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Graduate Studies

Living in Canada

Moving to a new country – even for a short time – can be stressful on students and their families. Services important to your daily life – banking, phone and internet, even grocery shopping – may be very different and a bit of a challenge until you get accustomed to your new home.

The following information is intended to help you as you start out in your graduate life at McMaster. These lists are not exhaustive of what’s available, so we encourage you to do your research.

Expandable List

Cell phone rates in Canada are among the most expensive in the world. You may want to do some homework to find the best available rates. To get a cell phone in Canada requires a credit card.

Canada is a mosaic of cultural diversity and that is reflected in foods available in grocery stores and restaurants.

Several different grocery stores are available in the area surrounding McMaster’s campus and across the City of Hamilton.

For tips and strategies to help you shop on a budget – including student discount days – watch our Orientation webinar or download the accompanying slide presentation.


Winter weather can be harsh, while summers can be very hot and humid.

For statistics about average temperatures, humidity, rain and snowfall in Hamilton, Ontario, visit The Weather Network.

January start date
  • Bring warm clothing.
  • If you are travelling from a warmer climate, be prepared to shop for winter-appropriate clothing once you arrive.
  • This includes heavy outerwear – cold-weather coat, accessories – hat, scarf, gloves/mittens, winter boots.
  • Prices vary. Connect with other grad students to find the best places to shop that will fit within your budget.
May start date
  • Spring weather is unpredictable in Hamilton. In an average year, temperatures will be moderate. You may see a large fluctuation in temperature from the beginning to the end of the month.
  • Clothing suitable for cool weather and rain, including a coat.
September start dates
  • Summers are hot and humid, but by early September you are likely to experience more moderate summer temperatures.
  • Note: Upon arrival, you will not need to purchase a winter coat. Please review our seasonal shopping guide so you understand how clothing is sold here.
  • Can be expensive but also bulky for travel.
Household items
  • Kitchen and other household items are readily available for purchase new or used.

Canada’s seasonal shopping cycle

Shopping for clothing in Canada is seasonal. You may be able to find some outer clothing available year round, but the traditional shopping cycle is:


  • Winter clothing is still available, but more limited in sizes and styles. You can often find clothing on sale after the December holiday season.
  • The first of Spring clothing will be available.


  • Spring and summer clothing available, including seasonal outerwear for warmer weather.


  • Summer and Fall clothing available.
  • Please Note: Most coats available during these months are not intended for cold winter use; they are late summer, autumn coats.


  • Warm clothing for late fall and winter use.
  • Winter coats and boots are available. If buying new, check that outer clothing is rated for winter temperatures and use.