an appointment in four months.
Nature is a source of pride for all Canadians. Vancouver has a bay and mountains. The city has many city beaches, and you can swim one or two months a year. Hiking is very well developed, there are many well-groomed trails in the mountains.
In winter, skiing and snowboarding are popular. The city is located very close to the ski resorts. For example, 2 hours drive from the city there is a resort similar in size to Rosa Khutor in Sochi. It also hosted the Winter Olympics in 2010. There are no complaints about the quality of ski holidays, everything is at the highest level. The Whistler Blackcomb resort can be compared to Rosa Khutor: big mountains, many slopes, good infrastructure. Go there 120 kilometers.
Our ski vacation looked like this. We worked all week, on Saturday we woke up at 05:00-05:30 to leave at 06:00. If you start later, you will definitely get into a traffic jam: many people go to the resort, since there is nothing else to do in winter.
We drove back around 15:00, because if you leave at 15:30, you will stand in a traffic jam at the same place for three hours.
Planning a holiday in national parks is very difficult. In 2022, a strict booking system was in place for hiking and camping at popular destinations. Hiking can be booked strictly one day before the trip, and a campsite in the national park can be booked only two months in advance. That is, if you want to go hiking on Saturday, then on Friday at 07:00 you need to watch for a free slot. A minute later there are no more places or the site goes down. If you don’t have time, you won’t go anywhere on Saturday.
Urban tourism, one might say, no. Vancouver, as a city, was built relatively recently, at the end of the 19th century, there are few historical buildings here. Besides hiking, a common way for locals to travel is to save up all year and spend it all in a week somewhere in Mexico.
8. Prices and salaries
The minimum wage in Canada varies by province. In British Columbia, where we lived, in January 2023 it was 15.65 CAD (946 R) per hour.
If you multiply by 8 hours and 22 working days, you get 2754 CAD (166,516 R) per month. But I read that the average salary here is from 27-35 CAD (1633-2116 R) per hour, that is, 4752-6160 CAD (287 321-372 453 R) per month.
Our salaries are under NDA. Familiar developers in a small company received an average of 5000—6000 CAD (302,316—362,779 R). In a large corporation, they pay 20-30% more – 7000-8000 CAD (423,242-483,705 R). An income of 5000—6000 CAD (302,316—362,779 R) is enough for one person to live discreetly, without savings and special entertainment: rent a cheap apartment or share it with someone, buy groceries in a supermarket, don’t go anywhere, cook at home. If there are two of you, the costs rise by one and a half times.
The country is expensive – this is due to local salaries, they are also high in absolute numbers. Therefore, if it turns out to save a certain percentage of the salary, then the savings come out quite high. But you will hardly be able to afford your own housing in the next 20 years.
9. Culture and entertainment
Here, of course, everything is individual. You can’t walk much in the historical center: nearby in Downtown there is a huge tent city where thousands of homeless people live. He has been here for many years, there are legends about him. There are hundreds of tramps along Hastings Street. What does it look like can be viewed on YouTube.
The main occupation in Vancouver, apart from the mountains and national parks, is hanging out with friends, eating or shopping. But the prices for clothes leave much to be desired. As for restaurants, there are cuisines from many countries of the world, there is no problem with variety.
When a new place opens, queues form there. A cafe with a Korean hot dog appeared – there were about thirty people in line. In 2022, Jollibee, a new Filipino fast food restaurant, opened its doors with spaghetti fried chicken. In the first three months there was a line of a hundred people, it turned around the corner of the street. We joked that there was so little to do in Vancouver that people just lined up for fried chicken.
10. Housing stock
Canada has a relatively low level of requirements for entry and residence in the country. This, of course, affects the search for housing, both temporary and permanent. The market is very hot. In the fall of 2022, renting a regular apartment with one bedroom and a living room – one-bedroom apartment – in a normal area costs 2500—2600 CAD (151,158—157,204 R). The apartment is rented completely empty.
Many young people prefer to rent a large apartment with friends and divide the rent by the number of tenants. Another common practice is to rent housing on the basement floor, that is, in equipped basements. Although such housing is called “spacious basement” here, the conditions leave much to be desired. If you’re lucky, there will be small windows near the ceiling. Given that Vancouver is a fairly cloudy city, people there live with little to no daylight.
11. Backwardness of technology
It would seem that a “developed” country, but the level of technology is about 10-15 years behind the technologically developed countries. Banks are my favorite example. When we first arrived in Vancouver, we ordered a card, it was issued for about a month. During this month, we managed to move to another area and asked to send her to a department closer. To which they received the answer: “Where they released it, take it there.” Familiar? The only difference is that in Russia they were scammed for this, everyone is “happy” here (see the point about tolerance).
The place to which I have no complaints is the library. The level of service is sky-high, no joke.
Results: in November 2022 we moved to Madrid, Spain. It took almost a year from idea to implementation. Long of course, but times are not the easiest. I know that there are no perfect places, but there are places that are right for you. And while our decision is fully justified!
After moving, I started telegram channel about life in Spain. If you are interested in reading about it, please! There I reflect on topics related to moving, learning and adaptation. Together we discuss near-Yatish issues, discuss the difference between North American culture and Russian and European culture, about the difference in approaches to work and compensation.