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KelvinK

Landing Story - Toronto, Feb 2019

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KelvinK

I've been a keen reader of this forum from the start of my emigration process (about 2 years ago) and though it's about time that I share my experience, since the others who went through the process helped us quite a lot. I won't write too much about our application, but rather focus on our landing and experience thus far.

Background - emigrated to Canada with my girlfriend early in 2019 (we're both late 20's and our PR applications were approved Nov 2018). We basically booked our one-way plane tickets on the day that our applications were approved. We wanted to get out of South Africa ASAP - no love lost for Africa, as I'm sure you'll notice when reading our story (I honestly hated living in such a backward country, but don't get me started on why we left, hehe...)

We landed in Toronto on the 1'st of Feb, 2019 - in the middle of one of the coldest weeks of the season (something like minus 34 real feel when we landed). When we got off the plane we were directed to emigration and customs. This went quite fast, although I would advise everyone to get off the plane as quickly as possible and do a brisk walk towards to the counters, as the line for emigration gets long quite fast.

The service here was good and efficient, a welcome change compared to what you'll find in SA. Pick up your SIN numbers here and some other useful info on Canada (health cards, PR cards and so froths). My only worry here was that our bags are going to be left alone on the carousels, but we found them neatly packed next to the carousel and nothing stolen – our first glimpse of how a country should work.

We emigrated without any job offers, as I’m sure most of you know how tricky it is to find a job while you’re still in SA (although not impossible). We decided to rent an apartment via AirBnb in Toronto city centre close to a subway station for the first few months – this wasn’t too expensive (for Toronto, haha), as we landed in winter, so the rates were quite low compared to summer.

Any way, from the airport you can take a train (UP express) – this was quite convenient, seeing that we had 6 large bags to carry with us. When we arrived at Union Station, we somehow managed to get all 6 bags off the train and down the elevator to call an Uber. Now as I mentioned, we arrived in an extremely cold week and since we were already stressed from a long flight and carrying all our bags, we were a bit on edge. My girlfriend broke out in tears the moment we stepped outside the station and felt the cold. It was quite overwhelming stepping into a strange new city, without any family, no job, no long-term apartment and the bitter cold biting into our skins.

We finally made it to our Airbnb (close to Osgoode station – very nice location and central to everything). Our first meal was at a Tim Hortons – very nice food for what they are. After this we went shopping for a few supplies and caught up on some much needed sleep.

The first few days were mostly spent exploring the new city – although this was a quite difficult in the cold. I also managed to line up an interview while still in SA, so I prepped for that as well (but I ended up not getting this job, haha). We bought monthly TTC passes ($150 per month, which I think is quite cheap – you can go basically anywhere in Toronto with this). Nice having public transport that works and not having to worry about a car.

We also had to figure our where we would like to rent a long term apartment once we find jobs, so we tried explore each area in Toronto (I know Toronto quite well now – even all the street names and which number bus to take to get somewhere – something that seemed impossible in such a large city at first).

Now I can probably write hundreds of pages about our experience, but here’s a few key points based on our experience (this might be different for someone else);

Finding a job;

·         This was my biggest worry, as I’ve read about people taking ages to find something. Everyone’s situation is different, but I managed to find one within 2 months of our landing. I applied for a position on LinkedIn and was lucky enough to get it.

Finding an apartment;

·         There are lots of apartments in Toronto, but they also go quite fast, so if you see on you like – act fast! You might also have to offer to provide a larger deposit, since you won’t have a good credit score yet (Landlords are not allowed to ask for deposits larger than first and last month rent, so you have to offer them this in your application).

Areas to live (personal preference may differ);

·         If you don’t live here, then you won’t know what I’m talking about (haha), but for me, personally, these are the areas I liked (if you want to stay downtown, the West side is generally nicer);

·         Between Queen and Front Street from Bathurst to Bay. I don’t like the area East of Bay and West of Bathurst is a bit far from the city centre.

·         Lakeside – Queens Quay form Bathurst to lower Sherbourne. We found an apartment in the lower East side on the lake. Quite nice since it’s walking distance to the city centre while not too busy like the rest of the city.

·         If you want to live further out, I would strongly suggest staying close by a line 1 subway stop.

Toronto experience – the bad;

·         I’ll start with the bad : Ontario is not the prettiest province – no mountains or dense forest like BC). This is a bit of a bummer since we really like nature.

·         It’s not the cleanest city. Don’t get me wrong, it’s by no means filthy, but I was a bit disappointed in how dirty some areas were, especially on the East side.

·         There are quite a lot of homeless and crazy people, as well as drug addicts on the street – it’s understandable that you’ll see so many given the size of the population in the city, but it’s still something that’s not nice to see and that they really need to fix.

·         You’ll smell weed more often than not.

·         Rent is crazy expensive – you’ll bay around $2000 for a 1 bedroom in the city.

Toronto experience – the good;

·         Now the good : it honestly is such a cool city to live in – always something to do, good food and great people.

·         We love living on the waterfront (Lake Ontario). We take nice walks along the water and there’s great trails to explore.

·         The city has awesome parks – nice to take a break here from the busy city life.

·         Public transport is on point!

·         Plenty of jobs available (for some fields).

·         It’s really safe – I literally have only seen a police car with sirens on once since we’ve been here (and that was for a traffic stop, haha). Of course there’s crime here too, but you can’t compare it to what SA has – was just reading about another brutal farm murder in Stellies this morning.

·         The level of service is really good, and the people are sincerely friendly.

Overall, it has been a tough experience. The stress of being jobless and worrying about the unknow really made the first month or so in Canada a tough one. It’s really daunting knowing that you’re alone in a strange city. Once I found a job though, this all changed. We could finally enjoy being here and appreciate that we made it to Canada. Come with a positive mindset, but know it’s going to be hard work!

I personally have no desire to ever go back to South Africa. Everything works here, and we have never felt unsafe – even walking back home past midnight. It’s also a welcome relief not seeing that I will be discriminated against because of the colour of my skin when I was looking for a job and not reading about any land redistribution BS 😊

I hope that my experience will help someone, or just makes for an interesting read. If anyone has any questions or needs advice, please do not hesitate to ask!

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PhilipCX

Hi @KelvinK

Great reading your post, especially seeing that we got an ita for OINP just last week. If you don't mind me asking, what line of work are you and your girlfriend in? 

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KelvinK

Hey @PhilipCX

Congrats on the OINP! I'm actually in Banking - Credit risk, but work for a medical insurance company this side as a Business Analyst. My GF is a Meteorologist - quite difficult to find a job in her field, as most of her positions are in the middle of nowhere. So she's working part time as an office assistant at the moment. 

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Jules

Awesome summary. When I read your list of negatives in Toronto I was reminded why I live 80kms outside the city and choose to commute daily to Toronto for my job downtown. 

I like Toronto downtown but I wouldn’t want to live there. I prefer the suburbs where it’s clean, safe and there are green space conservation areas. I have deer, coyotes, wild turkey and lots of trees behind our house. And it’s cheaper than the city! Lots of people work downtown but live far away which is possible with the GO train. 

 

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KelvinK

Hi @Jules

Yes we'll also most probably end up somewhere outside the city in the future. But for now we chose to stay downtown since we don't have a car yet and it's just so convenient - I can walk to work in 15 minutes, or take a 5 min bus ride. It''s also quite cool knowing that the Raptors and Leafs are plying at your doorstep (not that anyone can afford their tickets, haha). But I'm sure we'll get tired of the "hustle and bustle" of the city at some stage - would love to then get a place in the suburbs with lots of greenery around us!

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Jules

What the rich people do is to have a cottage in Muskoka which is about 2-3 hour drive north of the city. They go there on the weekends to unwind and relax. 

My former boss has a beautiful cottage on the lake. It’s stunning up there. Beautiful wilderness scenery. 

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KelvinK

Must be nice...we're actually renting a cottage up there for the Canada day long weekend with a few other friends. Will be the first time we're getting out of the city, so really looking forward to it.

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Nelline

I enjoyed reading this post. Took me back to 2003 when we originally emigrated from SA, to the UK, and how we coped.

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MelanieJoy
On 6/4/2019 at 10:00 AM, KelvinK said:

I've been a keen reader of this forum from the start of my emigration process (about 2 years ago) and though it's about time that I share my experience, since the others who went through the process helped us quite a lot. I won't write too much about our application, but rather focus on our landing and experience thus far.

Background - emigrated to Canada with my girlfriend early in 2019 (we're both late 20's and our PR applications were approved Nov 2018). We basically booked our one-way plane tickets on the day that our applications were approved. We wanted to get out of South Africa ASAP - no love lost for Africa, as I'm sure you'll notice when reading our story (I honestly hated living in such a backward country, but don't get me started on why we left, hehe...)

We landed in Toronto on the 1'st of Feb, 2019 - in the middle of one of the coldest weeks of the season (something like minus 34 real feel when we landed). When we got off the plane we were directed to emigration and customs. This went quite fast, although I would advise everyone to get off the plane as quickly as possible and do a brisk walk towards to the counters, as the line for emigration gets long quite fast.

The service here was good and efficient, a welcome change compared to what you'll find in SA. Pick up your SIN numbers here and some other useful info on Canada (health cards, PR cards and so froths). My only worry here was that our bags are going to be left alone on the carousels, but we found them neatly packed next to the carousel and nothing stolen – our first glimpse of how a country should work.

We emigrated without any job offers, as I’m sure most of you know how tricky it is to find a job while you’re still in SA (although not impossible). We decided to rent an apartment via AirBnb in Toronto city centre close to a subway station for the first few months – this wasn’t too expensive (for Toronto, haha), as we landed in winter, so the rates were quite low compared to summer.

Any way, from the airport you can take a train (UP express) – this was quite convenient, seeing that we had 6 large bags to carry with us. When we arrived at Union Station, we somehow managed to get all 6 bags off the train and down the elevator to call an Uber. Now as I mentioned, we arrived in an extremely cold week and since we were already stressed from a long flight and carrying all our bags, we were a bit on edge. My girlfriend broke out in tears the moment we stepped outside the station and felt the cold. It was quite overwhelming stepping into a strange new city, without any family, no job, no long-term apartment and the bitter cold biting into our skins.

We finally made it to our Airbnb (close to Osgoode station – very nice location and central to everything). Our first meal was at a Tim Hortons – very nice food for what they are. After this we went shopping for a few supplies and caught up on some much needed sleep.

The first few days were mostly spent exploring the new city – although this was a quite difficult in the cold. I also managed to line up an interview while still in SA, so I prepped for that as well (but I ended up not getting this job, haha). We bought monthly TTC passes ($150 per month, which I think is quite cheap – you can go basically anywhere in Toronto with this). Nice having public transport that works and not having to worry about a car.

We also had to figure our where we would like to rent a long term apartment once we find jobs, so we tried explore each area in Toronto (I know Toronto quite well now – even all the street names and which number bus to take to get somewhere – something that seemed impossible in such a large city at first).

Now I can probably write hundreds of pages about our experience, but here’s a few key points based on our experience (this might be different for someone else);

Finding a job;

·         This was my biggest worry, as I’ve read about people taking ages to find something. Everyone’s situation is different, but I managed to find one within 2 months of our landing. I applied for a position on LinkedIn and was lucky enough to get it.

Finding an apartment;

·         There are lots of apartments in Toronto, but they also go quite fast, so if you see on you like – act fast! You might also have to offer to provide a larger deposit, since you won’t have a good credit score yet (Landlords are not allowed to ask for deposits larger than first and last month rent, so you have to offer them this in your application).

Areas to live (personal preference may differ);

·         If you don’t live here, then you won’t know what I’m talking about (haha), but for me, personally, these are the areas I liked (if you want to stay downtown, the West side is generally nicer);

·         Between Queen and Front Street from Bathurst to Bay. I don’t like the area East of Bay and West of Bathurst is a bit far from the city centre.

·         Lakeside – Queens Quay form Bathurst to lower Sherbourne. We found an apartment in the lower East side on the lake. Quite nice since it’s walking distance to the city centre while not too busy like the rest of the city.

·         If you want to live further out, I would strongly suggest staying close by a line 1 subway stop.

Toronto experience – the bad;

·         I’ll start with the bad : Ontario is not the prettiest province – no mountains or dense forest like BC). This is a bit of a bummer since we really like nature.

·         It’s not the cleanest city. Don’t get me wrong, it’s by no means filthy, but I was a bit disappointed in how dirty some areas were, especially on the East side.

·         There are quite a lot of homeless and crazy people, as well as drug addicts on the street – it’s understandable that you’ll see so many given the size of the population in the city, but it’s still something that’s not nice to see and that they really need to fix.

·         You’ll smell weed more often than not.

·         Rent is crazy expensive – you’ll bay around $2000 for a 1 bedroom in the city.

Toronto experience – the good;

·         Now the good : it honestly is such a cool city to live in – always something to do, good food and great people.

·         We love living on the waterfront (Lake Ontario). We take nice walks along the water and there’s great trails to explore.

·         The city has awesome parks – nice to take a break here from the busy city life.

·         Public transport is on point!

·         Plenty of jobs available (for some fields).

·         It’s really safe – I literally have only seen a police car with sirens on once since we’ve been here (and that was for a traffic stop, haha). Of course there’s crime here too, but you can’t compare it to what SA has – was just reading about another brutal farm murder in Stellies this morning.

·         The level of service is really good, and the people are sincerely friendly.

Overall, it has been a tough experience. The stress of being jobless and worrying about the unknow really made the first month or so in Canada a tough one. It’s really daunting knowing that you’re alone in a strange city. Once I found a job though, this all changed. We could finally enjoy being here and appreciate that we made it to Canada. Come with a positive mindset, but know it’s going to be hard work!

I personally have no desire to ever go back to South Africa. Everything works here, and we have never felt unsafe – even walking back home past midnight. It’s also a welcome relief not seeing that I will be discriminated against because of the colour of my skin when I was looking for a job and not reading about any land redistribution BS 😊

I hope that my experience will help someone, or just makes for an interesting read. If anyone has any questions or needs advice, please do not hesitate to ask!

Enjoyed reading this! We landed in Toronto in January 2019 and I felt the same as your girlfriend when I felt the cold outside of union station! It such a mix of emotions.

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Jules

Nothing can ever prepare you for a blast of January cold when coming from a hot summer. January and February is what I call “stupid cold” and something hard to describe. But it does come to an end. 

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