Toronto, Canada

If you’re moving to Canada, here’s what you need to know.

It’s oddly timely that I’m heading back to the UK just as people are up in arms about Brexit and considering leaving for other lands. If you’re considering Canada – here are my thoughts after a lovely 11 years in Canada.

Canadians are nice

Sounds so cliche but the stereotype is true! Canadians are great! I remember when I first came here and every store I walked into in the mall I was greeted with a “Hi! How are you?” – I genuinely thought that somehow the store clerks knew me. Turns out this is just what people say when they greet you over here.

Random greetings aside, all in all, Canadians are a welcoming and diverse bunch, everyone and every culture is welcome here and that goes a long long way.

Dont compare or mistake them as Americans

There’s so much American dominance in the world awareness that Canadians tend to fly below the radar. Since they share a border there’s a tendency to lump them in together. But as you will discover if you move here, they are not the same – AT ALL. Canadians are very proud of their country, their heritage and their differences from their often rather weird border-buddy. If America is the boisterous, over-zealous, bully like brute of a brother, then Canada is the chilled out sibling, watching the shenanigans whilst sipping a cool beer with his feet in the lake, he’ll get involved when the time is right, but not before.

Be prepared for some truly epic weather

I couldn’t really leave without talking about the weather and I’m rather proud that I managed to live through 11 years of Canadian winters. Granted, I only lived in Ontario during my time here and so I didn’t get to sample all that Canada weather has to offer but still, Ontario threw some good ones my way whilst I was here. Being sandwiched between some ocean-sized lakes results in some fairly interesting weather events.

Not only are they interesting, they also have epic names:

Thunder Snow

Yes, you read right, it is possible to get thunder and lightning during a snow storm. As a Brit I associated thunder and lightning with hot balmy summer days, I didn’t expect to wake up in the middle of night in January to the sound of thunder. And oh the joys – that warm front is bringing a shit-ton of snow with it. And did I mention that here the snow falls in November and doesn’t melt until March (if you’re lucky)!?

Ice Quakes

Not truly a weather event but worthy of a mention, I first learned of Ice Quakes a few years ago during a severely cold winter – i.e. it stayed below minus 25 Celsius for what seemed like an eternity. Once again I was awoken in the dead of night by what I genuinely thought was someone sitting on my roof blasting off a shotgun. These sounds continued through the night and into the morning. It was only when I took to social media that morning that I realized that this was a rare but known event that happens when the perma-frost moves underground and sends a shockwave through the earth.

So pretty! Oh wait that’s an inch of ice on everything!

Ice Storms

When you think of Canada, you tend to think of snow, not necessarily ice. I have fond memories as a child of racing my sister to break the ice puddles on the way to the bus stop, and yet now I have a new found skill of walking on ice, and being able to gauge it’s thinness, slippiness, its likliness of killing me and so on. It’s not so much the snow you need to worry about – that stuff can be moved eventually – it’s the ice that comes in spring when the temperature hovers around zero. If it rains, you’re out of luck and the ice coats everything. A few years ago I literally had to chip my way into my car, chipping an inch of ice away before I could even get close to the lock. Ah the joys. Not to mention how dangerous and down right scary it is to try and walk through a neighbourhood lined with trees and hearing the branches laden with ice crashing down around you – you can imagine how devastating an Ice Storm can be to local infrastructure, electricity lines and much more.

Tornados!

Call me ignorant, but I associated tornados with Tornado alley in the USA, I didn’t think they got them here in Canada. But yes, they do, it’s a big landmass capable of generating big weather and I’ve watched several storms march through and seen that eerie green colour in the clouds and gotten ready to head to the basement or take cover.

There are two seasons – winter and roadworks

An inside joke here in Canada – but very true. The crazy temperature swings (from -40 to +40) wreak havoc on the roads. So not only are the roads constantly riddled with pot holes, they also randomly heave at spring time (making driving even more interesting), so come summer time, it’s roadworks central ALL THE TIME.

Autumn is beautiful in Canada

You need a wardrobe for each season

Here in Ontario you get good proper seasons, spring is the only one that doesn’t show up much. As a result you need a full wardrobe for each season. You will also come to believe that the fact that you packed away your winter clothes last week is why it started snowing today. Yes, Canadians gripe about the weather, but damn it – they earned the right to complain!

Cottage country weekend

Enjoy the outdoors

Despite the extreme weather here in Ontario, I have a deep respect for the Canadians; no matter what the weather, they are out enjoying it. The first snow – the kids are out sledding; once it’s cold enough to freeze everyone’s out on the ice, skating at the public skating rinks, or on their own home-made rinks. They BBQ year round. In the summer they are off up to the cottage country every weekend to spend time on the lake or in the forest. These people have a huge country and they enjoy it the max.

So many choices

Ordering anything from Tim Hortons is like speaking another language, as a seasoned Canadian, you’ll have your fully customized order down pat — but as a newby to Canada you will be totally overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choice and customization now available to you to meet your every foody desire. Your challenge, in time, will be actually to find a restaurant that is not a chain restaurant as Canada (like the U.S — sorry) is addicted to Box Stores in all their ugly square forms. Every town worth its salt is soon blighted with the same endless blocks of Walmart’s, Jack Astor’s and Best Buy’s. Sorry — there are some bad sides to Canada too ;-)

In short?

All in all, Canada is a pretty epic place to live. Yes the winter is 6 months long, you have to be ready for that, but if you’re an outdoorsy type and dress appropriately you can enjoy Canada no matter what the weather. The people are tolerant, accepting of all cultures, ethnicities and sexualties — a unique thing (unfortunately) in this day and age. They are welcoming and they love their big, wonderful, vast country and so will you!

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