Toronto, Canada Report of what it's like to live there - 10/08/16
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 have been living around the U.S. and around the world for more nearly 3 decades, mostly in 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?
You can fly to anywhere in North America our Europe in the typical flight times you would expect from the East coast. Flights from Canada are expensive. Most people flying abroad choose to transit through the States.
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?
Housing through the U.S. consulate can be very problematic--Toronto has an overheated housing market, and finding a place you can afford within the budget allowance is tricky. Even if you can find one, most people do not want to rent to you given all the technical requirements and clauses in the contract that we are required to use. Because of this, morale of incoming staff is low, and creates a very stressful transition the first few months at post. Mission management in Ottawa does not really seem to appreciate the challenges faced by staff serving in Toronto, in my opinion.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Everything is available. Even more so than the U.S and abroad, it seems. However, you may pay more. The exchange rate and tax reimbursements may make a difference.
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?
Your imagination is the limit--you name it, you can find it in Toronto.
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?
Canadian post, or diplomatic pouch if receiving from overseas.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Domestic help can be very expensive, so we opted not to hire any help. Same as you would probably do in the States, do here.
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?
Credit cards accepted everywhere. ATMS charge a fee, sometimes hefty--consider your options before withdrawing from ATMs.
4. What English-language religious services are available locally?
All of them.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Very safe, and fairly affordable. Uber has good deals. TTC (Bus/Subway network) is fine. but limited subway routes. Street cars are quaint and fun, but hot and slow. GO trains provide rapid service from the Ontario region into Toronto Union station.
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 car is fine. You can bring your car from the U.S. or buy one locally.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet speeds are fast and reliable. No complaints.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Some folks keep their home country plan and add roaming in Canada. others get a plan here. Canadian mobile phone plans are more expensive than the U.S., with more restrictions, penalties, and fewer options.
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?
Pet care, vets, and kennel/boarding service is what you would expect in any American 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?
Plenty of jobs are available for spouses. Diplomatic spouses get a work permit to work on the local economy.
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?
Business casual. Dress appropriately for the weather. Hot humid summers and long, cold winters.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
None, just use common sense like you would in NYC or Chicago, or LA.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
None, except its hard to get a primary care provider, due to the Canadian health care 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?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot humid summer, long, cold winter. short but beautiful spring and autumns in Ontario.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
School options are great, most families prefer private school options for their children.
1. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Good city for singles, couples, and families. Literally something for EVERYONE.
2. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Very easy going and welcoming city. LGBTQ community feels at home.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I wish I had known how difficult the housing situation was. It is extremely problematic to find affordable, rentable housing that meets Consulate standards, given the overheated housing market, limited allowance, and restrictive consulate regulations regarding housing features, and clauses in the contract.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Knowing what I know now about the hassles and lack of support in finding housing, I would not bid on this city. There are plenty of other lovely places I would be happy to serve.
3. But don't forget your:
Winter sports equipment and warm clothing.