When L3 WESCAM’s recruiting team did a series of hiring events in the UK last year, they asked Janet to join them on the trip. Her role was to share her experience of moving from Yorkshire to WESCAM’s hometown of Burlington, Canada with her husband David who joined the company in 2017.Janet’s table at the recruitment fairs, nicknamed the “Canada Booth,” was a big hit. She had a crowd around her from open till close and was kept busy talking to potential candidates and their partners about what life is like in Canada. Here are some of her answers to common questions about cost of living, schools, employment for spouses/partners – and the best places to find foods that taste like home.
What are the schools like in Ontario?
Canadian schools are structured differently than back in England. So while my son was already in high school back in England, he came into year 7 of elementary school. On his first day, his classmates were very warm and kind, and everyone made a point of welcoming him.
Schools aren’t really like that in the UK in my experience. He’s been very happy, and he likes his friends. He comes home so cheerful every day. In fact, he recently told me moving here was the best decision we’ve ever made.
How does the cost of living compare to the UK?
Some things are more expensive, others are less. Rents and house prices are higher than what I was used to in Yorkshire. Burlington is about 45-minutes away from Toronto, so if you think of it in terms of the prices you’d find in areas that are a similar distance outside of London , it’s comparable.
Food is generally more expensive here. You can expect to spend more each week. However, if you look around at different shops, you can save money that way. Mobile phones are astonishingly expensive – expect to pay a lot more than you would in the UK for a similar service. But there are some options that can keep the cost reasonable.
What is the employment market like for partners and spouses?
There are jobs out there, but it may take a little time to land something, depending on the type of job you are looking for. As a new arrival, you may face challenges like out-of-country qualifications, no Canadian work experience, and initially, the lack of permanent residency status.
Employers may shy away from hiring people who aren’t permanent residents, fearing that they won’t be here long-term. Becoming a can take a while, depending on your age, skills and other factors that gain you “points” towards getting fast-tracked. Information and help is available, however, you just have to ask.
The employment landscape also depends on what you do. If you work in retail, for example, you probably won’t have a lot of trouble finding work. For people in other professions, it can be more challenging.
For a couple used to two incomes, having a period with only one person working can be a financial issue. Factor a few months of lost income into your budget.
How do you cope with missing home?
I won’t lie, it’s hard being away from my family and friends. This is our second time in Canada (we lived in Edmonton a number of years ago), and I feel it takes about 12-18 months to really feel settled.
It helps to get out and build a network . You can connect with other UK expats – there are more of us arriving all the time. Join a group based on your interests (I’m part of the local machine knitting club), connect with families from your child’s school, go to local events, or use community pages on Facebook.
Take advantage of technology to keep in touch with loved ones back home. We Whatsapp with family several times a week, which is great. We celebrated Christmas over WhatsApp, and watched each other open presents. It was lovely – with technology, people are never too far away.
Was it easy to get settled?
Doing things like getting your driver’s license, opening bank accounts and getting social insurance numbers aren’t hard to do.
There are British specialty shops for a taste of home, and some grocers even carry familiar items.
Is it easy to find British foods?
Yes – you just have to know where to look. There are a couple of British specialty stores nearby, and I can get Jacob’s Cream Crackers at Sobey’s, and the Real Canadian Superstore stocks Bistro Gravy Granules. Keep in mind that some things here look the same as in the UK but taste completely different. Heinz Baked Beans, for example is offered as UK Heinz Baked Beans – just look for the can with the pull ring. And if you like HP Brown Sauce, buy it in the glass bottle – the plastic bottle is the Canadian version.
What’s one piece of advice you would give people who are thinking about moving to Canada?
Make your decision with the understanding that relocating will have its challenges. You’ll miss familiar faces and places. Doing things that came easily at home will be harder, at least at first.
But if you come into it knowing it will take a little time to settle in, and you embrace the outdoor life style, the skiing close by and the thousands of lakes, you’ll enjoy living here. We certainly do.
Next up: The last in our 4 part series – 7 things to love about living in Burlington, Ontario.