Population: 34 million, and nearly 90% live within 160km of the southern border with the USA (World Factbook, 2011).
Border countries: United States of America
Climate: temperatures vary widely by location and can range from subarctic and arctic in the north to more temperate weather with mild, rainy winters in south-western areas.
Terrain: Canada is the world's second largest country and encompasses a variety of terrains including extensive flat prairies, mountainous and coastal areas, and frozen landscapes.
Natural hazards: permafrost and arctic conditions in the North, cyclones which form east of the Rocky Mountains, risk of earthquakes (mainly in the Pacific coast region and in parts of the northern territories), and volcanoes in Western Canada's Coast Mountains, most of which remain dormant.
Living in Canada
Cost of living: the cost of living in Canada is cheaper compared to the UK and many other western countries. Education in Canada has estimates of costs for typical items and services that can act as useful guidelines. As in the UK, there are considerable differences between living costs in different regions and particularly between the large cities and the rural areas.
Utilities: utilities that often have to be paid for on top of the rent bill include hydro, gas, water and telephone. The cost of utilities depends on a number of factors, such as which services are included, how many people split the costs and the size of the house.
Internet domain: .ca
Health: Canada's healthcare system, commonly known as Medicare, is funded through taxes and provides access to medically necessary hospital and primary care. Canadian citizens and permanent residents are eligible for coverage, though there may be a waiting period upon arrival, during which it is recommended to buy private health insurance. Non-residents are advised to apply for travel health insurance if their regular policy does not cover them when abroad, as paying for services at the point of delivery can be prohibitively expensive. If you are working in Canada, even on a temporary basis, your employer is responsible for making sure you are covered by medical and health insurance and workers' compensation when you arrive in Canada.
Laws and customs: Canada is a proudly multicultural society and all newcomers are expected to abide by its laws and respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which prohibits discrimination based on ethnic origin, religion, colour, sex, age, or mental and physical disabilities.
Economy and finance
Currency: Canadian dollar = 100 cents
Type of economy: mixed market economy and one of the world's top ten trading nations.
Health of economy: one of the world's wealthiest nations and a member of OECD, Canada enjoyed steady economic growth between 1997 and 2007. However, as a result of the global economic downturn, the economy went into recession in late 2008 and experienced slow growth in 2010 due to decreased global demand and the high value of the Canadian dollar (World Factbook, 2011).
Local etiquette: important Canadian social practices include being punctual, queuing according to the principle of 'first come, first served', not smoking in private homes, respecting the environment and avoiding littering. Bargaining for a better price is not common but there are some exceptions, such as when buying a house or a car. The price on marked goods in stores does not usually include the federal and provincial sales taxes, which add from 7% to 15% to the cost of an item depending on the province in which it is sold.
Type of government: Parliamentary democracy, federation and constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state, represented by the Governor General.
Major political parties: Liberal Party, Conservative Party, New Democratic Party, Bloc Québécois, Green Party.
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