Canada vs. US. Let’s vote!!!
July 27, 2007 10:23 AM   Subscribe

Canada vs. US - Given a choice, which country you want to settle permanently?

I am 30+, living in a not so nice neighborhood in one of the most expensive cities in the US, making not so low a living with a job with not very bright growth prospect.

Thinking about permanently moving to Canada (it’s almost an annual ritual of me in the past couple of years, LOL). But what a tough decision!!!. Almost everyone I told about my “moving” interests thinks I am nuts (the land of opportunities, everything happens south of the border, etc.). My fellow Mefi’ers, can you share some thoughts on this? For obvious reason, I am most interested in opinions from those who have lived on a long term basis on both sides of the border.
posted by kingfish to Grab Bag (57 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Canada gets really dark in the winter. If sunlight affects your moods, you might not be able to take it.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:35 AM on July 27, 2007

Canadian here, lived in the US for some years. I'd never go back to the US.

Expensive crossed with "not so nice neighbourhood" is part of that.

See this previous Ask.
posted by kmennie at 10:38 AM on July 27, 2007

Canada gets really dark in the winter? I'm Canadian and I can't say I've experienced that. Unless you're referring to somewhere in the Yukon/Northwest Territories...
posted by heavenstobetsy at 10:40 AM on July 27, 2007

Canada, obviously. Fewer guns, less crime, and proper healthcare.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:40 AM on July 27, 2007

Depends a lot on what you desire and what your perspective is -- and what you expect from the country you want to reside in.

An example of what I mean: What Makes a Canadian Canadian.
posted by blucevalo at 10:40 AM on July 27, 2007

Considering I saw sicko last night, my vote is for Canada. But really, there are a lot of things you're not telling us -- for example, can you easily find work in your field in Canada? Where is your family? Where in Canada do you want to go? Do you have friends or family there? And other things.
posted by echo0720 at 10:55 AM on July 27, 2007

A few questions: Is there a reason to move to Canada other than the fact that your life in the US sounds less than great right now? And would you be able to move there legally? From your post, you don't talk about where in Canada you'd want to move or what you'd want to do there, either - it's not as if it's one big cultural monolith up there; you'd also be surprised with how similar many aspects of life might be - they too have poorer neighborhoods, and suburban blandness, and crappy jobs without growth prospects. All developed countries have these things to some extent, I'd wager.

So why not move somewhere else within the US, or to a better neighborhood? Or go back to school? Or even just move to the other side of town? Or find someone special to share your life with? You say you live in an expensive city, so why not move somewhere less expensive?

Or is the problem, not to sound snarky, that you can't imagine finding anywhere cooler than where you are now in the US, and your image of Canada as a big, friendly San Francisco-of-the-North fills that need somehow? There are only so many insanely expensive cities in the US, and while they might appear great places to live if you can afford to live there, there are heaps and heaps of small, very-cool-in-their-own-right places all over this country, and we've had lots of discussions here about how to find those places. That said, here's a post about cool Canadian cities.

You'll probably hear from lots of people that you should go - and I think you should too - but without something driving you to go up there (a new job, a degree you're pursuing, a love interest), I don't know how much more a move to Canada would do for you than a move to somewhere different with new opportunities in the States. I mean, hell, you can still be in the States living in Missoula, Montana or Honolulu or San Juan or Burlington, Vermont, and all those places are really, really different from one another, perhaps far different from where you are now and your platonic ideal of Canada.
posted by mdonley at 11:01 AM on July 27, 2007

I have lived in a half dozen cities, three on each side of the border. I vote "Canada" also, for the usual reasons: crime, politics, health care, environment, manners, and the ability to travel the rest of the world without a target on your back.

The only big checkmark in the US column is "opportunity" in the most selfish sense: salaries are higher for most professions. But if that's such a high criteria, forget North America, anyway. Consider Iraq, Singapore or Dubai.
posted by rokusan at 11:02 AM on July 27, 2007

I am a Canadian living in the US right now.

Pros of living in US:
  • We are a single income family with a kid. We own our home and we are in the early years of amortization. Our federal taxes hover around 8%.
  • No state income tax in Washington.
  • Cheap gas, cheap beer, cheap clothes, cheap books. Generally lower cost of living.
  • Salaries in the US are higher in my line of work. I also have better opportunities for career growth.
  • Kid(s) are dual citizens so they get to choose where they want to live/go to school when they grow up.
  • My company-provided health care is better than universal medicare.
  • People don't steal my car so much.
  • Online shopping rocks my socks. Canada's online shopping sucks.
Cons of living in the US:
  • USCIS sucks donkey dick and tries its best to make my life hell.
  • Where I live, there is pitiful public transit and I am very car dependent. Traffic sucks.
  • I am scared to ride my bike on the street.
  • Family is not here.
  • Crossing the border is a pain in the ass and fraught with peril.
  • Fewer opportunities for outdoor recreation.
Summary: working in the US is good. I am richer. Taking money back to Canada now would suck due to exchange rate. Quality of life is somewhat poorer in the US. I plan on retiring in Canada. However, the financial issues involved make staying in the US a winning proposition now and for some years to come.
posted by crazycanuck at 11:03 AM on July 27, 2007

That's a question with a million answers, it depends on the part of Canada, your politics, career, etc. But that being said, come to Canada, we're nicer here.

(And as for the remark about darkness, parts of Canada are as far south as southern Oregon, does it get dark there?)
posted by blue_beetle at 11:04 AM on July 27, 2007

I'm from Ireland. I lived in the US for 8 years, and have lived in Canada for 2. I enjoyed my life in New York and am very happy here in Toronto also. I could live permanently in either place. Differences between the two countries is such a broad question I barely know where to start and of course comparing, I dunno, Toronto with DC is a different question than comparing say Halifax and Santa Barbara. Can you narrow down your interests, concerns, lifestyle at all?

From a thousand foot level and just in my humble opinion some of the differences I've found are that Ontario has a more British feel to the culture than the parts of the US I lived in; houses are cheaper; Hispanic culture is almost non existant up here; healthcare is less of a job-related stress and more of a service-related stress; the immigration system is easier and more transparent; there seems to be a lot more government up here (regulations, offices, departments, public service ads), or maybe they're just more visible; there's more of a small country feel - you see proud stories on the news about "Canadians represented at the Oscars/in this UN mission" just like you do in Ireland; there is an east-west rivalry that occasionally seems to this outsider unnecessisarily bad-tempered. It's more expensive to fly to Ireland. I like the fact that the politicians seem more representative of the people they serve than in the US - actual Indian-Canadian pols for areas with large Indian immigrant populations for example. They like ice hockey a little too much up here.

You get your right-wingers and racists and public-transit haters and so forth up here too, I've met Americans who seem a little starry eyed about Canada. Be careful of "grass is greener" thinking of course, Canada has its own issues, and they vary depending on which part you're looking at.
posted by jamesonandwater at 11:10 AM on July 27, 2007 [3 favorites]

thank you all for the comments!!!

I agree that there are probably a million answers to this questions. As for myself, one of the biggest reason for my moving is probably the freedom I will be gaining.

Due to my immigration status (i am stuck in the US employment based immigration que with no end in sight), I would not be able to change my job, even changing my work location is a questionable proposition in the eyes of my lawyer (believe me, I can spend a whole day to talking about all the USCIS evils). crazycanuck, you are right on target.

If I move to Canada, the immediate benefit is that I can do whatevery job I want, and settle in wherever I would like to.
posted by kingfish at 11:16 AM on July 27, 2007

I'd have to say this is a loaded and odd question... I mean honestly to decide this kind of thing you'd also have to consider where in each country you want to live. I'm in Texas, and I can say, Come to Texas, we're nicer here.

I'd say to look at what you want to do... If you want to be a software programmer you might want to consider California. If you want to be a teacher, you'd want to consider somewhere else. I'd bet (though I don't know) that Canada pays teachers better.

The choice would become much clearer if you laid out some hopes and dreams... Lots of those things tend to be easier to achieve in certain geographical regions.
posted by magikker at 11:20 AM on July 27, 2007

kingfish, that's what ultimately decided myself and my husband on Canada, and is not an insignificant reason. Landing here and finally being able to do whatever the hell we wanted - switch fields, take time off, start a business - was (and is) a really wonderful feeling. Drop me an email if I can help with any further questions.
posted by jamesonandwater at 11:20 AM on July 27, 2007

Well, wait a second, are you a Canadian citizen? If not, you have to immigrate to Canada just like everyone else. It can be a lengthy process. If you are actually seriously considering this, look into what it would take before you could actually live and work legally in Canada.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:21 AM on July 27, 2007

kingfish: did you file your I-485 recently (ie, with current visa bulletin?) If so, one of the benefits of filing your I-485 is AC21 portability. That means you can move to a job with a "same or similar" job description after your I-485 has been pending for 180 days without losing your place in line. This may help with your flexibility/freedom issues.

If you can't file I-485 now because your labor certification/I-140 has not been approved, then why bother staying at your current job? You can transfer your H-1B to another employer and you can improve your lot in the US.
posted by crazycanuck at 11:24 AM on July 27, 2007

Canada FTW! Nice people, health care, no crazy gun crime.... actually you already have a bunch of good answers. Canada is awesome. I love it here.

Who the hell wants to live in the US? Seriously.
posted by chunking express at 11:25 AM on July 27, 2007

Upon reread: with AC21 portability you can definitely change your work location after 180 days, if you think that would help.
posted by crazycanuck at 11:25 AM on July 27, 2007

sorry, guys, i forget to mention that i hold canadian permanent residency. i will loose this in another year or so due to the requirement that, in order to maintain the residency, one has to physically reside in Canada for 2 years in every 5 years. that's another reason, i am getting more and more restless these days.
posted by kingfish at 11:28 AM on July 27, 2007

I'm curious or perhaps naive: Doesn't Canada have fairly strict laws about U.S. citizens proving gainful employment or be a full-time student before they can establish residency? For example, I'm a Texan who's bicycled through parts of B.C. and Nova Scotia, and love both provinces beyond reason. If I "had" to leave Texas & U.S., I'd choose to live permanently in Vancouver or Halifax, but wouldn't I need to get a job to do so?
posted by Smalltown Girl at 11:28 AM on July 27, 2007

There's no way to answer this reasonably.

"US versus Canada" is just goofy chatfilter. Comparing crime rates of entire nations, etc, is a supremely silly endeavor. I live in the US, but in a town that's so stupidly safe it makes Toronto look like Beirut by comparison.

So if you want serious answers, you need to be more specific: Boston versus Halifax? Seattle versus Edmonton? Atlanta versus Montreal? San Francisco versus Oshawa?

You also need to tell us what you do for a living. I don't have much urge to move to Canada, at least not now that I live about 10 miles from it. But that's mostly because I'm an academic. Academic salaries are markedly lower in Canada and SUNY health care benefits combined with union benefits are better than OHIP.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:30 AM on July 27, 2007

Given what you've said about your immigration statuses, you might ask your lawyer what effect moving back to Canada and abandoning your US application might have. USCIS are enough of a pack of idiots that you conceivably find yourself branded with an intend-to-immigrate status that makes it harder for you to re-enter the US for business or as a tourist, or just to pass through to get cheaper overseas flights.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:38 AM on July 27, 2007

(Disclosure: Dual Brit-Canadian, with family now living in US).

A lot will depend on where you move to specifically. I am currently living in Toronto, but outside Montreal or Vancouver, there is probably nowhere else in Canada I would want to to live. There are countless cities and countries outside Canada that I would choose to live in over, say, Sudbury, Oshawa, or Hamilton.

So, on those terms, a lot of it is personal preference. If you enjoy cosmopolitan city living, your choices in Canada really are limited to about 3 cities (and even then, they're quite small on a global scale). If you want to live in some small town, then yeah, there's plenty, but I presume there are plenty in the US too.

In broader terms, in Canada you can generally expect to pay significantly higher taxes, with the associated consequences -- better (well, perhaps not better, but more equitably distrubuted) public services (except for transport, which is 3rd world quality, even in Toronto), less disparities in income (though this is changing). From an economic perspective, you are certainly better off as working class in Canada than the US, probably better off as middle class in Canada than the US, but certainly better off as upper class in the US than Canada (using class just as an income marker here, that's all).

Socially, the larger cities have less much less crime than their US counterparts, though again that can depend on the neighbourhood you are living in. Toronto, while not perfect, is more racially harmonious in my experience than larger American cities, though most of Canada is cloyingly white and conservative. Just like in America, voters in the larger urban areas tend to be more liberal, those outside, more conservative.

Culturally, Canadian popular culture (TV, movies, music, books) is by and large the same as American (ducks), so you won't experience a whole lot of change there. Canadians tend to have an inferiority complex about a lot of things, which can be maddening at times.

For the amount of tax you pay, you may wonder where it all goes -- the infrastructure of the larger cities is woefully outdated, and there's little hope for improvement in the forseeable future.

THat's my perspective as someone living in Toronto, who generally likes the city but has serious concerns about its future, stemming from a complete lack of funding for any serious infrastructure upgrades.. it's going to buckle under its own weight.

Even so, I recommend a move (as you may guess by my name). I've lived in, I think 5 or 6 countries now, and each time I learn something new and have a great time. So if you move here for a couple of years, at worst you won't like it, and you can always move back.

Ultimately, the highs and lows in America are more extreme. Canada is, for good and for bad, more middle of the road, in every aspect you care to think of.
posted by modernnomad at 11:52 AM on July 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

As mentioned, it really depends on your skills, what job you're looking to continue, etc. It also depends on what city you're looking at. I've lived in Ottawa all my life, and I can't stand Toronto in the least bit. And the large tax rate is not too much fun, but it's well worth what it provides.
I've never lived in the states, but I've visited many times across the country. You couldn't pay me to live there.
You're really lucky to have essentially a free ticket in. I highly suggest not letting that ticket go to waste.
posted by Meagan at 12:00 PM on July 27, 2007

I'm a dual citizen, but have lived in the US most of my life. I have lots of fond memories of my time in Canada, but personally, the US will always be home. I think it just depends on where you're most comfortable, although given your situation, it certainly couldn't hurt to give it a shot up there. If you don't like it, you can always move back, or somewhere else entirely.
posted by odayoday at 12:27 PM on July 27, 2007

Canada gets really dark in the winter. If sunlight affects your moods, you might not be able to take it.

Seriously, croutonsupafreak, your profile puts you in Portland, OR, which is north of Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, etc. A pretty good part of the Canadian population lives pretty far south.

posted by ssg at 12:28 PM on July 27, 2007 [3 favorites]

I have spent time in the US on extended business, and I live in a smaller Canadian city.

The part about the highs and lows in America being more extreme is probably the best advice in this thread. Anyone complaining about Canadian cities being uncosmopolitian probably hasn't visited the west recently, where economic growth has triggered a lot of population movement and this thread slanders some of the smaller centres (which generally have a full array of services and you can usually enjoy high culture such as touring musicals and symphony orchestras on a smaller scale but you can probably forget things like stores selling $5000 beanbag chairs and boutique dentistry services) .

"Customer Service" in any part of the US is generally of better quality than anywhere in Canada with that said, non-commerical transactions among strangers are probably more friendly in Canada. Americans work much harder, and you will get more holidays and time offvirtually anywhere in Canada than you do anywhere in the US.

Americans are usually suprised at regional rivalries in Canada which sometimes become heated and downright hostile. Because of this, the provinces have a lot of responsiblity - this can make trade and some business difficult.

Most business/technical/professional jobs receive lower pay in Canada than the US. I am not sure how this translates into quality of life but I find Canadian cities generally less geared towards business and industry and a little more focused on people (greenspace, public artwork, and sidewalks are generally more available) but public transit is a problem especially outside of Montreal/Vancouver/Toronto - cold weather cities have a car culture.
posted by Deep Dish at 12:32 PM on July 27, 2007

Really kingfish? Getting snippy about a flappy head comment?

Don't move to Canada, there's no sense of humor up there.

That said, it sounds like your immigration issues make Canada an easier road for you. That, combined with the crime/healthcare/etc. benifits may tip the scales for you. I'd say most of the thousand-feet-up differences will pale in comparison to the idiosyncratic differences that make your situation unique.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:50 PM on July 27, 2007

Since you have lived in both countries you are the best person to judge what will be best for you. I don't get a big sense of attachment to either country from you so maybe you should look at moving somewhere else entirely? Or maybe ask where YOU can make the greatest contribution? I think specifics like what you consider a priority or what industry you hope to work longest in would help us to help you. There are some things Canada will never have, such as Florida beaches (well, maybe with climate change Moosenee WILL be a summer hot spot). And some things Americans will probably never have that Canadians take for granted. So I am not sure how to help you. As a data point, everyone I know that chooses to live in the States does so ONLY because of they are making more money, and those that choose to live in Canada are doing so because they make more money and/or they are happier in Canada. Some jobs pay more in Canada, some in the States.
Maybe all that bright sunshine in the States has addled your brains and is making it had for you to make a choice. (^_^)
posted by saucysault at 1:18 PM on July 27, 2007

I am a Canadian living in the US. The only things I really miss are giving a vote that matters, hockey on free TV, healthcare and most family.

Other than that I often forget I am in a different country because, to me, they are so similar.

Pick the place that ultimately makes you happy, everyone will have a different definition of happiness so this may not be the right place to get advice on this topic.
posted by birdlips at 1:43 PM on July 27, 2007

[I'm sorry. This became very, very long. Maybe it'll still be useful. Fair warning, and disclaimer: I am a Canadian getting the hell out of the United States tomorrow after being here far too long.]

In order of time spent as an adult, I've lived in Edmonton, Seattle, Toronto, and St. Louis. I'm Canadian, and I work in IT. I've had very good jobs in Seattle, I've been well-paid and pretty much comfortable and well-treated. I think over the past few years I've gotten a pretty good handle on the everyday, here.

I've also, off and on, considered very strongly the idea of writing a book (seriously) about how different the two countries are. All of the differences are generally very subsurface, but once you get past the 30-day range, they really do begin to be noticeable. After a couple of years, the differences feel pervasive.

This sounds obvious, and perhaps unhelpful, but it really does seem to come down to money. It is just more important here in the US. It's very pervasive. There are unspoken classes of people. There are trust fund kids and private schools and college and whatever; there are poor black kids in run-down urban cores going to public schools and maybe going to a community college. There are illegal workers from Mexico doing the housekeeping who speak five words of English and no one bats an eye.

The electoral system is about who can spend the most money to get the most ads out there or the most vote-counting machines, and the incumbents band together to have the most utterly ridiculous gerrymandered districts. Ballots have 40 questions none of which you really know the right answer to. In Washington state, at least, citizen's initiatives are binding leading to all sorts of paralyzing chaos.

The health care system is hell if you aren't well-heeled. I have had good friends, girlfriends, friends of friends, all fucked over by lack of health insurance and preexisting conditions clauses, and it's been absolute fucking agony to see. Standard medical procedures become Kafkaesque parades of paperwork and hoops due to a choking flood of possible malpractice suits.

I won't write the book here in the comments, but I find Americans to be less happy, less healthy, and less content with their lives. They make more money than Canadians. They also pay a lot more of it to deal with their everyday lives.

Canada is not paradise, but it's not bad. Canadians often don't realize this, and have no idea that life in the US is much tangibly different (though I imagine and hope this is slowly changing.) Canada is more socially equitable, more transparent in governance, more healthy, more enjoyable, and importantly to me it is less focused on the almighty dollar. It's still there, of course, and these things vary a bit over time, but it isn't the same, and you can feel it.

Also, importantly, Canada is very diverse and tends to celebrate this diversity. Effectively and non-ironically. I went to schools in three different Canadian provinces (NB, AB, ON) and not only was there a good mix of kids of various backgrounds in my classes, but not once did I witness any racist bullshit. Here, I feel like I see part of it daily.

I think it has a lot to do with Canadian heritage. After conquering New France, the British were very keen on making sure that the colonists there were happy; so they wouldn't support the increasingly uppity southern colonies in their rebellious sabre-rattling. The Quebec Act of 1774 was a very severe compromise and was one of the specific acts of the time that irritated those who eventually led the American Revolution. It guaranteed the free practice of the Catholic faith and re-introduced the French civil law for certain matters. Though invited to be the 14th colony, Quebec turned down the opportunity and in 1775 was invaded. The Battle of Quebec, on 31 December 1775, was a complete failure (and probably really goddamn cold), as French militiamen turned out in strong numbers to defend their homes from yet more people who wanted to tell them what to do.

After all the dust settled with the American Revolution, Canada over time evolved to treat the two cultures, sometimes uneasily, but often impressively for the times, fairly well, and I believe that the interplay between the two has made Canada a much stronger society than it would be otherwise. On top of that, staying close to the crown (Canada was still beholden to the British parliament, on a number of fairly core things like updating its constitution, until 1984) seems to have encouraged a more gentle transition into a modern democratic society, while still ensuring some respect for tradition. We still have a Queen, after all.

These days, Toronto is the most ethnically diverse city in the world; Vancouver has taken to publishing important municipal documents in English, French, Chinese, and Punjabi; and Montreal is ... Montreal!

It is a delightful place to call home, and so easy to complain about when you're there.

That being said, in fairness, the income taxes are slightly higher but not in any of the brackets I've ever been in, the sales taxes higher though at least they don't vary from city to city so you don't have to have charts with you to predict what you're going to pay, and you don't get to carry a gun around, if you're into that sort of thing.

(My sister once told me of a new coworker at a courier agency she worked at for a bit, who moved up from Los Angeles. He had relatives in Canada. One day he asked, "so where do you buy a handgun around here?" Everyone was silent and a couple people kind of laughed. "You don't just... BUY a HANDGUN...")

A quick breeze through NationMaster:
Infant mortality rate: Canada 4.82, USA 6.4
Life expectancy: Canada 80.34 years (13th), USA 78 years (44th)
Obesity rates: Canada 14.3% (11th), USA 30.6% (1st)
Teenage pregnancy: Canada 607 per million (9th of 26), USA 1671 per million (1st of 26)
UN Gini Index: USA 40.8 (53rd), Canada 32.6 (96th)
Ratio of income of richest 10% to poorest 10%: USA 15.9 (45th), Canada 9.4 (80th)
Inflation rate: USA 2.5%, Canada 2%
posted by blacklite at 1:51 PM on July 27, 2007 [10 favorites]

And to the various immigration questions, since I've had to deal with a lot of it in both directions: bottom line, immigrating to Canada is a bitch that takes forever. If you're a US citizen, it is even more of a bitch that takes even more forever. The waiting time at the Buffalo consulate for skilled worker applications is 18–32 months. The line is long.
posted by blacklite at 1:57 PM on July 27, 2007

That all being said, in horrible detail... all of my girlfriends have been American. Whatever that's worth.
posted by blacklite at 2:10 PM on July 27, 2007

Life expectancy: Canada 80.34 years (13th), USA 78 years (44th)

Comparisons like this between Canada and the U.S. miss a very important point.


* Canada -- 3.8 million square miles -- 33 million people
* U.S. -- 3.7 million square miles -- 300 million people

There are more people in California than there are in Canada. Slam every single person in Canada into British Columbia ... and it's less than half as crowded as California is right now.

This will affect every single statistic in profound ways.

* Life expectancy and infant mortality rates will more closely adjust to the true human averages.
* Property values will be lower because of less demand.
* Socialized services are easier to provide to a smaller, homogeneous population.

In other words, beware of apple-and-oranges statistical comparisons.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:33 PM on July 27, 2007

kmennie's link is an absolutely great read, if anyone is reading this who didn't bother to click it upthread. Everyone's so happy. Ha.
posted by blacklite at 2:35 PM on July 27, 2007

Cool Papa Bell: The whole point of the thread is whether apples are better than oranges, or vice versa. Yeah, Canada has less people, so we have different rates for things. If you stuffed everyone in Canada into Nevada, then yeah, things would be different ... but they aren't in a smaller area, and adjusting the statistics with to take that into account would be disingenuous and unnecessary.

Socialized services are actually harder to provide effectively over a larger area than they are to a smaller area. Though population is of course an issue, too, theoretically a well-working system would be able to handle more people by having more doctors and nurses, and more facilities, paid for by the tax dollars of the now-larger population. Obviously the population growth has to be controlled for this to be viable, but hey, that's why we have immigration quotas.

But. Whether or not that's true, your point does not help any argument: let us say socialized services are easier to provide in Canada than the US. That's good, since... we do. If you're choosing between the US and Canada, and it's harder for the US to provide its citizens with public health care, well, that's very sad, but it doesn't change the fact that I would rather have public health care than not.
posted by blacklite at 2:45 PM on July 27, 2007

Everyone should take Cool Papa Bell's point very seriously. Most of the so-called comparisons I've read just come off as silly, for exactly those reasons. I think blacklite misses the point: country-to-country statistical comparisons simply don't make a lot of sense given that kind of discrepancy. And unless kingfish intends, improbably, to live on the government's dime in either country, the answer to his or her question isn't going to boil down to the simple provision of social services.

Nevertheless, here's my off-the-cuff take as a dual citizen. Born in New York; grew up mostly in Montreal, with an interlude in the UK; also lived in Toronto, Chicago, and Bloomington IN; now absurdly happy on the SF peninsula. I've liked all those places and still feel very close to people in all of them.

People ask me variations of this question all the time, and I can rarely answer effectively. As a few people have said, you can't compare country to country, just situation to situation -- region, neighbo(u)rhood, job, subculture.

If you're in a good situation in the US -- good job, good healthcare deal, living in a place where you're comfortable and happy -- you'll probably score higher on most quantifiable quality-of-life measures than you would in a comparable Canadian situation. Otherwise, not so sure. And the intangibles will vary like crazy from person to person.

For me, the optimism, confidence, and belief that things are fixable prevalent in American culture is so overwhelmingly appealing -- and so good for me, personally -- that I'd miss it sorely if I moved back to Canada.

On the other hand, I frequently get exasperated about what I see as Americans' naivete about money, ethnicity, and class-related issues. I can't speak for the whole of Canada, but at least in Montreal and Toronto I think those differences are dealt with rather more matter-of-factly. On the other hand, I see New York as a little more in line with Montreal and Toronto in that department, so the difference probably has less to do with national border and more to do with the everyday reality of absorbing wave after wave of immigration from around the world.

I'll happily move back to Canada if a compelling reason to do so arises. If my parents' health fails, or if the right job offer materializes, I'll pack right up and go. But because I've spent most of my life hopping back and forth on a regular basis, the border doesn't seem like a big deal to me; it's all one landmass containing a variety of regions and cities.
posted by tangerine at 2:50 PM on July 27, 2007

I think blacklite misses the point: country-to-country statistical comparisons simply don't make a lot of sense given that kind of discrepancy.

I agree that they don't make sense, but not because the US and Canada have different population densities.

They don't make sense because you can't move from an undifferentiated, generic America to an undifferentiated, generic Canada, and there's far more variation within Canada or the US than there is between them. Likewise, you can't move from one place to another as some sort of generic, featureless individual.

You can only move from one specific place to another specific place, and from one specific job to another specific job, and you can only move as your own specific self. Whether the specific places are in Canada or the US will be a relatively minor part of what makes each specific place good or bad for kingfish to live in.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:15 PM on July 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

In defence of blacklite, his stats were like 1/7 of his post. The rest was observation just like everyone else provided.
posted by Deep Dish at 3:32 PM on July 27, 2007

I still think they're helpful. Infants die less in Canada. People live longer in Canada. Yes, obviously, these things vary within the countries themselves, but we are trying to compare them on the large scale. I think 33 million is enough people (i.e. a sufficient sample size) that were conditions entirely the same in both countries the numbers would also be the same.

I'm sure kingfish is intelligent enough to realize that averages are only averages.
posted by blacklite at 3:57 PM on July 27, 2007

That's just untrue, blacklite. For example - The USA's infant mortality rate is skewed upwards as compared to lots of places (like Europe) because the USA counts deaths that other countries do not count. The USA counts as "live births" any infant that shows the slightest sign of life, and then if they die later they count in the infant mortality stats. But other countries have all kinds of qualifiers as to what they count as a "live birth" and shuffle a ton of deaths into "stillbirths" that don't count in the stats.

Did you know that? I would guess not. So saying "infants die less in Canada" is crap. I can pick apart lots of others stats the same way. Here's one more; Life expectancy numbers like that are crap. The USA takes in HUGE swaths of immigrants, often from vastly less well off countries with poor nutrition for children. Those people will not live as long -on average- as people with better nourished childhoods.

So you think it would be better if the USA didn't allow poor people to come here because it would mean people in the USA would "live longer"? That's what your focus on this stat would seem to indicate.

So the infant mortality stats are bunk. The average life expectancy doesn't say what you are saying it does. And so on and on.
posted by Justinian at 4:40 PM on July 27, 2007

Shit, I've lived in Hamilton for a week now and it rules.
posted by the dief at 4:48 PM on July 27, 2007

Anyone who thinks that Canada and the US are similar must read Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada and the Myth of Converging Values by Michael Adams. It's an absolutely stunning portrait of the differences between Americans and Canadians, differences that are becoming greater and greater. The book is based on 15,000 polls done by the author's Environics polling firm over 10 years. It is truly fascinating.
posted by loiseau at 5:22 PM on July 27, 2007

So saying "infants die less in Canada" is crap.


Read The American Way of Birth; see Pregnant in America, etc.
posted by kmennie at 5:51 PM on July 27, 2007

Justinian: Life expectancy numbers like that are crap. The USA takes in HUGE swaths of immigrants, often from vastly less well off countries with poor nutrition for children.

So now we are arguing against statistics by making up other statistics that suit our purpose better? In 2001, 10.2% of Canada's population were immigrants from a non-European country. In 2000, 7.2% of the USA's population were immigrants from a non-European country. So by your argument, Canada should have a much lower life expectancy than the USA. The fact that it doesn't may indicate something to you.

posted by ssg at 6:42 PM on July 27, 2007

Justinian: Your "proof" that United States immigration skews the life expectancy down flies in the face of the fact that Canada welcomes MORE immigrants a year per capita (mostly from Asia and Southeast Asia). In case it isn't obvious, Canada has a lot more poor and malnourished people arriving but they still seem to be living longer than Americans. Live births in Canada are counted under the same critera as the United States to facilitate comparisons. On preview, ssg, you rule and are a faster typer too.

Dief: Glad you are here!
posted by saucysault at 6:56 PM on July 27, 2007

I've lived on both sides. I say: move to canada, (but close to the border, so it's best of both worlds), get a job, and jump through the hoops necessary to be able to stay there.

Then you can make your decision, because then you're finally in a genuine position to choose.

I also recommend moving just as a way to grow up, into a more capable and experienced person. That "land of opportunities" rar rar stuff you're getting is the kind of embarrassing hick provincialism that leaving the nest (so to speak) and living elsewhere for a time is a first class education against.

If you worked in high-powered international politics for example, it's true that Toronto wouldn't compete with NY, but that kind of example probably doesn't apply.

Just a heads-up- you'll probably hit a time where you no-longer have "home" waiting back where you came from, but you won't quite feel like the new place is "home" yet. It can be disorientating to not have a "home".
posted by -harlequin- at 7:04 PM on July 27, 2007

I'm not even going to read all the answers in this thread. I'm a dual citizen that bounces back and forth - 10+ years in each. Currently, I live in Canada. I have to say I prefer the culture here overall, the true value that is put on multiculturalism (especially in the cities), health care, etc.

It sounds like you already have an idealized version of Canada, so I'll play devil's advocate for a moment. The adjustment period is hard. If you like to live big, have a big ego or like being top of the pole, don't move to Canada. We're always playing second (or fifteenth) fiddle. If you want to be wealthy, powerful or noticed on a large scale, don't move to Canada. If you want the same consumer experiences in shopping, eating and lifestyle, don't move to Canada.

Summing up, it's an economy of scale. While this land is huge, they do things small here. I think I spent too many of my formative years in the US, and it makes it hard to go back and settle back into the modest calm of Canadian life. Sarah Vowel wrote an essay describing the differences between Canada and US being based on the historical backgrounds - Mounties vs Cowboys. I think it's pretty accurate.

I like to think if all the cool Americans would move here, the economy would grow enough to improve the job markets, etc. But then it wouldn't be Canada anymore, it'd be the shell of Canada swelled up with Americans. It would end up ruining the good parts and not eliminating the bad ones.
posted by SassHat at 7:17 PM on July 27, 2007

Canadian here. S'cuse the length of the missive.

*takes a deep breath*

The math for Canada is terrible. This country is unsustainable. Let's see, 30 million people (80% of whom are huddled along the 49th parallel) vs. 300 million people. Our standard of living is 60% of that of the US. We educate our best and our brightest (read, white males with a science education) and we send them south. In order to make up for the loss in terms of the tax base, we import three or four people from third world countries to fill the vacumn. We bray about multiculturalism (which I am a product of- and not a proponent of), but the fact is, we encourage people to stay in their stupid little ghettoes. Our national pastime is asking people 'where they're from' It's crap, and only now are we beginning to see that Pierre Trudeau was a fraud.

Canada is a country of sheep with no sense of humour. We're in love with mediocrity. There is something to be said for that in that we don't have the extremes of wealth and poverty that you see in the US. Yes, the hospital system in the US is absolutely frightening if you don't have a lot of money. But, the waiting lists here are ridiculously long for anything- and the wave of Baby Boomers needing services is going to crash the system in the next ten years. Who the hell is going to pay for it? The taxes are already crushing. If we raise the age of retirement, they're going to scream- and hey, there's more of them, so they'll never vote for it. We're living in our very own Weimar republic. We have no way to deal with our upside-down population pyramid. At least the US has the rise of the Hispanic population to cover the differential birthrates. They breed- and they work!

What I love about the US is that it's a culture that rewards individuality and genius instead of envying them. Small business ownership is much more common, and Americans value their wonderful craft culture. Up here, we'd rather buy cheap crap from China than support a local craftsperson. Artisans up here make their living from Americans in the summer. Hell, waiters make their living from American in the summer. We are an economic colony of the US- through and through.

In my experience, I've found the level of manners in the US (namely the Midwest and among my Southern friends) to be much higher overall. American men treat women a LOT better. (I can't tell you how many women I know who have compared American men favorably to Canadians. The most intelligent, confident girls I know have gone south.)

What is rough is how polarized everything is in the US. The religious-wingnut-with-guns aspect is pretty disturbing.

What is wonderful is the amazing history. The US actually stands for something- it is reflected in its wonderful literary canon and in the millions of heart-wrenching stories of people who've triumphed over unbelievable adversity- those poor and huddled masses yearning to be free. The fact is, the US was settled by different people who were willing to die for the ideals of the founding fathers. America is a much older society and has had that much longer to mature and to develop an identity which has been tested again and again.

Go on, kingfish, ask a Canadian the question,"What is a Canadian?". The answer you'll get is a smug, "Well, we're not like the Americans." Yeah, so we'll take part in our national pastime of sitting here and envying them.

/end of politically incorrect rant- if you don't like it, get your kicks on Route 66.

[dons flameproof suit]
posted by solongxenon at 7:57 PM on July 27, 2007 [4 favorites]

solongxenon - I'm an American woman who has dated more Canadians than Americans, and there's a reason for that. I take issue with the characterization of Canadians as bad boyfriends. I've never noticed any substantial differences.

but I can't speak to the original poster as I haven't spent much time living in Canada - only a summer here and there. that said, I am planning to emigrate to Canada as soon as my job prospects allow me to, because overall my values and political beliefs are more in line with those prevalent in Canada than those in the US. Also, I'm dating a Canadian - but I'd probably make that choice even if he weren't in the picture. I'm realistic about the faults of the Canadian system, socialized medicine, etc. It's worth it to me to be able to live someplace where I can finally declare a political party affiliation that doesn't require me to compromise my beliefs in any major way.
posted by dropkick queen at 9:47 PM on July 27, 2007

I don't know if there's an 'answer' to this - there are some interesting perspectives in this thread. As a Canadian living in the States, I see value in both countries - one would be a fool not to.

But there is something that speaks 'home' to Canada that will never be 'home' in the States. The problem is that we project what we see as 'the best' onto things that objectively don't always live up to those projections - and everyone's projections are different. I see things Canucks have written about Canada and I disagree, but then again, I see negative things Americans have written about America, and I can't see them as being true. Then again, how can we generalize about what a 'country' is like?

The point being? There is no 'better' country, your mileage WILL always vary - but if you're looking for Peace, Order and Good Government, find your way to Canada and don't leave. There's so much I do love about living in the U.S., but sadly I don't know if I can consider it 'home' - as a place of belonging, of comfort, of known, of nationality. Sometimes my longing for my home country overpowers me sometimes, and when I watch this video of the National Anthem... I start weeping like a baby, and think about buying a ticket home...

< / sorry for the derail - my comments are probably of no use here - will take it to my blog instead>
posted by rmm at 9:48 PM on July 27, 2007

I'm an American woman who has dated more Canadians than Americans, and there's a reason for that. I take issue with the characterization of Canadians as bad boyfriends. I've never noticed any substantial differences.

dropkick queen, you're contradicting yourself. You say there's a reason for your dating Canadians rather than Americans, yet you say you've never noticed any substantial differences. Which is it?

It would be interesting to know- you're welcome to take it to email if you like. [Is that the equivalent of 'taking it outside'? ;-0]
posted by solongxenon at 10:20 PM on July 27, 2007

I just wanted to comment on the tax issue. I live in Alberta, and lived in Utah. I find my actual take home pay to be higher in Canada, once you deduct health, dental, pension, etc (Making approx the same amount in both places, >$60k). I also find that the Canadian tax system allows me to deduct more for education and charitable expenses than the american system. We also have less sales tax (6% vs different amounts in most states and provinces). I believe we're also more environmentally conscious as a nation, and I'm proud of that. Oh, and as for culture, it's true that there is not a hispanic culture here like in the states, but we have more Asian (oriental, and near-easter) citizens. For those descended from europeans, the ties here are closer, and yes, the Queen of England is still the head of the Government (rue Britannia!). Oh, and the North Pole is in Canada, that means Santa lives here. YMMV.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:25 PM on July 27, 2007

thank you all for taking time to respond. what a lively debate!!!
posted by kingfish at 8:57 AM on July 28, 2007

Life expectancy: Canada 80.34 years (13th), USA 78 years (44th)
Obesity rates: Canada 14.3% (11th), USA 30.6% (1st)

This actually goes to show that American medicine is better than Canadian medicine -- despite dramatically unhealthier lifestyles, and despite statistical artifacts that artificially inflate US infant mortality stats, US life expectancy is only a couple of years less than Canadian life expectancy. Ceteris paribus, you're likely to live longer in America, unless you think that being an American is more likely to make you fat.
posted by commander_cool at 12:00 PM on July 28, 2007

Up here, we'd rather buy cheap crap from China than support a local craftsperson.

I think you underestimate Americans' affinity for cheap plastic crap from China. It's hard to buy stationery without it having come from China. We have trees, and you have trees, and both of us are on this side of the Pacific. There is no reason that all our paper goods shouldn't be made in North America.

The most intelligent, confident girls I know have gone south.

The most intelligent, confident girl I know certainly has, and I'm quite happy.

Anyway, I'm surprised to see such a politically incorrect rant (and one favoring the U.S., no less) from a Canadian.

get your kicks on Route 66

I would, but it was decommissioned in 1985.

I find my actual take home pay to be higher in Canada

That's because you live in Alberta.

We also have less sales tax

That's because you live in Alberta.
posted by oaf at 7:47 PM on July 28, 2007

blacklite writes "I still think they're helpful. Infants die less in Canada. People live longer in Canada."

The more telling stat is the teenage pregnacy one. The majority of kids born to teenage mothers end up living in poverty. A raw deal from day one that sets them up for failure. Especially since social services are funded at a lower level.
posted by Mitheral at 8:51 PM on September 4, 2007

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