Should I Stay or Should I Go?
The definitive guide to moving abroad and whether it's right for you


This is a preview to the chapter Canada from the book Should I Stay or Should I Go? by Paul Allen.
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Think of Canada and imagine the US ... only without the gun crime!

Canucks will protest, but there are many similarities between these North American neighbours: the cars, the city streets, the architecture, the malls, the food. And, of course, the landscapes.

For me, the most noticeable thing on arriving in Canada was its sheer scale. The country is, after all, the second largest in the world (behind Russia). But more than pure size was the amount of open space.

Canada’s land mass covers more than 5.6 million square miles, compared to the United Kingdom’s 150,000 square miles. Yet its population of 33.4 million is only a little over half that of the UK. That means on average there are just 5.4 inhabitants per square mile in Canada, one of the lowest population density figures in the world.

And because there is more room to spread out, per square foot land prices are comparatively low. That is in evidence in the size of the houses and the plots of land they sit in.

Not that you’d want to live in much of the territory that Canada calls its own. Broadly speaking the climate is ... well, challenging.

Winters – which in some regions last a long, long time – can be positively Arctic. In the central prairie provinces temperatures can drop to -40°C (-40°F), accompanied by huge snowfalls. Summer temperatures, by contrast, may hit 30°C or more.

The east and west coasts suffer less extremes, with Vancouver and other parts of coastal British Columbia generally having more mild and rainy winters. Nevertheless, cold and snow are commonplace pretty much across the country. And the further north you go the worse it gets.

As a result, 90 percent of the population huddles within 100 miles of the US border, with most concentrated in urban areas around Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal in the east, and Vancouver or Calgary and Edmonton in the west.

Not that the winters are all bad.

According to Therese Conroy – who emigrated from England to Canada in 1965 and now lives 50 miles east of Winnipeg in the central province of Manitoba – it does have its compensations. “I like watching the Northern Lights in winter and I like being snuggled up in my home when a storm blows or snow blankets everything outside. And I like the winter mornings when the ice crystals make everything sparkle and even the most mundane item looks magical.”
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