11/21/2008

Blame Canada

In a period of my life otherwise blighted by less than fantastic days, there has been some good news. After 21 months, we have been given the green light by Canada (yes, all of Canada have approved this) to submit our documents in order to gain residency.

For the uninitiated, Canada has a points-based immigration system. The first step is ascertaining on your own if you have enough points to potentially gain entry. If you do, there is a three page application form to complete, but no other documentation to submit at that time. We were told that that process would take about four years to complete. Our initial impression was that it was horribly long to wait, so now that this letter came through last week in half the time it has thrown us into organisational disarray.

Four years was daunting, but it at least would give us the opportunity to save some money (at least while the pound is still worth something). Our documents - financial, criminal clearance, proof of education and professional experience, etc - are due early in February. It's possible that if we are approved we could be moving in less than a year and I am bloody terrified.

This is the part where it gets a bit embarrassing. I've not spent any more than 3 days in Canada. I once crossed the border from Maine into New Brunswick when I was 12 courtesy of a family road trip. We stayed in a ratty motel in America's Hat, I swam in a frigid pool, and recall an abundance of Twin Peaks-style pine trees. About 7 years ago The Dude and I drove from Philly to Toronto and spent two nights in the city. We loved the drive up there, and enjoyed our time in Toronto considerably. Thus endeth my Canadian Experience.

One may wonder why we want to move 4000 miles away, again, to a country in which we've spent a collection of fleeting moments. Perhaps one has already been driven comatose by this appallingly boring post, in which case, it's doubtless you give a shit whether I choose to live in England, the US, Canada, or Lesotho. Regardless, I shall given you my reasons.

The Dude is British, I am American. It is far too expensive for us to have the lives we want in the UK. We both are educated, have good jobs, and work very hard. The Dude had the good fortune to be left a flat by his nan when she died, so we are even higher up on the property ladder than a lot of people in their early 30s (The Dude is actually in the twilight years of his 30s). Despite this, we will still never be able to afford anything more than a tiny, three bedroom terraced house with a patch of grass masquerading as a garden. Yes, yes, someone will surely point out that in certain areas you can afford more. I lived in a shady part of this city when we first moved here, and I won't compromise that again. A series of broken windows, 8 year olds telling adults to "fuck off", and a dead pigeon thrown on the doormat of my interior door in my block of flats was enough to ruin it for me. Go figure.

In Canada, we can afford a lovely big house with plenty of land for P to explore. I want her to have a childhood like mine - building tree houses, wading in creeks, and collecting bugs. That sort of life cannot be lived by us here. It can be in the States, but even with the promise of a new government it's still too much of a clusterfuck for us to make that gamble. I can't imagine going from nationalised healthcare here, to paying absurd amounts for shoddy coverage in the States.

I think a lot of people will judge us for jumping in blindly, but I'm confident it will all work out. I've spent nearly 7 years living in a different culture, and I'd be lying if I were to pretend that I'm not looking forward to returning to certain aspects of North American living.

Since I am ever-so-slightly clueless, I want to know your opinions on Canada. Our preference is Ontario, as it is close enough to my family without being too close, and since we liked our brief drive through it, it seems the logical place to land. We want to be near a city, Toronto, Ottawa, whatever. We're not keen on extreme rural living, but conversely suburban subdivision hell makes me want to gauge out my eyes with slivers of a rusted tin can. That is to say, I'm not a fan of such places.

Lest you think I'm a complete ignorant asshole, I know all about Canadian real estate thanks to my many years of internet research. My Canadian geography isn't too bad either as a result. Also, yes, I understand that knowing about Canadian houses isn't usually enough to build a life around. I feel I should mention that before some wisenheimer boldly points it out in the comment section.

So Canada...what's it all aboot, eh?

37 comments:

hairyfarmerfamily said...

Gosh. Gor Blimey. Canada, huh?

I spent a couple of months in Canada in 1998, and travelled from Montreal across to Vancouver, up to Whitehorse, and back again. All by Greyhound - all 11,000+ miles of it. Numb bum & cankles! I saw a fat lot of scenery - although I was so broke I usually travelled overnight on the bus to save hostel fees - but didn't stay in any place long enough to form any impressions that might be useful. Great trip though. The Calgary Stampede was fabulous, and the Rocky Mountains are simply beyond awesome. Snowy peaks glinting rose in the morning sun. Beautiful. And I was only telling someone this evening about the bear that sniffed my shopping bag.
As I said, my high-speed tourism's not much use to you. But my pal lives just outside Toronto and is married to a local lass now: I can get him to clue you in if you like?

How bizarre that I feel you're plotting to go away and leave me...! I've never met you (YET!) but the fact that you are within travelling distance is somehow oddly comforting!

Please Press Pause said...

I think it's an awesome idea! I moved to NYC to start my own life having never visited there with $1000 in my pocket and stayed for four amazing years before I moved somewhere else I'd never been. Yes there were ups and downs, but every new place pushes me to meet more people, see more places, explore, live. It is completely worth it. I wish you the best of luck, and can't wait to read more about it!

elizasmom said...

Toronto is a GREAT city. I've been a couple times because we used to live an easy drive away. Once when my mom and I went we ended up in some bar with a bunch of Irish rugby players (I think) who taught us the Unicorn song, heretofore unknown to us. Possibly the Guinness made the Unicorn Song seem more awesome than it really is. Anyway, drunken Irish sportsmen aside, I really like the city. It's very cosmopolitan, a true melting pot place, with some gorgeous museums, an active downtown, nice food, etc. The vibe was sort of a cross between Boston and New York. I liked it better than Montreal, although it was nice, too. I just don't speak very good French and even though it's bilingual I still felt like I was missing half of what was going on.

I have poked around in your archives some but haven't found the post where you explain how you ended up in the UK — can you point me in the direction?

Lotta said...

Now I love you even more. Because I have a crush on all Canadians for their awesome humor. And there's a slight chance I might meet you some day if you live closer to the States!

Rita said...

I live in the Toronto area. Toronto is the 416 area code and suburbia is the 905 area code. I am in the 905. The 905 consists of Peel region, York region and Durham region. Toronto is very ethnically diverse. There are tons of great places to eat. Housing in Toronto is more expensive than in the 905 (usually). The 905 is mostly suburban with pockets of South Asian, Asian, and Caribbean communities. I am more familiar with the east end the city and it's surrounding regions.
Sometimes I like to drive north past Uxbridge to see the open spaces and the trees.

Eva said...

My MIL & FIL live in Ottawa and my BIL lives in Toronto. I fear in both places there's the risk of "suburban hell" though I've not been too far away from central areas to know for sure. But they are both great cities. Toronto to me is like a cleaner NYC. Big huge tall buildings, major reliance on public transportation, lots of hustle and bustle (I can't believe I just wrote H&B). Very fun city and very diverse, with all kinds of different neighborhoods with different flavors (and cuisines). Ottawa feels much smaller to me -- more like a Boston or Philadelphia maybe? It's got the international thing going with it being the capital and all, but the downtown area feels a lot smaller and there are buses but my sense is public transportation is used less.

If you have any specific questions, ask me and if I don't know, I'll ask my husband.

Oh, my husband also likes Kingston -- I've never been but my sense is it's much smaller and more college town-ish.

Emily said...

OMG This is the best news I have heard all week!

We are in Canadia-land (as we like to call it) - we're on the West Coast - about 35km outside of Vancouver. We would have loved to live in Vancouver but it is crazy ass expensive. We live in a great "family" community, schools are laid out so kids can walk to school, we have a house 3 times bigger than our place in the UK and we see friends at least every weekend. There are cons. There's not much culture and we've both struggled finding work in our industries. But after a really tough year we can see the light at the other end of the tunnel and are really enjoying it. And we have another Brit/Canadian couple down the road! Sorry - got really carried away with my excitement. What are you guys looking for? xoxo

Quietgirl said...

I totally agree- and we plan on moving at some point with Canada being a big target. Part of wanting my degree is to increase our odds...Yet we only spent like a day in Montreal. But I have a lovely window into their white trash after my addiction to "Trailer Park Boys".
Yeah totally agree. I don't think you're being hasty at all- I think it's really smart.
Good Luck!! :)

May said...

I grew up in Seattle, so all I know about is British Columbia and Alberta. Love both, though. Fabulous mountains. Let me know when you want me to meet you in Banff for some snowboarding!!

DD said...

Isn't it "weisenheimer"?

Brigindo said...

I've visited Toronto and would agree that it feels like a small NYC. I also interviewed for a job in Kingston and really liked it there. Didn't get (or particularly liked) the job but would have moved to Kingston in a heartbeat.

Sam said...

Canada huh? (it gets scarily cold in the winter you know!?) I spent a couple of weeks in Vancouver about ten years ago and and just loved it.

It sounds like a great idea for me - if I wasn't such a nervous nelly I think that I'd consider it myself!

Bittermama said...

I don't know enough about Canada to be useful to you, but I can reassure you that you are not at all crazy for hatching such a plan. I've thought some about a move to the west coast of Canada, especially in late 2000 and again in late 2004, but my husband wouldn't be able to tolerate the climate. The mid-atlantic US is about as far north as he's willng to venture ever again. All that said, I'm feeling downright giddy to be living where I am right now. Being close to the capitol (working just a block or two away) means I'm just all abuzz with Obama excitement.

Echloe said...

I would totally choose Canado too. The US healthcare system is a disaster. Good luck with all the paperwork. ICLW

Anita said...

I grew up in the Ottawa Valley, spent 7 years in Edmonton (miss the Rockies), 4 years in Kingston and now we're back in the Ottawa area. We are pretty rural but that is what Sgt and I wanted. It's hard to raise sheep and chickens in the city, you know with all the rooster gangs and such it's not safe for the hens.

My friend lives in Toronto and my brother is in a suburb of Toronto. I love visiting both places but I'm always glad to be home.

There are some great communities in the Ottawa area that you can find amazing homes, good schools and neighbours that will lend you a hand if needed. Feel free to email me with any questions, I'll let you know exactly where I am (I think you already know from the holiday card exchange) and I'll find you some great towns in the Ottawa area if you'd like.

I'll knit you, The Dude and P a touque with moose and beavers on them so when you go for your interview you can wear them.

kate said...

Ah, Canada, eh? Well, I know nothing of Canada, but moving is always exciting at the least. I have fantasies of moving to Germany at some point, but I know I would miss "home" very much. Though I recently came to the conclusion that home was specifically Texas and that if I'm more than a few hours' drive from there, then it really doesn't matter where I am. It's like there's this radius around Austin, and everywhere outside that radius might as well be all the same place, you know?

Best of luck with your move. It sounds very exciting.

nh said...

Exciting - Canada, wow! I've only ever spent an hour in Canada so have no real advice - but enjoy!

ICLW

Molly said...

Canada sounds lovely, but COLD. And I grew up in Minnesota. I'm spoiled already.

Also? ROAD TRIP!!

Thalia said...

Ah well, this explains at least some of the UK antipathy. I'm sorry you haven't found the right community, or the right place to live here. I hope canada will provide that for your family, although I, like HFF, will miss you being in the same country! We'll buy you some thermal underwear as a leaving present...

Betty M said...

I have been to Canada once - to Vancouver and Salt Spring Island. There should be a warning sign at Immigration - halt, you will want to fill out the forms to emigrate permanently all ye who enter here.

It was fab--u-lous. I don't even care that it rains all the time - what more could you want a city with decent coffee, fantastic food, mountains, beach, sailing and the friendliest people I have ever come across.

Jealous that's me. I spent my childhood moving round the world but have been in mammoth city ever since. I fantasise sometimes about moving again but feel bad about the people we would leave behind.

Faith said...

As someone who's lived in the same state her whole life, I am inspired by your sense of adventure! I haven't spent a lot of time in Canada, but have always had very pleasant experiences with "the locals." Best of luck with all of the paperwork, ugh. Here from ICLW.

Nicole said...

Am born, raised and currently live in the Vancouver area (the town I live in is Maple Ridge).

So when I say that Vancouver is better than Toronto, please accept my bias :) My friend who is originally from Toronto, thinks Toronto is better.

(But she's wrong, dammit :)).

Vancouver is expensive, yes (but just wait until after the olympics - property values will probably plummet). If you can stand living outside of Vancouver proper (in the 'burbs, many of which aren't burbish any more) housing is cheaper.

Pamplemousse said...

3 words....Tim Hortons coffee!!!

orodemniades said...

How on earth did you manage such a short waiting time? Mr Oro's brother has been waiting something along the lines of 4-5 years just to get his documents go ahead...weird. And he already has family in BC, so...hunh.

Also, I vote for Montreal, which is only a few hours (like, less than ) from me. Toronto/Ottowa are like, 7-9.

Just sayin'.

Ginny said...

Stopping by from ICLW

Rebecca said...

I can't help you with knowledge about Canada since I've only been there a few times but I can definitely relate to being an American married to a Brit and living over in England for awhile. I lived outside of London (Woking) for 4 years with my husband before we decided to move back to the states. We also knew that our standard of living would be much better over here and we would never be able to afford much over there. Good luck with your move!

DrSpouse said...

We liked Vancouver, I think the politics would suit you, and the weather isn't *that* bad compared to the rest of Canada; but it depends what you want.

If you want the great outdoors, BC will give it to you.

If you want a decent-sized house but to be near a big city and culcha, what about the North of England? Yes, it depends where you live - but in my city we still have grammar schools, we have a 4-bedroom Victorian house (with a tiny yard, but you can get an interwar semi with a huge garden for similar prices) and it cost FAR less than my 3-bedroom flat in a well dodgy area of East London. You'll be able to work out how much I earn, roughly, as you work in a university, and Mr S was earning about the same when he was working.

Elana Kahn said...

Canada is a wonderful place--I've spent many summers there and love it! Here from ICLW.

Eva said...

It's so big and mostly empty and it varies so much but much of it is gorgeous. Dark and cold, etc. But there's a reason people talk about moving there!

Mermaid said...

Can't offer any thoughts on Canada, as I've only been there once. Congrats and good luck with the forthcoming paperwork!

WiseGuy said...

Good Luck with gaining residency. We have full rights to lead our life, the way we want it to! Go for it!

tonya said...

Wish I had a clue to offer about Canada. But, I can say I'm thrilled by your news! What a wonderful turn of events, and fun to think about something so new and vastly different than life usually throws out there, eh?

Kristi said...

I've spent a lot of time in Ontario. Like you, I love Toronto, and I'm guessing there are some pretty cool suburbs around the city. Stay away from Niagara Falls, but I probably didn't need to tell you that.

If you move to Ontario, you'll live only a few hours from me!

megan said...

what about London, Ontario? university town, cheaper real estate...supposedly lovely. i'm currently living in Vancovuer and thinking of relocating to London so we can afford a bigger house, live in a smaller community, etc. i've always thought that university towns are the way to go -- smaller but cultured enough not to be back woods.

Kirsten the canuck said...

Just found your blog...Felt compelled to comment as I am a happy canuck!
I am a westerner, though, so I can't say moving to Onterrible is a great idea ;) Seriously though, the fruit belt area around Welland and Niagra is very beautiful.
I live in Clagary, Alberta, and love it here. Lots of things to do with Banff and the mountains close by. I work with a couple who are from the UK (Scots) and they are in the process to become citizens. They love it here.

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hw said...

Toronto is evil. You choose urban concrete (unless you have close to 1M to live in a neighbourhood where you can have some grass) or suburban hell where you get to commute 1-2 hours a day.

Ottawa is now home. I love it here. We have a house, with a lawn (well, not really since it's all garden), place for the kids to play, we're by the river where there's running and biking paths. It takes me 5-10 minutes to drive downtown (15-20 if the traffic is bad). I can be in the Gatineau hills in 20 minutes for hiking, canoeing, skiing, etc. If you live in the core of Ottawa it's really great. There's town transit (particularly great if they weren't currently on strike). You can permanently be a tourist in your own city with a rich offering of museums, festivals, music and the like. Really, I do love to LIVE in Ottawa as a parent.