Toronto, Canada Report of what it's like to live there - 01/24/08

Personal Experiences from Toronto, Canada

Toronto, Canada 01/24/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, author has lived in other cities in Europe.

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2. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

The author is affiliated with the government.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Cheapest travel is to Buffalo airport and then drive over the border (1.5hr.) It is possible to fly into Toronto but much more expensive.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

All types. Downtown you can walk to work and there are also suburbs nearby. You can take the GO train into the city. This is a LQA post.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

No problems with availability. Cost for everything is usually US price plus 30%. Meat and dairy are not subsidized and much more expensive than in U.S. 4L of milk is $5.50- you'll want a milk jug. You can get these at the supermarket orany dollar store.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I travel to the U.S. for almost all purchases except food. Shopping in Buffalo is much cheaper and very popular among Canadians as well.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Plenty of US/Canadian chain restaurants as well as tasty ethnic food for cheap. Really good moderate food ($25-30 entrees) is hard to find. Fine dining is available but you'll pay dearly for it.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Mail is driven across the border once weekly from a PO Box in Lewiston, NY.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Minimum wage is around $8 and help is plentiful. Canadian service tends to be slower than in the U.S.This applies everywhere from the bank to the grocery store to office workers.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Scotia bank is fee-free for Bank of America customers. Customs house currency exchange is available for USG employees. Debit cards (Interac) are popular.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, all.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes, all. We pay slightly more to get network TV from the U.S. as part of our cable about $56/ month.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English, eh?

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It depends on the disability. In the winter, the sidewalks are icy. Transit is not wheelchair accessible although public buildings are. Road crossings are generally not equipped for the blind.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right, like the U.S.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes and yes. Subway fare is $2.75 per ride for anywhere in the city with free transfers.

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3. 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?

All. Daytime running lights are standard on all cars sold in Canada.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. $47/ month. I have a TV/internet package.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Both Canadian and U.S. cell companies have plans that will let you call both countries as if you were in the country where your number is based. Try Verizon and Bell Canada.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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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?

You need a Canadian work permit to get jobs on the economy. Hiring is slow.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Same as U.S.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Good, some smog in the summer although I've never minded/noticed.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Safer than any comparable city in U.S.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

None- excellent.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Long, cold, dark winters followed by brief spring, hot summer and even shorter fall.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

There are many Americans here but no diplomatic community to speak of.

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2. Morale among expats:

See above.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Many clubs, bars, restaurants, movie theaters, etc. Because of the size of the city you'll need to work harder to meet people.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes for all of the above. Singles need to make an extra effort to meet people because of the sheer size of the city but it is possible.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes. Gay marriage is legal in Canada. There's a gay neighborhood at Church and Wellesley Streets and open, diverse, scenes at West Queen Street West and around Kensington Market.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

On the whole, it seems like people get along better than in the U.S.There are many ethnic neighborhoods here and usually people mix well.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Niagara on the Lake, Niagara Falls, any of the festivals in spring/summer, ice skating, Winterlude in Ottawa, sugar shacks, zoo, IMAX, Toronto Film Festival, Theater District, Eaton Center, Kensington and St. Lawrence Markets, Pacific Mall in Markham, warehouse sales, Harbourfront Centre.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Maple syrup, ice wine, game meat, poutine.

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9. Can you save money?

If you shop in Buffalo!

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Swimsuit collection.

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3. But don't forget your:

Long underwear.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Toronto is Hollywood North. Many films are shot here.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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