An American family living in small-town Saskatchewan

Moving up north to Canada from the United States has been a very positive experience for Erin and her husband. Learn what their life is like in a Saskatchewan college town through Erin's description of the people, the prairies, the cost of living, and the lifestyle.
Erin Ortlund
Erin Ortlund

-Where were you born?
I was born in Ohio, USA.

-In which country and city are you living now?
Saskatchewan, Canada. We live in a small college town about 20 minutes away from Moose Jaw, a city of 35,000 people.

-Are you living alone or with your family?
I moved here with my husband and daughter, and then our baby boy was born here.

-How long have you been living in Canada?
We've been here a little over a year.

-What is your age?

-When did you come up with the idea of living in Canada?
My husband got an academic job here, and we thought it would be a good fit for him professionally and for us as a family.

-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
Not at all. NAFTA makes it easy for Americans--we got his work permit and our visitor visas as we crossed through the border to move to Canada. We are in the process of applying for permanent residency, so hopefully that will go smoothly as well.

-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
No, in Saskatchewan, medical care starts right away for people who move here from another country. This was especially important to me because I was pregnant when we moved. I did have to pay for my care for a couple of months until my Saskatchewan Health card arrived, and then I was reimbursed for what I had paid. I find the cost of healthcare to be significantly less than in the US, so this was not a hardship.

-How do you make your living in Canada? Do you have any type of income generated?
My husband works full-time as a professor, and I am a stay at home mom. He heard about his job through word of mouth, and through academic job listings online. Canada also has various child tax credits which we will be eligible for once we've lived 18 months, or once we have achieved permanent residency, whichever comes first.

-Do you speak the local language and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
Yes, I speak English fluently, and sometimes people can't even tell I'm American. So language isn't an issue at all, except I have had to learn some new words like toque and runners! We have my daughter in a French immersion preschool, because Canada is officially a bilingual nation and we think learning French is an excellent opportunity for her. I do think it's important for expats to respect local customs, while also retaining their own heritage.

-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
Yes, definitely. North America is so vast that I'm really far away from most friends and family. To visit my extended family, we would need to drive 3 days (considering we have small children) and to get to my husband's family, it would be 4 days. We can fly, but this can be pricey, especially because Regina, Saskatchewan is not a hub.

-Do you have other plans for the future?
We have no plans to move anywhere else for the immediate future. We do hope that we can travel to see friends and family more frequently as our budget allows. We also hope to travel to places in Africa and the Middle East and expose our children to other cultures.

-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
We rented for our first year and just bought a house this last spring. In our town, houses generally run between $120,000-200,000.

-What is the cost of living in Canada?
Compared to the US, taxes are higher, however considering most healthcare is covered by those taxes, I think it's a good deal! And there are tax credits and help for people, depending on income level, number of children, etc. Saskatchewan is one of the most affordable provinces, especially in regard to housing. And living in a small town, my husband can just walk to work, we're able to garden, and neighbors help each other out.

-What do you think about the Canadians?
I like them! I find Canadians to be very friendly. I understand that many Canadians dislike aspects of America, particularly its politics; however, I don't feel they take this out on me personally. It also seems to be a country that welcomes foreigners from around the world and tries its best to help them integrate.

-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Canada?
Positives: universal healthcare, less violent than the US, multiculturalism, bilingualism, varied landscapes, interesting cities, low cost of living in Saskatchewan. I am also beginning to more and more appreciate the beauty of the prairies, and the varied things to do around here.

Negatives: The winters can feel too long, no mortgage-interest tax deduction, taxes are high, and I miss living near the ocean here on the prairies.

-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Canada?
Americans should know that in terms of social values, Canada is most like the more liberal states, i.e. New England. Religion is less of an influence on the culture at large (more so on the Prairies though), the government is more liberal, and overall, Canada is less materialistic. I have heard it said that Canada has the best quality of life, even if the standard of living is lower for the average citizen than it might be in the US.

-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Canada?
My blog, Prairie Road, describes our life in Saskatchewan at

We Move to Canada is probably the most comprehensive blog I've seen about Americans moving to Canada at

I also read Correr Es Mi Destino about a Frenchwoman in Ottawa at

and Wapentake about a Yorkshireman in Ontario at

Moving to Canada- looking for the warmest possible area

shaunaleonard's picture

My family and I are relocating to Canada and want to find a medium size city in the warmest possible area. Any suggestions would be appreciated!!

Warmest areas in Canada

eortlund's picture

I'm not the best person to ask because I have limited experience of Canada in general. I have heard that British Columbia is fairly temperate. Not sure about the Maritimes. The prairies have the most extremes--very long and cold winters, but lovely summers! Good luck to you.


mamachka's picture

I too have heard BC...but that is possibly why it is so expensive.