General Information for Arriving Students

Onboard Your Flight

Whether you’re arriving in Canada on a flight that lands in Halifax or you are connecting through another Canadian city first, the process of entering Canada will be similar.

On an international flight that is arriving in Canada you will be provided with a Declaration Card, take the time to complete the form carefully. The cabin crew on board may be able to assist you with this form. If you are unable to complete the form on your flight, ask for help at the Customs & Immigration desk once you are in the airport terminal.

The staff on your airplane will also provide instructions to you on where to go and what to do within the airport terminal. Make sure you pay attention so you know what gate number you are arriving at, and where you will eventually collect your luggage.

Customs & Immigration

Once you have left the plane you will enter the airport and enter the Customs & Immigration are for international arrivals. You will need to present the following items to Customs staff:

  • Passport
  • Canadian Visa (if applicable)
  • Letter of acceptance to your school
  • Information on your accommodations while attending school (including address)
  • Declaration Card (you completed this on the flight)

The Canadian Border Services Agent will ask you what you are bringing with you into Canada. It’s important to declare everything you are bringing in, even food items.

Collecting Your Luggage

Once you’ve finished speaking with the Customs & Immigration agent at the desk, you will be directed to collect your luggage. You should be able to find your luggage with the information given to you during the last few moments of your flight, but if you have any questions you can ask at the Information Desk and you’ll be given instructions to find the right luggage carousel.

When you leave the luggage collection area, another Customs Agent will take your Declaration Card from you.

It is not unusual for a Customs Agent to check your luggage at this time. They may take you to a separate area to do this.

Important Tips

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from any airline or airport staff. They will direct you to someone who can answer your questions.

Don’t be afraid to say you don’t understand a question, or are having trouble answering one.

If for some reason you are missing any of your luggage be sure to report it to the desk of whatever airline you traveled on. Again, ask for help if you need it.

Once you have passed into the airport terminal, follow the instructions from your school to help you meet the person picking you up, or to find the ground transportation option that you’ve arranged in advance.

Print this arrival package and keep it with you, it will help you navigate the airport and arrive at your school.

Favourite Things to Do in Nova Scotia

It probably feels like it’s taken forever for you to get to Canada. Now that you’re here, we want to make sure you make the most of your time. You’ll be very busy with school, of course, but there are some things about Nova Scotia that you simply must see, do and taste!

  1. Peggy’s Cove – the most photographed spot in North America, Peggy’s Cove is one of our most beautiful natural attractions. Be sure to follow the instructions on signs that are posted here, so you have a safe visit. Send a postcard from the lighthouse, take photos with friends, sit on a rock and look at the beauty of the Atlantic Ocean, and have something to eat at the seaside restaurant.
  2. Culture – Music is very important to the culture of Nova Scotia. No matter where you are in the province you will definitely have an opportunity to take in some live music. Don’t miss out on this experience! You will also find art in abundance. Visit the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia or the Anna Leonowens Gallery at NSCAD with resident collections that will astound you, but don’t hesitate to visit the various galleries and studios you will find throughout the province.
  3. Taste a Donair – this delicious treat is specific to Nova Scotia. There’s really no way to explain it properly, you’ll just have to try it. Spiced meat, veggies, sweet sauce, wrapped in a warm pita; the donair is a favourite late night treat.
  4. Lunenburg – Visit Lunenburg to experience one of our three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The town is exactly what you imaged a small Nova Scotian town would be: brightly coloured houses with views of the sea, friendly people, excellent crafts and shopping. This is the original home of the Bluenose and ships are still built and repaired in the shipyard.
  5. Annapolis Valley – Low lying mountains, a green lush valley, artisans and studios in every little town, and amazing views of the Bay of Fundy this special part of Nova Scotia must be seen. Visit the oldest settlement in Nova Scotia, check out the home of the world’s highest tides, and visit our wineries and orchards for delicious treats.

No matter what your personal interests are, there will be something in our province that will amaze and delight you. Take a break from your studies to fall in love with Nova Scotia.


Canadian Culture

In the 1890s Canada began inviting settlers from all over the world. This early understanding that welcoming immigrants from various cultures would benefit Canada and help the nation grow has created a culturally diverse and welcoming home for Canadians from any background.

With excellent immigration opportunities still available today, Canada carries on this tradition. Because this philosophy of welcoming immigrants has been part of the Canadian identity for generations, it has shaped the nation’s attitude toward migration. In fact, people who come to Canada are generally encouraged to maintain their cultural identity, traditions, and languages. This accounts for Canadians being famously tolerant, polite and curious about different cultures.

While Canadians are patriotic to their country, and community-minded in generally, they are also fiercely regional in their personal lives. The province in which they were born is usually the province they consider to define their home. Because each region has specific geographic, economic, political and cultural personalities the individuals raised in each region have specific values that relate to each. For example, in Eastern Canada people are seen as more reserved, with old-fashioned values; in Ontario, the hub for business in Canada, the vibe is conservative with an eye to capitalism; in Quebec the people view themselves as a separate cultural identity within Canada and are proud of their French culture and heritage; in British Columbia the attitudes are distinctly liberal and, in general, considered more modern.

Canadians are a very informal people. It is common for people to ask, “How are you?” as a form of Hello. This question doesn’t require a great deal of detail and the usual response is, “I’m well, and you?” Greeting friends and acquaintances is usually accomplished with a firm handshake and direct eye-contact. In Canada it’s acceptable to use the first name of an individual to whom you’ve been introduced after being invited to do so, this usually happens shortly after the first introduction. French-Canadians may greet with a quick kiss on each cheek, although that is usually reserved for closer acquaintances and friends.

When invited to someone’s home for dinner it’s customary to bring a bottle of wine or box of chocolate. In Quebec you may send flowers to the home, in advance of the party, or bring a very good bottle of wine with you. If sending flowers, be sure to consult the florist on what is in season and appropriate for the situation; certain flowers have specific meaning or are used only under certain circumstances.

Canadians exchange gifts for Christmas, birthdays and gifts are given at weddings. Although cash may be acceptable at weddings, most other gift exchanges should not be monetary. Often when a couple has invited you to a wedding they will also provide you with a gift registry. This is a list of all the things the new couple will need to start their life, it’s customary to choose a gift from this list.

Dining in Canada is generally a relaxed affair. Invitations that are more formal will usually specify that the event is either formal or black tie. At dinner parties you should wait until the hostess is seated to start eating, unless she insists you start. Elbows should never be on the table, and if you are wearing a cap it should always be removed when seated. Saying, “No, thank-you.” when offered something you don’t wish to eat or drink is acceptable in Canada and doesn’t require an explanation.

Canadians generally communicate with one another in polite, respectful and moderately indirect manner. The use of non-verbal communication is used only to reinforce or emphasize verbal communication. Letting someone finish speaking before speaking yourself is polite. Most Canadians require personal space when communicating with others, so standing less than an arm’s length away from someone with whom you’re speaking is considered impolite.

In business meetings Canadians will spend a few moments in polite informal chat before delving into the substance of the meeting. Developing personal relationships in business is done more slowly than in social situations. Although meetings will adhere to a schedule and agenda, they are generally informal and everyone in attendance will be expected to share their relevant thoughts and experiences.