Canada versus Australia

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  • A question that frequently comes up on the BE forum is which of these two countries, Canada and Australia, is a more appealing place for a British expat to live.
  • This is a difficult question to answer. There really is no "one size fits all" response.
  • This article will provide some points for consideration.

Canada's advantages

  • Closer to the UK; hence it's quicker and cheaper to travel between the two countries.
  • You're more likely to receive visits from British rellies if you live in Canada. You may put this on the plus or minus side of the ledger, as you see fit.
  • Seasons in synch. Since British and Canadian cousins have their long summer vacations (holidays) at the same time, it's easier to coordinate family visits.
  • For those who want a true four-season climate, Canada is the place to go (except for coastal British Columbia, whose climate is more like that of the UK -- but even then you're always close to snow-covered mountains on which you can ski).
  • Christmas is in winter, if that means a lot to you.
  • Proximity to the USA, if you'd like that.
  • French language in Quebec, New Brunswick, part of Ontario and at federal government level, if you like that.
  • Costs of consumer goods and electrical items are generally cheaper in Canada compared to Australia, helped by proximity to U.S. market.
  • Canadian provinces have more autonomy than Australian states, and there is therefore more diversity of laws, rules and taxes between provinces in Canada compared to the differences between Australian states, if you like that.
  • Canada is not so ecologically fragile. Drought has not been a big issue in recent years.

Australia's advantages

  • The process by which foreigners get professional or technical accreditation generally is clearer in Australia.
  • Australian employers will generally have more familiarity with British work experience and qualifications.
  • Some cultural similarities with the UK that Canada doesn't have, e.g., cricket, rugby, Australian (Aussie) Rules (similar to Gaelic football)etc.
  • Although the seasons are out of synch with those of the UK, it may appeal to your British rellies to have a summer break during their winter.
  • Hot climate, if that appeals (although, given Australia's huge size, this necessarily is an over-generalization). Varies from hot and humid in the northern tropics to drizzily, cold or freezing in Tasmania. The alpine regions of south-eastern Australia have a "four season" climate with snow in winter.
  • Feasible to move most electrical goods, although unless white goods are of high quality it may not be worth bringing them. Requires use of socket/plug adaptor. VCRs etc may need "chipping" or run through set top boxes to be compatible with transmission frequencies (again many migrants choose not to bring TV/VCR). Dvd's are a different region code (4) to the UK region (2), but all can be viewed if you have multi-region player. VCR tapes will play on an Australian player.
  • Driving is on the same side of the road as it is in the UK. Hence you can in theory move your British car to Australia. Needs to be pass compliance inspection and then registered before you can drive on road. Parts may be hard to obtain for some makes and models. Also there may be import duties payable. Usually the cost does not make sense.
  • Almost all Australian states give full recognition to British drivers licences and do not require a re-test for standard driver entitlement. This is only the case in some Canadian provinces and not in others.
  • Relative proximity to Asia, if you'd like that.
  • An Australian passport gives you residence rights in New Zealand, if you'd like that.
  • Annual leave, on average, is longer in Australia than it is in Canada. (But in both countries it varies from industry to industry and from employer to employer.)
  • There is more scope for the average citizen to challenge legally incorrect public service decision making in Australia than is typically the case in Canada. Ombudsmen generally have more power in Australia and the Australian Administrative Appeals Tribunal has no Canadian equivalent.

Shared advantages

  • Both countries allow dual citizenship (usually after 3 years in Canada, 4 years in Oz). Note that the administrative process for becoming a citizen is substantially simpler in Australia.
  • If you have a child born in the country, child will automatically be a citizen (in Australia provided at least one parent is a citizen or permanent resident, in Canada regardless of parents' immigration status provided they're not diplomats or similar).
  • English (or at least a version thereof) is spoken in both Canada (except in some French-speaking areas) and Australia, which makes it relatively easy for a British expat to settle in.
  • Both countries are inhabited by rather nice people, in the main.
  • Both Canadian and Australian passports give the option of gaining a foothold in the United States for some with professional occupations (TN visa/status for Canadians, E-3 visa for Australians).
  • Both countries have dollar currencies and use the metric system.
  • Both have a "Westminster style" government, although Australia's federal parliament has more in common with the United States (eg a powerful Senate). Both countries have significant powers exercised by state/province/territory governments. Both are constitutional monarchies, although Australia is more likely than Canada to switch to a republic in the medium term.
  • Levels of taxation, social/health services and educational standards are broadly equivalent.

Shared disadvantages

  • Both countries lack history and culture.
    • Well, actually, both countries have aboriginal cultures that go back tens of thousands of years. But, for the most part, neither of those aboriginal cultures left permanent structures and artefacts on the scale of those to be found in Europe.
    • There are some who have argued that that indeed was aboriginal people's gift to the future -- the very fact that they left the land largely untouched.
    • Be that as it may, the point is that both Canada and Australia lack what feels to British people like history and culture. Much as British people may think they want to have easy access to beautiful scenery and wilderness spaces, the reality is that, after some time in one of these "new" countries, some British expats find themselves longing for the UK's old buildings and quaint villages and pubs. They come to feel that Canada (or Australia) lacks depth.
  • Although it's true that Canada is closer to the UK than Australia is, it's also true that neither country is just round the corner from your British family members. Some British expats find themselves missing their British family members and friends.
    • Sometimes it happens pretty soon after the move to the new country, and sometimes it happens years down the road. Sometimes it's a feeling that starts out as a niggling little worry at the back of your mind and that grows into something more serious. Sometimes it's precipitated by a sudden event, such as a death in the family.
    • It's almost impossible to predict, when you emigrate, whether or not homesickness will become a major issue.
  • Neither Canada nor Australia has quick, cheap flights to Europe. A weekend getaway to Paris isn't an option. This too is something that some British expats in North America and Down Under come to miss.

What to do?

  • This process has no guarantees.
  • You should research your options as exhaustively as you can. Ask advice on the forums from people who have done it.
  • It is enormously helpful to do a recce trip to your chosen destination (or even more than one recce trip if that is possible).
  • Read the Moving back to the UK forum, as that will give you an idea of the factors that drive people to give up their emigration dreams. Remember though, that one persons' experiences may differ from another or yourself.
  • Then, after having done all that, just make the most informed decision that you can.