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Corporate Work in the US vs. Canada? 1309

No One You Know asks: "I've been working as a sysadmin for an insurance company in the US for the past six years, and have decided to move to Canada. I've had it with corporate America, but I'm trying to keep an open mind while job hunting. How does Canadian corporate life compare to that of the US?"
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Corporate Work in the US vs. Canada?

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  • by Saint Aardvark ( 159009 ) * on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @05:51PM (#9132762) Homepage Journal'd better like back bacon. That's all I should have to tell you.
    • by still_sick ( 585332 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @05:56PM (#9132846)
      All you need to know about Canada : Less Handguns, More Beavers.
    • listen to this guy he knows what he's talking aboot
    • I live in Canada (Score:5, Informative)

      by RobPiano ( 471698 ) * on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:03PM (#9132949)
      I would say its much harder to get a job, but the people are pretty nice. I would say you'll deal with the most crap in Quebec. Its hard to set things up as the burecracy is huge.

      If you've got a job, go for it! You'll pay more in taxes than the states, but you'll have a good quality of life.
    • by provolt ( 54870 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:24PM (#9133211)
      And you better get working on the massive inferiority complex.
  • Meet the new boss (Score:5, Interesting)

    by easter1916 ( 452058 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @05:52PM (#9132764) Homepage
    ...same as the old boss. Corporate life in Ireland, Germany, Holland, France and here in the US is the same, mostly. I've work at least one year in each of those countries, for local and American corporations. Varying degrees of formality and autonomy, but basically the same crap in different languages.
    • Re:Meet the new boss (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @05:58PM (#9132877)
      I'm just curious; how'd you manage to get all these different jobs? It seems like it might be an interesting way of seeing more of the world outside the US, even if the jobs themselves aren't that great.

      How was living in the different countries? Which were the best and worst places?
      • by OglinTatas ( 710589 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:44PM (#9133481)
        I'm just curious; how'd you manage to get all these different jobs?
        He's always been one step ahead of InterPol.
      • Re:Meet the new boss (Score:5, Interesting)

        by easter1916 ( 452058 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @09:43PM (#9134999) Homepage
        Thanks for your interest. Okay, this will take a while to explain. I'm an Irish citizen, graduated in 1988, married to an American -- hence visas for EU countries and a green card for the USA were not a problem.

        I worked for three years in Ireland straight out of college. I then joined Molex Corp (whose IT HQ for Europe is in Ireland) to work in Munich, allegedly permanently, but they shut the IT facility there within months of my arrival, and I found myself back in Ireland. But the travel bug had bitten, I'd really enjoyed Munich...

        I pestered my manager to move me back to the mainland as soon as a position opened up, and a year or so later I was working for Molex in Paris. Paris was by far my favourite -- spectacular, friendly colleagues, good pay, amazing city.

        For personal reasons, I had to move back to Ireland again a year later, and regretted leaving France. I regret it to this day. But itchy feet got to me again, and a year later I joined AlliedSignal for a contract position in Frankfurt (Raunheim), and was hired as a permanent employee after a year. Spent three years there, enjoyed it thoroughly. My boss and colleagues were once again great people. After three years, I decided to start working for myself, set up a limited Irish company, and was hired by Bausch & Lomb to work in Hoofddorp, near Amsterdam. I spent two years there, and moved to the US in 1998 as my wife wanted to go back to school to retrain and wanted to do that here in the US.

        Some things helped -- I took five years of German and French in secondary school (highschool), and wasn't too bad at languages. I also targetted large multinational corps with many European branches. I lobbied agressively for those posts when they became available.

        A lot of landing those jobs was down to enthusiasm, a basic understanding of the local language and good tech. experience. Ireland was acting like a little India in the early 90s -- we had tons of IT grads, but not enough positions, and there were shortages of skilled IT people on the mainland, so a lot of Irish ended up working abroad, in Benelux & Germany mainly.

    • Re:Meet the new boss (Score:5, Informative)

      by sultanoslack ( 320583 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @08:48PM (#9134587)

      I have to strongly disagree with this (as an American that's been living and working in Germany for the last two years).

      I can see how one could draw this conclusion after a few weeks in said places, but the gap between American and German work environments may be subtle, but it's very significant.

      • Germans work fewer hours per week and fewer weeks per year. People are encouraged to have a life outside of work and I think this makes for happier employees. (This is also tied with the fact that there's less BS trying to tell you that you jobs should always be fun and fulfilling -- if it's not, well, you've still got a real life.)
      • There's a much stronger emphasis on quality and efficiency, but also more business conservatism. German businesses don't react as quickly to fast emerging trends.
      • Salaries are slightly lower at the bottom and a lot lower at the top compared to the US.
      • German companies tend to be somewhat more bureaucratic.
      • Jobs are harder to find but harder to lose. Job security is much more significant here where after a 6 month evaluation period I have to be given several months notice before I could lose my job and the company has to give a reason that they're willing to stand by in court for firing me.
      • Germans tend to stay at jobs for longer -- especially in the tech sector. People in the US switch jobs rather often on average; in Germany it's common to keep them until retirement.
  • by nevek ( 196925 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @05:53PM (#9132788) Homepage
    Except for pea-soup-eating separatists, the annoying weather, the sports teams that never win, (go calgary), 90cents a Litre Gas, and 15% Sales Tax!

    But we do have Beer!!
    • by Simonetta ( 207550 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @08:42PM (#9134546)
      I've been to Eastern and Western Canada (never middle Canada) several times.

      It seemed to be very expensive to live there. I live on the low side of middle class in a moderately priced West Coast USA city, and BC seemed to be rather expensive. Especially the provincial coupled with the federal sales tax, the various GSTs PSTs VATs whatever. The last time that I went I was really happy to get back to Washington state where everything was cheaper.

      La situation en Quebec est plus difficulte si vous ne parlez pas ce que on crois serait francais la.

      If you couldn't read the sentence above as fast as the one before it, reconsider moving to Quebec. They tend to rather touchy about their quaint local legacy language. If you studied a little French in school because French was the cool language to study instead of studying Spanish (which is the only language that Americans should seriously consider studying as it's not even a 'foreign' language here anymore), well then, yes, check out Quebec. Do, however, spend a few months watching DVDs with the language track set to French beforehand.
      French is deceptively difficult language for Americans: it's spoken about 20-30% faster than English and has many subtle differences in the vowel sounds that aren't recognized in English. By the way, if you set the DVD audio track to French and the subtitles to French, you'll find that they are rarely the same. It seems that the movies generally get translated twice at different times, once for audio and once for titles. Plus neither of the two translator teams go by the original screenplay. Bit of a pain for language learners, but that was not its intended purpose. All in all, it's worth the trouble, because Quebec is North America's lost undiscovered country. [It's strange that due to NAFTA even Mexican products sold primarily in Mexico often have French translations on their boxes]

      One last tip, don't hide sensitive materials from BC in your car at the same height of a dog's nose. Hollow door handles, tail lights, door panels, ect... Bad idea. Best leave Canadian pleasures behind, after all, America is best handled in typical American style: drunk.
    • by ArcticCelt ( 660351 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @10:32PM (#9135327)
      I live in Montreal Canada and have a degree in computer science (but work for no one cause I have my own company). So I will speak about what I know.

      Positive Stuff: The cost of life is ridiculously low . Beautiful city . Great nightlife. Good international restaurants. Friendly population who come from many parts of the world. Low crime rate;You feel safe almost everywhere at any time in this city (I said almost OK)

      Negative Stuff: Pay checks for IT are smaller than elsewhere (but in some case what you save with the cost of life can easily compensate) Lot of taxes Maybe more difficult to get a job in IT.

      I saw a couple of time ago a documentary about the profile of 6 Americans who decided to come to live to Quebec. There was a reporter, a writer, an engineer, a lawyer, an architect and I.T. guy. I will tell you their words not mines. All where saying basically the same thing. Maybe less money but you can do more with what you have. You have much more support from the government in case something bad happens to you.

      One of them said one insightful sentence: USA really like is winner and take care of them but if thinks start to go wrong you are on your own and the USA system is really hard on losers.
  • by fiannaFailMan ( 702447 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @05:53PM (#9132789) Journal
    People don't speak so loudly. [ducks]
    • We have them in New England, they're called "rotaries" here. And frankly, if you've ever driven in New England, you'll know why in this imperfect world of ours, rotaries are not superior to traffic-lighted intersections: because most people either don't know or don't care what the YIELD sign means!
  • Two Words... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @05:53PM (#9132794)
    ... Tim Hortons
    • Re:Two Words... (Score:3, Informative)

      by marick ( 144920 )
      Yeah, Tim Hortons was everywhere when I visited Toronto. I loved it - the donuts and coffee were so consistent.

      Of course, the coffee was consistently lousy, but that's just my opinion. And the donuts were awesome.
  • by Power Everywhere ( 778645 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @05:54PM (#9132796) Homepage
    People are not nearly so uptight as in the US. Gor crying out loud, we had an office party here for Christmas and everyone got a drunk &#8212 those who didn't still sang and danced and had a good time. Contrast this with my experience with typical American office parties where they order some bland catered food, sip on mineral water and itch at their cotton-polyester blend polo shirts waiting to go home so they can work some more.

    There's much more of an "open collar" atmosphere in Canada. Everyone trusts everyone else, we're all ready to get to know one another, and we certainly don't stay uptight after the regional manager has ended his visit to our office. Working in Canada is much less conducive to heart attacks.
    • by Fnkmaster ( 89084 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:06PM (#9132980)
      I will somewhat agree with you on this, at least at smaller companies in Canada. My company was doing a software project for a company in Ottawa, and their CEO happened to also own a web design shop that was working with us on the project. I remember being particularly impressed when my partners and I went out for lunch with the CEO and the tattooed web designer (this guy worked miracles in Flash, I've gotta say, and we ended up having him do all our corporate web design stuff).

      Anyway, these two fellows from very different social backgrounds, one essentially being the boss' boss of the other, seemed to feel pretty comfortable kicking back a few bottles of Blue (Labbatt's Blue, the Canadian equivalent of... well, they drink the stuff as often as we drink coke or pepsi down here). Mind you, I often went out with both our CEO and with the people who worked for me, but that was the nature of my job. You'd rarely see my company's CEO out at lunch with our software developers, and if you did, they weren't exactly comfortably chit-chatting and kicking back beers, it always seemed much more strained.

      It was always a pleasure to do work with our Canadian customers, and we always had a good time up there. Of course, I have to note that these guys were all making about a third what they'd have been making in the Boston area, when you account for currency differences and so on (then again, the cost of living is certainly lower up there, though it's not THAT much lower). Also, I suspect that big corporate environments in Canada are more uptight than what I saw, and I doubt that a large insurance company in Canada would be so much more laid back than a large insurance company in the US. But maybe I'm wrong.

    • by coolerthanmilk ( 312282 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @07:19PM (#9133828)
      As an American* working in Canada, I'll tell you that in my experience yes, it is more open and relaxed than in the US. That is until your company becomes noticed as an aquisition target because it's so successful and a US company sucks it up to help keep them alive. Having been through the experience, the contrast in company cultures was tremendous and the resulting atmosphere in the company continues to be depressing and as filled with corporate politics and frustrations as one could imagine.

      My advice: if you find a good job in Canada with the atmosphere you seek, enjoy it while it lasts. I did. And since then I've moved on to a smaller Canadian company where I enjoy the relaxed culture still, sadly I just don't get paid as well for it.

      As an aside, for an excellent resource on Canadian culture in general compared to the US, see Emily Way's An American's Guide to Canada []. There is much useful info there.

      *Disclaimer: For those who are anal about such things, yes, I generally refer to myself as an American, prefectly aware that there are many other countries upon the American continent. But having lived in three other countries apart from the US, I have found that by refering to yourself as a US citizen, estadounidense, or whatever else often tends to confuse people. Really, it does. Once they realize what you're saying, they invariably reply "oh, you're American". So after years of trying to buck the trend, I've given in to the pressure from residents of other countries, including Canada and Mexico, the two countries with the most right to be offended by such a moniker, and call myself an American.
  • by genkael ( 102983 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @05:54PM (#9132800)
    Many of the companies in Canada are just counterparts to American companies. Specifically I'm referring to MNCs (multi-national corps). However, the environment is a little more easy going unless they are a division of an American company at which point that can be more difficult to work for. I've worked in the past with Canadian divisions of an MNC and this was usually the case. Smaller companies are still the way to go. You might want to look into a Canada based insurance company since you have some experience in a similar environment.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @05:55PM (#9132815)
    Cananda is not the 51st state and moving there isn't like moving to North Dakota.

    If you are unhappy with corporate life in the US, get out of corporate life, not the US. Insurance is one of those industries dominated very large companies. Lots of rules, regulations and PHB. Go find a (stable, profitable, non-high tech) company with 80 - 200 employees. It is a whole 'nother world working for a small to midsized company.
    • by anethema ( 99553 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:06PM (#9132978) Homepage
      There are a lot of reasons to leave the USA right now.

      A lot of Canadas laws are a lot less harsh than those in the USA. We have copyright obviously, but stuff like sharing music is legal. My friends can borrow my cd's and burn them, I can download from P2P networks, etc. All legally.

      We certainly dont have anything like the patriot act or the DMCA.

      I'm sure we will eventually be in the same boat, but currently, you can have a bit more peace of mind living in canada than the usa. (All IMHO :)
  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt.nerdflat@com> on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @05:55PM (#9132818) Journal
    If you like being unemployed, or simply working without getting paid, being a sysadmin in Canada is just fine.

    Do I sound bitter? Well... maybe I am, just a touch.

  • You make less (Score:3, Offtopic)

    by nate nice ( 672391 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @05:57PM (#9132861) Journal
    You will probably make less and are paid in Canadian dollars, so that 60K a year isn't as nice as it sounds. You will also pay higher taxes. But, you also gain free health care as well and have more public facilitties. Also, you can take pride in the fact that your tax dollars don't go to humiliating and tortuing Iraqi POW's.
    Also, it's really, really, really cold in Canada. Hope you like Hockey! Keep in mind, your boss will still suck.

    • You will probably make less and are paid in Canadian dollars, so that 60K a year isn't as nice as it sounds.

      I think you need to compare the cost of living along with salary.
    • Re:You make less (Score:3, Informative)

      At the income tax level, combined federal and state taxes are actually very close to Canadian federal and provincial rates. The biggest difference is the insane sales taxes in Canada, something like 15% on what seems to be everything. Hard liquor is also hella-expensive but not as wallet brusting as in Europe.
    • Re:You make less (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:36PM (#9133377)
      Check out this wizzy cost of living calculator [] to compare costs between cities all over the world.

      For example, if you are making $100k a year in San Francisco, you need to be making around $76K a year in Vancouver to have a similar standard of living.

      Move to Regina, and you only need to make around $47K a year.

      I think the most important distinction job-wise is that most Canucks I know work 45 hours or LESS a week. None of this 70-hour-a-week crap I hear about in the US.

  • Grass Is Greener (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hrolf ( 564645 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @05:58PM (#9132867)
    Generally, variability within different U.S. companies (corporate culture and procedures) is greater than that between the U.S. and Canada (or the U.K., or Australia), so it depends on where you wind up.
  • French areas (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrIrwin ( 761231 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @05:58PM (#9132872) Journal
    Can't say much about corporate Canada, but as someone who switched countries when I was 25 I can say there is a lot to be said for going somewhere with a new language and culture. French orientated areas of Canada offer great opportunities for this.

    First few weeks are difficult, but people have a lot of patience if you are seriously interested in learning thier language.

    In a few years you will find that you have not only become bi-ligual, but bi-cultural, you will be able to switch between different ways of thinking, frankly it really broadens then mind.

    Then, who knows, next stop Europe! If nothing else it is a great thing on your CV!

    • Re:French areas (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rikkards ( 98006 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:32PM (#9133324) Journal
      I never looked at Quebec as having that distinct of a culture unless you include redubbing most American shows into French as being a culture. I would recommend skipping Quebec and just going to Europe. Once you get into the deep dark depths of Quebec you just have rednecks that speak French.

      Montreal and Southern Quebec is more or less exempt from the above.
    • by jpetts ( 208163 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:38PM (#9133393)
      but people have a lot of patience if you are seriously interested in learning thier language.

      Please let me know if you would like any help with English spelling.
    • by thenextpresident ( 559469 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @07:56PM (#9134170) Homepage Journal
      As an American working in Montreal for more than 2 years now, I have always said that Montreal is a wonderful city, and in my opinion, the best city I have ever been to (and I have been to quite a few, including Europe and the US). The people here are fantastic, and it's just a wonderful environment. And even for a non french speaking person like myself, adjusting to the city and the culture was no problem.

      Now, granted, I had some help (I moved up here for work and for my girl, who I met online (IRC), and yes, we are still together), so I may have had it easier.

      But still, it's a great city. Much more free up here than in the US, as the minds of people are more European, and much more liberal.
  • As a Canadian... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SpamJunkie ( 557825 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @05:59PM (#9132886)
    It works like this: you get paid less and taxed more.

    In exchange it costs slightly less to live and hostpitals won't turn you away.
    • Re:As a Canadian... (Score:4, Informative)

      by TykeClone ( 668449 ) <> on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:09PM (#9133006) Homepage Journal
      Just to note - US hospitals can't turn away any emergencies - no matter what their capacity to pay might be.

      And that is as it should be.

      • Re:As a Canadian... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by iminplaya ( 723125 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:59PM (#9133650) Journal
        Oh? [] From the link:

        As members and friends of the Second Unitarian Church of Chicago, we feel compelled to speak out against the tragic, unnecessary death of Chris Sercye. This fifteen-year-old black youth lay for half an hour on the sidewalk adjoining Ravenswood Hospital, bleeding from a gunshot wound. Hospital officials refused to allow employees to carry Chris inside for treatment until it was too late.


        This is health care for profit where people are packed into an under-staffed ER rather than moved to a room. This is the same system that turned away a young mother and her infant because the mother couldn't pay the $25 clinic visit. The child, who was being breast-fed, died of malnutrition. But it's the mother who is being blamed and accused of manslaughter, not the hospital who refused to examine the baby.
  • by SmegTheLight ( 521218 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:01PM (#9132913)
    Fat geeks in Parkas look just as big as skinny geeks in Parkas.. Girls you meet will never know until you get them back to your igloo.
  • by jonesvery ( 121897 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:03PM (#9132943) Homepage Journal

    Slightly off topic, I suppose, but you know that the unemployment rate in Canada [] is currently higher (7.3% April 2004) than the US unemployment rate [] (5.6% April 2004), right?

    And you're a Canadian citizen or have compelling reason to believe that you'll be offered a work visa (personal connections, obscure and valuable skills)?

  • by fpp ( 614761 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:03PM (#9132946)
    I never worry about my office building/city/town getting targeted by terrorists. That's not to say it won't ever happen, but when was the last time you heard anyone say, "Let's get those damn Canadians"?
  • by Crispin Cowan ( 20238 ) <.crispin. .at.> on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:03PM (#9132952) Homepage
    My credentials:

    Canadian born and educated

    moved to the US 10 years ago after finishing my PhD

    worked in the US and Canada as a developer/intern, and in the US as a professor and executive

    Bias: as a child, I was always an American-wanna-be My opinion: Canada and the US are very similar: It is wisely said that Canadians are polite, unarmed Americans, with health care. However, there are interesting differences:

    • Canadians are more "conservative", in the small-c sense of danger-aversion. Canadians by and large will accept an average lower standard of living in exchange for a lower risk of catastrophe. This shows up in substantially lower wages for technical staff, but with a substantially higher standard of living for those supported by the social safety net.
    • There is much less entreprenure-ship in Canada. Go to Canada if you like large companies, because there are a lot fewer start-ups.
    • Republican bullshit not withstanding, the Canadian single-payer health care system works better than anything I have ever seen in the US.
    • Canadians are generally more reasonable and less excitable than Americans. Conversely, Canadians are a lot less exciting than Americans. A Canadian radio station once ran a contest to pick a saying analogous to "As American as apple pie." The winner was "As Canadian as possible, under the circumstances."
    A lot of Canadians have a very poor opinion of the quality of life in the US. I submit that this is because a substantial plurality of Canadians actually live in Southern Ontario, between Buffalo and Detroit. If all you ever heard of the US was that North Tonowanda was burning again, what would you think? :)

    Crispin Cowan, Ph.D.
    CTO, Immunix Inc. []

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:42PM (#9133449)
      "Canadians are more "conservative", in the small-c sense of danger-aversion."

      It must be mentioned that the typical Canadian "conservative" doesn't carry all of the excess baggage that his American counterpart does.

      There isn't much excitement over issues such as abortion rights, creation science, the dreaded evils of Marijuana, arguments over which is the one religion so true that it could be the state religion, or whether military might is a good way to spread "democracy" throughout the entire world!

      In plain words, we are dull, boring but sensible!
  • Depends on location (Score:4, Informative)

    by fuelled by caffeine ( 768739 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:05PM (#9132970)
    It depends largely on where you end up. The west coast has a reputation for being laid back. Toronto is the hub and seems quite a bit more formal. I am always shocked by how over dressed IT people from Toronto seem. Here in Vancouver I work for a financial institution and almost everyone dresses casually. I imagine that that Quebec and the Maritimes also have quite casual corporate environments, especially when compared to the US.

    I think you will find Canadians more reserved in corporate life or outside of it.
  • by EoRaptor ( 4083 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:07PM (#9132993)

    As a job hunting System Admin. in Toronto, I can tell you the job market is pretty crappy. Unless you already have a job lined up, don't hold your breath for a sysadmin position.

    You should also note that jobs in Canada are much more political than jobs in the U.S. Office politics plays a bigger role, and you better be good at the game to get anywhere.
  • by nate nice ( 672391 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:08PM (#9133002) Journal
    In Canada, they don't really use computers. They only have one industry, well two if you want to seperate them, but those are creating snow and creating cold. You see, they just sit up there in their cold factories creating snow all day and then they turn on their giant fans and blow it into places like Wisconsin, etc. They take great pride in this however, because without them people like me might actually be able to walk around more than 4 months out of the year without being wrapped in 5 shirts, a coat, an under-coat, 3 hats, gloves with mittins over them, 5 pairs of socks, furry boots and 15 scarfs wrapped around my entire body. Hey Canada, thanks a lot!

  • by LilMikey ( 615759 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:10PM (#9133026) Homepage
    ...we could've used your vote.
  • by puppetman ( 131489 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:22PM (#9133177) Homepage
    As a Canadian who looked at relocating to California (but didn't, though I flew back and forth for 4 months), I did a fair bit of research into the US/Canada thing.

    Myth #1 - Taxes are really high.
    Reality: not really. You don't pay 50% until you make over $100,000. The average annual tax burden is somewhere around 30-35%. There are provincial and federal sales taxes, however, and you can't write off your mortgage interest. You can, however, put money into a retirement savings plan, and that investment is tax free, and the growth on that investment is also tax free. You pay tax when you withdraw. Also, there are no inheritance taxes in Canada, unlike the US.

    Myth #2 - You have to make $80,000 CDN to have the same lifestyle you had on $60,000 US. Depends on where you come from. A friend who worked in California found that if you made $60,000 CDN, you needed to make $60,000 US to have the same lifestyle - the exact opposite. Cars are more expensive in the US, rent is more expenive in parts of the US, etc. And this is compared to Vancouver, one of the most expensive parts of Canada.

    Myth #3 - the unemployment rate is higher in Canada
    Reality: it's computed differently in Canada vs the US. If people stop looking for jobs in the US (ie they can't find them), then they aren't considered unemployed, whereas they are still counted as unemployed (or perhaps unemployable) in Canada.

    Myth #4 - It's tough to get into Canada
    Reality: if your young, healthy and wealthy (or well educated), you've got a pretty good shot. We have two Europeans working in our office, and both just became citizens.

    Other things to note: health care is essentially free. At worst, you'll pay $100 a month for basic care. Most employers then add extended health and dental. You go to the doctor or dentist you want. None of that HMO crud you see in the US. But because healthcare is public, you have no option of spending more to get better service (ie to use private services). In the US, the more money you are willing to pay, the better the service you will get. But you have to pay the money up front. Families aren't forced into bancrupcy because an uninsured family member comes down with cancer.

    If your wife/girfriend gets pregnant, and she was working and paying taxes and employement-insurance-deductions (most everyone does, unless you are self employeed), she can take a year off with partial pay. Alot different than 6 weeks of no pay that you find in the US.

    In most parts of Canada, you can find true wilderness an hour or less from where you live.

    Expect to see hockey as the national pastime (the national sport is lacrosse, and it's actually pretty popular); forget baseball or basketball unless you live in Toronto. And Vancouver has the 2010 Winter Olympics.

    Things aren't as hyper-competitive as they are in the US, and as a result you'll find it a bit less exciting, but a bit more polite; people hold doors, wait their turn, and say "Thank you" (a Canadian TV show did a skit about a Canadian version of Fear Factor, and one of the things a Canadian had to do was to say "No" to a waiter/waitress when asked if their meal is ok - couldn't do it).

    On the job front, things seem to be improving quite a bit. Canadians tend to work less than Americans. You are more likely to end up in a union (yuk) but sysadmins are usually only in a union if they work for the government. Someone said that Canadians take their jobs way too seriously. I've found it was exactly the opposite. Overall, I didn't see much difference (and I worked in San Francisco during the .com boom) - people are pretty similar, and so are the jobs.

    Finally, the beer. The wonderful beer. I've has some great American beer (Pyramid, Fat Tire, ESB) but in general I like Canadian better (Big Rock, Okanagen Springs, Grandville Island, etc).
  • How do you tell... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr. Piddle ( 567882 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:24PM (#9133206)

    How to you tell whether the grass really is greener under that 27" of snow?

    Granted, American suburban sprawl sucks, but is making the leap of becoming a member of another nation truly worth it? For example, an important question would be: does Canada value freedom and speech in all the same ways as the USA does? I really don't know (not being Canadian), but I do know that the USA is better than Slashdot doomsayers claim it to be.

    Perhaps you simply need a career change? No one is forced into 1-hour commutes to a job they hate. How about moving rural, get a low-paying job, and lay back and enjoy life for a while? Buy a cheap john boat and go fishing for a change.

    Are you sure it isn't your own idealism that you are chasing and never catching? Do you understand that naive idealism begets misery--in any country in the world?
    • by puppetman ( 131489 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:34PM (#9133348) Homepage
      "does Canada value freedom and speech in all the same ways as the USA does"

      Uh, we have a constitution as well. And we have the same rights as you do. But we didn't get it before 1980-something.

      Before that, we had the BNA Act (British North American Act); it didn't really formally promise or guarantee anything, but being a rational, respectful people, we pretty much just agreed to get along and give others the same rights we would like ourself.

      Now, maybe it's time to pick up a book, and learn about the country that does the most trade with the US, provides the most oil and gas to the US, speaks the same language with basically the same accent, and in general has been Americas closest ally (current situation aside). Canadians know alot about America and Americans, and show a fair bit of interest about what goes on there.

      Would be nice to see that feeling reciprocated one day.
    • by k98sven ( 324383 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @07:16PM (#9133807) Journal
      does Canada value freedom and speech in all the same ways as the USA does?

      I really feel I need to adress this misconception.
      I was raised in the US, and moved to Europe in my teens. Before that, I pretty much had the same question.

      What I soon learned: In the USA, these concepts are extremely hyped. Not that they're not important, but americans tend to think that these concepts somehow are unique to the USA, or unique in importance to Americans.

      It's just not true. The whole western world has pretty much the same attitude on these issues.

      (And this is one of the reasons of US-EU friction:Europeans, not hyping this stuff so much, are more aware that the difference is relatively small, I feel. So when Americans say stuff like this, they percieve it as an american "We're the only ones who truly understand freedom" attitude.)

      The question is how you define 'freedom'? The right to bear arms? Some think this is an important freedom. Most people in the western world, do not. On the other hand, the USA has less freedoms in other ways. Scandinavians are proud that they have the freedom to enter the property of others. (not squatting in someone's front yard, of course, but say, taking a stroll in someone's forest)

      You can't burn the flag in Italy. But some Americans want that too.

      The political difference on the issue of fundamental freedoms varies no more between the US and other western democracies than it does within the US.

      There is a major difference is that the USA has the approach of not changing laws, especially not the consititution, to ban things. Instead, things get handled through lawsuits. So in the USA, you may often have the 'freedom' to do something in the sense that it's not prohibited by law, but on the other hand, you'll get sued into oblivion.

  • by Ankh ( 19084 ) * on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:25PM (#9133230) Homepage
    I came to Canada 15 years ago (from the UK) as a computer consultant, loved it, and stayed here in Toronto ever since, except for a few months working in the Boston area of the US. And for what it's worth, I'm married to an American ex-attorney :-)

    An unpleasant job is unpleasant anywhere. I can't comment on the insurance industry, I don't know about it.

    When you're comparing countries, remember that Canada is geographically larger than the US, and has a lot of variation, as of course does the US. A factory worker assembling cars in suburban Detroit might be amazed that the houses in Ontario are not all the same shape :-) and someone from San Francisco might miss the hills. A visitor from the South gaped in awe at the mixed-race couples everywhere here in Toronto.

    The highest tax rate is indeed 51% but get an accountant: you'll find there are more deductibles that reduce your taxes here, and a rate of around 30% is more common, assuming you are earning more than Cad$60,000/year.

    Yes, you'll quite likely be paid less here. But the cost of living is lower. Make sure you get at least the same dollar amount and it shouldn't be too bad.

    The healthcare is in fact better than someone commented: my partner has had a lot of health problems, and for some things Canada is much better than the US, for some it's not. In some cases, the Canadian health programme will send you to the US for treatment and cover the cost too, although it's rare. You are much less likely to have doctors trying to sell you on expensive drugs or treatments here, and more likely to find doctors who want to help you.

    In much of Canada, at least in the more rural parts, there's much better public transport than you might be used to, depending on which part of the US you're from. It's a symptom of a greater emphasis on community, on the need for everyone to live together and get along, and to respect each other's differences, celebrating diversity. This comes at a cost of a lower emphasis on the individual, especially on the rights of the individual where they might adversely affect the community. Hate speech, for example, is a crime.

    It took my husband (yes, we are a gay couple, and yes, we have same-sex marriage here) about 18 months before he stopped saying "Canada is so far behind the US" and started to realise that in fact we're going in a different direction. After a few more years he came to appreciate that direction, and decided to immigrate. I've heard similar stories from others: it can take two or three years to get used to a different way of thinking and to stop judging what you see based on experiences gained in another country.

    Canada is far from perfect, but we don't have George Bush, and many of the Americans who move here are dissatisfied with the US in some way, and often relatively left-wing. But you should come and see for yourself.

    The Immigration Canada Web site is useful - - and will help you get a visa. You can get a NAFTA work permit I think, but you'll need a certified job offer to do that. if you decide to immigrate and then find a job, there's about a year's waiting list and a non-refundable fee.

    You could also start reading online papers such as the Glbe and Mail, and depending on where you are planning to go, daily papers like the Globe and Mail.

    Oh, and on climate - yes, it gets as cold as Minnisota in the winter at times :-) and today it's over 80 degrees with a dry warm breeze. It depends where you live; Toronto is pretty far south, further than most people realise, and we get weather not that much different from new York City. But you could live within the Arctic Circle if you really wanted to :-)

    I hope this helps.

    Oh, one more thing (I know this is already long).. I travel a lot... and always notice when I come home how different the people are in the service industry here. Go and get a meal at a food court in Det
  • Are you a citizen? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:32PM (#9133317)
    Or do you already have a job offer that will get you a visa? Canada, like the US, is NOT open access. Forigeners have to get permission to work there, even Americans. So before you cast in with both feet, make sure that you are actually going to be able to get work there. I'm not saying it's majorly difficult, but don't take it for granted. It IS a foriegn country.
  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:40PM (#9133425) Homepage Journal
    Try going into the 'small business' America. Its MUCH different then the big coproprates.

  • by xeno ( 2667 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @07:07PM (#9133736)
    This may or may not be useful for you, but I worked for ~three years for a mid-sized Canadian corporation with offices located in the US.

    The honeymoon: After getting dot-bombed twice, I was brought in for an interview via a personal referral, and it seemed like a good fit. I told them I was a little jittery about the technology economy, and to describe how they were doing. The response was something along the lines of "We've been making a small but dependable profit every year for the past thirty-plus years." I started work the next week. While primarily Canadian-run, the inclusion of British and Australians in the management mix gave a bit more of a truly international feel to the organization. The place was eerily quiet and very businesslike, which was a welcome change from the Brownian-motion style US/.com management of the previous few years.

    The serious relationship: They kept me busy on a number of good technology projects, but the risk-averse environment began to grate on me. The Canadian management was interested in the *idea* of new clients, but was so entrenched in the repeat-business-by-reputation model that they consistently failed to track new opportunities. Even really good and profitable ventures with low risk that landed in their laps tended to be neglected. For example, I spent quite a bit of effort on a business plan for expansion of an existing line of work, only to have it neglected rather than rejected outright. Still, there were interesting work opportunities, and we plodded along with them. I resisted slowing my personal pace of business and technical exploration, but eventually reached something of a tolerable balance.

    The divorce: The US operation began to lose money, and a new manager was brought in to build business. Instead, the uber-conservative atmosphere stymied new ventures at a higher level than had affected me directly. Low/med risk down here in the US was perceived as high-risk north of the border. The new manager (a low-wattage guy who was long on vision and short on follow-thru) then just resorted to layoffs. Now, a decent US-ian approach might have been to face up to the numbers, lay off a bunch of people with a semi-reasonable severance, and be done with it. Instead, in the Canadian corporate atmosphere I knew, having to do a layoff was a point of shame (which it should be, since any layoff is a tacit admission of management failure). But instead of getting it over with, they drew it out, firing an average of 1% a week for a year, on a seemingly random basis. The last straw for me was an ill-timed complaint that I made about not receiving my allotted training budget for the past two years. I was shooed out the door, only to be brought back as a consultant within a week. I finished my work shortly thereafter, and bowed out as gracefully as I could.

    Would I work for a Canadian company again? Maybe, but probably not. These few years seemed to combine all the worst features of risk-verse Canadians, tall-poppy-averse Australians, form-over-substance-obsessed British, and blinded-by-your-own-BS-management Americans. But it was tolerable, we made a little money, and the company is still in business and probably will be for some time to come. Based on my experience, I would say a medium-sized Canadian corporation might be nice place to park yourself if you want a quiet, staid environment for a few years. But be careful that you don't take root and slow down to a point that you can't re-enter the US or other fast-paced market in the future.

  • by radtea ( 464814 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @10:45PM (#9135420)
    I'm a Canadian. I've lived on the West Coast, in Winnipeg, and in Eastern Ontario. I also spent a year in the U.S., living in L.A. (Pasadena), and have been close to several Americans over the past 15 years.

    I've worked in the public sector (universities and health care as a medical physicist) and in the private sector (largish public software company, several smaller private firms.) I now own my own company (

    In one of my previous positions the company was run by Americans but staffed by Canadians, and it made me acutely aware of the cultural differences between the two countries. The Americans wanted cheer and ethusiasm. The Canadians weren't having any. They produced solid results, but they just couldn't be all happy and excited about it, and they found the Americans' attitudes extremely wearing. The Canadians' attitudes drove the Americans nuts.

    So an American coming to Canada shouldn't be fooled by the fact that most of us speak something like the same language and have some other similarities. Canadians are different. We are more small-c conservative and more small-l liberal. We are stupid and wasteful in less obvious ways than Americans. We own lots and lots of guns but hardly ever shoot anyone with them.

    Our national govenment is the only one in the G8 that has its fiscal house properly in order--we have run a surplus for long enough that I can't remember offhand the last time we had a deficit (sometime in the mid-90's) and we are steadly paying down our national debt. Most provincial governments are in less good shape, but still take fiscal probity seriously.

    As a business-person, I love it here. You can incorporate nationally on-line for a total of $220. The federal government is a world-leader in supplying services electronically. Labour laws are a lot tighter here than in the U.S., but the work-force is generally well-educated and even unions are a lot more reasonable than they were 20 years ago. Taxes are somewhat higher, but this is largely compensated for by not having to pay for private health insurance.

    The per-capita cost of health care is significantly lower in Canada than the US. We have a three-tier health care system, in which basic service is paid for via taxes, small levels of enhanced service are available for relatively small fees, and the very rich have U.S. hospitals ready to serve them right across the border.

    The basic level of care for a wide range of things is as good or better as the U.S. average, but it's widely recognized that the basic health-care system is increasingly broken. If how we dealt with the federal deficit is any indication, there will be a decade of sometimes quite nasty debate that will end in a fairly broad concensus on what to do, and we'll do it.

    Americans sometimes see that we are polite, and think us weak. They see that we are calm, and think us passive. They see that we are content, and think us stupid. They are wrong on all counts.

  • by spago ( 468526 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:53PM (#9135824) Homepage
    I live in Windsor, ON and work in Dearborn, MI (a suburb of Detroit). My round trip commute is 54km/34mi or about an hour per day. I've had the opportunity to work in both countries, and I've noticed a few differences:

    - There is definitely more career opportunity in the U.S. It also seems easier to shine (not just *my* opinion), probably because with such a vast economy, there is plenty of opportunity to hire some real duds. :)

    - You'll almost definitely make more money in the U.S. I enjoy the best of both worlds, paid in U.S. dollars, yet live in lower-cost Canada. Taxes are higher in Canada, but housing, utilities and food is somewhat lower.

    - U.S. medical coverage is wonderful, as long as you have insurance. The Canadian system is actually quite good, except for certain types of procedures where there are unacceptably long waits. (I love having medical coverage in both countries.) Yes you pay for the Canadian system in terms of taxes, but don't lose sight of all the co-pays and hidden fees that come with most U.S. insurance programs. A coworker of mine recently had an extended stay in a U.S. hospital, and all those little fees added up to over $1000 USD.

    - Culturally, I notice a few small differences in general, but most of the people I work with in the U.S. are wonderful, equally nice as the folks I've worked with in Canada. Canadians in general seem to be a bit more polite (seems hard to get a "you're welcome" out of many Americans), and Americans are definitely more confident and aggressive (which probabaly explains their business success). But most of the stereotypes mentioned here are just wrong in my opinion.

    Work in Canada or the U.S.? It's really a matter of personal taste. You can't lose, as long as you work hard and find a nice place to work, I think you'll live very comfortably in either country.

    By the way - those who said it's difficult to work in Canada are wrong. Computer folks under NAFTA have plenty of ways to obtain employment in either country.


In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982