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Living in Canada vs France: Where Should You Move To?

Canada and France are two totally different countries with only a few similarities, like the French language. Although only about 22% of Canadians are French-speaking, the majority of French people don’t have great English skills. If you are deciding between moving to one of these countries, with this article, we make your life easier.

Both countries have a great quality of life, but Canada has a higher cost of living. That said, wages are also higher in Canada than in France, hence you will easily cover your living expenses. You are more likely to find a good job in Canada than in France. Last one goes without saying, don’t move to France if you don’t speak French.

In this article, we disassemble the main differences between living in Canada vs France and suggest the place that is better suited for an immigrant or an expat.

Pros and cons of living in Canada vs France

Canada

Pros

  • Popular among immigrants
  • Reasonable home prices
  • A large number of jobs are available
  • Low taxes
  • A lot of space
  • Very high-quality education
  • Free healthcare
  • Large homes
  • Friendly and tolerant people
  • English and French language
  • Diverse landscapes and climates
  • High standards and quality of living
  • High salaries
  • Good work-life balance
  • High safety and less crime
  • Simplified immigration for skilled workers
  • International environment
  • A stable, democratic political system
  • No racism
  • Interculturalism and open culture
  • Developed startup scene

Cons

  • High cost of living
  • No or undeveloped public transport
  • Traveling is long and expensive
  • 2 weeks of vacation
  • Highly influenced by the US
  • Mainly provincial

France

Pros

  • Middle of Europe
  • Variety of landscapes, climates and nature
  • Great infrastructure, including public transport
  • Social security like public healthcare, family support, retirement, e.g.
  • Culture and history
  • Relaxed lifestyle
  • Plenty of entertainment options
  • Amazing food and wine
  • Central location
  • Excellent travel opportunities
  • Great work-life balance
  • Five weeks of paid leave

Cons

  • Less space, high population density
  • Conservatism
  • Low wages
  • Few English-speaking jobs
  • Very defined and distinct culture you have to adapt to
  • Not English speaking – the language barrier
  • High taxes
  • Bureaucracy
  • Less developed startup scene

Main differences between Canada vs France

Canada

Firstly, French culture is very different from Canadian. The country has its own history, traditions, and customs dating many centuries back. In contrast, Canada was newly discovered, is full of foreigners, and is heavily influenced by the US.

France has lots of culture & historic sites, which you just won’t find in Canada. At the same time, Canada has a fantastic and untouched nature which you won’t find in France.

If you prefer a European lifestyle, France is definitely the right choice. The lifestyle in France is laid back and simple. They don’t rush through the day; French culture focuses on slowing down and enjoying time with family or friends.

The most European city in Canada is Montreal. Besides, if you don’t speak French, you also will be better off in Canada. If getting a high-paying job is your main priority, stay in Canada.

Canada is the world’s second-largest country, while France is tiny in international comparison. There is much more space per person in Canada than in France.

Public transport is pretty developed in both countries, but France is more affordable and has various means of transportation, including high-speed trains, metro, tram, buses, etc. In Canada, you most likely will need a car to get around unless you live in downtown Toronto.

If we look into religion, here is the breakdown for Canada:

  • Roman Catholic (38.7%)
  • Protestant (23.5%)
  • Anglican (5.0%)
  • Muslim (3.2%)
  • Hindu (1.5%)

In France, the mix of religions looks different:

  • Catholicism (41%)
  • Islam (5%)
  • Protestantism (2%)
  • Eastern Orthodoxy (2%)
  • Buddhism (1%)

Hence, Protestantism is much more common in Canada.

France

If you are looking for life experiences and to live French culture to the fullest, Paris is a perfect place. This city impresses everyone with its way of life but also cuisine, art and architecture, and fashion.

France is also a better option if you want to walk everywhere or use public transport. French and European infrastructure is outstanding.

Life as a foreigner

If you aren’t French and moving to France, you will stand out. To integrate into society, you must speak French. According to the Expat Explorer Survey 2018, almost 90% of expats in France are fluent or learning French.

In a multicultural country like Canada, it’s not necessary at all. If you aren’t Canadian and move to Canada, you are just one of the 8.3 million people who came from a different country.

Besides, French people are less welcoming to foreigners than Canadians are. In France, there even were some cases of racism towards people with Arabic background in particular.

Cost of living in Canada vs France

In 2023, the average cost of living for a single person in Canada is 1,832 USD which is 34% more expensive than in France (1,363 USD). Besides, Canada ranked 14th, while France is only 29th.

A single living in an average Canadian city needs about CA$3,611 (2,483 EUR), and someone living in France, should have about 2,373 EUR per month to live comfortably.

While stats show these numbers, in real life, you need significantly less money to live in France, unless you are in Paris. Up to 2,000 EUR will get you everything you need to live independently.

However, the average salary is lower in France, so the net pay is only enough to cover 1.7 months of living expenses; in Canada, it’s 1.8 months. Below you can see a breakdown of some main costs in both countries (USD):

Also, you can see grocery prices in both places:

France

Here is a breakdown of typical expenses for a single living in Paris in EUR:

  • Rent and utilities for an average furnished studio or one-bedroom apartment: 1,000 – 1,500 EUR
  • Internet: 29 EUR
  • Groceries and eating out: 466 EUR
  • Home insurance: 13 EUR
  • Transportation (public and occasional taxi): 80-100 EUR
  • Clothing and other personal expenses: 230 EUR
  • Occasional entertainment: 130 EUR
  • Total: From 1,948 to 2,468 EUR

A family of four needs 4,176 EUR (CA$6,060) per month to live comfortably.

Housing in France can be a huge challenge as the demand for housing is high and doesn’t match the supply. It’s even more noticeable In Paris, where you won’t get a one-bedroom apartment for less than 1,500 EUR.

Canada

According to statistics, the average household (family) in Canada spends about CA$7,400 per month, of which approximately CA$1,600 goes to housing, CA$1,300 for taxes, CA$1,030 for transportation (private), CA$730 for food, and CA$188 for education.

Data shows that a family of four needs about CA$6,491 (4,472 EUR) per month to live comfortably in Canada.

Examples of some typical monthly expenses for a single living in Toronto:

  • Housing: CA$2,000
  • Phone and internet: CA$128
  • Public transportation: CA$176
  • Groceries: CA$400
  • Insurance: CA$60
  • Clothing and other personal expenses: CA$300
  • Leisure: CA$100
  • Total: CA$3,164 or 2,180 EUR

The list of the most expensive cities to live in Canada:

  • Toronto
  • Vancouver
  • Victoria
  • Hamilton-Burlington
  • Calgary

For example, in Vancouver, you will pay more than everywhere for the rent of a two-bedroom apartment – CA$3,200 per month. A three-bedroom apartment in Toronto will cost you about CA$2,700 – 3,500 (1,855 – 2,400 EUR) per month.

Food and groceries will cost you more in Toronto, about CA$400-520 per month.

Healthcare costs range between CA$60-120 in all main cities. Public transportation is the most expensive in Toronto – CA$145 per month for a monthly pass. Entertainment comes to at least CA$300 per month.

Your daily groceries, which may include items such as milk, bread, vegetables, and meat, can cost up to 20% more in Canada. A typical shopping basket costs about CA$100 in a Canadian grocery store. 

However, real estate is less expensive in Canada than in France. On average, you will pay for a house in Canada around CA$632,802, while in France, it is 3,800 EUR per square meter or 150*3,800 EUR= 570,000 EUR (CA$827,183) for a single-family home.

Consequently, the cost of living for a middle-class family of four is slightly higher in Canada than in France. The final cost of living highly depends on the city you are moving to. In Toronto and Paris, you will need more than in a rural location.

In terms of healthcare, in both countries, you don’t have to worry about medical bills as they are paid by health insurance which is funded by taxes.

Jobs and work

Canada

Hands down, Canada has much more job opportunities than France. Due to the language factor, the number of vacancies automatically shrinks in France.

English-speaking professionals might struggle to find employment if they don’t possess skills in demand, like programming, for example.

For a regular worker, Canada offers significantly more opportunities. With over 41,500 tech companies, there are plenty of jobs across all occupations. Moreover, salaries are higher in Canada, especially for those working in the trade.

Some of the best industries to work in Canada include IT, healthcare, engineering, mining, oil, and gas.

If you are looking for a job in tech, you have a better chance of getting it in cities like Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal.

British Columbia and Ontario even introduced Tech Specific Draws (immigration law), inviting highly skilled and experienced foreign tech professionals to live and work in Canada. 

Also, many skilled workers come to the northern parts of Canada, where the demand is the greatest.

Regions like Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan have a higher demand for skilled foreign workers. The three provinces have higher employment rates for foreigners than large cities like Toronto and Montreal.

The main downside of being an employee in Canada is the paid leave, which is only two weeks compared to five weeks in France.

In both countries, you are protected by social security, which includes pension, healthcare, parental leave, and other social benefits. Payments are made biweekly in Canada, while you get paid once per month in France.

The work culture in Canada involves dedication, passion, and hard work. In France, it’s pretty much the opposite. People don’t live to work, they rather look at it as a necessity while they still enjoy life to the fullest.

It’s common to have a two hours lunch break that includes everything from a three-course meal to wine and espresso.

Some of the common jobs in Canada include:

  • Truck drivers
  • Farmhands
  • Laborers 
  • Caregivers
  • Welders
  • Engineers 
  • Sales managers

France

Getting a job in France can be challenging. In addition, salaries are lower than in Canada, mainly due to the high taxation. You generally will receive about 40% less than stated in the employment contract.

That said, France has one the largest economies in Europe, with many global employers. People with specific skills and experience can get a very good job in Paris, for example.

Here are some typical jobs in France:

  • Photographers
  • Architects
  • Cooks/Chefs
  • Various doctors
  • Surgeons
  • Journalists
  • Stylists
  • Jobs in tourism, e.g., tour guides

However, jobs that are typical among foreigners look differently:

  • Medical professionals
  • Carpenters
  • STEM professionals (science, technology, engineering, and math)
  • Surveyors
  • Electricians
  • Vets
  • Construction workers
  • IT specialists

Read this guide on how to find a job in France without speaking French.

If you are considering working in France, it’s wise to look into jobs in-demand, which include:

  • Store clerks
  • Real estate agents
  • Logistics agents
  • Nurses
  • Childcare workers
  • Business managers
  • School teachers
  • Insurance agents
  • Yoga teachers
  • Social media managers
  • Data science experts
  • Administrative assistants
  • Salesmen

Keep in mind that working in France requires a visa and resident permit if you aren’t from a non-EU, EEA country, or Switzerland.

If you want to move to France but don’t have a job yet, there are several options available:

  • Freelancing
  • Teaching English
  • Starting a business

Work-life balance

France is famous for having a good work-life balance and lunch breaks that last hours. French employees enjoy 35-hour work, five weeks minimum paid vacation, and the right not to check their emails outside of work works.

At the age of 62, you can retire in France. Many people consider this balance as the main reason they move to France.

In contrast, working in Canada is similar to working in the USA, where people tend to work hard and overtime, especially in main cities like Toronto or Vancouver. In Canada, a standard working week is 40 hours or 8 hours per day.

That said, Canadian employees enjoy various benefits similar to what you will get in France. This includes retirements, healthcare, parental leave, etc.

Salaries

Canada

Generally, Canada will offer you a higher salary compared to France.

Some provinces pay more than others. Here are the best-paying regions and cities in Canada:

  • Alberta
  • Ontario
  • Quebec
  • British Columbia
  • Toronto

The average salary in Canada in 2022 was around CA$54,630 (37,580 EUR) for full-time workers. In comparison, the most typical wage was CA$59,769 before tax.

If you earn above C$50,000 annual gross salary in Canada, you will be good off as a single. Immigrants tend to get a lower wage than locals.

For instance, in 2019, the average wage rate for immigrants was C$31,900, while Canadians received C$37,500 the same year.

The first C$53,359 is taxed at 15%, which is considered a favorable rate for the low incomers earners who are semi-skilled.

Job sectors with the highest average salaries and their annual growth include:

  • Construction – $71,399 (+4.4%)
  • Education – $61,726 (+5.8%)
  • Finance and Insurance – $75,977 (-1.3%)
  • Forestry and Logging – $67,057(+14.2%)
  • Information and Culture Industries – $86,197(+20.3%)
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises – $82,704 (+10.9%)
  • Manufacturing – $62,551 (+2.7%)
  • Mining, Oil and Gas Extraction – $116,592 (+3.1%) 
  • Professional, Scientific and Technical Services – $80,285 (+5.5%)
  • Public Administration – $76,752 (+1.3%)
  • Real Estate (Rental/Leasing) – $63,319 (+8.1%)
  • Transportation and Warehousing – $61,727 (+1.2%)
  • Utilities – $97,522 (-3.9%)
  • Wholesale Trade – $70,382 (+4.4%)

Source: Jobillico.com

France

According to the French statistical office, the average salary is about 2,340 EUR net or 39,000 EUR gross per year. France holds 24th place in average income worldwide.

At the same time, the median full-time wage in France is 1,845 EUR net per month. In 2023, the minimum wage is 11.27 EUR per hour or 1,709 EUR per month when working full-time.

To have a comfortable life in France, you need to make about 2,000 EUR to 3,000 EUR net per month, especially in expensive cities like Paris.

With an average salary of 39,099 EUR a year, you will have about 2,323 EUR net per month, hence, it’s more than enough for a decent life in France.

Read more about salaries in France.

Paris holds some of the highest salaries in the country. Some of the best-paying jobs in France include:

  1. Physicians
  2. Dentists
  3. Lawyers
  4. Pilots
  5. Accountants
  6. Allied healthcare professionals
  7. Financial analysts
  8. IT specialists
  9. Research scientists
  10. Teachers
  11. Project managers
  12. Branch managers
  13. Electricians

Canada vs France: taxes

Canada

You will pay less taxes in Canada, as France follows typical European taxation principles where you contribute a significant amount to taxes and social security contributions.

Federal tax rates in Canada in 2023:

  • 15% on the first CA$53,359 of taxable income, +
  • 20.5% on the next CA$53,359 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income over $53,359 up to $106,717), +
  • 26% on the next CA$53,359 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income over $106,717 up to $165,430), +
  • 29% on the next CA$53,359 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income over $165,430 up to $235,676), +
  • 33% of taxable income over CA$235,676

France

In France, on the other hand, it’s common to pay between 35% to 45% of your gross income in taxes.

Single employees in France pay the highest taxes. On average a single worker with no children pays about 47.0% in taxes. France has the 5th highest tax rates among other European countries.

Married and with children pay less, so the average married worker with two children paid 37.9% in taxes in 2020.  

People

Unlike France, Canada is one of the most popular countries among immigrants from all over the world so you will meet plenty of people with an immigration background.

Moreover, the country makes great efforts to ensure that new immigrants embrace Canadian culture and become a part of it while still being able to retain their roots.

The same can not be said about France; it’s less known among expats and workers. This is mainly due to the language barrier and fewer job opportunities this country has to offer.

Consequently, you will see fewer foreigners in France and a less diverse culture. It can be even more challenging to find other than French cuisine.

Regarding people, the French are also less welcoming and tolerant to foreigners, probably due to the lack of immigrants and expats. It can be challenging to make friends if you aren’t speaking French.

In Canada, it’s a whole different story. Canadians and some of the friendliest, chilled and easy-going people you will ever meet. They are easy to approach, and as a foreigner, you have the highest chances of integrating.

And if you don’t want to build a network or meet new people, both countries are suitable. French people won’t approach you first, and Canadians understand when to hold back and leave you alone.

Language barrier

This goes without saying, France is French-speaking, Canada is mainly English-speaking, and only about 21.4% of Canadians speak French. Add to it the fact that most French don’t speak English or don’t want to speak it.

Therefore, if you don’t speak French, Canada is an obvious choice. However, if you are fluent in French, you are free to choose between both places. In Canada, you could live in the province of Quebec; Montreal is a pretty charming city.

Best cities to live

So if you are relocating to one of these countries, which city should you pick?

In Canada best cities to live as a foreigner include:

  • Toronto
  • Quebec
  • Calgary
  • Vancouver
  • Victoria
  • Edmonton

In France, you better stick to one of the cities with the most number of foreigners, so you don’t feel isolated. Here are some of them:

  • Paris
  • Toulouse
  • Charente
  • Nice
  • Yvelines
  • Seine-Saint-Denis

You can also read our outline about the best cities to live in as an English speaker in France.

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