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20 random things that may surprise you when you arrive in Canada

When you move from one country to another, you have a culture shock or identify some differences between your country and Canada.

Here is a list of things we have detected during this year and a half that surprised us a little; we did not have it in our country, or it is different there.

Let's jump right in!

Table of contents

20. Sea bus

1. Taxes in stores

When you go to a store and see a price tag indicating the product's price, remember that it is the price without taxes, so you have to pay more.

Each province has different taxes; at least in Ontario, you must add 13% to that price. You won't notice a big difference on small items, but keep that in mind when buying larger ones.

2. Coffee culture

We are surprised that it is common to buy your coffee daily in stores like Tim Hortons, Second cup, and Starbucks, among others.

We live in Mississauga, and there is one of each store within a block, and those places are always full.

In our building, there is a Starbucks, and we see people drive in, park, buy a coffee and leave first thing in the morning.

Plus, there are many drive-throughs where you don't have to get out of the car.

I would say that it is more common to prepare coffee at home in our country.

There are many stores to buy coffee

3. Poisonous plants

When you visit a park, and if they have identified poisonous plants, some signs indicate what the plant is, so you don't touch it. Here are some examples:

To be honest, I can never tell which plant it is, but I prefer not to touch anything, just in case.

4. Wild animals

As in point 3, there are indications in every park or street if wild animals are present.

We have seen signs of mainly coyotes and deer.

5. Amber Alert

The amber alert is a method developed to alert the public when a child is missing or abducted.

We discovered it because it sounds like a loud beep on every cell phone (similar to earthquake alerts in Chile), no matter what time of day it is, and a message appears indicating the information the police are handling.

This information includes how the victim was dressed, the suspicious person who possibly took her/him, the last place she/he was seen, etc.

This helps ensure that the child can be rescued quickly and in good condition if someone sees the suspect.


In Ontario, there is a government store where you can buy alcohol called LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario).

Some beers are in the supermarkets, but you can only pay at certain cash registers. All other products are at the LCBO.

7. Houses without fences

Another difference is that most houses don't have fences separating them from the street.

So, technically, when you walk through your neighbourhood, you'll be walking almost in your neighbours' garden.

8. Taking off your shoes at home

We have adopted this in our house as well. When you visit someone, there is a place to put your shoes at the entrance, so you walk in your socks.

It's good because it helps keep the floor cleaner for longer and maintains it as well.

9. Semi-furnished apartments

Most apartments in the Toronto - Mississauga area contain a refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher, washer and dryer.

In our country, these are usually appliances you must buy separately.

10. Cars turn right on red lights

This is a curiosity about the transit system. If you are at a red light, but you are going to turn right, if you see that there is no car coming from your left, you can turn right.

It is similar in Chile, where some signs say you can turn right carefully, but here there is no sign, and you can turn right at any corner.

11. Stop signs in all directions

There are intersections with four stop signs, one at each corner; they are called Stop in all ways. Therefore, each individual has to stop, and the right to move forward is according to who has arrived first (The first one who arrives at the corner is the first one who can move forward).

Stop all-way

12. Variety of languages

On a normal day, walking down the street, you hear different languages other than English and French.

It is nice to hear people speaking in their own language.

13. Expensive car insurance

As we explained in the post on How to buy a car as a newcomer in Ontario, Canada, you need to have insurance to be able to register your car.

This insurance is expensive and depends on the car, but sometimes if you pay your car in installments, the insurance will be more expensive than the installments.

14. Cell phone plans

This surprises us a lot since our country's cell phone plans are cheap, usually with unlimited data and even free social media.

In Canada, there are a couple of companies; the plans are expensive and limited. We have a plan for 45 CAD per month, and we only have 4 GB of data.

Phone plans are not the most convenient

15. WhatsApp is not widely used

The most common channel we used in our country was WhatsApp, maybe because the internet is not a big thing here.

People use text messaging; that was a change we had to adapt.

16. Firefighters arrive quickly

When an alarm goes off in an apartment in our building, the fire department arrives in no more than 5 minutes and performs an inspection.

You have to pay a fine if your alarm has been activated by mistake for cooking or other reasons.

Besides, being a firefighter here is a paid profession; unfortunately, it is a volunteer position in our country.

17. School, park and playground

This is a combination we have seen in Mississauga, every time you go to a park; there is a school and a playground in the same place.

This is the nearest school, 700 m from our house. In the background you can see the park and the playground.

18. Winter tires

If you have a car, during the winter, because of the snow, there are winter tires.

It is optional to use them because there are some for all seasons but to be safer; you can change the tires during the winter; this gives you a discount on the car insurance policy.

19. Seasonal decoration

People are super motivated, and every season you can see a flourish of decorated houses that make the landscape look beautiful; some of them are:

  • Gardening: during spring-summer, you see people beautifying their yards with flowers and trees.

  • Halloween: pumpkins, skeletons, etc., are put up during this season.

  • Christmas: People put up outdoor lights and decorations.

20. Sea bus

When we travelled to Vancouver for vacations, we noticed that they have a Sea bus, a boat that is part of the public transportation, and you can pay with the same Compass Card that you pay for the buses or the subway.


And have you identified any other differences from your home country? Let me know in the comments below.

If you want to read more content like this, remember to visit 26 good things about Canada and 25 challenges of living abroad.

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