Ottawa, Canada Report of what it's like to live there - 05/29/14
Personal Experiences from Ottawa, Canada
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, Frankfurt and The Gambia.
2. How long have you lived here?
14 months. I just left.
3. 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?
LQA, so anything you can imagine. 5-30 minutes.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Very expensive; more than Europe. Eating out and buying groceries is shockingly expensive and the COLA does not make up for it. Good quality and variety.
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?
Same as in the USA, but why would you go?
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Bad mosquitoes in the summer.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Embassy PO Box in Ogdensburg.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Expensive. No one has any.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, at the Embassy. And The Athletic Clubs are very nice. Better than anything in the USA.
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, you can.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
English is good. French is good when in Quebec.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes. Safe, though expensive.
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?
High clearance SUV with 4 wheel drive and snow tires.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, very fast, mainly through Rogers.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Verizon USA has a Canada/Mexico plan with 1000 minutes which was fine.
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?
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?
Yes, if you have French.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
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?
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?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The weather is really pretty bad. Winter is 6 months long and fairly dark, not like the Rockies. Summer is worse than DC in terms of heat and humidity. The 2-3 weeks of spring and fall are perfect. This is the main problem for this post.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
There is no expat community. Morale is low at U.S Embassy. No one is there who picked it because it is Canada, rather because of medical issues, family issues in the USA, special needs issues with kids. Anything but being interested in the work.
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?
The same as in a U.S. city
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes. Lots to do, though it is not the culture mecca of larger cities. Mostly outdoor stuff.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
See above. Plus, great cycling paths. Also, amazing cross country skiing with 200 km of groomed track and the largest ice skating rink in the world because there is skating on the canal network with little snack places along the canal. This is one of the great cultural experiences here.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
See above. Close to Montreal, Toronto, and Quebec cCty. Lots of small nice towns like Altmont.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Maple syrup, hockey, skis, bikes, warm clothes.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Amazing outdoor activities including the Gatineau Park for cycling, walking, boating. Without this resource, the city would be much less desirable.
10. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I knew what I was getting into. Have a good reason to be here or it will be a long few years for you.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Thoughts of saving money, thoughts of good weather, thoughts that you know Canada or Canadians, because they are NOT the same as Americans.
4. But don't forget your:
Sense of outdoor adventure and love of the winter.
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
7. Do you have any other comments?
I know athletic outdoor people who love it!