The world’s second largest country, Canada stretches way into the Arctic and
includes just about every terrain: Rocky Mountains, prairies, rugged coasts, lakes,
sandy beaches, fertile valleys and cosmopolitan cities. Canada’s diverse heritage is
united by a national passion for ice hockey.

People & Culture

A lot of people compare Canada with its neighbor the United States for the way of life, but there are many differences. For one, the eastern province of Quebec has French as its official language, and the city of Montreal is the second largest French-speaking city in the world. You will find that the French Canadians are very proud of their language and heritage. The indigenous peoples of Canada consist of three groups: First Nations, Inuit and Métis. But the heritage of most Canadians combines British stolidity, French vivacity, Indigenous customs, and even Chinese traditions. In fact, you can find in Vancouver (on the west coast) the largest Chinese population of any city outside Asia. Canada is regarded as one of the world’s most livable countries.

Climate & Geography


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Canada is the second biggest country on Earth and occupies much of the continent of North America. However, 80% of its land is uninhabited and filled with a multitude of dense forests, rivers and lakes. Winter in most of Canada is harsh, cold and very dark, getting worse the further north you go, but during the other seasons it is more varied. But don’t worry, the majority of the population lives in the south along the American border.


Canadians love to eat traditional meals as well as gourmet cuisine. The food in Canada differs by region and in Quebec there is a strong French influence with a lot of meat, potatoes, soup, pastries, bread and cheese A favorite snack through the country is poutine, a mixture of French fries covered with gravy and cheese curds. But you will also find Irish and British cuisine as well as Chinese food.


English and French are the national languages in Canada. If you are going to be staying in French Canada it is recommended to have basic French.


Schools in Canada have reciprocity policies whereby foreign students can only be placed in schools where a place has been vacated by a Canadian student going abroad for a year and who will be returning to the same school. The school year starts at the end of August and finishes at the end of June, with two weeks break for Christmas and one week break in March. A typical school day will start between 8:30 am and 9 am and finish between 3:30 pm and 4 pm. Schools offer extra activities such as sports, social clubs, and music. Local schools are very comprehensive and try to meet the educational needs of all school-age children in the community, often with all grades in one building.

Host Family

Host families are generally in the French-speaking province of Quebec in rural areas, so with not a lot of public transportation, so communication with your family about your travel plans will be the key. Families are hospitable and close-knit, and they will welcome you as the newest member of the family. Remember that Canada has a multicultural population, and this is reflected by the hosting families, which can be culturally diverse. Each family will share their values and habits with great pride, pleasure and generosity.

Teenage Life

Canadian teenagers love clubs and activities involving sports, orchestra, newspaper, and drama. Student government is also important and becoming more influential in school policies. You may be surprised by how many teenagers in Canada have after-school jobs, such as babysitting or working at a local shop.

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Let AFS guide your intercultural adventure

AFS provides comprehensive orientation for all students and families before, during and after your exchange – AFS volunteers will be there to support and guide you the whole way through! In-person orientation camps in New Zealand and your host country are supplemented by our world-leading online Student Learning Journey, which is an interactive course that brings AFSers from around the world together to develop essential global skills, learn intercultural communication techniques, and practice social impact. This journey will help you maximise your experience, cope with the challenges of navigating a new culture and community, and gain knowledge, skills, and a global understanding throughout your time abroad and as you return to your home country. Find out more about our educational expertise here!

Explore the Programmes Available in Canada