Moving is something I have spent a lifetime doing. I’m fond of telling people that growing up, I did not live in the same house for more than four years, which is true. I bought my first home in Taichung Taiwan. And I only lived there for six years. I’m slowing down but I am on my second home in Waterloo in 16 years.
I recently returned from a trip through Southeast Asia. I don’t know why I thought Cambodia would be the same as Vietnam. Of course they are going to be very different. They both have long histories. When you think about Vietnam and Cambodia it is good to keep in mind that France and Germany share a long border and are very different too. We can’t lump Asian countries as all being the same. That’s just naive.
As a Canadian, I think Canada and the USA are very different, but this one is often more subtle, except maybe when it comes to politics and religion. With politics, it seems we couldn’t be more different. If Trump gets elected, I’m moving to Canada.
What should you know before moving to Canada?
1. Canada is huge. From Toronto it takes you about the same amount of time to fly to Vancouver as it does to fly to London England.
2. It is mostly empty. Most Canadians live within an easy drive to the border with the USA. Our population is only about 33 million, but our land mass is one of the biggest in the world. Here is a graphic comparing Canada to Taiwan. Taiwan has a population of about 24 million and cities with some of the highest populations densities in the world.
3. It is cold in the winter, really cold. For new Canadians, this is interesting at first. I had some clients a couple of years ago from Oman. They thought that their car covered in ice was hilarious. They enjoyed bundling up in puffy coats and furry hats. It’s true, it is kind of fun. I will say it is nice have four unique seasons. I personally just wish winter was shorter.
4. Canada has a lot of natural resources; oil, minerals, forestry. You can drink the water and smog does not clog up our sky.
5. We have two official languages. English Canadians learn French in school and I suppose French kids learn English. If you are going to work for the government, then knowing both languages will likely be required, otherwise you can get by with one.
6. Our cities are very multicultural. The big cities, like Toronto have been this way for two or three generations. The smaller cities like Kitchener Waterloo have only been this way for a shorter time. Immigration is very important for Canada’s economy. Actually, if there is one thing that I really appreciate about Canada is our multiculturalism.
7. Canada is seen as a peaceful country with polite citizens. Maybe with the long winters we are like Norway and Sweden in this regard. We keep to ourselves but are friendly.
What should you know before moving to Kitchener Waterloo?
1. We are two cities with two city halls, two public libraries and two personalities. We are joined together – a faintly dotted line on the map separates us and that line is getting fainter all the time. Most of our amenities and services are at the Regional level – like the Waterloo Region School Board, and the services like garbage collection and snow removal.
2. We have two really good universities and one of the best colleges in Ontario. We used to be an industrial powerhouse, but now we are a known for our technology. Google is here, everyone knows that, but there are a lot of other tech companies here too, some you have heard of, many you haven’t yet: Electronic Arts, Vidyard, kik, Christie Digital, Open Text, Desire to Learn…hundreds of start ups.
3. We have diverse neighbourhoods. If you want to live the urban life with coffeeshops and nightlife we have that in Uptown, midtown and downtown. If you want a suburban life with kids on bicycles and a SUV in the driveway, we have that too.
4. We are only 30 minutes from Ontario. Let me explain that one. The golden horseshoe is essentially Greater Toronto and then around the lake to Hamilton and Niagara Falls. It contains almost 70% of Ontario’s population. That is Ontario. We are just outside of that population band.
5. KW has big city amenities with small town feel. We have most everything Toronto has, but whatever it is, it is just 20 minutes away and you don’t have to fight traffic and pay for parking once you get there. Things are cheaper here too. You want to enrol your kids in gymnastics. Cheaper than Toronto. Grocery store food; cheaper than Toronto. Even car insurance is cheaper here.
6. Go west. Go north. In the summer time, you’ll run into lots of KW residents along Ontario’s west coast. From the Pinery, Bayfield, Goderich to Sauble Beach, (and Wasaga Beach). In the wintertime you’ll find them skiing near Collingwood. All of these places are less than two hours away and a nice drive through the rolling hills of South Western Ontario.