Living and working in Canada verses the US

From visits you can see which part of North America you prefer. There's a difference, however, between visiting and living permanently in Canada or the United States. Even after a few trips, you may still wonder what living in USA or Canada is actually like. You will find more information about what living in the US and Canada is like in our relocation guides.

One factor to consider is the severity of the climate in much of the continent. Summers can be boiling hot and winters deadly cold, but be assured that everything is set up to deal with these extremes: well-insulated housing, climate-controlled shopping malls, appropriate clothing, lots of facilities for year-round indoor sports and season-specific outdoor activities, and transport systems that don't grind to a halt at a hint of snow or a heat-wave that melts asphalt.

Americans and Canadians tend to welcome newcomers and immigrants. People move around a lot as they change jobs and so transience is accepted, certainly in the big cities, as one sort of norm. Clubs catering to any interest - archery, bingo, chess, embroidery, speaking French, racing motorcycles, wine tasting - have a strong base of people new to any given city.

North Americans also realise that most of them are fairly recent immigrants too, a generation or two back, and so are willing to accept fresh blood. The children of immigrants are expected to assimilate and most do so with startling quickness. Parents may want to consider this option themselves, as there are benefits to fitting in. Having said that, any British accent retains its prestige, and North Americans are fascinated by all things European, which, from that side of the Atlantic, Britain certainly is.

Living in the United States

The opportunities for living in the USA are enormous, but not much of a safety net exists, so prepare well, buy health insurance, and be ready to bounce back if your first venture fails. America in many respects remains strongly regional; living in the traditional South of the USA is vastly different from living in Europe-looking New England, and the frontier states of the Pacific North West lead different lives, too. The history and climate of each region produces its economy and character, so it pays to research before you choose where to settle. State legislatures add a third level of government to national and local bureaucracies.

Nowhere is the cult of the car stronger. Acquiring an automobile becomes a pressing need when it comes to looking for housing and jobs. Americans drive great distances as a matter of course; a 45 mile, one hour journey to work is common. In the USA, they also tend to judge you by your vehicle.

Living in Canada

Canada defines itself largely in opposition to the United States and Britain. Quebec forms a distinct society, but links itself strongly to the US economy. Canada is less centralised than, for example, London-focused Britain, so each province runs many of the activities that in Europe are usually co-ordinated at a national level, most notably health-care and education. In other ways Canada seems more similar throughout than Britain; with the exception of Newfoundland, the English-Canadian accent sounds the same from Halifax to Victoria. Canada is proud to see itself as a bilingual, multi-ethnic country.

Looking for work

UK qualifications are generally well respected, although check the details for your particular trade or profession. Collect written testimonials to your good character and work efficiency; these will get you to the first interview, after which prospective employers will usually telephone for references. Volunteer work counts in your favour, particularly as you are settling in. British charm is one route to jobs; English accents remain a source of fascination.

It is illegal to ask on application forms or in interviews such personal details as age, nationality, marital status, number of dependants, religion, race and so on, so it is not customary to include these on the CV (better known as resume). The North American resume differs in other details from its British equivalent; consider having yours tailored by a specialist firm that will present your experience in the best possible light. Assume your skills are transferable, but recognise that North American companies may not understand this; argue your merits and prove your own case. In the covering letter you send with every resume, mention any link you may have with North America such as previous travel or relatives currently living there, and explain that you are in the process of applying for a visa.

The key to finding a job is research. Write to the association that represents your trade or profession in your country of choice and ask for contacts. Read their national and, if possible, local press for general information, as well as trade publications for more specific details. Send letters on spec, by all means, but also scour the job ads and reply, even if your application will miss the deadline. Fax or phone as well; it impresses.

Investment possibilities

If you have business skills, you may choose to embody the entrepreneurial spirit of North America and run your own business. There are several ways that the small investor can profit by being British. Pubs, teashops, and fish and chip shops are novelties over there, and unknown still in many towns. The bed and breakfast inns have succeeded well, and import shops are an old favourite. Merely possessing a British accent can help enough to get you interviews with the people you need to see.

Self-employment is a big jump from working for someone else, and to attempt this at the same time as switching countries may prove too much. If you are prepared to run a business, there are four routes. You can buy up an existing concern (e.g. invest in a bar, and turn it into a pub), set up a branch office (especially useful for a trading firm), go into a joint venture (but you have to find a trustworthy local partner), or start from scratch. Whichever you choose, good luck with your investment!