The great thing about living somewhere else as opposed to just visiting a destination is that you’re in a place long enough to establish the key differences between your home country and where you are now. I realise that Canada is a huge country and I only really know about my wee corner of it, but generally speaking, all of these can apply to Canada as a whole. As well, some of the UK differences can apply to elsewhere in Europe, but I’ll stick to just talking about the UK. So, aside from the UK driving on the wrong side of the road, here are the 10 key differences I’ve noticed between Canada and the UK:
1. Holidays: 10 Days vs 28 Days
There is an astonishing difference between the legal minimum number of holiday days you are allowed in Canada vs the UK. Being from Canada, I grew up knowing and accepting that 10 days (2 weeks) of holiday days per year was the norm. The longer you worked in a workplace, the more days you were allotted due to your seniority. Of course, if you happen to land a job in a generous workplace, you may start off with more than 10 days.
When I moved to the UK and found out that the norm is 28 days (5.6 weeks) of holiday days per year, I was bloody ecstatic. Not only was the rest of Europe right at my fingertips, but I would get so much time off to explore as well! At my current workplace, I am actually allowed a whopping 36 days (7.2 weeks), which includes 4 days in which we are “forced” to take the time in between Christmas and New Year off. I can’t complain!
As I mentioned earlier, we Canadians have accepted that 10 days is the norm, but when I tell people here in Edinburgh about this, the usual reaction I get is a jaw on the floor. They absolutely cannot fathom how in an idealistic country like Canada, there is so little holiday time.
The generous holiday entitlement in the UK is one of the main reasons I don’t want to move back to Canada. The time off allowed here does offer a better work-life balance than what I had in Vancouver.
2. VAT: Excluded vs Included
One of the things I loved about the UK when I moved here is the fact that VAT (taxes) is already included in the price of everything! There’s no need to guess (or calculate) what you’ll end up having to pay at the till. The price you see is the price you pay!
As I understand it, Canada does not include taxes in the prices because each province’s taxes are different, so depending on which province you’re in, the price of goods and services will vary.
3. The Tipping Culture
As I got older in Canada and started paying for things myself, a regular part of it was adding in a tip, whether it be at a restaurant, a nail salon, or any type of service where a person assisted you. In a typical restaurant, you’d always be asked if your first few bites were good and if you needed anything else, all seemingly in a bid to squeeze out some extra tips and also to get your bum out the door so they can seat the next group.
This is not to say that tipping in the UK is not a thing, but it is not as ingrained into the culture as it is in Canada. I think people here will generally be less offended if you choose not to leave a tip – it’s not as expected. In a typical restaurant in the UK, you’re likely to be asked if your first few bites were good, but generally speaking, they won’t be trying to rush you out the door.
4. Credit vs Debit
Pre-authorised credit was something I always used in Canada when it came time to pay the bills. Credit cards seem to be much more prevalent in Canada – the only time I ever used my debit card was to withdraw money from the ATM! It’s worth noting, though, that I never viewed credit cards as a form of borrowing money, but just as a way to pay. I set up automatic payments to my credit card so that I was never in debt.
In the UK, Direct Debit seems to be the popular option. It is essentially the same as pre-authorised credit but with a debit card. I do have a credit card that is UK-based, but for the majority of purchases, it’s the Visa Debit card that takes precedence.
5. Dogs in Pubs, Bars, and Buses
In Canada, it is almost unheard of to see animals inside eating establishments and public transportation (with the exception of service dogs). When it comes to facilities that offer food and drinks, the obvious answer is that animals are not allowed for health and safety reasons. With public transportation, in Vancouver, animals are allowed as long as they are inside small, hand-held cages.
In the UK, it seems fairly commonplace to see dogs sitting around in pubs and bars! There is actually no law here regarding animals in eating establishments – it is up to the owner’s discretion. The only law they have to abide by is to make sure there is no risk of contamination and that food preparation areas are kept up to the required hygiene standards. In terms of public transportation, dogs are free to hop on board on leads – no cages required.
6. Right of Way: Pedestrians vs Vehicles
I grew up in Canada understanding that pedestrians always have the right of way. When I started learning how to drive, I was taught that as well. And for the most part, while some drivers can be crazy, they will always stop for you to cross the street.
Then I went to London for the first time, and nearly got run over by a taxi! Here in the UK, it is definitely vehicles that have the right of way. Sometimes, a car will very nicely stop and let you cross, but more often than not, you have to keep your eyes peeled if you’re planning to make a mad dash across the street.
7. Cars: Automatic vs Manual
In Canada, we typically learn how to drive in automatic cars. Car rental companies’ standard cars are automatic cars. I know many people who opted to learn and drive manual cars because they were deemed to be more fun, but generally speaking, automatic cars are the norm. In British Columbia, you don’t even need to have passed your driving test in a manual car in order to drive manual.
In the UK, manual cars are the norm. It is more expensive to rent an automatic car than a manual car. I’ve had some people here tell me that they’re actually afraid to drive automatic cars because they’re so used to driving manual! And if I wanted to drive manual here, I would need to take a driving test in a manual car – otherwise, I’m limited to automatic cars.
8. M/D/Y vs D/M/Y
I believe Canada (and the US) are some of the few countries that write out their dates in month-day-year format. It seems that most of the rest of the world uses the day-month-year format. When I first moved to the UK, that was something I had to get used to. I had to learn to switch saying, for example, “January first” to “the first of January”. It sounded really odd at first, but I’m now more than used to it.
9. Getting Paid: Bi-Monthly vs Monthly
In my jobs in Canada, I always got paid bi-monthly or every 2 weeks, so your pay would be scattered evenly throughout the month. That seems to be pretty standard for most jobs.
When I moved to the UK, I found out that the standard is getting paid only once a month at the end of the month. Of course, some jobs do pay weekly, but generally, you get paid once a month. Most bills and payments will occur at the beginning of the month, so it’s not a big deal to be paid once at the end of the month. The only thing to be careful of is to not spend all of your money before the month ends!
10. Vocabulary Differences
Finally, the last thing I’ll mention is the variety of words that are different between Canada and the UK. Here is a non-exhaustive list of vocabulary that I’ve had to change since I moved (written as “Canadian – British”):
- Apartment – Flat
- Sidewalk – Pavement
- Statutory holiday – Bank holiday
- Parking lot – Car park
- Movie theatre – Cinema
- First floor – Ground floor
- Vacation – Holiday
- Elevator – Lift
- Flashlight – Torch
- Cell phone – Mobile phone
- Sneakers – Trainers
- Sweater – Jumper
One funny thing I noticed that the Scots say a lot is “Aye”! Before I moved here, I honestly thought that it was something that only pirates said in movies! However, this isn’t a word that I’ve picked up – I just can’t bring myself to say it!
Did any of these differences between Canada and the UK surprise you? Do you know of any other differences? Let me know in the comments!