How to adjust to prices in Canada

Vancouver farmers' market
Checking the prices at the farmers' market

When you first move to a new country there is a period of adjustment that you go through. One part of that is getting to understand prices and what is good value.

There’s a psychological element to this as you’d guess.

Much like the early honeymoon period that most migrants go through at first, the early days may well be a time when you spot all the good things about prices. Gas prices might be one for instance.

This honeymoon period is our way of confirming we made the right decision in coming to Canada. We are on the look out for all that’s good, and price comparisons are included.

If the exchange rate works for you, and this is admittedly unlikely, then you might be tempted to mentally translate all the dollar prices back into your old currency. That is a mistake. You really need to adjust to looking at prices from the local perspective.

There’s a psychological effect which I will call “price anchoring”. This is where our expectations of  a good price are set by our first experience of buying or considering buying something. That sets the target price. When you’ve moved to Canada, your price anchors may still be referring back to prices in the Old Country.

So how do you reset them?

Time will eventually reset these price expectations, but since the first weeks after arrival are usually the time when you’re doing a lot of shopping, it is a good idea to reset them as soon as you can.

The best way is to be aware of your own thinking. Avoid comparing back to the Old Country prices, but do look around locally. Ask advice from people who’ve been in Canada a long time. Canadians love a bargain, so you’ll likely get a lot of advice. You are then consciously setting your anchor price for a lot of things.

Before long you’ll be like most of us in Canada: grumbling about the gas prices!

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