Returning to Canada from Australia can be a bigger transition for most, both because the geography is so remote and because the lifestyle is quite different in Canada
Before you decide to move back to Canada, it is likely a good idea to really consider why you want to move back. Life in Canada really is very different from life in Australia.
From my experience, returning Canadians are split: About 1/2 move with suitcases and a few boxes by air freight, buying everything else new in Canada with the money they save on shipping. The other half move a full household of belongings with a 20' or 40' sea container. The distance between Oz and Canada is so far that the cost trade-off is one almost everyone grapples with. Of course, if you have a "corporate move" where your employer pays for the move, you have the luxury of taking your whole household using the best service option available.
What to bring:
Due to shipping costs, low-value items and those that won't be of use in Canada (appliances) are not generally worth shipping. Some things that are worth shipping:
What not to bring:
Caveat: If you are moving with a sea container, bring even low value items! Stuff that container full. The marginal cost of shipping your children's lighweight plastic backyard castle is almost zero when you use a sea container. Leaving lots of empty space is just wasted. Yes, there can be weight and packing costs to consider, but light items add only a tiny amount to your shipment cost when using a container.
The Moving Back to Canada home page lists top tier moving companies that serve the world (useful links section). "Top-tier" obviously means top price, to be clear. But if you are moving a household of belongings and want it handled professionally, the price is certainly worth it. Here is a top tier moving company recommended by returning Canadians that is specific to Australia. They have offices in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane:
C. Roughsedge, who returned to Canada in 2017 shared her experience with moving just boxes:
Overseas packers and shippers have just delivered our stuff 4 months in transit. It was door to door Yeppoon to Toronto for $1700 for 33 boxes or 2.7 cu metres. They are out of Brisbane and can be reached on 61-7-3268 6200.
Moving company feedback or recommendations? Please let me know so I can add them here for future returning Canadians to learn from. Thank you!
Please note that I get no commission or other benefit from recommendations.
This is one of the most challenging aspects of a move back to Canada from Australia. I have had several clients work with me regarding pet moves from Australia and the process is both expensive and challenging. One person who contacted me even decided to stay in Australia until her beloved feline companion passed on because of the cost and challenging of moving it back with her.
As pets are a very important part of many families, please research your pet relocation options carefully and at the very beginning of your move back to Canada planning process.
PLEASE, take pains to have the all right paperwork ready when you return to Canada. Australia is simply too far to be able to hop back and get something you have missed or need another copy of. Even though we live in the era of electronic access to banking, governments, etc. there are still many things that must either be done in-person or by snail mail. A story shared with me:
One of the things that we are finding very difficult is that we didn’t have the right document to get our drivers licence which I thought would be a straight exchange. I thought we had to get a letter from our insurance companies, but what is really needed for Ontario is the DRIVERS HISTORY. It must be ordered in person in Australia or ordered by snail mail if abroad and returned by snail mail. The traffic history is not enough. Although I’ve been driving for 30 yrs we had to beg the supervisor to give me a learners licence until I can get the drivers history. This is because I renewed my Australian licence last April 2016, so they say I can only prove I’ve been driving for a year and a half.
The home page of this web site goes methodically through the key areas of preparation for your move.
As well, the Moving Back to Canada Planner / Checklist gives you a fast planning and preparation tool so that you will have all the key areas covered.
As mentioned above, Canada and Australia have a tax treaty that will serve you well, particularly if you have a straight-forward personal financial situation. In terms of income tax, Canada has a "tax freedom day" in early June. Australia is earlier, around mid-April. So it might seem that you pay less tax in Australia, but this might be comparing apples to oranges as there are many variables to consider rather than just "income tax" in your overall tax picture.
If your situation is complicated I recommend getting professional advice from a tax accountant in Canada who specializes in international taxes.This can be due to pensions, real estate, the transfer of financial assets to Canada, etc.
A story and a question:
I am 65, retired, live on an age pension and have lived in Australia for 25 years. But after a recent divorce, and now living on a pension, I can't afford to stay in Australia. I can buy a 1 bedroom condo in small town Ontario or BC for $150-$170K -- in AUS more than $350K! Apt rents in AUS average $1600-2000/month -- $800-1000 in many parts of Canada. I also lose 15% of my CDN pensions to Ottawa as a non-resident but wouldn't living in Canada. But I'd have to be a snowbird to FL or AZ from Nov-April because I don't like CDN winters. Can always move back to AUS if I don't like it after giving it two years. Can anybody tell me if there's a major difference in age pension payments between Canada and AUS?
- Thank you, Rob, in Australia, for sharing your situation and question. Anyone know the answer to Rob's question? Please contact me if you do.
Australia has a smaller economy than does Canada. Because of this, their currency (AUD) is subject to movements that are not closely tied to other currencies or to the Canadian dollar (CAD). The CAD in contrast, is subject to USD fluctuations and impacts because our economy is closely connected to that of the United States. Here is a 4 year graph of the AUD-CAD exchange rates. Fluctuations are common, as you can see:
The AUD has been fluctuating right around the 4 year historic averages in comparison to the CAD. There are no particular advantage or disadvantage to exchanging AUD for CAD from a long-term perspective.
Some foreign exchange considerations:
This is likely the most important consideration of all, particularly if you have lived in the Australia for many years.
Some thoughts on lifestyle:
I would like to highlight the weather in Australia and Canada.
Some comments here says BC province in Canada has better weather than the rest of Canada but failed to point out that it rains a lot and for many days on end without any break in Vancouver. Adding on to the rain is the cloudy grey skies for extended period. It can get so very depressing. People stay indoors and do not go out. Even if they do, they just hurry home to get some warmth.
All in all, Canada as a whole only offers 4 months out of 12 months for Canadians to enjoy their lives which in Australia is 12 months of great enjoyable life!
There are other differences which are factors to be considered but with bad weather for 8 months what kind of life can you have? Many Canadians do not understand because many have never experienced various glorious ways of truly living. Aparently, ignorance is truly bliss!
Moving back to quebec in the winter is a challenge health wise when you have been in the sun for so long. Although I am a healthy and active person, I got the flu and a cold and just adapting to the weather here. I should have taken more vitamins and get ready to fight new germs:).
And I went on a hike and did not have the right boots. At -30C, I can tell you my feet really got cold, to the point that my toe nail (only the nail and one toe luckily) froze and yes, turned black. That is beside nose bleed because of the intense heat in the homes etc.
It is such a change, I really am just adapting to the cold winter weather. My description sounds awful but true, just the reality when you have lived in a warm location for years and move to a province like Quebec. And beside all that stuff, I could not be happier to be back in Canada. Sincerely, it was the best decision of my life. Minus the short but challenging weather adaptation.
Prices and lifestyle differences are of key concerns to Canadians living in Australia and considering moving back. Here are some insightful stories and perspectives shared by Canadians living in Australia.
William compares his experience with Victoria, BC and Brisbane, QLD:
Hello people, I am an international student who have lived in two of the best cities in both Canada and Australia, which are Victoria, BC and Brisbane, QLD. I am still living in Brisbane at this moment but I am also struggling whether or not shall I return to Canada for study. I miss Canada and my friends back in high school.
Main differences are as follows,
1) High wages for entry level jobs, legal minimum wage is $16 in Queensland, I am 19, I work as a part time security officer and I make about $20-27/hr. Downside is that I paid $1000 for my Cert II and III in Security Ops Course, plus $600/3 yrs to the government for my security license. My friend told me he works for fairway market in Victoria, he only get's $10/hr or something.
2) Great weather. Queensland calls itself the sunshine state, it truly is. It's always warm and nice weather here. And coldest winter is still like above 10 degrees normally. Victoria is also pretty sweat compare to the rest of Canada. But I guess only BC is good in Canada speaking of weather.
3) Well rounded public transport in AU, I mean I guess it was also pretty good back in Victoria, BC. The fare was like $1.5 per ticket(student) in Victoria and here in Brisbane is normally starting from $3.7 to $10 depending on zones you travel and concession or not.
4) Phone bills, here in Oz is actually cheaper. I pay $40/month for infinite calls and text plus 8GB data; Victoria I was in koodo prepaid, it was like $10 per data booster 100MB add on? wtf. Overall you will pay more for less data in Canada.
5) The people here in AU, especially in big cities like Sydney and Brisbane are not so nice. When I was back in Canada, people are always polite and nice to me, often say hi to each other, but in Brisbane, people don't really care about each other, even if they live next to you. I do feel pretty cold in a way speaking of relationship between people.
6) In Brisbane, we don't have walmart, in major shops like woolworth, things are more expensive for personal uses, like shampoos and other stuffs. Thing they get from China like a flashlight, a shit one could still costs up to $30.
7) Expensive post-secondary education in Australia. I go to QUT the tuition is like $24500 per year, I heard my friend pays $19000 in UVIC(international).
8) Cheaper rent in Brisbane. I pay $800 for a single condo, 1 bed, 1 bath, 1 kitchen plus parking. Victoria wasnt too bad but I guess if you are in Toronto or Vancouver is definitely gonna be a different story.
9) Gyms are much more expensive in Australia. Anytime Fitness for example which is the one I got $600 raped off due to sickness and late for only 1 day in cooling off period for the cancellation, they charged me $500 for early cancellation and $60 for the fob key:(( and the sales persons are the worst people you could ever think of and they will threat you with legal actions for breaking the contract and late for only 1 day to cancel it within cooling off period. It normally cost $14/wk where in Victoria, it costs like $20/mth and the staff are nice :)
I guess that's about it from my personal experience. I hope it helps. I miss Victoria, and I miss my friends in Canada. I don't really know if I should go back, I mean it's pretty hard to give up everything I am having right now, i.e. well paid part time for a college student, my car, my studies (only done 2 yrs so far but I don't like it, not doing great) and my new friends for sure. I miss the true north strong and free and its people tbh :)) I love Canada in a way that I could not describe. :) Happy Canada 150 this July 1st. :)
- William W., June 2017. Thank you, William, for sharing your experiences and perspectives!
Andrea M shares here thoughts comparing Melbourne and Toronto:
"I was born and raised close to Toronto, Canada. I moved over 3 years ago to Melbourne. There are pros and cons to both cities but overall I would recommend Toronto area for raising a family or a couple that likes to travel and enjoy fine things and going out alot.
What is better in Melbourne Australia?
- the weather (no snow....but weather does change from rain to shine in a few hours)
- all prices include tax
- higher minimum wage (but cost of living is much more) approx $19/hour where toronto is about $11.50
- the coffee
- mobile phone (several no contract options, $39.90/ month for unlimited talk text and 7 GB of data with amaysim for example)
- colognes and perfume from chemist warehouse are very cheap here compared to Canada
- option for private health care (but you must pay for this and it is expensive, plus forced to pay for this or you pay more taxes and a levy surcharge)
- easy access to a GP (so many available and you can book your appointment online even)
- have amazing groupon, scoopon, living social deals (3 course meal for 2 people with wine for $60 example and that is how we plan our outings)
- I think public transit is better then in Toronto (much bigger, but is more expensive at 3.80$ one way)
- I think Melbourne has less traffic then Toronto but people here complain like crazy on traffic
- Possibly more sporting opportunities
- 4 weeks mandatory holiday pay (annual leave) and 2 weeks sick leave - which is awesome!
What is better in Toronto Canada?
- petrol is much cheaper
- food is cheaper and more options (example avocado grown in Australia can be $4 each. in Canada imported from mexico for $1) plus there are so many diet options and things like graham crackers; plus cereal selection in Canada is amazing compared to Oz
- personal care items much cheaper (deodarant, tampons, shaving cream etc)
- houses are cheaper
- rent is cheaper
- internet is better and faster
- mortgage rates are cheaper. Melbourne is about 4-5% now where are toronto less than 3%
- catholic school is free for primary to secondary where in Australia its $2000/ year/kid for primary and approx $10,000 a year per kid for secondary and secondary starts at grade 6
- day care is cheaper
- less racists in Canada, as they are accepting people
- close to the rest of the world; close to USA ( Australia is an island in middle of NO WHERE; far from the rest of world)
- clothes and brand names are more expensive (except for perfume?)
- Movie tickets are $22 a person
- A game of bowling is $10
- drive on right hand side of road
- alcohol is cheaper
- cigarettes are 10$ a pack in Toronto, and 20-25$ a pack in Australia
- car registration is so much cheaper (Australia almost $800 a year!!!)
- Not many (if any) red light or speeding cameras (you get $200 fine for going 5 km over the speed limit in Melbourne) public holidays fines are doubled.
- only toll route is 407 (Melbourne has so many, bridges, tunnels, roads that have tolls and costs a lot of money each day to use)
- drug and alcohol testing is mandatory (no need for suspicion) so you can get pulled over at any time and any day
- parking tickets are much cheaper in Toronto! (Melbourne they really get you at 80-200$ for a parking ticket.
- Canadians are accepting to all races, creeds, genders, etc (Australians in general are NOT) more multicultural (have all races and creeds, where as Melbourne is European and Asian mostly)
- the cost to get a visa is muchhhhh cheaper. Australia was $8000 for me to get a partner visa Canadians are more friendly and polite (say hello and sorry)"
- Andrea M., February 2017. Thank you, Andrea for sharing your experiences and perspectives!
Tammy L. has contributed her perspectives, comparing Ottawa and Sidney, Australia:
"I am a Canadian living in Ottawa and am moving back to Sydney. I found that Sydney was substantially more expensive for most goods/services. The wages in Canada are lower than in Aus but after factoring cost of living, the % of disposable income is higher. Sure minimum wage is double Canada's, but wages for comparable jobs are not doubled... yet costs are. :( This is definitely the cost of living in warm climate/ harbourside cities!
Ex: 1 bdrm apt rent in city centre:
- Ottawa: $900-$1500
- Toronto: $1000-$2000
- Sydney: $2000-$6000
Morning coffee + sandwich:
- Ottawa: $5
- Toronto: $5
- Sydney: $10
Average dine out meal:
- Ottawa: $20-$30
- Toronto: $20-$30
- Sydney: $50+
- Ottawa: $60-100
- Toronto: $60-100
- Sydney: $100-200
- Ottawa: $1.05/litre
- Toronto: $1.05/litre
- Sydney: $1.45/ litre
Hopefully this helps someone as I was just there recently a few weeks ago!"
- Tammy L. Thank you, Tammy for sharing your experience!
Another experience from Phil H.:
"Hi Paul, Enjoyed your article on Canada/Australia.
I am in the process of returning to Canada (Toronto) after living in Australia for 16 years, in both Sydney and Melbourne. The main reason for leaving is the ridiculous cost of living here in Australia. Cost for just about everything range from double to four times the cost of the same in Canada. I currently live in Melbourne and pay $75/kg for raspberries in the middle of summer!!
There is a massive amount of price gouging here in oz that seems to be acceptable. A weeks worth of groceries for my wife and I cost about $280. I recently damaged the mirror on my 09 Dodge Nitro and to replace it cost $680. So I had my father buy one from Canadian tire for $35 and mail it to me for $50.
Australia rarely imports fruits and vegetables. So whatever is available, is ALL that is available. I can buy mangoes in Canada during the winter for the same price as here in Melbourne in summer. It is true however that a person will earn much more in Australia than in Canada. The problem is that everything in Australia cost up to 4 times as much. You end up having far less disposable income.
Having grown up in Toronto, I took for granted how good and efficient our infrastructure really is (I know a lot of Canadians don't think this, but its true). Both Melbourne and Sydney have horrendous highway and public transportation systems. My Australian born wife could not believe how modern and efficient the TTC in Toronto really was.
Anyway I hope this sheds some light on the costs of living."
- Phil H. Thank you, Phil, for sharing your story and insights!
Another story on prices and living in Australia, compared to Canada:
"We are moving our family of 4 back to Ottawa from Sydney as the price of commodities and real estate is simply outrageous. We have started planning for our children to attend school and the costs associated coupled with the extremely high house prices and interest rates, made it close to unaffordable for us to stay and we are both medium-high income earners.
Moreover, the increasing violence in some of the suburbs as well as on the transport system have us slightly worried about having our kids exposed to it.
Albeit the harshness of Canadian winters, the cost of living through them is significantly lower than the cost of heating/power in Australia.
So overall, the uncertainty of the economy and the constantly increasing costs have helped us make the decision. That being said, Australia was a great experience for us and we will surely be back for holidays."
- A Canadian family. Thank you for sharing your story and insights!
Finally, here is a contrasting perspective on prices from Suzanne D.:
"I'm an Australian who moved to Canada with family about 16 months ago. I was led to believe that the cost of living here was much cheaper than Australia and accepted a significantly lower salary based on that advice, only to find that it's not really true. I spend the same amount at the grocery store each week, insurance is outrageously expensive here and the tax situation is mind-blowing. The complexity of the tax system, including property taxes, must require an enormous number of government employees - paid for by the tax payer. We have free health care and schooling in Australia too, so I can't see what the reason for the inordinately huge taxes. Utilities here also cost twice as much as we paid in Australia. The lower home loan interest rates in Canada balance out the main differences. So all in all the cost of living in both countries is similar. I worry about retiring here as compulsory company retirement contributions here are 4% compared with 9% in Aust and then you still have to pay extremely high property taxes for ever. How on earth do people survive??"
- Suzanne D. Thank you for sharing your story and insights!
A personal experience with friendliness Jenn, a Canadian living in Sydney, Australia:
"Hi Paul I was checking out your website, great info! Thanks for sharing.
I live in Australia and have for 10 years now and just reading up on the comments of being prepared that canadians may be socially cold and less easy-going than Australians. I actually find quite the opposite. Especially in Sydney. Sydney is a very very cold city from a social perspective. People don't talk to their neighbors or say "hi" to each other on the street. When I lived in a high rise for 2 years not one person ever said hi to me in the lift and if I said "hi" they looked at me like I had 10 heads. I am sure in holiday mode most Aussies would be absolutely lovely; however, true day to day interaction is not always like that and likely driven by the high cost of living causing a very stressful existence, long hours spent at work and a lot of snobbery regarding what part of the city you grew up in, what school you went to etc. Not to say Aussies are mean people, but I highly doubt an Australian would consider Canadians as being cold people especially if they come from Sydney. I find Canadians a lot more friendly than most Australians, but maybe just a little more closed minded.."
- Thank you, Jenn, for sharing your insights and perspectives!
Finally, here is a great article from The Toronto Star that highlights some of the differences between Canada and Australia:
Canadians living in Australia considering moving back to Canada: Please share your ideas, thoughts, and experiences relating to returning to Canada from Australia. An increasing number of Canadians living in Australia are contacting me for help and your input will really help others who are considering the move as well. I will post your thoughts here as help for others. Along with a credit to you will be a big thank you on behalf of the many people you will be helping!
Latest update to this page: March 2018