Getting settled in Canada: Five things to get used to about life in your new country

Published June 30, 2022.

Estimated reading time: 3.5 minutes

In summary:
  • Newcomers sometimes have difficulty adjusting to different aspects of life in Canada.
  • Steps new Canadians can take to make their transition to Canada smoother.
  • Become familiar with the numerous free or low-cost resources and supports around you to make your settlement in Canada more straightforward.

For some newcomers, it’s the weather. For others, it’s knowing where to find a good cup of coffee.

As a new Canadian, adjusting to life in Canada can take time and differs from person to person. Newcomer settlement workers are there to help you through that period of adjustment. These are committed and empathetic professionals working to support immigrants and refugees by helping you find housing, establish your career, provide mental health services and help you get accustomed to living in your new country.

Windmill Microlending reached out to the team at the YWCA St. John’s (Newfoundland), which works to support newcomers, to become empowered and successful members of the community. Every day, their staff members, Ana Perez Rico, Nadia Duman and Kimberly Offspring (pictured below), field questions from recently-arrived immigrants and refugees, sorting through the complexities of everyday life - public transportation, shopping for winter clothes and building a new network of friends, when alone and isolated.

Headshot_1_Ana Headshot_2_Nadia Headshot_3_Kimberly

Staff from YWCA St. John’s share their tips for getting accustomed to life in Canada for newcomers. From left: Ana Perez Rico, Program Coordinator, Nadia Duman, Work Transition Coordinator and Kimberly Offspring, 2SLGBTQIA+ Services Coordinator.

Here is some of their best advice to help new Canadians experience a smoother transition as they start their new lives in Canada.

Tip #1: Get to know your local public transit system

With fuel costs rising to unprecedented levels, public transit has never been a more cost-effective option. Be sure to learn about your best public transit routes for getting to work, school or around your new community. Download a transit map to your phone and become familiar with it. Is light rail, bus or subway your best option? These differ from community to community. Get to know the stops closest to you and determine if a monthly or weekly pass is your best investment. Some public transit systems have their own apps with handy information, such as updates on bus delays, vehicle tracking and reports on system outages.

Tip #2: Learn about the importance of a winter wardrobe

In most parts of Canada, winter clothes like weather-proof and insulated boots, jackets and gloves are a must. In some parts of the country, boots with ice traction or cleats can be a game-changer. Canadian winters can be cold but not all provinces have the same type of cold weather. Atlantic provinces tend to have very wet winters with fluctuating temperatures. Prairie winters can be dryer but feature bitterly cold winds. Also, consider the terrain of your town or city. If you are living in a city with a lot of hills, having extra traction for walking and catching the bus can go a long way. Your secret weapon? Keep your face and extremities covered in winter to avoid frostbite.

Tip #3: Join local community groups

Making new friends and finding a community can be hard sometimes for new Canadians. Start with a simple Google search for local community groups you may be interested in, such as cultural, religious and 2SLGBTQIA+ organizations, professional associations, dance, art or others. These groups may meet in person or virtually. You may find a number of free or low-cost options enabling you to meet new people, make professional connections, stay fit, boost your mental health and have fun!

Tip #4: Get to know your rights as a worker

As a newcomer, establishing your career and learning to navigate the Canadian employment landscape can sometimes be overwhelming. A good practice is to read provincial documents such as labour standards legislation in your province to become familiar with your rights as an employee. You may be entitled to vacation pay, sick leave or limits on the number of hours you can work. It’s important to understand these details to avoid exploitive practices and employers. 

Tip #5: Understand the supports available to you

Through their work and lived experiences, the YWCA St. John’s team has observed some newcomers experience food security and financial difficulties or may require legal guidance, at times, early on after their arrival to Canada. There are critical supports in almost every Canadian city to help newcomers work through these challenges. From local food banks, settlement services and non-profit community legal or tax clinics to other local organizations like the YWCA, these resources can help you find answers and resolve pressing problems.

Did you know Windmill Microlending offers low-interest loans to help skilled immigrants and refugees pay for the costs of accreditation, education and professional development courses in Canada? Find out about how our affordable loans can help you, here.

Here are some helpful resources to enable you to get accustomed to life in Canada, faster.

Tips to adapt to life in Canada

Newcomer mental health resources across Canada

What I wish I’d known before moving to Canada

Start your life in Canada

Canadian worker rights

Free newcomer services near you

Find your local YWCA

Categorized in: A Newcomer's Journey,