19 April 2017

J Hammack - Expat in Toronto, Canada

J Hammack - Expat in Toronto, Canada

We’ve had the chance to talk to J Hammack, an American expat who has moved to Canada with his wife. Mr. J Hammack has been living there for more than five years. 

Read more about his experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: The United States.


Q: What made you move out of the US?

A: My wife is from Canada and we decided to make our lives together here.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: Toronto.


Q: How long have you been living in Canada?

A: Over five years.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I live with my wife.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I miss the United States and the friends and family that I left there, though I had many years to prepare for the move to Canada. I cope with homesickness through trips back home a couple times a year and remaining in touch with friends through phone calls, Skype, email and social media.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: Torontonians as a whole are a lovely group of people. Diverse, educated, interesting and welcoming.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Canada? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: I make friends organically. I do not seek out expat groups from my home country. I have a built-in social circle through long term relationships with friends my wife and I share, and I have made new friends in the neighbourhood.


Q: How does the cost of living in Canada compare to your home?

A: Toronto is Canada’s most expensive city, but it is comparable in most cases to the costs where I come from.

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: $1.59 CAD (Tim Hortons) $2.95 CAD (Starbucks).

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: $11 CAD/ per person.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: $50+ CAD / per person.

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: Wine can be purchased for starting at $15/ bottle.  Cigarettes cost about $10.50 + tax per package.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Canada?

A: Start with a no-fee account from President’s Choice Financial until you need additional services.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: There is nothing unexpected or cumbersome about documentation requirements for Canadian driver’s licenses, heath cards, visas, or permits. If you are organized about your record keeping, you won’t have much of an issue. Remember that key documents like birth certificates, passports, and diplomas should be kept at hand and tax records and travel records should be kept up to date.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Canada is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: Canadian healthcare is some of the best in the world. Once you are a permanent resident and eligible for provincial health insurance, you’ll want to find a family doctor as soon as possible as they are your gateway to all care. In the interim, there are walk-in clinics in every city.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in USA or Canada? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: Supplemental health insurance helps cover the cost of prescription drugs and optional care not covered by provincial plans. A good basic plan is very affordable and most employers offer this to full-time employees.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Canada? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: I arrived in Canada with two suitcases and have gradually moved other wanted items during trips back home. I did not use a mover, as I did not move an entire household.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: There are built-in barriers to employment in Canada for professionals and breaking into the network of employers is not easy. Many want “Canadian experience” in your field – which you can’t get if no one will hire you without it. It’s a catch 22.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Canada?

A: Canada is a very large, small country. With only 34 million people, it still has a very intimate feel and government plays a necessary, but not overbearing role in day to day life. It is a multicultural nation that welcomes immigrants. Toronto is the most diverse city in the world and proof that people of all backgrounds can live and thrive together.

On the negative side, barriers to employment as noted above are an issue for newcomers, housing costs can be extreme, and famously, if you don’t like cold winters and sometimes lots of snow, Canada, in general, is probably not the place for you.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: Toronto has too many cultural and recreational opportunities to mention. Miles of walking and bike trails, major league sporting events, concerts and performances in dozens of theatres every night of the week, thousands of restaurants, wonderful ethnic communities and festivals.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: No.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Become a Canadian citizen.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Canada?

A: http://expatriatemind.blogspot.ca