Ottawa, Canada Report of what it's like to live there - 08/31/15
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, I had lived in Paris in the past.
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?
DC -- we drove, but there are direct flights from Ottawa.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. 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?
US Embassy people choose their own housing in Ottawa, so you can get just about anything you like. Many people have small houses just outside of the downtown area. We live in an apartment right near the embassy.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
I think it's slightly higher than in the US, but again, the drop in the Canadian dollar has made a difference. Beer is very expensive.
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?
All the American chains are available. There are some really good restaurants, lots of pub-style burger places, and lots of touristy restaurants in the market. Prices are very high, but the Canadian dollar has dropped, making things more affordable for Americans.
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?
The embassy has a PO box in New York.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
I imagine it's expensive, but don't know anyone who has it.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The embassy has a gym, but we joined a local gym. Cost is comparable to that in the US.
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?
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?
Ottawa is primarily Anglophone, though you do hear French everywhere. Since almost everyone is bilingual, it's hard to practice your French except across the river in Gatineau.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
I imagine it would be comparable to any American city.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
All are safe. I think prices are about the same as the US.
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?
Any kind of car is fine. I believe that insurance is cheaper if you buy snow tires.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
I believe the cost is about the same as in the US. Most people have complaints about their service being slow and losing the signal occasionally.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
We use Fido, which has been 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?
It's easy to get permission to work, but I don't know how easy it is to find a job.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Similar to large American cities.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Same as in the US
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?
No health concerns, but we have had trouble finding a general practitioner. There is a shortage, and it is hard to find a doctor who is taking patients. A pediatrician was easy, luckily, but we have no one for my husband and me.
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 do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
I would guess it's the same as the northeastern US for seasonal allergies. For food allergies, they are at least as careful as in the US.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The winter is cold and very, very long. Local people make a point of spending time outside in the winter -- skating and skiing are very popular. These help the time go faster, but it's still long.
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 are lots of expats, but I don't get the sense that there is a "community." This is probably especially true for Americans -- we blend right in.
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?
Outdoor activities are popular -- skiing, skating, camping, hiking.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
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?
Spending time outside has been nice. The canal, rivers, and parks are great.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Outside activities are great. We enjoy the market area, which has lots of small shops and restaurants. It's a bit touristy, but we like being able to buy our bread and vegetables at the outside market (at least during the warm months -- only maple syrup is available year 'round).
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
It is an easy place to live. Ottawa is beautiful, safe, clean, and has many more activities and amenities than one would expect in a city of this size.
10. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
That it is really pretty, and it is lively in the city center. It's a nice small city, basically.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, I've enjoyed Ottawa.
3. But don't forget your:
warm coat and boots.