Toronto, Canada Report of what it's like to live there - 08/15/22
Personal Experiences from Toronto, Canada
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
I've lived in Western and Eastern Europe, South Asia, and South America.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Washington, DC. There are direct flights from the tiny downtown airport in Toronto to Dulles, flight time 1 hour and 30 minutes. Driving takes about 8 hours.
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing is nice once you find it. Downtown offers townhouses, row houses, and high- to mid-rise apartments with amenities. If you really don't care about small spaces, you could even rent an apartment in the Shangri-La and use the amenities all the time. Suburbs offer typical North American suburban living and if you find the right place you can commute on the commuter train lines, if not it is a drive.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Everything is available though you might not find your favorite U.S. beer, cheese, or wine. If you're crazy like that, you can drive to Trader Joe's near Buffalo every weekend.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Uber Eats and all the competitors. Ritual is a popular take-out app.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Office mail runs to New York State. Local post office is pretty bad.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
It's much like what you'd pay in a big U.S. city. Most people do everything on their own or have a cleaner drop by now and then.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Everything is a bit pricey like a major U.S. city but you can find everything here. The good thing is that in both summer and in winter, people get outside to exercise when they can. The air is so clean that the outdoors is your best gym. There is a great gym near work and gyms abound all over town. Winter lovers ice skate a lot. Some 40-50 ice skating paths (not just rinks) are located in Toronto with even longer skating paths and more variety outside the city.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Yes, everything is tap-tastic. You almost never need cash. Everything is safe to use.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Just like the USA.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It's pretty darn accommodating for those with disabilities. Canadians are very aware of these issues and address them. But much like any large city, sometimes there are barriers in the way due to construction projects.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes, safe, semi-reliable, and affordable public transit. Reasonable but big city-priced Uber and Lyft and always available.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
You don't NEED one but it's nice to have. The Toronto region is car-centric, much like many Great Lakes cities. You can live find downtown without a car, but it is nice to have one to drive to nature, get out of town, or drive to the USA. Any car will do.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
High speed is available and much like the USA but perhaps a bit more expensive with less competition among telecoms.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Many keep their TMobile or Google Fi from the USA and use that just fine here on roaming. But local ones are much like the internet -- readily available just a bit pricey.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Vets everywhere. Everyone has dogs in this city.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Some find jobs here, some find remote work in the USA. Local consulates don't have many jobs. The consulates are small.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Just about everything you can imagine
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business to business casual. Everything you'd see in a Chicago or an NYC.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
This can be tricky. If you need day-to-day stuff, it is easy to see a doctor at a walk-in clinic. For more complicated things, you are not on the national healthcare plan (and not allowed to be) so sometimes it is difficult to see someone. Seeing a local specialist can take anywhere from two to eight months so many folks drive to Buffalo or fly home to do so. It can be a pain to have to travel for semi-urgent care. A trip to the ER here is minimum $1200 when you aren't in the healthcare system.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
GREAT! Seasonal allergies like those of upstate NY/Northern Ohio
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Same as the USA.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
It is a long winter though the lake keeps things not quite as painful as other parts of Canada. It tends to be a more midwest winter in the sense that there is a lot of sunshine despite the cold temps. The short winter days do get old fast but the four seasons are nice to have.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Moderate northern climate. Longish winter but nothing too crazy.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
There are people here from everywhere. Every race and religion and many languages are spoken in this city. There isn't really an American community because everyone just dives in and you make the most of it or not, just like working in a U.S. city. Morale is usually high if people are city people. For folks used to overseas jobs that give an automatic sense of expat community, this is not the place for you. You have to create your own relationships. It is worth the effort.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Just about any club or activity can be found here.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It's good for anyone who likes living in the USA. Sure, there are differences, but this is a great city for all.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Easy enough. Prejudice is everywhere like any U.S. city. But Toronto is more diverse than NYC, which surprises most people when they visit.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yes. It's much like NYC or Chicago in that sense.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Exploring the food of so many cultures from around the world. Being close to home to be able to pop back for big events.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Staying in a provincial park or hiking in the mountains far out of town. Canada has so much land and so many outdoor activities, if you can stand the winter.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Multicultural big city with everything you could ever want from such a setup. Perhaps the downside is that it is not exotic at all.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
air and water filters
4. But don't forget your:
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Series: "Handmaid's Tale" - It is filmed here and Margaret Atwood lives here and wrote the book that became the series.
Book: In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje
6. Do you have any other comments?