Toronto, Canada Report of what it's like to live there - 01/27/13

Personal Experiences from Toronto, Canada

Toronto, Canada 01/27/13

Background:

1. Your reason for living this city (e.g. corporate, government, military, student, educator, retiree, etc.):

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

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

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4. 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. Porter Airlines now flies direct between Toronto and DC. Flights are about 1 hour.

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5. 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. Porter Airlines now flies direct between Toronto and DC. Flights are about 1 hour.

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6. How long have you lived here?

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7. How long have you lived here?

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

(The contributor is affiliated with the U.S. Consulate and has been living in Toronto for 18 months, a fourth expat experience.)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

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

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

Everything here is more expensive by about 25%. Meat and dairy is expensiv,e but fruits and vegetables seem on par with the US. Dry cleaning runs about $20 per suit. Some folks will make a trip to Buffalo for the weekend to stock up.

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

Everything here is more expensive by about 25%. Meat and dairy is expensiv,e but fruits and vegetables seem on par with the US. Dry cleaning runs about $20 per suit. Some folks will make a trip to Buffalo for the weekend to stock up.

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

Nothing.

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

Nothing.

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

Most chains are here, but they are slightly more expensive. A Happy Meal will run about $7.00. A large cheese pizza runs about $15.

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

Most chains are here, but they are slightly more expensive. A Happy Meal will run about $7.00. A large cheese pizza runs about $15.

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9. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

A few mosquitoes in the summer.

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10. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

A few mosquitoes in the summer.

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Daily Life:

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

Canada Post for local mail or the Consulate for international mail.

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

Canada Post for local mail or the Consulate for international mail.

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

Expensive but available.

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

Expensive but available.

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5. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Many, in all price points.

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6. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Many, in all price points.

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

All work easily. We make sure we use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. LQA rents must be drawn on a local bank, so you will need to open a checking account.

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

All work easily. We make sure we use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. LQA rents must be drawn on a local bank, so you will need to open a checking account.

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

All.

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

All.

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

Cable runs about $75 per month.

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

Cable runs about $75 per month.

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

English, but French is helpful if you have school aged children - you might need to help them with homework!

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

English, but French is helpful if you have school aged children - you might need to help them with homework!

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

This is a very accessible city for the most part.

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

This is a very accessible city for the most part.

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Transportation:

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

Excellent, safe public transport.

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

Excellent, safe public transport.

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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 cars are fine, but be prepared for high gas prices.

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4. 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 cars are fine, but be prepared for high gas prices.

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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?

Good internet for about $50 per month. Data plans tend to be expensive compared to DC.

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

Good internet for about $50 per month. Data plans tend to be expensive compared to DC.

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

We use AT&T and have an international plan for about $95 per month. Local carriers are very expensive, but the service is good.

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

We use AT&T and have an international plan for about $95 per month. Local carriers are very expensive, but the service is good.

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Pets:

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?

no.

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2. 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?

no.

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

Many folks have pets here and I have heard good things about care.

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

Many folks have pets here and I have heard good things about care.

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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?

There are a few jobs in the consulate, but finding work on the local economy is a bit more complicated.

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2. 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?

There are a few jobs in the consulate, but finding work on the local economy is a bit more complicated.

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

The same as DC.

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

The same as DC.

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Health & Safety:

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

Very, very little violent crime in this city, but be sure to lock your car doors if you don't have a garage. I have heard of a few cases of theft from cars if the windows are open or the doors are unlocked.

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

Very, very little violent crime in this city, but be sure to lock your car doors if you don't have a garage. I have heard of a few cases of theft from cars if the windows are open or the doors are unlocked.

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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?

We have used the walk-in clinics and had good care. There are many hospitals and 911 services.

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

We have used the walk-in clinics and had good care. There are many hospitals and 911 services.

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5. 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?

Very good.

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6. 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?

Very good.

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

Four seasons. Cold winters, but not as snowy as Upstate NY. Warm/hot summers.

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

Four seasons. Cold winters, but not as snowy as Upstate NY. Warm/hot summers.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are many excellent, private schools available, both co-ed and single-gender. There is great ethnic diversity in the private schools as well. Be ready to pay for uniforms and extra activity fees in addition to tuition. The public system struggles with labor issues and poor funding, but it is free for residents. Junior Kindergarten (PreK) is free as well, and is often used by expats---since their agencies will only pay private-school fees for Senior Kindergarten and above.

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

There are many excellent, private schools available, both co-ed and single-gender. There is great ethnic diversity in the private schools as well. Be ready to pay for uniforms and extra activity fees in addition to tuition. The public system struggles with labor issues and poor funding, but it is free for residents. Junior Kindergarten (PreK) is free as well, and is often used by expats---since their agencies will only pay private-school fees for Senior Kindergarten and above.

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

Most schools have additional services available, but for serious, comprehensive intervention it is not as well-coordinated as it is in the US. am sure it varies from school to school.

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

Most schools have additional services available, but for serious, comprehensive intervention it is not as well-coordinated as it is in the US. am sure it varies from school to school.

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5. 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?

Junior Kindergarten is generally half day, but it is free in the public system. Large daycare centers, as seen in the DC area, seem to be non-existent, or at least well hidden. Most families hire a nanny/helper if they need childcare. Nannies here are paid well and you will need to go through the legal hoops to hire a person. I don't know anyone who has hired someone "under the table."

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6. 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?

Junior Kindergarten is generally half day, but it is free in the public system. Large daycare centers, as seen in the DC area, seem to be non-existent, or at least well hidden. Most families hire a nanny/helper if they need childcare. Nannies here are paid well and you will need to go through the legal hoops to hire a person. I don't know anyone who has hired someone "under the table."

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7. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

This city does an exceptional job providing community sports opportunities. Community centers offer swimming, skating, yoga, etc., throughout the year. Tons of hockey! Most private schools have very good sport programs as well.

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8. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

This city does an exceptional job providing community sports opportunities. Community centers offer swimming, skating, yoga, etc., throughout the year. Tons of hockey! Most private schools have very good sport programs as well.

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Expat Life:

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

HUGE.

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

HUGE.

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3. Morale among expats:

Excellent.

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4. Morale among expats:

Excellent.

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

If you are bored here, you just aren't trying. Many festivals, movies, public parks, huge biking/walking trail systems, plays, concerts, sporting events, museums, galleries, etc.

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

If you are bored here, you just aren't trying. Many festivals, movies, public parks, huge biking/walking trail systems, plays, concerts, sporting events, museums, galleries, etc.

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

All.

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

All.

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

Excellent. This is an extremely tolerant community. Ontario just elected their first woman, and openly gay, premier.

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

Excellent. This is an extremely tolerant community. Ontario just elected their first woman, and openly gay, premier.

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

No.

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

No.

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13. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

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14. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

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

Museums, great restaurants, wandering the city neighborhoods, going to "cottage country," Stratford Shakespeare Festival, beaches, Octoberfest in Kitchner, skiing, boating.

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

Museums, great restaurants, wandering the city neighborhoods, going to "cottage country," Stratford Shakespeare Festival, beaches, Octoberfest in Kitchner, skiing, boating.

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

Hudson Bay Company blankets, ballet, opera, art, ethnic food, high end retail.

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

Hudson Bay Company blankets, ballet, opera, art, ethnic food, high end retail.

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19. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

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20. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

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21. Can you save money?

Yes, if you buy memberships to the museums and zoo and shop are the larger grocery chains. Costco accepts US memberships but only accepts cash, debit or their own credit card. If you eat out a lot, you might go broke.

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22. Can you save money?

Yes, if you buy memberships to the museums and zoo and shop are the larger grocery chains. Costco accepts US memberships but only accepts cash, debit or their own credit card. If you eat out a lot, you might go broke.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely!

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

Absolutely!

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

Mefloquine

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

Mefloquine

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5. But don't forget your:

Winter clothes!

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6. But don't forget your:

Winter clothes!

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

Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto

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8. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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

Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto

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10. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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11. Do you have any other comments?

This is a "Foreign Service Light" experience. Toronto is a great place to recharge after an unaccompanied or hardship tour. We love it here and are sad that our tour is half over!

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12. Do you have any other comments?

This is a "Foreign Service Light" experience. Toronto is a great place to recharge after an unaccompanied or hardship tour. We love it here and are sad that our tour is half over!

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