CN Tower

CN Tower

There’s good news for those of you who were thinking of moving to Canada but missed out on getting a Canadian working holiday permit in 2012 as the 5,350 places were quickly snapped up.

It has been announced that by 2014 the number of permits will double to over 10,000 and instead of it being a one year permit, you’ll be allowed to stay for two years.

Hopefully this blog post might be of some use to you. From tips on how important it is to wear the same colour socks without any holes to how best to find a job, there’s something for everyone!

I lived in Toronto for two years so the blog mainly focuses on that city. I enjoyed it and made lots of friends including many Irish. Some are still there while others came home as it just wasn’t for them. Moving countries, even if it is just for a short time, can be very stressful and difficult so hopefully these links will be helpful.

There are many positives:

  • Canada is a wonderful giant country and there are distinct seasons – snow in the winter so you can go skiing and sun in the summer.
  • Generally speaking Canadians are friendly, low key, direct and speak English so it’s easy enough for us to fit in. However, French is spoken in Quebec.
  • Yes, there are jobs. However, the jobs might not be exactly what you’re looking for.
  • The economy is in fairly good nick as the banks seem to have their act together – well, so far anyway and there isn’t constant talk and feeling of doom and gloom. People are quite positive.
  • Healthcare is free – well, your taxes cover it if you know what I mean.
  • Volunteering is really popular.
  • In Toronto, there’s always something going on – festivals etc.
  • Canada embraces diversity and different cultures and as a result you can get any kind of food there.
  • You can also get cheap all inclusive holidays to Cuba or the Dominican Republic and the flights are only three hours.
Toronto City Beach

Toronto City Beach

For me, there are also negatives:

  • Canada is expensive.
  • There’s no Pennys or Ryanair for cheap flights.
  • Chocolate just isn’t the same and Lidl/Aldi haven’t reached there yet.
  • Again, yes, there are jobs. However, the jobs might not be exactly what you’re looking for and can be difficult to get.
  • You can’t beat the Irish humour – although you’ll find enough Irish there to keep your needs met 😉
  • There’s an ocean between your family and friends so that can be difficult and being home sick is not nice. Unless you’re making lots of money, flying home for every occasion isn’t going to happen.
  • Mobile phone tariffs are ridiculous – most operators charge for incoming calls and setting up your voicemail. The good news is that a friend of mine has told me that there are new operators offering lower rates e.g. Wind, Mobilicity,  Public Mobile, Branson’s Virgin, and Koodo. Thank you Bill! 🙂 You’ll also notice that you’ll get calls for different people who used to have your new number as they recycle phone numbers.
  • Prices in Toronto for property are going through the roof and it feels like Canadians, who are buying at the moment, will be in the same predicament as many Irish who bought during the boom years with massive negative equity.
Dundas Square

Dundas Square

Useful Links

The Irish Canadian Immigration Centre – this centre opened earlier this year to help and give information to Irish people arriving in Canada. website – this website provides objective information about moving to Canada and has information on different cities – not just Toronto.

Irish Alien – this is a website for Canada’s Irish community.

Irish Connections Magazine – it’s a general magazine for the Irish community.


The Irish Canadian Immigration Centre and the Ireland – Canada Chamber of Commerce Toronto have been very helpful to new arrivals. They have held a number of welcome nights, immigration info sessions and also organised ski trips. Keep an eye out for when these are happening as they are a great way of meeting new people and networking. I was at one of the welcome nights last year and a number of recruiters were there. Here is a list we received afterwards of the recruiters that attended the night thanks to both organisations.

Recruitment Agencies – Ian and Ruairi who are behind this website have been placing Irish guys in construction for 2-3 months now as some companies have decided that their website would be a good source. While they get people from all sectors, they are focusing on construction professionals and trades.

Decisioning Solutions
Robert Half Recruiting
Chad Management
Profile Consultants
Hays Recruitment
Dean Group


Irish jobs website
Flynn Construction
Ontario Government

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Getting set-up

Social Insurance Number (SIN) – you will need this nine-digit number to work in Canada.

Ontario health card – you’ll need this for access to free health care – it can be a bit of a nightmare if you don’t have all the proper documentation with you when you visit your local office!


Canadiana Backpackers Inn – There are a few hostels in Toronto – some with a better reputation than others – I stayed in this hostel when I first arrived in Toronto and really liked it. It’s homely and full of Irish.

Craigslist – good website to find rental accommodation or cheap furniture – most houses and apartments are unfurnished so you end up having to buy beds, tables, chairs etc. Utilities are normally included so you don’t pay extra for electricity, gas and water. TV and Internet are usually extra. A lot of places don’t have washing machines and dryer in them and so you’ll notice there are lots of launderettes around.  It’s much handier if you get a place where there is a washer/dryer.

Solas – is the Canadian version of daft from John P Kelly and two other Irish guys. Great idea lads!


Toronto Sport and Social Club – this is a great club where you can sign up on your own to a team or create a team yourself to be part of a league. They have lots of sports and different events going on. I met lots of great people mainly Canadians playing ball hockey – I miss it!

GAA in Toronto – Ireland’s loss has been Toronto’s gain in terms of GAA.


Canadian Immigration – this website has details on extending permits and visas.

International Experience Canada (IEC)  – the programme is now full for 2012.

Globex International Group

Fast Track Immigration Services Canada

UK Canada immigration – if you are applying for permanent residency the documents will ultimately end up here as this is where it is processed.

General info and tips

*Make sure your socks match and have no holes – as when you’re going into someone’s house it is normal to leave your shoes at the door! It actually makes sense so you don’t drag snow, sleet and salt into the house. Thanks John for pointing that out. It’d be handy here too not to be dragging in muck from the rain only we’ve been told if we walk around with only socks on we’ll get pneumonia! Invest in some slippers.
*Canadians like to heat their houses really well during winter (since it does sometimes get to -40 degrees in Winter) so at the beginning it feels like you are living in a furnace.
*Legal drinking age is 18 in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec; 19 elsewhere – Toronto, Ontario.
*Your skin may break out in spots or spots may appear in places you’ve never had them before – happened to me & a friend there.
*Double dipping is frowned upon – yes I didn’t know what it was either. Dipping a piece of bread, you’ve already taken a bite from, into a plate/bowl that everyone is dipping into is considered rude! e.g balsamic vinegar.
*ATMs do a lot more in Toronto than they do here – you can deposit a cheque through them and even pay bills.
*They don’t use the words queue (line up), footpath (walkway or pavement), half past the hour (e.g. 7:30), rubbish (garbage) etc.
*In Ontario you can only buy alcohol in the LCBO and Beer Store. You can’t get it in general shops or supermarkets.
*The price is not what you pay, then tax is added and in pubs and restaurants you tip.
*Most bars, if not all, serve food so there’s a culture of eating and drinking so normally the bill comes at the end and everyone splits it or pays for what they had as opposed to going to a bar and buying a round of drinks. Clubs are different.
*Public transport is the same price whatever distance you go – one stop or 10 stops.
*Toilets have more water!
*Opening doors can be confusing with the handles 😉
*Canadians love their ice hockey – thanks JonJo.

Best of luck with the move and enjoy your time there!

Check out my New York – Top Tips blog post