Toronto, Canada Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Toronto, Canada

Toronto, Canada 06/10/18

Background:

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

No. I have lived in multiple major cities in three different continents.

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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 from Toronto to almost any destination in the Western Hemisphere, Europe, or Asia non-stop or with one stop. Travel times are typical for long-haul travel in the jet age. Flights within Canada and from Canada to the U.S. are much more expensive than similar flights within the U.S., due to the way the Canadian-government-regulated civil aviation system works.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most housing is in modern apartments (condos), or very old single family homes. Employees willing to live further away from the downtown (30-60 minutes by pubic transportation or POV) can often find newer, single-family homes in nice neighborhoods. However, be warned: Mission Canada is an LQA mission, and Toronto has experienced excessive increases in housing costs. In our opinion, the official housing allowance has not kept pace, and it seems as though it is increasingly difficult for staff to find appropriate, safe housing within a reasonable distance from the office.

It's my understanding that allowances have not changed for years, and I felt this made finding affordable housing very difficult. One can search for news articles about "Toronto housing prices" to learn more about the spiraling cost of housing. This seems to be probably the biggest bureaucratic problem official employees could face at post, and for me, a big morale problem. Knowing about this issue ahead of time would have helped me be better informed about bidding on Toronto.

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

Everything is available, though prices are more expensive than you may be accustomed to. Canadian government-controlled supply of some commodities seems to result in higher prices than the free market would normally set.

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

Nothing. You can get what you need through Amazon or a drive to Buffalo, NY (2 hours away), and sometimes for cheaper prices across the border in the US.

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

Everything is available, depending on your tastes.

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Daily Life:

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

There is only a once-weekly mail run to the official mailbox/package facility in New York state across the border, so there seem to be significant delays with mail delivery. The Canadian mail system seemed quirky to me.

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

Expensive, and what you would expect in North America. Commercial maid services are available, and some people avail them.

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

About the same as you would expect in any American city.

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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?

All accepted and widely used, and safe.

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

Everything is available.

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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 is all you seem to need.

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

No, very ADA friendly.

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Transportation:

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

Yes, safe and affordable. TTC City buses, street cars (trams), and taxis, ride hailing apps, are available and cost-effective. High-speed GO train network links people from the suburbs to the downtown core. I wish we knew about that when we moved here; it would have significantly expanded our housing search area, given the ease of getting to work via high-speed rail.

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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 you would use in the US is fine. Car insurance is double or triple US prices. Again, it seems to be part of the Canadian system.

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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, and it can be installed in 1-2 business days. Telecoms are more regulated in Canada, resulting in much higher cable/internet service than in the United States.

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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?

It varies. Some people use their US plan with an add-on package, or some get local cellular service package contracts in Canada, often with a new handset in the deal.

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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?

Yes, about the same as you would expect in the United States. No quarantine, but check with your sponsoring office for official paperwork to bring with you upon entering Canada. Strict pet registration and license rules with the city are in effect.

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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?

Lots of opportunities available.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

As you would expect in any North American City.

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

Semi-formal. Formal dress is rarely required, except for high-level events.

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Health & Safety:

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

Relatively safe to very safe. Typical of any large, US city. Some parts are safer than others after dark.

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

Medical care is a challenge. Non-Canadians without the nationalized health system (OHIP in Ontario) seem to have experienced difficulty getting a family physician. Many use walk-in clinics, or visit physicians in Buffalo.

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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?

Very good air quality. Proximity to the lake helps. Allergens at certain times of the year.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Toronto is a very nut allergy sensitive city. You can get plenty of options in restaurants.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

SAD can be a factor. Long, dark winter nights. Some folks use special lights from Costco.

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

Very long, cold winters (Nov to May). Cool and rainy in the summer. August is sometimes hot (above 90 F).

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Schools & Children:

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

Lots of school options. Most use the education allowance to pay for private schools.

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

There are some schools that support special needs kids. As the CLO to put you in contact with one of the many families who are in this situation.

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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?

Available, very expensive, very long waiting lists.

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

Everything is available. Ice hockey and curling are local favorites. Lots of baseball fans.

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Expat Life:

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

You can't easily tell who is an expat.

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

It's good for everyone, unless you hate big, fun, clean North American cities.

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

Very good.

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

None.

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

So many seasonal activities throughout the year, and travel to Montreal, Quebec, etc.

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

Lots of parks and natural features in and near the city.

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

Big sports, music, and entertainment scene.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How expensive it is to live here, the challenges of finding housing, and fully understanding the way certain work-related platforms run here.

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

Not sure. Its an amazing place, but the housing situation has taken its toll, due to living very far away in a very old, small house. People should be fully aware of how difficult and challenging housing can seem before bidding on Toronto.

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3. Do you have any other comments?

You won't save money living here.

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Toronto, Canada 04/29/18

Background:

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

Not first. Caracas, VE; Garlstedt, GE; La Paz, BO; Kabul, AF; Jerusalem, Jerusalem; Kirkuk, IZ; and Bogota, CO.

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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?

Phoenix, AZ, USA, 5-12 hours depending on connections, timing, etc.

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3. How long have you lived here?

3 years.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Local Quarters Allowance. We lived in a condo in the Shangri La hotel building. Commute was 10 minutes by foot. One bedroom, 2 bath with den which we used as a guest room/TV room. Downtown in "Entertainment District."

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

COLA covered the cost of living difference. Pretty much same for product availability except for Latin American ethnic foods. Mexican cuisine, for example, was problematic.

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

Not possible but dairy products made my spouse ill. She does not suffer from lactose intolerance in the USA, so it was strange.

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

Nothing in particular.

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

Nothing in housing.

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Daily Life:

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

Post makes a mail run to a Buffalo shipping point once per week. This is a major weakness with the post and needs to be considered carefully. No DPO/APO, no direct pouch.

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

First world wages, so expensive.

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

Look for a living situation that has that included in the rent like we did. Otherwise, many gyms available in the greater Toronto area (GTA).

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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, safe, no issues.

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

Same as USA.

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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, some French helpful in Montreal and Quebec City.

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

Not anymore than in Washington, DC.

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Transportation:

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

Yes, public transport good but overcrowded at rush hours.

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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?

Think about going outside the GTA in winter. 4WD was quite useful. Many Canadians have two sets of tires, winter and summer. Many companies will store the set you aren't using after they switch for you.

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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, but, surprisingly, internet and cell service seems like something from the old East Bloc days. In the afternoon, our building's high speed internet slowed to a crawl when everyone got home from work. We had Bell 25 Mb/s.

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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?

Only Rogers seemed to work well. I had service with Wind/Freedom Mobile which was abominable in Canada (small coverage areas and crappy connectivity when in the area). Worked better in the USA because included roaming was ATT.

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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?

Yes, no quarantine for our cat.

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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?

Some worked in financial services. Local salaries seemed to be less than USA once adjusted to parity.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Same as USA.

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

Business casual, formal dress was worn in civilian settings once or twice a year. Opera season dress ranges from black tie to jeans.

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Health & Safety:

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

Like any big city.

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

Single payer, private sector delivery. We used urgent car/walk-in clinics for routine care and physicals. I pushed to get a primary care physician mostly for getting insights into the Canadian system but never used him after the intake physical. Buffalo is nearby for USA providers. All healthcare in Canada is pay-as-you-go for us and you request reimbursement from your provider per your plan.

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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?

Generally no problem.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Think about the cold.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

The "winter blues" is quite a real issue in Canada.

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

Canada. North. Cold in winter, hot/humid/bugs in a very short summer.

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Schools & Children:

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

Don't know but most attended local government or parochial schools. Parochial schools are government-funded in Canada.

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

As difficult or easy as in USA.

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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?

Yes, yes, expensive.

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

Yes, with fees.

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Expat Life:

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

Can't say, everyone blends in. There are some organizations like Democrats Abroad that are social entres.

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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?

We joined a "city club" and met a lot of Canadians through it. This is a very British tradition. The University Club is next door to the Consulate and the www.rcmi.org is a couple of buildings farther down. There is a Faculty Club at the Univ of Toronto and the Albany and National Clubs were also available.

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

Yes, Yes, Yes. Like being in a strange version of the USA.

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

Yes, friendly and accepting.

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

Similar to USA. Same issues, but in my opinion, Canadians don't see it.

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

Travel locally, get to cottage country and the cottage experience. Don't waste time traveling to other countries though (that is what most mission personnel seemed to do).

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

Get to know someone with a sailboat and learn sailing on Lake Ontario! Get bikes if you don't have them.

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

No.

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

The theater, opera, ballet, and arts are world class. We had season tickets to various arts seasons.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How cold Canadians seem to be beyond superficial pleasantries. Many really don't like the USA or Americans but act politely which Americans can confuse for friendliness.

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

Yes.

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

Bring it all. You can even do fresh water scuba.

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4. But don't forget your:

Coats, long johns, cold weather outdoor exercise gear, etc. Skiing locally is fun and really podunk; charming and you can keep up your chops. Go to the Laurentians for at least one ski trip and then think West.

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

No.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Toronto, Canada 11/14/16

Background:

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

No, I have lived all over the USA, Canada, Kingston, Jamaica, Romania, and Czech Republic.

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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?

Takes 2 hours from DC, 1 from NYC, 5 from LA and 7 from London, England. You can get a direct flight to most places in the world.

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3. How long have you lived here?

7 years.

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

School.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

A mix of apartments and homes.

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

I would say the prices are similar to that of the USA.

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

None, everything is available here.

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

Thousands of great restaurants from every place in the world. The same fast food places that you will find the the USA are here.

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

.

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Daily Life:

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

Post offices are fine, you can use Canada Post, or UPS.

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

You can hire a cleaner, however it is not cheap.

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

Yes, they are everywhere and fairly cheap.

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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?

They are, they are safe and ATMS are all over the city.

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

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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 is needed, there are many free English classes.

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

Only some, some train stations have no elevator as well as some older office buildings.

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Transportation:

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

Very, it is better to use the subway than drive as traffic is bad.

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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?

Do not bring a car, Toronto has the longest recorded commute in North America, highest car insurance costs in Canada and expensive parking. Use the subway or trains they are so much cheaper.

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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?

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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?

Use any phone, go with any of the national companies.

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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?

There are vets, kennels and no quarantines needed.

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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?

Unemployment among spouses/partners is a problem.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

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

You can wear what you want, no dress code in public.

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Health & Safety:

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

The city is safe for its size, just be aware of your surroundings.

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

None, and Canada has universal health care.

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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?

Moderate, no impact on health.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

None, there are no environmental issues and many restaurants have food for people with allergies.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

.

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

4 Seasons, hot in the summer, very cold in winter and temperate in fall and spring

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Schools & Children:

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

Local schools are good.

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

Many public schools do not, you may have to check out private schools.

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

.

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Expat Life:

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

Many expats, morale is great.

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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?

Lots of clubs, go to a restaurant, bar or festival.

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

Yes, yes and yes.

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

It is, Toronto has on of the largest LGBT populations in North America.

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

No issues.

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

Exploring the city, day trip to Niagara Falls, hiking along Lake Ontario and going to the many festivals.

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

There is always something to do, there are often festivals and events.

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

It is, there are so many shopping opportunities.

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

The culture and endless amount of activities to do. You will never be bored.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

The high housing prices.

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

Yes.

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

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4. But don't forget your:

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

Toronto Stories is a movie about the city and life there.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Just enjoy!

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Toronto, Canada 10/08/16

Background:

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.

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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.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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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.

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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.

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

None.

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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.

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

None.

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Daily Life:

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.

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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.

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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?

Credit cards accepted everywhere. ATMS charge a fee, sometimes hefty--consider your options before withdrawing from ATMs.

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

All of them.

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Transportation:

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.

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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.

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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?

Internet speeds are fast and reliable. No complaints.

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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?

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.

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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?

Pet care, vets, and kennel/boarding service is what you would expect in any American city.

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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?

Plenty of jobs are available for spouses. Diplomatic spouses get a work permit to work on the local economy.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

Very good.

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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?

Hot humid summer, long, cold winter. short but beautiful spring and autumns in Ontario.

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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.

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Expat Life:

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.

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

Very easy going and welcoming city. LGBTQ community feels at home.

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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.

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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.

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3. But don't forget your:

Winter sports equipment and warm clothing.

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Toronto, Canada 11/16/15

Background:

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

No. Previously South East Asia, South America

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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?

Chicago. Easily accessible by direct 1.5 hr flight or driving for a day (about 9.5-10 hours with stops for food, bathroom, etc)

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years

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

Accompanying spouse

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

LQA post. Reimbursements can be a headache. Make sure you have a cash float when you come here of at least $10k and it will make your life easier.

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

Everything you could possibly want is available. But it's more expensive. A costco membership comes in handy. Or go to Buffalo do a large pickup and drive back.

You won't want for anything in Toronto. But you will pay more.

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

Nothing. There is nothing you might need that you couldn't buy in Toronto (and depending on where you're from, you might find you can get more in Toronto than back home). Prices are more expensive on a lot of things. But what I'd suggest is rather than worrying about shipment, get settled and figure out the lay of the land for you personally, and if you want to load up cheaper, just drive to Buffalo.

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

Most of the main chains are here. But more expensive. Anticipate a 15-25% increase over the U.S. (although, it depends on how the currency is doing).

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

Not that I've noticed.

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Daily Life:

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

For international mail, the consulate. Domestically, there is Canada Post.

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

Expensive. It's not common to have domestic help. Our cleaning lady was US$80 for 4 hours every two weeks (and that was standard).

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

Yes. I think that a gym membership can be expensive, but many apartment/condo buildings have them. Something to look for when you're finding accommodation because it will save you money.

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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?

Everything works fine. But find out what your fees will be before using your ATM to withdraw from a Canadian back. You should open an account here. You'll need it for rent. You'll also need it for utilities, I hear, they're not included in rent.

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

All of them.

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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?

It's an English speaking city...and you need to know it.

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

Not many. There are some areas where there are old buildings that might not be accessible. The Distillery District has cobble stone roads, so it would be hard to get around. Overall, I think it would be the same as a large US city.

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Transportation:

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

Everything is safe. The public transit is very clean. Taxis are not cheap. Also, traffic downtown is horrible so it's not unheard of to rack up US$10 on your cab meter going a block.

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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?

Pretty much anything is fine. Parking downtown can be hard to get, so you'll do better without a massive SUV. But if you have one, I suspect you'll still be fine. Keep in mind, gas is expensive.

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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, it's available. I forget the exact cost, we had it bundled with cable and home phone.

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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?

Check out pricing. Plans are more expensive here than in the U.S. but you also have to factor in international fees if you're keeping a U.S. provider. The service here is good, fast. Streaming is easy, high quality.

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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?

Nope. Lots of vets, including emergency clinics. It's common to have pets here (especially cats and dogs).

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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?

No, not on the local economy. There are lots of volunteer opportunities in pretty much area you'd want. But if you're looking for a paying job it's problematic.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots.

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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 in the U.S.

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Health & Safety:

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

Not really. Toronto is one of the largest cities in North America, but it's also one of the safest. It does have it's big city problems (there is some gang violence) and the other usual stuff (meaning keep your car, front door, and bike locked up). I've never felt unsafe living here.

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

Not really. Unless you can get a family doctor (which is a bit tricky) then you're looking at going to a walk in clinic. The quality is fine but the wait times can be long, especially during flu season. Emergency service is fine...I fell and broke my ankle, badly which necessitated calling 911 for an ambulance (long story), and it came promptly and my experience in the emergency room at the hospital (in downtown Toronto) was about the same as I'd expect in the U.S.

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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?

Fairly good. Similar to any large North American city. Downtown is mainly gridlock with accompanying exhaust.

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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?

Four seasons. Winter and summer seem longest. Winter is similar to north east U.S. Winter can be long and cold (but, again, about what you'd get in NYC or Chicago). Summer is far more humid than I would have guessed before coming here.

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Schools & Children:

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

Toronto is an English speaking city and you don't get "international schools" the same way you would overseas. We don't have kids, but I'm told that the private schools here are extremely good. From what I've been told, your opinion of the public school system will depend on where you're from (meaning, I've heard people say that the public schools are very good and also that they're average)).

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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?

I couldn't tell you personally. Anecdotally, I'm told that you don't get large daycares here like you do in the U.S. Most people seem to have a nanny. I've never asked about the cost of one. But compliance with the law when hiring a nanny is important, so don't plan on just paying someone under the table.

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

Yes, from what I hear pretty much everything is available. Ice hockey and soccer seem especially popular.

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Expat Life:

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

Toronto is very mulitcultural and there are lots of expats here but I wouldn't say there's really a "community." Morale depends on the individual/family. If you're heavily dependent on a foreign service/expat "scene" for your social activities, you might have trouble. If you're fine striking out on your own you'll love it here.

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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?

Pretty much everything. Restaurants, bars, night clubs, ballet, theater, opera, film, museums, outdoors stuff (even in the city). If you get bored here it's because you're a boring person.

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

It's good for everyone!

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

Yes, definitely. I think Canada was the first country to legalize gay marriage. There is a large gay population in the city. People here are very tolerant.

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

Not that I've noticed. The city is very multicultural.

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

Great restaurants - and very ethnically diverse...no matter what type of food you want, they'll have a restaurant (and probably more than one). Good cultural scene (art gallery, museum, ballet, opera, Toronto International Film Festival). Decent shopping. Good out of city trips within driving distance (local skiing, Niagara Falls, Stratford Festival, Ontario wine region).

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

Enjoy the many restaurants, check movies at the Toronto International Film Festival (happens every September). Head up a couple of hours north of the city to ski in the Blue Mountains. Enjoy time in the summer in "cottage country". Go to Stratford or Niagara for a day.

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

I dunno. Fresh produce at the St. Lawrence Market? Ontario wines? Maple syrup? My favorite purchases were some Aboriginal art - but they were from British Columbia, so not exactly "local".

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

A beautiful, clean, safe city. Tons to do. People are friendly.

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10. Can you save money?

Nope.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely! I love it here. It's been my favorite tour.

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

"high alert" mentality that tougher posts might have given you. This is a big E Easy tour.

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3. But don't forget your:

Toque and mittens!

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

The Adjuster (Atom Egoyan)

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

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0679772669/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0679772669&linkCode=as2&tag=thesunspousunder&linkId=W23C7W4NAKAPEYFV

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6. Do you have any other comments?

I absolutely love Toronto. It's a fantastic place to live.

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Toronto, Canada 07/13/15

Background:

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

No. We have been posted throughout Asia, Europe, and the U.S.

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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?

D.C. It is about a 2-hour flight.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

Working for the U.S. Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

This is an LQA post, so housing is totally up to you, depending on your allowance. We lived in a condo downtown that was very expensive, but great --- only about a ten-minute walk to the consulate. Parking is limited at the consulate, so keep this in mind for the winter. It does snow a fair bit here, and snow plows are sometimes quite slow in coming, so be careful and watch for ice when walking.

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

Groceries are expensive. We took advantage of the short drive to Buffalo for weekend grocery-shopping trips. When shopping locally, we could easily spend $200 a week just on groceries. Compare that to $100 at WallMart in Buffalo. Also, be sure to check out St Lawrence market for cheaper produce and meat products.

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

Spices, clothing for winter, and a good pair of winter boots --- you will live in them!

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

You can find fast food, similar to that in the states, but it is very expensive. We paid almost $20 for two cheeseburger meals from McDonald's. I believe that the government of Ontario is trying to encourage consumers to choose healthy food by increasing the taxes on fast food. Tim Horton's coffee was cheap, though. They have great coffee and are an option to Starbucks.

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

None that we have encountered. There are raccoons, though, that seem to be a problem for those living in standalone housing or in townhouses that have their own garbage cans.

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Daily Life:

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

Diplomatic pouch and also local mail to our place.

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

Fairly expensive: around $15 an hour and up.

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

Yes, they are available but costly. Our condo building had a gym and pool that we took advantage of since the cost was included in our monthly rent.

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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?

Surprisingly, some restaurants and cafes would only accept cash (that sounds a bit like tax evasion!), but most places accepted credit cards. Be mindful that when dealing with Toronto Hydro, the provider of electricity and water. They will only accept cash or Canadian bank accounts or credit cards. So you will need to open a Canadian bank account to pay these bills as well as your rent for housing.

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

All religious denominations are available.

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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?

None, English is spoken everywhere. But if you travel to Quebec, some French will definitely come in handy.

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

Perhaps in downtown areas more than in the suburbs. We found some sidewalks to be not great for strollers, so I imagine this would be difficult for those in wheelchairs or elderly folks. Some older buildings do not have elevators and do not provide for wheelchair access. But some do, so it depends on where you go.

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Transportation:

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

They are fairly safe but very costly and not efficient. Take advantage of monthly or yearly passes!

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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?

Anything can work as long as you have snow tires! Unfortunately, this post doesn't offer diplomatic license plates, so you will have to get Ontario plates and buy car insurance through a company that is based 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?

Available, but costly. We got a package with cable and internet for around $70 a month. Some months would be higher though. We originally went through Rogers, but switched to Bell.

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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?

We went with Koodo mobile, a local company, and paid around US$60 a month for a month-to-month contract.

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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?

Vets are available, but I'm not sure about quarantine.

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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 some opportunities, but you will need a work permit. There are also some job opportunities at the ci suite.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots of volunteer opportunities.

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

Work, office, public anything goes!

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Health & Safety:

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

Take the same precautions you would take anywhere in the world. Canadians are pretty trusting, almost to a fault. I have had numerous occasions in coffee shops where strangers would ask me to watch over their stuff whilst they went to the bathroom. There was a recent bomb threat against e consulate, and there have been shootings connected to terrorism. Immigration seems to be fairly easy here, so it's no surprise that such attacks have occurred.

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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 I would invest in a humidifier, because the air can get quite dry. Prepare for constant cold. It is quite common to get the flu a lot here. Medical care is quite good, but a lot of places don't accept U.S. Health insurance. Only recently did a hospital downtown start taking U.S. Health insurance, so apply for OHIP after being in the country for six months.

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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?

It is fairly good, although in downtown areas it not as great as out in the suburbs.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Just the usual cold and flu precautions.

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

Winter is very cold, and it's winter for a good 8 months of the year. Canadians would say otherwise, but it is brutal.

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Schools & Children:

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

The public school system seems to rival private ones here. We didn't have personal experience, but a lot of families we knew had great experiences with the public schools.

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

We didn't have any experience with this, but we did know a few families who chose this post because of their special-needs children.

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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?

Yes, they are available, but they are expensive. Nannies are an option, but they are also quite expensive: think $15 and up per hour. It's also difficult to find a nanny to trust. We went through a few. So when you find one you like, hire immediately! There are also drop-in centers throughout the city that have circle times and activities for young kids, from newborn right up to elementary age. Most drop-in times are free, so take advantage!

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

Yes they are available.

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Expat Life:

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

The U.S. Consulate itself is a fairly small community, but with CBP it is larger. Morale varies. It can get depressing during winter, as there is literally no sunshine for weeks at a time. The consulate is understaffed, and personality differences in management can be difficult --- especially with Ottawa and LQA issues. Be sure to keep all of your Toronto Hydro receipts. You will need them for reconciliation at the end of your first and second years.

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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?

There is a lot to do here: movie theatres, concerts, restaurants. Night life is quite good, too.

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

Great for all! There is so much to do!

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

Excellent. The premier of Ontario is a lesbian, and marriage equality has been present for almost a decade (maybe longer). Canadians don't really care if you are gay or not. People are very accepting here!

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

There is a subtle prejudice against people of color and definitely against First Nations people, Metis, and Inuits. It's not "in your face", but it is definitely present in the Canadian government's policy towards First Nations groups. That said, Canada is still probably one of the most accepting multicultural countries that I've ever lived in. There are lots of festivals from different countries.

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

Catching up with old friends, making new friends, and traveling throughout Canada.

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

We took advantage of the short drive to Niagara Falls. It is about a ninety-minute drive from downtown. There are various wineries, and Niagara on the Lake is beautiful. The city itself has many nice parks and lots to do. The TIFF movie festival is also a lot of fun.

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

Vacations, maple syrup, and First Nations items.

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

Close proximity to the U.S. Close enough for family and friends to visit.

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10. Can you save money?

No. Even with COLA, the cost of living is on par with D.C and New York. But if you save all of your receipts from grocery shopping, eating out, etc, you can apply for tax rebate, as diplomats are tax exempt. It is quite a time-consuming project, but it is worth doing. We would get back around $400-500 a month on taxes from our normal spending.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How expensive it is and how high the taxes are.

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

Maybe. It was a good post for our family, but career-wise it was a waste of time.

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

summer clothes.

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4. But don't forget your:

winter boots and winter clothes.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

Save your tax receipts and be prepared for the cold!

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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, 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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Toronto, Canada 05/11/10

Background:

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

This is not my first expat experience, I have living in Kingston, Jamaica. Prauge, Czech Republic and bugerest, Romania.

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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?

I do not have a home base, my home base it where I live at the present time.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I have been living here for 2 1/2 years.

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

Student.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

There are many houses to choose from, there are also so many condos and apartment. The best areas in the city is downtown or the Beach area, they are the safest and nicest areas. Commute time varys, if you are in the north of the city and want to get downtoun the commute time is about one hour, this is true for most the the city unless you live downtown. There is a subway system however that is a lot faster, it takes about 15-30 minutes, and is cheaper and faster that driving a car, traffic is so bad here.

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

You can buy everything here, it is about the same cost as in the USA.

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

Nothing, you can buy everyhing here.

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

Toronto has all the fast food you can think of. There are thousands of restaurants here because of all the cultures. No matter where you are from you will find a restaurant with food from your country.

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

No problems; some mosquitoes in summer but not too many.

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Daily Life:

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

There are many post offices in the city.

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

It is available but I am not sure about the cost.

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

Yes, everywhere.

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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?

Most stores accept credit cards, and ATMs are all over the city.

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

Most are in english.

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

All are in english; same cost as in USA.

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

Everyone in Toronto speaks English, so you need to know it.

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

Some, but most sidewalks have ramps, buildings have elevators and buses can lower for wheelchairs.

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Transportation:

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

All are safe, and affordable. Toronto has a great subway system that will take you everywhere. There are aslo trolleys and buses to take you where the subways dont go. You do not need a car in this city; public transit is cheaper and much quicker: 15 minutes to downtown via subway or 1 hour via car. I have lived here without a car for 2 years and have done fine.

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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?

All cars can be brought in.

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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?

Available.

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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?

No, however the most popular cell phone network in Toronto is Rogers.

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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. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Many around the city.

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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 many.

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

Most workplaces ask that you dress nicely, such as a suit. In public you can wear normal clothing.

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Health & Safety:

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

No, Toronto is very safe for its size, safer than American cities of the same size. I feel safe as a young woman walking alone at night downtown.

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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, great medical care,. With Universal Health Care, you do not have to pay for doctor visits; it great.

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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?

Moderate, however it can change, sometimes there are smog alerts, but this rarley happens

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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?

Toronto is one of the warmes cities in Canada, but this does not mean it is nice in the winter, in the wineter the teprature is about -10 to-15C, the summer is nice however with a temprature about plus 20 to 25C

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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 no international schools, the local public and private schools are good, many offer English as the second langauge

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

Only private schools make accommodations, so if your child has special needs you should go to a private school.

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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?

Lots of Preschool and daycare around the city.

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

Most schools offer sports programs, as do the recreation centers.

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Expat Life:

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

It seems like 49 percent of the people in Toronto are either expats or are foreign born

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2. Morale among expats:

Great, most love it here.

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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?

So much: there is a great nightlife, with most restaurants staying open til 3 a.m. downtown. There are so many bars, and as I mentioned before, lots of shopping and great beaches.

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

YES YES AND YES, it is good for all

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

Yes it is great, Toronto has the largest gay/lesbian community in the world.

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

Not at all becasue there are just so many people from around the world living here.

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

Toronto has great beaches so one of the highlights of living here is long walks on the beach. Also there is much shopping it goes on for many Miles.

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

There is so much to do, first there are the great beaches right in the city, with boardwalks, shops, and a waterpark for the kids. There is so much shopping in Toronto, there are atleast 6 streets were the shopping goes on for 10 KM almost nonestop, Toronoto also has the largest underground shopping in the world. There is also many festivals and parades in the city. with all the cultures in the the city there are interesting areas like Greek town, China town, Korea Town, little Italy, India town, Little Jamaica and many more. There is a amusment park 30 minutes from Toronto, and Toronto has the 3rd largest zoo in the world. 2 hours from Toronto there is the world famous Niagara Falls. Toronto has something for everyone!

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

Not much, maybe maple syrup.

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

Great scenery in Canada, with mountins in the west the ocean in the east and prairies in the middle. There is much culture in Toronto, it is the most multicultural city in the world, about 49 percent of the population of Toronto if forgion born, this adds more interesting things to the city such as festivals, and places like China town, Korea town and Greek town.

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11. Can you save money?

Not really. Toronto is an expensive city.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

YES YES AND YES! I LOVE TORONTO!

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

Bring everything.

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3. But don't forget your:

winter coat, beach wear, and good walking shoes.

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

There are many travel books available for Toronto, so get one before coming.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

One movie called "Toronto Stories".

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Toronto is a great city for all. It is safe, and there is so much to do. Come to Toronto and have a great time.

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Toronto, Canada 04/06/10

Background:

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

Third expat experience.

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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 drive to Buffalo in 90 minutes, Detroit in 4 hours and Chicago or New York City in about 8 hours. Flights to New York are about an hour and are about 5 hours to the West Coast.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2007 - 2010.

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

Affiliated with U.S. Consulate.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

This is an LQA post, which some like and some hate. You can choose you own place (although it has to fall within space limitations) but you are also responsible for things that GSO usually takes care of. Then there are the annual reconcilliations that seem to be wildly unpredictable with those thinking they will get money back owing and those thinking that they will owe getting money back. The procedure used to determine things like exchange rates and annual maximums seems somewhat shrouded in mystery. To me, being able to chose my own place and not have to deal with post to have repairs done was worth the negative aspects.

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

About the same as the US with the exception of dairy. Cheese and all milk products are a lot more expensive in the US as Canada puts a limit on how much milk each cow can produce per month/year. Not sure if this is an animal rights thing or a way to keep prices up, but it sure makes for pricey dairy.

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

For some reason I could never find that corn muffin mix that is ubiquitous in the U.S.But if you get a craving for it, drive to Buffalo!

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

Yes. So many restaurants and so many kinds of food that it can be overwhelming to decide where to go. The negative is that with the three taxes (provincial food, provincial alcohol and federal) and tip, you end up paying about 30 - 35% more than you expect to when ordering.

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

None.

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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 dropped off and picked up once per week in the Buffalo area.

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

Canada has a program whereby live-in caregivers for children or the elderly can become permanent residents after two years of providing services. The participants do not have to stay with one employee the whole time so you can find someone looking for work in this program easily, but the difficulty is that you have to register with the government as an employer and then pay employer taxes, which makes hiring someone through this program somewhat expensive, totalling about $1700/month. You also have to have accomodation avaliable for them. Many of the caregivers are Filipinas with years of experience in Hong Kong so the quality of care is good. Housecleaning, childcare and cooking are amazingly provided by one person. Some of these individuals work weekends and evenings to get some extra money so finding a babysitter is never a problem.

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

Yes, and one of the hidden delights of Post is the gym on the top floor of an office building where the Consulate rents additional space located one block from the main Consulate building. It is open 24/7 and free to all Consulate employees with a $30 deposit for a key card.

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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?

No problem.

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

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

Yes - you get Buffalo network channels along with all cable channels you are used to like A and E, CNN, Discovery Health etc and also Canadian networks. Rogers has a monopoly and it is expensive though - about $150/month for the middle-of-the-road package.

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

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

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Transportation:

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

Safe and reliable though expensive. A one way ticket is $3 and a monthly pass is somewhere around $120/month.

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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?

Anything.

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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, about $50/month.

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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?

Don´t go with Rogers. Their plans are overpriced, they lock you into long-term contracts without telling you and their customer service is abominable.

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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. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes, similar to the US.

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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?

Lots of people have had problems with this as most Canadian jobs will only hire people with Canadian work experience and credentials, which can be difficult and time-consuming to obtain. Puzzling given that Canadians try so hard to welcome immigrants in other ways.

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

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Health & Safety:

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

Toronto is much safer that a comparable-sized U.S. city. I dropped my wallet at a huge downtown shopping mall and it had been turned into the lost and found with not a dollar missing within an hour.

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

Can be hard to access as Canadian healthcare facilities tend to look at you like you have two heads if you tell them you are private pay. They often don´t know what or how to charge you and ERs require you to put a credit card down and pay $500 before they will provide any care.

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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?

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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?

A downside of a posting in Toronto is the weather. The winter to me seemed no colder than New York City or Boston but it did seem to drag on a lot longer and you can´t count on weather consistently above 50 degrees until late May/early June.

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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?

There are lots of services available for special needs kids but it is hard to access them given long wait times and exclusively government sponsored health-care

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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?

Plenty of preschools and daycares available, although they are expensive. Full-time is about $1200/month.

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

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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 - more than 50% of Torontonians were born outside of Canada.

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2. Morale among expats:

When I first arrived there were a few malcontents and this dragged morale down, but it has been steadily rising and at this time is quite good.

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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?

People tend to go their own ways after work and make their own friends, although you most likely find yourself spending time with people from work who you would spend time with if you met them at any other job. People are friendly but the Consulate community is not cohesive/insular(depending on your perspective) like at a lot of other posts.

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

Yes for all. Prior posters have noted that for singles you have to make an extra effort due to the size of the city, but counteracting this is the fact that there are immigrants from all over the world looking to meet new people.

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

Most definitely. Gay marriage is commonplace and the Gay Pride weekend is a huge city event.

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

Not compared to most places in the world.

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

Fall colors, making friends with immigrants from all over the world, going to a different ethnic festival every weekend in the summer, running by the lake

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

About anything that you want to do - if you can´t find it, you aren´t looking hard enough. Except maybe year-round beaches.

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

Ice-wine and maple syrup.

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

Where to start - Toronto´s multiculturalism is truly fascinating and leads to all sorts of interesting ethnic eateries, festivals, clothing stores and neighborhoods. There are many theatre companies and tickets are astonishingly cheap, especially if you buy a season ticket. There are so many interesting neighborhoods to stroll through (in the spring/summer/fall) that you could never find them all. And all while being close to family and friends in the U.S. with access to pretty much any U.S. product that you want.

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11. Can you save money?

No.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely, though for a first-tour officer or someone else looking for an exotic experience, this might not be the place.

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

idea that you will be treated any differently than any other city dweller, which, for me, was a plus. You can blend in and be anonymous.

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3. But don't forget your:

warm clothes and interest in learning about other cultures.

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

To truly enjoy Toronto, I think that you have to actively like multiculturalism and not just find it something to tolerate or ignore.

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Toronto, Canada 08/24/08

Background:

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

Not my first, I have also lived in Jamaica, Romania, Czech Rebublic, and U.S.A.

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2. How long have you lived here?

A few months.

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

My father got a job there.

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

You can get direct flight from any major U.S city or European city.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Good housing around the city. Commute time is from 5-120 minutes.

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

Same as the U.S.A. You can find everything you want here.

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

None, you can get everything here.

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

All fast food is found here. There are alot of good restaurants here. Great Indian, Thai, Italian, French, Mexican, Latin, every kind of restaurant is here.

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Daily Life:

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

Yes, regular Canadian Post.

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

Great help, but expensive.

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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?

You can use your credit, debit card everywhere. ATM machines everywhere.

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

Lots are avalable.

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

Their are 3 English papers avlable. Same cost as the U.S

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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?

None (everyone speaks English).

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

Some, but most building have elevators and there are a lot of ramps. But there are big crowds that disabeld people may find challenging

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Transportation:

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

Right, just like the U.S.A.

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

All are very safe and affordable. Also there is a great subway system. The subways here are as good as the ones in N.Y.C.

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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 to bring, although traffic is terrible here.

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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?

It is available at around the same price as the U.S

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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?

Use a calling card, or get a long distance plan; most people use Rogers.

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

Most people use Rogers.

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Pets:

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

Lots.

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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?

Yes lots.

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

Normal clothes.

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Health & Safety:

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

Unhealthy.

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

Some, mostly petty crimes.

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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?

As in all in Canada medical care is great and unlike the U.S.A FREE. It's great.

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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?

Hot in summer and spring. Chilly in winter. Cool in 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?

No international schools. Most families send their kids to local schools. The schools here are very good.

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

None at public schools but they do at private schools.

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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?

HUGE, there are alot of Chinese, Indian, American, Japanese, Jamaican and Mexican people here.

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2. Morale among expats:

Great, everyone loves it here.

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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?

Toronto has a fantasic night life, everything stays open till midnight or all night. There is also Niagara Falls nearby, Canadas Wonderland, Marine Land and the U.S.A is an hour away. There is always an event happening here.

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

Yes, yes and yes! It is good for all.

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

Yes, there is a gay neighbours hood and a gay parade every year.

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

None.

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

O were to begin. There is always something going on here. From shows, play, parades, festivals, beaches, Canada's Wonder Land, and the never ending shopping. Toronto has the largest under groud shopping in the world.

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

Canadian syrup from Quebec.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

YES I LOVE IT HERE!!!!

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

Bring everything.

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3. But don't forget your:

Winter jackets, bathing suits (great beaches on the lake).

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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:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Toroto is a great place for all, you will love it here.

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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?

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


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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