Monday, January 12, 2015

Everything is different, I am getting used to it - June 2010

Aca passed the test for G1,the total cost was about 130 $ plus some papers we had to get from the embassy and translations.The car must then go to the safety and emission test and if it passes we can register it, you have six days after the purchase to do this.You should inspect the car before you pay for it or take it to the mechanic to see if it has some problems, because if the car cannot pass safety and emission test you can not drive it.The guy who sold us the car wrote a note on a torn piece of paper, saying I sell this car to "other guys name" at this price $ and signed it, we did not have any contract or anything, we registered the car to our name with that piece of paper, got the new plates and drove it.
There are also some taxes to be paid, it is difficult for us to get used to the fact that the tax is added to the price later, in my former country what you see is what you pay, but not here.The bill at the end of shopping can be much higher after the taxes are added, some things like cosmetics and clothes or luxury items have higher taxes while food is usually tax free, but not all of it, I am still trying to figure out how this works.In Ontario we have HST- harmonized tax of 13%, that means that if you think you have item in your cart that cost 100$ you will pay 113$ at the register, if the item is electric appliance or computer you will also pay environmental tax.
We bought a lap top computer, it was advertised at a price of 450$, after the taxes, environmental fee and such were added we ended up paying 560 $, this was a bit unexpected because we thought we were going to pay the advertised price, but this is how Canadian prices work.
Alcohol is sold at Beer store and LCBO it is much more expensive here, cigarettes are sold at a gas station or in special shops, you will not see them advertised or displayed anywhere because it is not allowed, rarely anyone smokes here, again coming from a country where everyone smokes even some kids and you can buy alcohol anywhere you want this was a huge surprise.One pack of cigs will cost from 7$ and up, they are expensive.
I don't use them so I don't really care, I actually like that I can breathe freely everywhere I go, and I totally agree as a mother that minors should not have access to alcohol as they please.
Another big surprise was the price of real estate here, omg the houses cost a lot, in Toronto houses cost millions in smaller towns the average for a single house is 300.000 $ if you are lucky.You can see this on MLS or realtor canada

The food costs pretty much the same as in my former country, which is crazy knowing that average income there is maybe 500, 600$ a month and here about 2000$.There you do not have enough money to cover food, utilities and living, and here if the whole family is on one minimum wage and they have a car it is not enough at the end of the month.The car is like one more child, that is what people say, you pay hundreds of dollars for gas and insurance, you pay maintenance, it takes a lot of money away from the monthly budget.
It is really hard to get somewhere without a car because in large cities like Toronto it can take more than an hour to get to somewhere, one street in Toronto can be 50 km long, I could have never imagined this before I came here.The public transportation is reliable, nice and clean and the kids don't pay up to a certain age, but it is not convenient for grocery shopping, if you plan to use it get a grocery bag that has wheels or a small pull cart.

In Kitchener and Waterloo we have a couple of markets that I really love, my favorite is St Jacobs farmers market.The food is fresh from farms and there is also eggs, meat and dairy products. I grew up getting my stuff from the market and I don't really like superstores and their unknown origin foods,I love Summer when we can go to the market on Saturday.
Shopping here is a bit like cavemen hunting around for food, except we hunt for good price, there is so many stores and they all have different prices for the same product.Sobeys is the most expensive one, Shoppers and Rexall are more expensive when it comes to some products than the other stores, what I mean is we buy Head and shoulders shampoo, in walmart it costs about 4 $, in PC stores about 5.5 to 6 $ at Shoppers it is 6.99 $ and so on, each item has different price in different store, you get store flyers weekly and you can see the prices and discounts there.We usually buy stuff at Fresco which has cheaper prices and Presidents choice stores that have a reasonable priced quality products.
Moving to Canada has been a huge cultural shock and an eye opener to me,I keep comparing my previous place and this every day.
There all houses are made of bricks to last hundred years and for next generation, here it's all made of lumber and plywood, you can hear every step and it all echoes and squeaks under your feet, it is so unpleasant.If someone sneezes on the top floor you can hear it in the basement.We do not have basements like this in our homes, they are not built because of ground water that floods them, but here the basement is actually another room in the house.
There people make their own house by themselves and fix stuff, here you are not allowed to do that because you do not have school for that or paperwork etc. everything needs to be done by a contractor who is licensed to do that work.
Garbage disposal is different, we stuffed everything in one sack and throw it in a bin, here everything is separated and recycled, there is even a compost bin.
The vehicles do not make smoke and pollution like as was used to in my other home, here when you walk by the road you can actually smell the flowers and clean air, not stench and fumes.
There is social assistance and welfare, families with kids get monthly financial support from the government, this is something new to me, but a really welcome change for us having a small baby.
Old people in Canada have a good quality of life, unlike in some other countries, they socialize and travel and they have good health care.
I am surprised that I can barely hear English on the streets, I do hear a lot of other immigrant languages, chineese, spanish, portugese,russian,indian, polish and other.
There is this one thing that I don't like though, people who come from somewhere tend to form ghettos,they cluster in one area of town because friends bring them there or find them rent and they get stuck in their own group and don't bother much to learn English and have better language skills.This does not help them to find a better job at all.They integrate into their own community and stay there.I did not want to go this way, because I am trying to escape from narrow minded people you meet in such ghettos and from the way of thinking filled with hatred and politics a lot of people from my former country still have in Canada, that was the main reason that made us leave the country and run away from wars and crises.
It's like living in that country all over again except here, no way and no thanks!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Health care in Canada, find a doctor in Ontario

This has been my constant grudge over the years, Canadian healthcare is free and it's working better than US, but omg it is slow...
I once got very sick, vomited blood all day, ended up in Emergency after work, got there at 7pm, got admitted at 9pm, spent there whole night hooked to the IV with terrible pain in my abdomen and the doctor finally came to see me 12 hours later at 9am the next morning, just to tell me that I should not eat for 3 days and to go home and come back if I start vomiting blood again.
Since then I really, really try to avoid ER and Hospital any way I can.
On the other side they have separate boot for babies and small kids, so the average wait in ER in Kitchener for my kids was only 2 hours to be seen by a doctor, yes that is being lucky if you wait only for couple of hours...You can feel how badly health care is understaffed anywhere you go.
If you have previous appointment and you are coming during the day, you will rarely wait more than 1.5 hour.

As a newcomer your first option is a Walk in Clinic, you can go there even if you don't have yet Canadian health card and pay for your visit.
All provinces have their websites on how to find health care provider that you need, this is for ontario

Then you will need to find a doctor aka family doctor, this is what you can do
go to ratemd website, see the closest doctors to where you live and call as many as you need to see who is taking new patients, then for each member of your family you need to make first appointment and go there to fill out the forms...Stupid me thought that family doctor will take my whole family right? noooo, I went there only to find out that each and every member needs to make an appointment, then come and wait, then fill the papers and then go home...and sometimes the doctor will take one member, and other doctor will have to take another member and so on...really frustrating if you have small kids or babies.

The other option in Ontario is health connect, fill the online form here

and they will contact you as soon as they find a doctor near to where you are who is taking new patients.

If you just need medical advice, or are not sure what to do you can call for free telehealth

another useful link for Ontario

The other provinces should have similar websites to help you find a doctor you need.

What you should know as a newcomer

-Canadian vaccination for kids is different than some other countries, you and your kids need to take you records of health and vaccination to your new doctor, he should make a copy and return it to you.
You or your kids may need to be vaccinated, it is possible to refuse, however some vaccines are mandatory for school kids.

- Your doctor will see you for the first time in his life, it is VERY important that you tell him honestly your health history and all of your issues and complaints so he or she can help you.

-If you are not sure about something ASK, always ASK if you don't understand or don't know what something is, ASK if you want to know about side effects or consequences of a surgical procedure, ask about the risk involved too, ask if there is a different approach or treatment if you don't like the idea.

-If you need to see a specialist, the usual way is to be referred by your family doctor, but if you feel like you don't have time for that you can call and make the appointment yourself.

-In Canada family doctors take care of pregnant women up to a certain point in pregnancy, however you can ask to be referred to an OBgyn or find one yourself, you can also choose to have a midwife take care of you, I did this with my last pregnancy.
Women can also choose to have a baby at home with their midwife to help with the delivery.

-If a doctor orders a blood test, urine test, ultrasound or X-ray you will have to go to a specialized lab to do that, and sometimes these test have to be paid by you if they are not covered by provincial health insurance.

-Health care is free, but medications are not, if you do not have insurance that covers these expenses try to work with your doctor to find the best option for you, or just find additional insurance that covers dental work and medicines.
As long as my husband was working we have been covered for medical expenses with his company insurance, one day I got prescribed a special face cream (after I had surgery) that cost 100$ a tube, there is no way we could have ever pay for this without the

- Dentist is not covered by provincial health card, you have to pay them yourself and they will cost a lot, before you do any work ask for a fixed estimate and be sure you have dental plan or insurance to avoid bills that can ad up to thousands of dollars.
They can be very unprofessional when it comes to money, I once walked in with estimated 300$ cost for 2 tooth and when he finished my bill came to 640$ for 3 teeth! I had to pay, even though I didn't agree to that before he started to drill my teeth.

All in all I am happy that if I go to the hospital I won't have to sell all I have to pay for the bill, and that my kids will have a really good care, but I honestly try to avoid doctors and hospitals any way I can, we do not smoke,we eat healthy, we take vitamins,we walk a lot and take care of our health.

Renting in Canada - June 2010

Depending on the area or the size of the town, the average rent in Ontario goes from 500 $ for the room to 1200 for one or two bedroom apartment or more for the house.
Basement apartments are usually small and not very warm, ideal for a single worker, they tend to be noisy too because the floor is made of wood and footsteps echo in the night.
One bedroom includes kitchen, living room, bathroom plus one room for sleeping, rent is from 650 to 1200, in large towns like Toronto or closer to city center it can be more than that.
Two bedroom apartment has two rooms plus living room, kitchen, bathroom- rent is from 750 to 1500 $, but these are just some prices in Ontario, there are cheaper or more expensive places too.
Usually the lease is signed for 1 year, the landlord can ask you to pay the whole year if you decide to move out before the end of one year lease, but you can ask them to let you move out if you find someone to take over the lease or you can sublet it.

It is a custom in Canada to pay first month and a last month rent in advance after signing the lease, be prepared to pay this amount when renting your first place.
As a newcomer you will be asked if you can provide someone to sign for you as a warrant in case you cannot pay the rent, usually a friend that lives here or a relative.

If you need to move and you have signed a lease, you have to let your landlord know 60 days before with a written notice or whatever period is in the contract, please read all carefully before you sign, and then afterwards read it again!

If you have any issues with management go to tenant rights board here
or one with tenant rights for your province to find out more.

What you can lease/rent

Basement apartment or room,

you will negotiate conditions with the house owner.
If you plan to rent a place for just a couple of months this is a better option because you can make a deal and don't have to sign a full year lease.

Apartment in a building

Buildings are run by a management, they will want you to sign a one year lease, if you for whatever reason decide that you need to move after 6 months they can demand that you pay for the full year, or they will give you the option to sublet the apartment.
If you are taking over a sublet this means that you are not the primary signer of the lease, someone else is,and that you will be sharing the place or renting from him, not from the management, if you decide to sublet a place it would be wise to create a sublet contract and sign it with a person who is taking over the room or apartment, otherwise you will be responsible for damage they make and have to pay for it to the management.

A house

You can rent a house from the owner or from the management corp., this will cost more than an apartment, you will need to pay the utility bills, but you are not responsible for repairs and maintenance unless the damage is your fault or the contract doesn't specify that, always read the contract carefully and thoroughly.

You can find a sublet- a room, an apartment or a part of the house can be sublet.

Types of property in Canada

freehold- usually this would be a house that is owned by the owner, where he is a sole owner and pays bills and taxes etc.

condo- in most cases apartments are condos, or condominium that means that the owner is required to pay a condo fee monthly for maintenance to the condo corporation who is the owner of the building where you are the owner of the apartment unit or the land on which you buy your house. Condo can also be a house or a townhouse.Condominiums exist in most parts of Canada though more common in larger cities. They are regulated under provincial or territorial legislation and specific legal details vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In most parts of Canada, they are referred to as Condominiums, except in British Columbia where they are referred to as a strata and in Quebec where they are referred to as syndicates of co-ownership.

Co-op real estate- A housing cooperative, or co-op, is a legal entity, usually a corporation, which owns real estate, consisting of one or more residential buildings; it is one type of housing tenure. Housing cooperatives are a distinctive form of home ownership that have many characteristics that differ from other residential arrangements such as single family ownership, condominiums and renting.
The corporation is membership-based, with membership granted by way of a share purchase in the cooperative. Each shareholder in the legal entity is granted the right to occupy one housing unit. A primary advantage of the housing cooperative is the pooling of the members’ resources so that their buying power is leveraged, thus lowering the cost per member in all the services and products associated with home ownership.

Types of housing


Row house or townhouse

this is a house in a row of other units that look like houses, attached to each other. In each you share a wall on either side with the people who live beside you. Often, especially in cities, there may also be a smaller unit above each townhouse, so there could also be someone living above you or below you. Townhouses (sometimes called row houses) are usually 2 or 3 levels tall (each level is called a ‘storey’).

Detached House

This is a house that stands on its own. It is often referred to as a ‘detached’ home and tends to be the most expensive type of home to purchase due to the land costs. You own both the house and the land it is on. When your house needs repair or maintenance, you must pay for it yourself. House owners must also pay the monthly bills for water and heat, as well as their other bills (like telephone and cable television). Owners are free to make changes to their house, inside and out, but they must obey local bylaws and apply for renovation and building permits when necessary. Single houses appeal to a wide array of people, including families with children and generally provide more space and privacy than other unit types.


This is a home joined to another on one side. Owners are only responsible for the care and maintenance of their own side, just like a detached house. Owners of semi-detached homes own their side of the property, including the land it is on, and are responsible for its care and maintenance, according to local bylaws.Semi-detached houses are usually less expensive than fully detached houses, although, like all real estate, this depends on the area.


A duplex/triplex is a building that is divided into multiple units, each household has its separate entrance and is responsible for the care of its own unit. Typically, you would buy the entire property and rent a unit to help offset your mortgage payments. Types of homes that are ‘duplexed’ or divided into two or more separate living units may be detached homes, semi-detached or even row houses.

useful links