An American living in Canada explains the pros and cons of moving

Heidi lamarHeidi LamarHeidi Lamar and her husband, Brian Chamberlain.

Heidi Lamar’s decision to become a Canadian citizen was far more romantic than trying to flee a Donald Trump presidency — something many Americans seem rather eager to do.

“My Canadian husband came in for a massage and left with a wife instead,” Lamar, the owner of Spa Lamar in Scottsdale, Arizona, tells Business Insider.

That was 2010. By 2012, the two were married and Lamar was filing for permanent residence to spend more time with her husband, who owned a business in Toronto. Today, they split their time 50-50 between the two countries.

And even though full citizenship is still a few years away, Lamar already she says there are clear pros and cons to living on the other side of the border.

Pros

Politics

To many Canadians, America’s 18 months of mainstream election coverage seems downright bizarre. People just don’t take that kind of interest in politics, Lamar says.

The Canadian candidates also take a more light-hearted approach. She points to one campaign ad that ran while current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was running for office. Seated around a table, a group of seasoned politicians looked at a mock-up of Trudeau’s resume and concluded, despite his great hair, he was “just not ready.”

“In the traditional Canadian niceness,” Lamar says, “that was as mean as his opposing campaign got.”

Friendly culture

Lamar says Canadians hate to hear they’re all so “nice,” but she insists they really are a wholesome bunch.

“It’s a friendlier place,” she says. “I don’t think Americans are un-friendly, but I think they just tend to be more focused on working and not as focused on the other parts of life.”

Work-life balance

According to Lamar, Canadians seem to place a greater value on spending time with family and friends. She was surprised to find out most companies observe a monthly paid holiday. There are no national holidays in August, for instance, so a number of Canadian provinces observe Civic Holiday on the first Monday of the month.

“There’s definitely a different mentality about work-life balance in Canada, which I really enjoy,” Lamar says.

Wages

According to 2013 OECD data on minimum wages, Canada’s take-home wage (adjusted for purchasing power) is the 9th best in the world. The US came in 11th, 92 cents behind Canada.

Lamar says that’s one reason people generally leave smaller tips in Canada than they do here. Instead of leaving 20% for a server, people might only leave 15% because wages are higher and more consistent across jobs.

Cons

Cost of living

Wages may be higher, but Lamar says the costs of most goods are, too.

Canada’s tax and tariff laws, combined with its shipping costs and lack of economy of scale, create a retail environment in which many Canadians prefer to travel across the border to buy clothes and furniture at lower prices.

Consumer choice

The drawbacks also extend to the selection of goods offered in Canada. Lamar says Canadians are horrified that their Netflix library is only half the size of America’s, which inevitably leads to the desired title getting pirated.

A lot of Americans might also be disappointed to learn there are no Target locations in Canada. The beloved mega-retailer had to close the last of its 133 stores last April due to failures on multiple fronts, perhaps the largest being high prices.

Environmental impact

Canada is one of the world’s leading oil producers. As such, it ranks as the 8th largest producer of greenhouse gases, despite Canadians making up only 0.5% of the total global population.

Weaning the country from its dependence on coal has been one of Canada’s top priorities in recent years, according to Canadian officials.

Lamar says these factors make it hard to decide where she’d rather spend her time, even in a Trump America. Instead, she reverts back to playing the role of the romantic.

“This is going to sound sappy,” she says, “but honestly, wherever my husband is I am enjoying more.”

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