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

Personal Experiences from Winnipeg, Canada

Winnipeg, Canada 04/30/16

Background:

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

No: Dhaka, Tokyo, Libreville, Colombo

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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?

Texas: Approximately five hours by air. Common connections in Minneapolis or Chicago, then off to DFW. Worth checking airline prices out of Grand Forks, ND as well. Two hour drive south and cheap fees for parking vehicles.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Nearly 2 years of 3-year post

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

US 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?

If coming to work for USG (state or border protection) you will need to find your own home. This is the first time we arrived to a house with NOTHING in it, and no welcome kit. The city is small, so average commute times are short--30 minutes would be a hefty commute with light traffic. One hour would be a bad commute here, and only happens during rush hour.

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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 US, but again, slightly more expensive.

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

Everything is available here. If you're brand specific, you might want to bring certain things, but otherwise, it is very similar to the US. You can always drive to Grand Forks, ND for products (2 hour drive).

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

All. Same as US, but slightly more expensive. However, due to declining Canadian dollar value, the USD can go further.

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

Mosquitoes are horrendous in summer, but controlled in urban areas. West Nile Virus is a slight concern, but a relief after living in malaria and dengue zones. Deer ticks (Lyme carriers) are a concern, but be diligent and look for ticks in spring and summer months after outdoor activities.

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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. We order many things to Pembina, ND (1 hour drive) and pick up mail every couple of months at a parcel service, especially things like Christmas gifts because prices are cheaper in the US. With Diplomatic status, we are tax exempt, so taking the stuff over the border is fine as long as you have your dip passport and paperwork.

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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. We have a housekeeper come once a week. She charges US$25/hour. She was one of the cheaper options.

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

Yes. Many gyms. Unsure of costs.

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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?

Plentiful and safe to use. Check with your home country bank. We can use Scotia bank ATMs in Canada with our Bank of America card and not get charged transaction fees. We also have a Canadian bank account and transfer money regularly for ease.

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

All. There are churches of all denominations, Hindu temples (at least one), Buddhist temples (2, I think), mosques and synagogues as well.

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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?

Everyone speaks English but Manitoba is a bilingual province. French is not necessary, but a nice bonus.

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

Some. The province is making strides in accessibility, and MB is leading the country in disability access. There is still work to do compared to some US cities.

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Transportation:

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

No trains. Taxis and buses safe. Taxis can be expensive. Public bus transit is cheaper.

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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. We leased when we arrived. Many drive over the border with their American car. The consulate has a government car (currently a Ford Escape) for work duties.

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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. We have it as a package deal with our mobiles (2 phones), TV, land line, and internet, so I am not sure of internet cost. All this combined runs about 350 CAD/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?

We purchased phones here with a plan from the local phone company. Not sure otherwise. Coverage is good though.

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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?

Doubtful since Canada shares a border with the US, but I do not know for sure. Vets and Kennels are good, I presume.

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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, depending on visa requirements which I am unfamiliar with.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Same as US. Any positions working with children will require a criminal record check and a child abuse registry check.

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

Very casual. Many come to the theatre in jeans, but others dress up. Business attire for work at the consulate.

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Health & Safety:

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

None that I can think of.

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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 good, but since there is provincial healthcare, wait times can be long. It is difficult to find specialty doctors as a GP needs to refer patients to any specialist, including pediatricians. Get a GP as early as you can. There are also many walk in clinics with good doctors if you cannot find a GP accepting patients. Health links (over the phone) is available 24 hours to speak to a nurse with questions. You can look online to see wait times for the ER and after hour care. Manitoba is the only province that offers diplomats Manitoba Health Care status (at least they did when we were here), so apply for your healthcare card immediately. Since most people are covered through Manitoba Health, hospitals and doctors will not accept your health insurance. You will need to pay out of pocket and submit your receipts. Once singed up for Manitoba Health, all medical services are free (not dental or vision 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?

Wonderful. Little to no pollution.

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

Nothing more than they need to know when in the US.

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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?

Each season with typical characteristics. Winter is LONG (snow can start in October and continue through April) and COLD. -20 Celsius is standard, but easily dips down to -30, or extremes of -40+ with the windchill. However, Winnipegers make the most of this and offer many winter festivals and outdoor activities. Snow clean up is fast and efficient. The city rarely closes down due to snow. Winter tires are a must.

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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 none. Local public schools (free) or private religious schools (tuition) are all government regulated and each school must teach Manitoba curriculum. Our child is in a private school for kindergarten and we are very pleased.

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

Many. There is full inclusion for special needs children in Manitoba 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?

Yes. There are long wait lists for daycares. Preschools are very good, but they will not take children until they are 3 years old & potty trained. It is common to only send preschoolers to school for half a day (morning or afternoon), two to three times/week. We are just starting our preschool search, so I am not familiar with costs. Many preschools have websites.

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

Yes, anything and everything. The City of Winnipeg has many programs which are highlighted in the Leisure Guide. Varies from free to reasonably priced. Many activities at various community centres 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?

Tiny. This is a one person US consulate presence post. There are DOD and DHS positions as well. Perhaps 40 US expats total. There is also an Icelandic consulate.

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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?

Many wonderful local restaurants, cool winter activities, various festivals year round, food truck season in summer, theatre, movies, museums, sporting events (CFL--Winnipeg Blue Bombers, NHL--Winnipeg Jets). There is always something happening here.

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

Yes. Families, singles, and couples should all do fine here.

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

Yes, there is a strong LGBT presence here. There is an annual Pride parade and festival. Same sex marriage is legal.

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

Winnipeg is a diverse city, with many different cultures. These cultures are celebrated with various festivals throughout the year: Folklorama, Festival Du Voyageur, Folk Festival. I am sure, like any city, there are prejudices, but overall, this city celebrates diversity.

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

Easy, relaxed pace. 4 distinct seasons. Provincial travel up north to Churchill (Northern lights, polar bears).

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

Many festivals which are year round. Arts: Winnipeg Symphony orchestra, Royal Winnipeg ballet, Manitoba Theatre Centre, Prairie Theatre Exchange, Manitoba Theatre for Young People. The Forks Market. Art gallery & museums. This city offers lots of great things to keep you busy, and many yearly events: Winnipeg Comedy festival, Teddy Bear Picnic, The Red River Ex, Fringe festival. Lots to do for adults & Kids.

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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.

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

Close to US, same time zone, all the amenities of USA, friendly people. The province motto is Friendly Manitoba.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes and no. Depends on lifestyle and if your housing costs are covered.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How long winter can last.

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

Yes, absolutely. Sad to leave.

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

Ideas of what cold is. Unless you are from N. Dakota, you are in for a shock! It's not nicknamed Winterpeg for nothing.

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4. But don't forget your:

Winter jacktes and all winter accessories. Block heater for your car if you want it to start in winter. Good driving skills for ice and snow.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

If you are able to survive with little (or no) embassy support, then you will manage fine. There is no embassy community here whatsoever. If you hate winter, then I suggest going somewhere else.

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Winnipeg, Canada 08/17/13

Background:

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

We've lived in Manila and Tokyo.

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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?

We usually visit family in Pennsylvania and Florida. We drive to Grand Forks or Fargo in North Dakota (across the border, about 2-4 hours drive). From there, flights to Pennsylvania through Minneapolis will take around 4 hours, and flights to Orlando will take about the same. There are cheap tickets and that's helped a lot for a family of 4.

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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.)?

U.S. State Department.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We find our own housing here. We've had a great real estate agent who showed us several options, and were able to find investors we could rent from. Everything is 20 minutes away from where we live. We live in a nice suburban home, with a spacious backyard.

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

I feel like everything costs more in Canada. The provincial government has monopoly over alcohol and dairy products. We usually shop in North Dakota for non-perishable items. Everything is available here though - fresh fruits, meat. The only downside is the seafood. We have access to lobster, clams, mussels and fish, but not always fresh.

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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?

Almost all chains of fast food in the U.S. are available here, except Krispy Cream! So many decent restaurants, we were pleasantly surprised at the gourmet food scene here. Lots of great chefs from Winnipeg. Reasonably priced.

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

As far as we've heard, mosquitoes were a problem before, but the city has had it in control. They're everywhere in the summer if you are out in the woods, or in provincial parks. But so far, not that bad.

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Daily Life:

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

Just like living in the U.S. except your mail box is in one area in your neighborhood, and it's hard to accept packages because you'd have to go to your nearest post office to pick up a big package.

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

Not cheap, again, just like it would cost in the U.S.

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

Yes, they are everywhere. There is a gym in the office building where the consulate is.

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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?

Everybody uses the Debit card here, but you can use credit cards everywhere, and ATMs are everywhere as well.

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

Widely available, all denominations

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

Widely available.

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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?

They speak English here. There is one area of the city where people speak French, but that's about it. Everything here though - signs, labels, etc, are in English and in French.

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

As far as I've seen, there is access to people with physical disabilities everywhere.

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Transportation:

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

No local trains, but buses and taxis are safe and affordable.

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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?

You'd drive like you were in the U.S.

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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?

Just like in 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?

Just like the U.S

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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?

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2. 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?

Yes.

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

Business attire. Winnipegers are pretty laid back so you could get away with wearing jeans and a sports jacket even in upscale restaurants.

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Health & Safety:

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

Just don't go to specific neighborhoods at night near downtown and you'll be fine.

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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?

Excellent and free. Only concern is you'd have to wait to get an ultrasound, or other tests scheduled.

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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?

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?

Oh, well. Our first winter here was not so bad, as we only had -40C weather for about a week. But last winter was pretty brutal. We probably had a month or so where the temperature never went above -27 C. And the winter could last for a very long time. We still had snow in April.

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Schools & Children:

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

My kids are still very little, but so far, we've put them in nursery schools and we've been very happy.

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

I have no experience, but as far as I've seen, there are a lot of accommodations 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?

Yes, and there are a lot of home daycare services as well. We found a nanny who has a car and can pretty much watch our kids if we need to go to events here.

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

Yes. Tons for every age group.

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Expat Life:

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

There is only one other consulate in Winnipeg, and that is Iceland. There are honorary consuls for different countries, but most of them have lived in Winnipeg for many, many years. We meet almost every month. A lot of the people in Winnipeg were born and raised here, and are never leaving.

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2. Morale among expats:

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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?

We were surprised at the amount of cultural stuff you could do here. Performing arts, live theater, symphony orchestra, art gallery, ballet, live concerts, pubs, discos, etc.

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

Yes, a very good city for families. I would imagine for singles and couples too.

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

Yes. Gay marriage is legal here.

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

Haven't experienced any.

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

The friendliness of the people, very comfortable living, like living in the U.S. Free medical care.

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

So many things to do around the city and outside the city. In the summer, there are a lot of splash pads, outdoor and indoor pool facilities. Camping in provincial parks is awesome, and people really take advantage of the short summer. Lots of playgrounds, children's museum, parks. We canoe across the street from our house as we have a nearby lake.

In the winter, there are a lot of festivals, winter sports activities. Our nearby lake becomes a place to ice skate and go sledding.

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

A nice parka or a hat.

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

It is Canada - so we get all the perks of living in the U.S. as well.

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11. Can you save money?

If you don't eat out a lot and budget your grocery money well, you should be okay.

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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. But don't forget your:

Winter clothing - everything from top to bottom. It is a must.

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