Moving abroad is a huge decision in someone’s life and moving can be a stressful time for a number of reasons. Living in Ireland we learn to consider Dublin as the BIG SHMOKE. To put things into perspective Irelands population is 4.77 Million while Toronto’s population is upwards of 5.5 million. This coupled with Toronto's high-rise buildings creates more of a city feel to Toronto in comparison to Dublin.
It’s been about 3 months since I’ve landed in the city. So far, it’s been an eye-opening experience in every way. These few months have been littered with mistakes so hopefully reading this can at least save you from my stupidity.
On the Move
I’m not going to explain the checklist of what you need to get yourself into the country in the first place, the Canada.ca page does all this for me. I will however stress the importance of not messing it up. Just because I made in through the border doesn't mean your guaranteed entry, I've heard stories of people being denied for not having correct documents such as the correct form of bank statement or insurance start/end dates. Try get it right!
When it comes to the packing this is largely dependent on when you move. I packed light, brought my warm clothes (January arrival) and I plan to invest in new clothes as needed. Hats and scarfs are necessary and if you can afford it buy a jacket when you get here. You’ve never seen this cold before.
We booked a direct flight with Air Lingus from Dublin. (I didn’t fancy doubling the chance of an airline losing my bags on a transfer). Try to plan your flight to arrive at a practical time for your accommodation. For example, we left at 1pm Irish Time, this put us at our AirBnB at roughly 6pm in Toronto. You don’t want to be waiting around to check in or looking for keys of an AirBnB at 3am.
Obviously, things are very different in Canada. Avoiding the obvious things such as weather, skyscrapers and not being able to get a breakfast roll when you're hungover. There are a number of things that weren’t exactly foreseen:
Diversity – Canada (Toronto specifically) is an incredibly diverse place. Surprisingly the majority are Irish. Prepare for the phrase “I’m one quarter Irish” or “My great great grandparents were Irish” more often than you can imagine. Having over 200 ethnic origins in one place does means you won’t ever be short of trying a new type of food.
Friendliness – If you ever need help the Canadians will be there first to offer. Theres's a reason the RepTrak® report put Canada back #1 in the world for reputation. A prime example of this was our second day here, we went to the bank to open an account and left with a step by step guide of places to go and an in depth knowledge of the legalisation of weed in Ontario.
Tipping - We knew this one would be a struggle here’s a few points in the right direction.
- Restaurants – 15-20%
- Bars – 15%
- Fast food – 0%
- Coffee – 0-5%
- Haircuts – No idea (Usually we just give lots)
As a rule of thumb if it’s a service its usually a tip on top of the cost.
Thinking in CAD – The exchange rate can vary so keep an eye on it. Your savings will go missing very quickly if you’re not keeping tabs on what the Euro equivalents are.
Transport – First things first, get a presto card and get the app, it’s pretty much a leap card (it’s also green). Ubers are great but they add up quickly. It cost $3 to use the TTC and you can transfer seamlessly when your using a presto card. Say goodbye to Dublin bus and sitting in traffic.
Time Difference – It an unexpected obstacle. It’s not so bad at the start because you’re not exactly doing anything. However, once you start working, your family is going to bed when you finish work, your friends are in coppers when you’re going to the gym and you’re getting group chat messages about the previous night at 6am. A quick tip here: put your phone silent when you don’t fancy being woken up to read “Anyone fancy a chicken roll?” from the hungover group chats. That vital information can wait.
What to do before you leave for Canada
Groups – Join the various Facebook groups. “Irish and new is Toronto” and “O Canada IEC discussion & Support” are 2 groups that can prove to be very helpful with the small questions or even the questions you haven’t thought of yet. Blog TO on twitter can be very useful for seeing what’s on and where in the city.
Exchange Rates – As I have previously mentioned, CAD-Euro can vary. On top of this the bank charges are always more than expected. I would recommend using TransferWise. This gives you the spot rate exchange on the day with minimal costs included. It will take no more that 2 working days for the money to land in your Canadian account so it is a quick and better valued option in my opinion. Feel free to use my referral code to get reduced fees on your first transfer.
Savings – I can’t stress enough how quickly you will spend your money. There is so many unexpected expenses no matter what you do. Furnishing your new place, not getting paid until the end of your first month, eating out. These are all expenses that I didn’t anticipate being so expensive. The little things add up and make it a struggle to get yourself on solid ground here in Canada. This point leads me well into the next.
Make a budget – You will spend lots of money when you arrive here first but that doesn’t mean a budget can’t get you organised. Make a plan appropriate for your savings. Do out a list of things you want to do, things you have to do and how much of your savings you want to hold on to. Check out the 50:30:20 budget rules for a decent guideline on how to anticipate your spending.
Get the last of your Irish food – Chicken rolls, black pudding and Tayto crisps. The food is great here, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss my old reliable foods from time to time.
To find some must do things before you leave have a look at my Moving to Toronto post.
If you have any questions I'm happy to help in anyway possible.