Life in Ottawa for Immigrants – what to expect

This article explain in details the perceptive of what life in Ottawa looks like for immigrants. what to expect.

Do you have plans of living a life in Ottawa? Interestingly,  Life in Ottawa for immigrants can be very interesting and enjoyable. A special feature of the region is that both English and French are widely spoken and reflected in the City’s culture and commerce.

On the economic front, Ottawa is a major economic engine, offering jobs and opportunities in high tech industries, government, and important sectors such as health and education.

The City is home to world- class research centers, top notch academic institutions and operations by major international companies.

More and more people are becoming aware of Ottawa’s advantages being one of the best place to live in Canada  based on incomes, car ownership, unemployment rate, housing, weather and lifestyle. Therefore, if you plan to move to Ottawa you can use the Ontario Provincial Nominee program.

In this article we will explain in details what life in Ottawa for immigrants looks like and what to expect living in Ottawa.

Where is Ottawa?

Ottawa is the capital city of Canada in the province of Ontario. Found in the Eastern part of Southern Ontario, straddling the Quebec border. It is about a five(5) hours drive from Toronto and two hours from Montreal. It stands on the south bank of the Ottawa River.

The United States border is about a one hour drive south. The closest border crossing is at Prescott–Ogdensburg.

Population of Ottawa

The 2016 census had the city’s population as 934,243, with a Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) population of 1,323,783. Mercer ranks Ottawa with the second highest quality of living of any large city in the Americas, and 14th highest in the world.

However, Living in Ottawa also means that you’ll be living in the second cleanest city in Canada, and the third cleanest city in the world. In 2017, the city was ranked by Money Sense as the best community in Canada in which to live.

Ottawa is a vibrant and youthful city, with two large universities dominating the city center: University of Ottawa and Carleton University. As the capital city, it boasts beautiful architecture, a bustling downtown core, and a diverse range of interesting neighborhoods.

Weather in Ottawa

As an immigrant who is visiting Ottawa for the first time, always have in the back of you mind that Dealing with, or embracing the local climate is a big part of living in Ottawa.

There are four distinct seasons in Ottawa, with the winter much colder than what many immigrants may be familiar with. Cold snaps occur from November onward, with snow falling from December to March, and sometimes into April.

Cold weather can be expected to last until April, and dressing accordingly is an essential lesson to learn for any new immigrant. The average January minimum temperature is -14.8°C (5.4°F).

The spring is short and fresh, with some rain showers and fair, mild weather, and usually lasts from April to May.

Summer is a scorcher, and lasts from June to September. Daytime temperatures of 30°C (86°F) or higher are commonplace, and humidity can rise significantly throughout the summer.

Ottawa has many public parks and green areas to enjoy the summer, and festivals run routinely while the sun shines. Spring and Fall are ideal times to picnic or hike in local parks, Gatineau Park on the Quebec side being a well known example.

What is the Cost of living in Ottawa?

Before moving to live a life in Ottawa as an immigrants, its normal for you to consider the cost of living in the city. Ottawa is a safe, clean and welcoming city, but does have an above average, Live in Ottawa for immigrates  can be affordable. Cost of living in Ottawa Depends on your location, renting an apartment can range from $700-1400 per month or higher. Again, this depends on preference, number of people, and certain criteria.

However, cheaper housing can be found, largely due to the presence of local universities. Household utilities, internet, electricity, refuse, are often included in the rent.

Groceries and eating out, however, can be expensive more expensive for people living in Ottawa. A pint of beer can be bought for as little as $6, but foreign imports can be as expensive as $9 in more touristy and popular areas.

Schools in Ottawa

Most Ottawa parents send their children to public schools (i.e. free, state funded schools).

There are four publicly-funded school boards in the Ottawa area: English public, English Catholic, French public and French Catholic.

There are various factors to consider when deciding on schools including French immersion programs within the English boards, as well as alternative programs and specialty high schools.

For schools within the City of Ottawa, around 53% of public students attend English public schools, 30% English Catholic, 10% French public and 7% French Catholic.

Ottawa’s schools perform relatively well in provincial comparisons, being slightly above the provincial average for both reading (4% higher) and math (10% higher) standards. Though there is significant variation between schools.

Universities and colleges in Ottawa

Ottawa has a substantial student population with the two main universities having over 70,000 students between them.

Ottawa’s two main public universities are the University of Ottawa and Carleton University.

The University of Ottawa, referred to as Ottawa locally, is the largest bilingual university in the world and is ranked seventh in Canada by the Times World University Rankings. Its main campus is in the Sandy Hill area in the center of Ottawa.

Carleton University is ranked 19th in Canada by the Times World University Rankings and has its campus slightly further out of the center in a lovely spot next to Dow’s lake.

Things you may notice about Ottawa

When you move to Ottawa to live a life as an Immigrant, there are lots of things you will notice in Ottawa, this this things are;

#1. Politics

Living in Ottawa means living in the heart of Canadian political life. Ottawa is the capital city and center of government. Lots of its citizens work with the government in the civil service, and many bars and restaurants are known for having a political clientele.

Canada’s politics can be interesting and varied, and is an easy conversation starter when out and about. Don’t be afraid of expressing your opinion

#2. Cleanliness

Life in Ottawa for immigrants automatically means that you will setting up base in a clean and green city. Cleanliness runs throughout the city, offering beautiful and scenic trails, walkways, running paths and bike lanes all the way through. The canal is world renowned due to its conversion into the world’s longest skating rink in the winter months. The canal is a major tourist attraction, as well as a place to go for people living in Ottawa.

3. Fitness friendly

Ottawa is bike-friendly, with many of the main roads having specific bike lanes so cyclists can enjoy traffic-free commutes, and the “Capital Pathway”, a 220 kilometre route that it shares with Gatineau.

Most Ottawa natives enjoy a healthy lifestyle, and can be seen jogging, cycling, or skating at all hours of the day.

#4. Architecture

Ottawa has some of Canada’s oldest and most beautiful buildings, and many are a masterclass in design in themselves. Taking a stroll along Sparks Street or Wellington Street in front of the Parliament building can be breathtaking, and make sure to enjoy the free tour of Parliament to see a panoramic view of Ottawa and Gatineau, the city across the river in Quebec.

#5. Irish Influence

Ottawa was originally an Irish and French settlement, and this influence can be seen today. There are many Irish names and Irish establishments.

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Dinning out in Ottawa

Ottawa is a tourist attraction in itself, and the Byward Market and Elgin Street areas make sure to cater to this audience. Dining out can be an experience, with restaurants and cafés catering to every need, preference, and budget.

Local cuisine worth a try includes poutine, a French Canadian dish of chips (fries), cheese curds, and gravy. It may not sound amazing, and it’s not the best-looking dish you will ever see, but it is delicious. Calorie counters should avoid a beavertail, an Ottawa dessert worth writing home about.

Ottawa Night life

Life in Ottawa for immigrant is very interesting, going out in Ottawa is fun and relaxed. Many people living in Ottawa will meet in a pub after work or in the evening, share some nachos and wash them down with some beers.

For those looking for something a bit more adventurous, Elgin street and the Market have a variety of pubs and clubs on offer, from the faux-Irish Heart & Crown to the arty basement pub The Manx on Elgin, and from hip-hop lovers Patty Bolands e.t.c

Transit in Ottawa

The various neighbourhoods of Ottawa are accessible thanks to an efficient bus system operated by OCTranspo. Most of the main areas with available housing have a main bus route nearby. One bus route, the 95, runs throughout the night; this bus services the airport. Most other bus lines run until around 1 a.m.

A separate bus route services the Gatineau area but crosses through downtown Ottawa before heading over the bridge.

While driving in Ottawa may seem like a daunting task, it is well organised and not prone to major traffic jams.

Canadians drive on the right side of the road, and some rules may confuse a new driver turning right at certain times on a red light, for example. Canadian and Ottawa drivers are generally polite and patient.

Best fun places to visit in Ottawa

  • Visit some of the city’s many museums
  • Spend a day in some of Ottawa’s amazing art galleries
  • Experience Canada’s Parliament in Ottawa
  • The Rideau Canal Skating Rink
  • Skiing
  • Go to a Sens game!
  • Explore Ottawa’s nightlife

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Ottawa a good place to live?

Obviously, yes. Ottawa is a fantastic and family friendly place to live, with low cost of living.

What is the population of people living in Ottawa?

The 2016 census had the city’s population as 934,243, with a Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) population of 1,323,783.

What are the names of Ottawa’s two main public universities?

Ottawa’s two main public universities are the University of Ottawa and Carleton University.


With this article, we hope you’ve learned what life in Ottawa  looks like and also what to expect when you move or relocate to Ottawa.