The four best – and worst – things about Canada – from a Nouveau-Canadian.

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The four best – and worst – things about Canada – from a Nouveau-Canadian.


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Old 6th August 2008, 06:56 PM
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Default The four best – and worst – things about Canada – from a Nouveau-Canadian.

This is an article I wrote a while ago about my experiences living in Calgary, Alberta with a young family. It was quite well received in Calgary, and one reviewer said he thought it ought to be used in classrooms in Canada. I don't know about that, but I offer this purely subjective take on life in Canada to anyone who might be interested.

The four best – and worst – things about Canada – from a Nouveau-Canadian.
Ten years ago we were in our fifth year of struggling to integrate into Canadian life. We left after seven years – a job opportunity came up that we couldn’t resist – but I’m now testing the waters again with a tentative toe. This is partly because my Canadianised daughter, who was 12 when we emigrated, is now (almost) engaged to a “real” Canadian she met at Queen’s, and her future seems set to hold a move back in that direction at some point in the future. If my daughter goes then there’s a good chance I’ll follow, as blood is much thicker than water, and for me, being away from family matters more than the country I’m in. I’m very much in two minds though about going back – there are some very attractive, little-known features to Canada that newbies might not know about. The funny thing is that every good thing about Canada is also an equally bad thing.

Let me explain about the four best – and worst – things about Canada.

The first-best thing about Canada is its size and location. It’s huge and mostly empty, so homes are big and cheap and you tend not to have many neighbours (except in Toronto or Vancouver). It’s a long way from everywhere except along the southern border where it is close to the empty bits of America, so it’s actually a very long way from everywhere including the States. Whether this fills you with fear and foreboding or longing and lust depends on whether or not you have actually lived there, where the only landmark for hundreds of miles is a grain elevator. The fear of not finding a gas-station before I ran out of gas kept me in the city for a whole year when we first arrived in Calgary.

The first-worst thing about Canada is also its size and location. It is so far away from everywhere else that no-one living there needs to care about any other country in the world, and vice-versa. And it is so big that B.C. might as well be on another planet for all the chances are of you visiting it if you choose to live in Nova Scotia – or even Alberta. You think I exaggerate? I knew people in Calgary who hadn’t been to Bragg Creek for fifteen years. Nouveau-Calgarians will know what distance I’m talking about and relate. Consequently the major cities of each province tend to be very isolated in their own ways, and people think of themselves as Albertans, Ontarians, Maritimers etc. first and Canadians very much second.

The second-best thing about Canada is the weather. There has been a lot of talk lately about global warming, and by my reckoning, if there’s one place that can benefit from a few extra degrees year-round it has to be Canada. Notice also that because the country is extremely large and despite increased immigration to “the city” (Toronto or Vancouver depending on your orientation) – most of it is still largely unoccupied and property is cheap almost everywhere – (except in Alberta where they have discovered oil again). This means that investing in real estate now, before everyone else gets wise to it, will mean you own a very valuable commodity when the rest of the planet (at least the coastal bits) becomes uninhabitable and everyone has to move to Canada.

The second-worst thing about Canada is the weather. Most Canadians either dream, plan - or if they are lucky actually go - south for several weeks in the winter. (Florida is the location of choice for most). Only then is Canadian weather tolerable. Brits don’t tend to think too deeply about this irrational need for warmth, and for a few years the sheer novelty of temperatures colder (literally) than your deep-freeze for months on end is enough to keep you going. The second Christmas we were there the freezer was too small for our turkey, so I stored it on the deck outdoors for a week. I kid you not. Another time the ignition key froze and snapped off in the door of the car, and by the time the locksmith had arrived all the food in the trunk had frozen solid. Ever seen a frozen banana? Not good. We came out of the swimming pool one evening with damp hair, which proceeded to instantly freeze solid. Did you know that frozen hair will snap off at the roots? Also not good. Despite these little entertaining events eventually a certain, let’s say tedium for want of a better word, sets in and you have GOT to get away. Trust me, it will happen.

The third-best thing about Canada is the Great Outdoors. There are more lakes, mountains, plains, rivers, coastline, glaciers, bears, wolves, cougars, and other wild life than almost anywhere else in the world. You can hike, ski, skate, canoe, fish, or sail yourself into a frenzy all year round. One caveat. All these activities, with the exception of those associated with sub-zero temperatures, are confined to about 2 months of the year. I’ve recently heard that snowshoeing has become very popular, and if I go back, I plan to look into that. Otherwise for exercise in the winter you only have two choices: take up some form of snow-based and therefore slippery and dangerous winter sport, or go for long walks in the local mall, which is detrimental to the bank account. Again, I jest not. There are well-established mall-walking groups for seniors in most towns.

The third-worst thing about Canada is the Great Outdoors. Out there along with the cute wildlife is another type of critter we don’t like so much. Mosquitos. You wait all year for barbecue time to come round, only to find that the clouds of mozzies drive you indoors unless you surround yourselves with smoke bombs and other forms of chemical warfare. One of the reasons for the popularity of the fire-pit and the associated joint. And don’t imagine I am exaggerating when I say “clouds.” I once had to run for the cover of my car when I tried to walk the dogs near Banff as the mosquitos were so dense I couldn’t breathe without inhaling them. Seriously. There is also the unexpected thrill of finding a bear exploring the garbage bin in your kitchen (happened in Canmore) and the cougar making a meal of your dog on the deck (happened in Banff.)

Joking apart, if I do return to Canada I will be exceedingly glad of the following features, as I approach my senior years:

1. Health care. They don’t have the same problems we do with MRSA, for example, and health care is very good – you pay a relatively small provincial subscription for excellent care and facilities. I had breast cancer while I was there and believe I owe my life to prompt, effective treatment which cost me nothing. Seniors are a cared-for priority and there is no comparison to the UK with the level of services for the elderly.
2. Quality of the environment. Simply put, they care more and have more room and more money to care, and provided you don’t choose a polluted city like Toronto or Vancouver you can expect to breathe easily.
3. Good behavior. People are overwhelmingly quiet and well-behaved. With the exception of the over-crowded areas of Toronto (yep) and Vancouver, you can expect Canadians to treat you with respect and to be generally – well, quieter than the average European. It’s something to do with the size of the country and the amount of personal space.

So, if I decide to end my days in Canada I will take the following precautions and go ahead and enjoy it.

1. Learn to speak with either a Canadian, French or Scottish/Irish accent. (Who doesn’t want to fit in, eh??)
2. Learn to like watching ice-hockey.
3. Install a fire pit, a hot tub and a buy a large quantity of Molson beer and invite the neighbours round.
4. Learn to like watching ice-hockey with the neighbours, drinking beer round the fire-pit or in the hot tub depending on the time of year.

Go Canada, Go!
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Old 18th August 2008, 02:57 PM
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It sounds a lot like it is here in Colorado, except better because it doesn't have the Americans.

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Old 20th August 2008, 02:51 PM
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I have seen that you have posted a lot of replies on this forum, and definitely know your stuff about canada, and its nice to hear that you have emmigrated and are happy. my partner has been offered a job in surrey, vancouver and is in the middle of applying for a work permit through the company at present. We have 2 children 6 and 7, and would appreciate any info you could give us about places to live in the area, I noticed that you answered some body else and said how vancouver was overpriced, can you take a look at my threads and help me out a little if its not too much trouble, as you seem to really know your stuff!! take it as if I know nothing about canadian way of life. I would REALLY appreciate some pointers, thanks deeana.

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Old 20th August 2008, 03:21 PM
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Hi Carin,
Thanks for your nice comments about my posts - much appreciated.

You'll see I have replied a bit about housing on your other post, which you will have seen by now probably. I envy you the chance to go to Surrey with your young children. I think you will love it there. You have the advantage of mild weather and a great location, and the thing is, if your husband already has a job offer most of your troubles are behind you. It is those who are going out cold who will find it very difficult in the Vancouver area. THE JOB IS KEY!!!!!

Do you have a house to sell in the UK? Is there any chance of buying when you get over there?

I want to tell you that you will love Canada for your children. They will enjoy school and get a lot out of it they wouldn't get in England. They will grow up different from what they would be over here (I'm in England part-time these days, I divide my time between several countries). Everything is better. Everything. Don't be scared - Canadians are nice, and if you find a little house in a nice community you will soon make friends with your neighbours. Almost every Canadian I have ever met had a Grandparent who was British and they love to make friends with Brits. Your children will develop Canadian accents and it will be so cute!

I'm excited for you. I do hope it goes well. I will do my best to answer any questions you have, and wait for your next post.
Deeana.

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Originally Posted by carin View Post
I have seen that you have posted a lot of replies on this forum, and definitely know your stuff about canada, and its nice to hear that you have emmigrated and are happy. my partner has been offered a job in surrey, vancouver and is in the middle of applying for a work permit through the company at present. We have 2 children 6 and 7, and would appreciate any info you could give us about places to live in the area, I noticed that you answered some body else and said how vancouver was overpriced, can you take a look at my threads and help me out a little if its not too much trouble, as you seem to really know your stuff!! take it as if I know nothing about canadian way of life. I would REALLY appreciate some pointers, thanks deeana.

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Old 20th August 2008, 04:46 PM
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Hi Deeana
Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. And for your info on the surrey site. We sold our house here in the UK about 6 months ago (with a sigh of relief with the climate at the moment) and are at present renting, as we didnt know what we were going to do next. This meant that we could leave at the drop of a hat, lol. We have a little left from the sale of our house, and would be looking to buy in canada eventually, but not for some time yet.
We thought of emmigrating, as we feel that this country has little future to offer our children!!
My partner has been offered a job by FLYNN constuction in surrey, this was with a phone interview, and we were so excited. He is going to be coming in on a work permit, and we know that we can all go over on his permit, as long as I dont work or study. The worry that I have is, the cost of accomodation in the vancouver/surrey area,over there seems as if it will take the majority of his wages ($25 dollars an hour, with a rise after he has proved himself), and eat into our savings if I cant work.( I have diplomas in life coaching and counselling, and am not even sure if these qualifications will be recognised over there) The company have said that they will help us with accomodation funding $500 for the first 3 months, which is very good of them, but if I can not work, it seems to me as if things will be tight financially after the 3 month period, especially if I am not allowed to work. I am prepared for things to be tight, for the sake of our futures, but is it managable to live off of 1 wage.
I have read that if I want to work, I have to apply this side, as I cannot do it when I am over there, is this right? ( I am hoping that you have an abundance of answers for me, LOL) Also, do you know if we will be entitled to free education for the children on his permit, or will we have to pay?

It sounds from your post, that the estate agents over there are so much more helpful than here. That is a bonus before we even start.
It sounds as though you love canada, despite living in different countries (jet setting sounds so exciting) and that gives me hope. Thanks for all your help.

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Old 12th September 2008, 12:46 AM
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I laughed.
OK I see your points but it is like they are exaggerated to a native Canadian. Simplistic. But I am sure the differences are glaring to a newcomer. You had a very Western experience too. Come to Ontario-life and gas stations abound. Cities across the border. Communties merging into one another. A quick flight or a drive to American cities/tourist's spots.
Prairie living-well heck thats why most of us drive thru them in a day or 2 and not stop except to gas up or sleep. I mean people who immigrate to the middle of the prairies, or the worst parts of TO are going to have their distinct impressions. Same with Alberta. The regional differences are huge!!!! That influences mindsets. But Canada is SO diverse your experience is very different from another's simply starting at where you decide to locate. And that can be various within 15 minutes of a city in Ontario say... Or 45 minutes north. Sounds like the locale didn't suit you at all. For many places in Ontario it is rare to see bears and cougars are basically seen in BC now-unless you hunt. Heck some urbanites think milk is from the store, not from a cow. It boggles my mind. And that was kids from TO area I met in university. 1-2 hours north they make you feel like a hillbilly. And then others from 4 hours north of that, say you are urban- pratically a Torontorian (!!). So. You can't put your one experience of Canada as definitive you see. Quebec itself feels like another planet to alot of Canadians-and many times we are not warmly welcomed. Alberta is more American in thinking then the East.
Activities are limited to 2 months a year? Hardly, although I get the point you are trying to make. We do fit warmer weather activites in a short time. BUT, why is that a surprise? More like a readjustment. People have activites/hobbies, indoor and outdoor all year long. THis depends on the outgoingness of the person and where they decide to locate and amount/range of activites offered.
Niagara on the Lake and Niagara Falls hardly get touched by winter. When I lived there we had a few snowfalls all winter. One day the inch of snow stayed for 2 days!!! Then grass again... so it can be much, much milder. You really did pick a very cold place to settle. Look at latitudes of locations on the map and see the difference between Southern Ontario and the rest of Canada. The southern tip of Ontario and Canada is the same as northern California.
Alot of us don't watch hockey either. You did mention the obvious but not the subtle, or variations-which are vast like our country. You can be as urban, small town, frontier as you want in this country and everything in between. On grid, offgrid.
When I drove from S. Ontario thru the prairies to Vancouver ,I was amazed at this country. Of course communities emerge with distinct pride and character. Most would say Canadian first!!!THIS I know well. But they would feel very regional too. The land/lifestyle shapes you. However depending on the politcial and economical climate some provinces express a backlash towards central government. They feel the size of the country then and sometimes think the West doesn't need the East and such. Or that regional differences are not understood ( too much money goes from the have provinces to the have not provinces....you can see where people can feel passionate). The West has felt pro USA for years but the rest of the country doesn't feel the same way. If you put European countries together to form a country the size as Canada on a map you would see the diversity and scope it would allow. Climate variations along with geographical differences too. This is a young country, but Canada has done well to be so unified and peaceful even if we are very different.
There is no need to suffer the mall walking or snowshoeing to get the good from Canada. Nor the bear incidents and seeing your pet eaten by a cougar. Granted, that is a hell of an experience for anyone, especially a visitor/new immigrant. But if you live in a place where that is likely then you need to understand it may happen. Canada is rather known for cold and wild carnivores-especially in some places. My cousin as a toddler was taken from the backyard in Vancouver 2 minutes before a cougar jumped the fence. My hubby on his one visit to Vancouver came across a bear on a wooded path in a park/scenic area. For me I am not too comfortable with that because I have lived all over Sw Ontario without having to worry-which I like. That has been in rural areas and not the cities. I did see a bear crossing the road outside WaWa in Northern Ontario. That was no surprise. Driving from Kamloops to Vancouver I was much more aware how up against wildlife the area is. Ontario felt long settled in comparison. I could practially imagine the animals just off the road and in the woods behind the houses. Very different feel from S. Ontario. That was along the main and multilane highway!!
Even mosquitoes(and type) are much less in certain locations.
So I think go southern Ontario next time where we nod our heads to our northern and western or more wooded places where cold, less facilties, and wildlife is expected. It is so different in Ontario, you might really like it here. You can get a win/win pretty much. I know people living so far in the northern bushes they man their traplines all winter and are survivalists, and I know many who never leave the Greater Toronto Area except to go ski or go to an artsy touristy town a day trip away. They are as different as this country. But neither would sum up their experience of Canada the same way. We are big and we probably have a place to suit most folks.


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Old 16th September 2008, 08:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CanadianGal View Post
I laughed.
OK I see your points but it is like they are exaggerated to a native Canadian. Simplistic. But I am sure the differences are glaring to a newcomer. You had a very Western experience too. Come to Ontario-life and gas stations abound. Cities across the border. Communties merging into one another. A quick flight or a drive to American cities/tourist's spots.
Prairie living-well heck thats why most of us drive thru them in a day or 2 and not stop except to gas up or sleep. I mean people who immigrate to the middle of the prairies, or the worst parts of TO are going to have their distinct impressions. Same with Alberta. The regional differences are huge!!!! That influences mindsets. But Canada is SO diverse your experience is very different from another's simply starting at where you decide to locate. And that can be various within 15 minutes of a city in Ontario say... Or 45 minutes north. Sounds like the locale didn't suit you at all. For many places in Ontario it is rare to see bears and cougars are basically seen in BC now-unless you hunt. Heck some urbanites think milk is from the store, not from a cow. It boggles my mind. And that was kids from TO area I met in university. 1-2 hours north they make you feel like a hillbilly. And then others from 4 hours north of that, say you are urban- pratically a Torontorian (!!). So. You can't put your one experience of Canada as definitive you see. Quebec itself feels like another planet to alot of Canadians-and many times we are not warmly welcomed. Alberta is more American in thinking then the East.
Activities are limited to 2 months a year? Hardly, although I get the point you are trying to make. We do fit warmer weather activites in a short time. BUT, why is that a surprise? More like a readjustment. People have activites/hobbies, indoor and outdoor all year long. THis depends on the outgoingness of the person and where they decide to locate and amount/range of activites offered.
Niagara on the Lake and Niagara Falls hardly get touched by winter. When I lived there we had a few snowfalls all winter. One day the inch of snow stayed for 2 days!!! Then grass again... so it can be much, much milder. You really did pick a very cold place to settle. Look at latitudes of locations on the map and see the difference between Southern Ontario and the rest of Canada. The southern tip of Ontario and Canada is the same as northern California.
Alot of us don't watch hockey either. You did mention the obvious but not the subtle, or variations-which are vast like our country. You can be as urban, small town, frontier as you want in this country and everything in between. On grid, offgrid.
When I drove from S. Ontario thru the prairies to Vancouver ,I was amazed at this country. Of course communities emerge with distinct pride and character. Most would say Canadian first!!!THIS I know well. But they would feel very regional too. The land/lifestyle shapes you. However depending on the politcial and economical climate some provinces express a backlash towards central government. They feel the size of the country then and sometimes think the West doesn't need the East and such. Or that regional differences are not understood ( too much money goes from the have provinces to the have not provinces....you can see where people can feel passionate). The West has felt pro USA for years but the rest of the country doesn't feel the same way. If you put European countries together to form a country the size as Canada on a map you would see the diversity and scope it would allow. Climate variations along with geographical differences too. This is a young country, but Canada has done well to be so unified and peaceful even if we are very different.
There is no need to suffer the mall walking or snowshoeing to get the good from Canada. Nor the bear incidents and seeing your pet eaten by a cougar. Granted, that is a hell of an experience for anyone, especially a visitor/new immigrant. But if you live in a place where that is likely then you need to understand it may happen. Canada is rather known for cold and wild carnivores-especially in some places. My cousin as a toddler was taken from the backyard in Vancouver 2 minutes before a cougar jumped the fence. My hubby on his one visit to Vancouver came across a bear on a wooded path in a park/scenic area. For me I am not too comfortable with that because I have lived all over Sw Ontario without having to worry-which I like. That has been in rural areas and not the cities. I did see a bear crossing the road outside WaWa in Northern Ontario. That was no surprise. Driving from Kamloops to Vancouver I was much more aware how up against wildlife the area is. Ontario felt long settled in comparison. I could practially imagine the animals just off the road and in the woods behind the houses. Very different feel from S. Ontario. That was along the main and multilane highway!!
Even mosquitoes(and type) are much less in certain locations.
So I think go southern Ontario next time where we nod our heads to our northern and western or more wooded places where cold, less facilties, and wildlife is expected. It is so different in Ontario, you might really like it here. You can get a win/win pretty much. I know people living so far in the northern bushes they man their traplines all winter and are survivalists, and I know many who never leave the Greater Toronto Area except to go ski or go to an artsy touristy town a day trip away. They are as different as this country. But neither would sum up their experience of Canada the same way. We are big and we probably have a place to suit most folks.
MY Faverate person. any info on steinbach manitoba please. your greatful friend. buzz18

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Old 1st October 2008, 05:34 PM
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And they say Canadians don't have a sense of humour!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Quote:
Originally Posted by CanadianGal View Post
I laughed.
OK I see your points but it is like they are exaggerated to a native Canadian. Simplistic. But I am sure the differences are glaring to a newcomer. You had a very Western experience too. Come to Ontario-life and gas stations abound. Cities across the border. Communties merging into one another. A quick flight or a drive to American cities/tourist's spots.
Prairie living-well heck thats why most of us drive thru them in a day or 2 and not stop except to gas up or sleep. I mean people who immigrate to the middle of the prairies, or the worst parts of TO are going to have their distinct impressions. Same with Alberta. The regional differences are huge!!!! That influences mindsets. But Canada is SO diverse your experience is very different from another's simply starting at where you decide to locate. And that can be various within 15 minutes of a city in Ontario say... Or 45 minutes north. Sounds like the locale didn't suit you at all. For many places in Ontario it is rare to see bears and cougars are basically seen in BC now-unless you hunt. Heck some urbanites think milk is from the store, not from a cow. It boggles my mind. And that was kids from TO area I met in university. 1-2 hours north they make you feel like a hillbilly. And then others from 4 hours north of that, say you are urban- pratically a Torontorian (!!). So. You can't put your one experience of Canada as definitive you see. Quebec itself feels like another planet to alot of Canadians-and many times we are not warmly welcomed. Alberta is more American in thinking then the East.
Activities are limited to 2 months a year? Hardly, although I get the point you are trying to make. We do fit warmer weather activites in a short time. BUT, why is that a surprise? More like a readjustment. People have activites/hobbies, indoor and outdoor all year long. THis depends on the outgoingness of the person and where they decide to locate and amount/range of activites offered.
Niagara on the Lake and Niagara Falls hardly get touched by winter. When I lived there we had a few snowfalls all winter. One day the inch of snow stayed for 2 days!!! Then grass again... so it can be much, much milder. You really did pick a very cold place to settle. Look at latitudes of locations on the map and see the difference between Southern Ontario and the rest of Canada. The southern tip of Ontario and Canada is the same as northern California.
Alot of us don't watch hockey either. You did mention the obvious but not the subtle, or variations-which are vast like our country. You can be as urban, small town, frontier as you want in this country and everything in between. On grid, offgrid.
When I drove from S. Ontario thru the prairies to Vancouver ,I was amazed at this country. Of course communities emerge with distinct pride and character. Most would say Canadian first!!!THIS I know well. But they would feel very regional too. The land/lifestyle shapes you. However depending on the politcial and economical climate some provinces express a backlash towards central government. They feel the size of the country then and sometimes think the West doesn't need the East and such. Or that regional differences are not understood ( too much money goes from the have provinces to the have not provinces....you can see where people can feel passionate). The West has felt pro USA for years but the rest of the country doesn't feel the same way. If you put European countries together to form a country the size as Canada on a map you would see the diversity and scope it would allow. Climate variations along with geographical differences too. This is a young country, but Canada has done well to be so unified and peaceful even if we are very different.
There is no need to suffer the mall walking or snowshoeing to get the good from Canada. Nor the bear incidents and seeing your pet eaten by a cougar. Granted, that is a hell of an experience for anyone, especially a visitor/new immigrant. But if you live in a place where that is likely then you need to understand it may happen. Canada is rather known for cold and wild carnivores-especially in some places. My cousin as a toddler was taken from the backyard in Vancouver 2 minutes before a cougar jumped the fence. My hubby on his one visit to Vancouver came across a bear on a wooded path in a park/scenic area. For me I am not too comfortable with that because I have lived all over Sw Ontario without having to worry-which I like. That has been in rural areas and not the cities. I did see a bear crossing the road outside WaWa in Northern Ontario. That was no surprise. Driving from Kamloops to Vancouver I was much more aware how up against wildlife the area is. Ontario felt long settled in comparison. I could practially imagine the animals just off the road and in the woods behind the houses. Very different feel from S. Ontario. That was along the main and multilane highway!!
Even mosquitoes(and type) are much less in certain locations.
So I think go southern Ontario next time where we nod our heads to our northern and western or more wooded places where cold, less facilties, and wildlife is expected. It is so different in Ontario, you might really like it here. You can get a win/win pretty much. I know people living so far in the northern bushes they man their traplines all winter and are survivalists, and I know many who never leave the Greater Toronto Area except to go ski or go to an artsy touristy town a day trip away. They are as different as this country. But neither would sum up their experience of Canada the same way. We are big and we probably have a place to suit most folks.

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Old 25th November 2008, 08:57 AM
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Users Flag! Originally from uk. Users Flag! Expat in canada.
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That was great Deanna. I think you should send that off to the canadian 'Readers Digest', I am sure they would print it. I really saw the sense of humour in it.

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Old 4th January 2009, 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Deeana View Post
This is an article I wrote a while ago about my experiences living in Calgary, Alberta with a young family. It was quite well received in Calgary, and one reviewer said he thought it ought to be used in classrooms in Canada. I don't know about that, but I offer this purely subjective take on life in Canada to anyone who might be interested.

The four best – and worst – things about Canada – from a Nouveau-Canadian.
Ten years ago we were in our fifth year of struggling to integrate into Canadian life. We left after seven years – a job opportunity came up that we couldn’t resist – but I’m now testing the waters again with a tentative toe. This is partly because my Canadianised daughter, who was 12 when we emigrated, is now (almost) engaged to a “real” Canadian she met at Queen’s, and her future seems set to hold a move back in that direction at some point in the future. If my daughter goes then there’s a good chance I’ll follow, as blood is much thicker than water, and for me, being away from family matters more than the country I’m in. I’m very much in two minds though about going back – there are some very attractive, little-known features to Canada that newbies might not know about. The funny thing is that every good thing about Canada is also an equally bad thing.

Let me explain about the four best – and worst – things about Canada.

The first-best thing about Canada is its size and location. It’s huge and mostly empty, so homes are big and cheap and you tend not to have many neighbours (except in Toronto or Vancouver). It’s a long way from everywhere except along the southern border where it is close to the empty bits of America, so it’s actually a very long way from everywhere including the States. Whether this fills you with fear and foreboding or longing and lust depends on whether or not you have actually lived there, where the only landmark for hundreds of miles is a grain elevator. The fear of not finding a gas-station before I ran out of gas kept me in the city for a whole year when we first arrived in Calgary.

The first-worst thing about Canada is also its size and location. It is so far away from everywhere else that no-one living there needs to care about any other country in the world, and vice-versa. And it is so big that B.C. might as well be on another planet for all the chances are of you visiting it if you choose to live in Nova Scotia – or even Alberta. You think I exaggerate? I knew people in Calgary who hadn’t been to Bragg Creek for fifteen years. Nouveau-Calgarians will know what distance I’m talking about and relate. Consequently the major cities of each province tend to be very isolated in their own ways, and people think of themselves as Albertans, Ontarians, Maritimers etc. first and Canadians very much second.

The second-best thing about Canada is the weather. There has been a lot of talk lately about global warming, and by my reckoning, if there’s one place that can benefit from a few extra degrees year-round it has to be Canada. Notice also that because the country is extremely large and despite increased immigration to “the city” (Toronto or Vancouver depending on your orientation) – most of it is still largely unoccupied and property is cheap almost everywhere – (except in Alberta where they have discovered oil again). This means that investing in real estate now, before everyone else gets wise to it, will mean you own a very valuable commodity when the rest of the planet (at least the coastal bits) becomes uninhabitable and everyone has to move to Canada.

The second-worst thing about Canada is the weather. Most Canadians either dream, plan - or if they are lucky actually go - south for several weeks in the winter. (Florida is the location of choice for most). Only then is Canadian weather tolerable. Brits don’t tend to think too deeply about this irrational need for warmth, and for a few years the sheer novelty of temperatures colder (literally) than your deep-freeze for months on end is enough to keep you going. The second Christmas we were there the freezer was too small for our turkey, so I stored it on the deck outdoors for a week. I kid you not. Another time the ignition key froze and snapped off in the door of the car, and by the time the locksmith had arrived all the food in the trunk had frozen solid. Ever seen a frozen banana? Not good. We came out of the swimming pool one evening with damp hair, which proceeded to instantly freeze solid. Did you know that frozen hair will snap off at the roots? Also not good. Despite these little entertaining events eventually a certain, let’s say tedium for want of a better word, sets in and you have GOT to get away. Trust me, it will happen.

The third-best thing about Canada is the Great Outdoors. There are more lakes, mountains, plains, rivers, coastline, glaciers, bears, wolves, cougars, and other wild life than almost anywhere else in the world. You can hike, ski, skate, canoe, fish, or sail yourself into a frenzy all year round. One caveat. All these activities, with the exception of those associated with sub-zero temperatures, are confined to about 2 months of the year. I’ve recently heard that snowshoeing has become very popular, and if I go back, I plan to look into that. Otherwise for exercise in the winter you only have two choices: take up some form of snow-based and therefore slippery and dangerous winter sport, or go for long walks in the local mall, which is detrimental to the bank account. Again, I jest not. There are well-established mall-walking groups for seniors in most towns.

The third-worst thing about Canada is the Great Outdoors. Out there along with the cute wildlife is another type of critter we don’t like so much. Mosquitos. You wait all year for barbecue time to come round, only to find that the clouds of mozzies drive you indoors unless you surround yourselves with smoke bombs and other forms of chemical warfare. One of the reasons for the popularity of the fire-pit and the associated joint. And don’t imagine I am exaggerating when I say “clouds.” I once had to run for the cover of my car when I tried to walk the dogs near Banff as the mosquitos were so dense I couldn’t breathe without inhaling them. Seriously. There is also the unexpected thrill of finding a bear exploring the garbage bin in your kitchen (happened in Canmore) and the cougar making a meal of your dog on the deck (happened in Banff.)

Joking apart, if I do return to Canada I will be exceedingly glad of the following features, as I approach my senior years:

1. Health care. They don’t have the same problems we do with MRSA, for example, and health care is very good – you pay a relatively small provincial subscription for excellent care and facilities. I had breast cancer while I was there and believe I owe my life to prompt, effective treatment which cost me nothing. Seniors are a cared-for priority and there is no comparison to the UK with the level of services for the elderly.
2. Quality of the environment. Simply put, they care more and have more room and more money to care, and provided you don’t choose a polluted city like Toronto or Vancouver you can expect to breathe easily.
3. Good behavior. People are overwhelmingly quiet and well-behaved. With the exception of the over-crowded areas of Toronto (yep) and Vancouver, you can expect Canadians to treat you with respect and to be generally – well, quieter than the average European. It’s something to do with the size of the country and the amount of personal space.

So, if I decide to end my days in Canada I will take the following precautions and go ahead and enjoy it.

1. Learn to speak with either a Canadian, French or Scottish/Irish accent. (Who doesn’t want to fit in, eh??)
2. Learn to like watching ice-hockey.
3. Install a fire pit, a hot tub and a buy a large quantity of Molson beer and invite the neighbours round.
4. Learn to like watching ice-hockey with the neighbours, drinking beer round the fire-pit or in the hot tub depending on the time of year.

Go Canada, Go!
your thought helped to start me thinking about the sorts of things i would like the place i move to to have. will take some time to research each area and then we can search for a job for my husband .

just the thing to get the grey cells going on a sunday morning!!

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