Relocating from California to Canada: Your Essential Guide

Relocating from California to Canada: Your Essential Guide

Mar 14, 2024

Canada picture cover

A growing number of Americans are moving to Canada for several good reasons. The low crime rates, diversity, strong social mobility, and different cultural experiences are what attract people to the Land of Maple Leaf.

If you’re moving from California to Canada in search of a better life or different experience, it’s necessary to plan well. International moving from California to Canada is unlike moving to other states within the country.

In this California to Canada expat guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know before moving, from understanding the differences between international and domestic relocation to navigating cultural nuances and legal requirements.

Tips on Relocating from San Diego, CA to Canada

1.    Prepare a moving checklist

As you prepare for your California to Canada relocation, creating a comprehensive moving checklist helps ensure you stay organized.

The checklist details every step you need to take till you’re settled in your new Canadian home. Thus, this starts from research on the route to unpacking the items in Canada.

First, establish a timeline. Determine your desired move-in date and work backward to create a timeline for your relocation. Allow ample time for each step of the process, including obtaining necessary documents, packing, shipping belongings, and arranging accommodations in Canada.

Here are a few important things to include in your checklist:

  • Identify items to move and items to purge
  • Pack all items
  • Notify existing and future landlords about the move
  • Clear all the dues
  • Hire an international moving company
  • Book tickets

Don’t shy away from excluding any minute details that you may perceive as unimportant. The more comprehensive your checklist is, the better. Here’s a moving checklist by NYT you can use as a reference. Then, expand or cut down on items at your convenience.

Canada travel Quebec city tourist enjoying view of Chateau Frontenac castle and St. Lawrence river in background.

2.    Take care of the legal aspect

Arguably, the most sensitive difference between domestic and international relocation is the legal aspect. There are minimal requirements when moving between states, while the stakes are high when you move internationally — so much so that you may even face deportation for non-compliance.

When moving belongings from California to Canada, you will need to comply with Canadian customs regulations. This includes declaring all items being brought into the country and paying any applicable duties or taxes.

Certain items may be subject to restrictions or require special permits to import into Canada. It’s essential to research Canadian customs regulations and consult with customs authorities to ensure compliance.

Furthermore, you will need to prepare and submit documentation for your belongings when crossing the border into Canada. This may include a detailed inventory of all items being transported, as well as any necessary permits or certificates for specific items. Use the checklist you prepared earlier to show documentation.

When shipping belongings internationally, choose a reputed moving company with experience in handling cross-border relocations. Ensure that the moving company is licensed and insured to transport goods between the United States and Canada.

Spend a significant amount of time ensuring you meet the legal requirements for moving your belongings.

3.    Calculate cost of living differences

As a California expat, understanding the difference in cost of living between Canada and California is another crucial aspect of planning your relocation. By researching expenses, budgeting accordingly, and being prepared for potential differences in lifestyle, you can effectively manage the impact of the change in the cost of living.

First, let’s start with the broader picture. The cost of living in California is $6,685 for a family of four. The same figure is for Canada, which is $3,854 or CAD 5,195.

Thus, you may conclude that Canada is cheaper than California. But that may not always be the case.

For example, the cost of living in San Diego for a family of four is $4,886. Likewise, the cost of living in Oakland, CA, is $5,860. Thus, there’s a $1,000 difference within the state.

So you need to figure out the cost of living between the cities. For example, the cost of living in Vancouver, Canada, is CAD 5,894 or $4,373.50. So, the expenses in Vancouver are more or less the same as in San Diego.

But even accounting for the difference between the cities doesn’t give the complete picture. You need to break down the cost of living by housing, utilities, transportation, food, taxes, etc. It’s important to note that Canada, like California, is typically a high-tax region with high income and sales tax. Also, groceries, internet, and other luxury items tend to be expensive. So, you need to account for those before making the move.

Indoor shot of serious couple of business workers

4.    Package and label your belongings days in advance

Begin the packing process well in advance of your move date to allow ample time for sorting, organizing, and packing your belongings. Start by decluttering and purging items you no longer need or use to minimize the volume of items you’ll be packing and transporting.

Since you’re moving internationally, invest in high-quality packing materials to protect your belongings during transit. This includes sturdy moving boxes, packing tape, bubble wrap, packing paper, furniture blankets, and packing peanuts or foam padding for fragile items.

Disassemble large items like furniture to make packaging easier. Use waterproof markers or labels to ensure that labels remain legible throughout the moving process. Consider color-coding or numbering boxes for easy identification and organization.

Also, keep a detailed inventory list of all items being packed and transported, including descriptions, quantities, and values. This will help you keep track of your belongings and facilitate the unpacking process upon arrival at your destination.

Young couple checklist.

5.    Be prepared for cultural differences

While both California and Canada share some similarities, such as cultural diversity and a high quality of life, there are distinct differences that you should be aware of.

Note that Canada prides itself on multiculturalism and promotes the celebration of cultural diversity through policies and programs aimed at fostering inclusivity and respect for all cultural backgrounds. So, you may see a stronger involvement of indigenous and foreign groups at both the social and political levels.

You’ll see a variety of cultural events and festivals throughout the year, celebrating diverse cultural traditions, arts, and heritage. From multicultural festivals to indigenous ceremonies and national holidays, there are plenty of opportunities to participate in cultural activities and connect with the community.

There are also some differences in social etiquette and customs between the two regions. Canadians tend to be polite, reserved, and respectful in their interactions, often using formal titles and greetings when meeting new people.

Take the time to learn about Canadian social norms and etiquette, including common phrases, gestures, and customs, to navigate social situations with ease and demonstrate cultural sensitivity.

Understanding and embracing the cultural differences between California and Canada is key to a successful transition and integration into your new community.

There are several California expat groups in Canada that you should get involved in. There’s the Expat Forum, where you can find fellow Americans and Californians living in Canada. You can also leverage Meet Up to find expat groups in Canada.

The quickly you accustom yourself to the “Canadian way” of life, the easier it will be.

Move With a Reputed International Moving Company

San Diego international movers specialize in managing relocations across borders and have extensive experience navigating the complexities of international moves. Whether it be getting through transit or obtaining permits, you can expect expert help along the way.

Working with an international moving company when moving to Canada offers convenience, reliability, and peace of mind. This allows you to focus on settling into your new home with confidence.

So, are you relocating from San Diego, CA to Canada? Do some research and get quotes. Atlas Allied, an Allied Van Lines agent since 1948, is a trusted residential and corporate relocation specialist in San Diego. We know what we’re doing, and we do it well. Leave your move to us for a seamless experience. Contact us today for a free moving quote!

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