Important Facts for International Students Settling in Canada
Congratulations, you have arrived in Canada! Below is some useful information to help you get started with settling in.
The Canadian landscape varies from mountains and grasslands, to forests, lakes, and shorelines. The climate varies depending on where you are in the country. The winter season in Canada can get very cold with snow and ice (especially in the north and inland), while some parts (such as the west coast) tend to have milder but wetter winter.
Wind chill, which is a way to measure the temperature effect of wind, can make a cold winter day feel colder (especially when wind gust or speed is strong). For example, a -2°C winter day can feel like -10°C when wind chill is factored in. Similarly, in the summer, the humidex measures the effect of humidity or moisture in the air. A high humidex value can make a hot summer day feel hotter. For example, a 25°C summer day can feel like over 30°C when humidex level is above 80%.
Because Canada is located north of the equator, the UV index can be quite strong as it is closer to the North Pole (and hence the sun, in the summer). UV index provides information about the risk of exposure to the sun. The Weather Network (available through its TV channel, website, and mobile app) provides the latest UV readings at all times of the day, across Canada. A high UV reading (above 6) means that you should seek protection from the sun by using sunscreen, UV-blocking sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat, or try to find shade.
There are 6 time zones in Canada: Pacific (PST), Mountain (MST), Central (CST), Eastern (EST), Atlantic (AST), and Newfoundland (NST). The time difference from coast to coast is 4.5 hours. For example, when it’s 3:00 p.m. in Vancouver (PST time zone), it’s 7:30 p.m. in Newfoundland (NST time zone). Vancouver is in the Pacific (PST) time zone, and Toronto is in the Eastern (EST) time zone.
Due to Daylight Savings Time, clocks are turned forward by 1 hour on the 2nd Sunday in March (“spring forward”) and turned back by 1 hour on the 1st Sunday in November (“fall back”). This happens on an annual basis in most parts of Canada, except in certain regions of Saskatchewan and small parts of British Columbia, Alberta, Nunavut, Ontario, and Quebec.
English and French are the 2 official languages of Canada. Being a very diverse and multicultural country, Canada is home to over 200 languages from around the world, and 60+ Indigenous languages. It’s common to hear various languages, dialects, and accents in public, especially in cities such as Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, and Vancouver. The most common languages outside of English and French include Mandarin, Cantonese, Punjabi, Urdu, German, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Vietnamese, and Tagalog.
Business Hours and Holidays
The typical business and store hours are Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. This can vary by business or store. Many stores and clinics have extended evening and weekend hours. Some restaurants and grocery stores are open 24/7 (this is more common in big cities such as Toronto).
The following are the national statutory holidays (celebrated nationwide and are paid days off work for most employees):
New Year’s Day – January 1
Good Friday or Easter Monday – Spring (usually in March or April)
Canada Day – July 1
Labour Day – First Monday in September
Christmas Day – December 25
In addition to the above national statutory holidays, different provinces and territories of Canada recognize other public holidays:
Family Day – Third Monday in February in most provinces
Victoria Day – The Monday before May 25 (Queen Victoria’s birthday)
Civic Holiday – First Monday in August
Thanksgiving – Second Monday in October
Remembrance Day – November 11
Boxing Day – December 26
Legal Age for Drinking Alcohol
The legal age for buying and consuming alcohol in Canada is 19 in most provinces and territories, except in Quebec, Alberta, and Manitoba, where the legal age is 18. Drinking and driving is prohibited and can result in demerit points or suspension of driver’s license.
Appliances in Canada use 120 volts and plug B. An electrical converter is needed if you bring appliances from another country that uses a different voltage. This can be purchased at airports and most hardware stores in Canada. Electricity is often referred to as “power” in Canada.
EduCanada. (2019). Getting to Know Canada. https://www.educanada.ca/study-plan-etudes/during-pendant/know-canada-connaitre.aspx?lang=eng
EduCanada. (2019). Canada’s Languages. https://www.educanada.ca/study-plan-etudes/during-pendant/languages-langues.aspx?lang=eng