Life in Canada. An Indian’s Perspective

Living in Canada has been a great experience so far. To give you a taste of what its like, here are some things you’ll want to know, that you can compare with your life back home.

Food 


#1 concern for vegetarian Indians is food. Non-vegetarians are good to go.

  • Pros: You get most of the stock vegetables like potatoes, onions, tomato, cucumber, cauliflower, carrots, radish, beetroot, eggplant, capsicum etc. in most of the retail stores here. (No Frills is a favorite retailer) You can manage with these as your daily diet to a large extent. In fact, you can even find Maggi Noodles here (wink). Basmati rice, pre-packaged Naan can be found everywhere. Sona Masuri, not so much.
  • Cons: You can find Indian veggies like okra (lady’s finger), bottle gourd, bitter gourd, flat beans, snake beans, snake gourd, fresh coconut, paneer; and all the spices, masalas, only in Indian stores. These stores are few and far in between. You’ll have to travel very long distances and shop for an entire week together. This can be a con if you are new here, and don’t yet have a car. But on the brighter side, you can literally get everything here.

Cooking

  • Pros: Unleash your MasterChef dreams with off-the-shelf ingredients here. All the stuff you couldn’t find back home- innovative kitchen utensils and appliances, massive gas-based ovens, dish washers. Kitchen can be a fun place to be for that budding baker in you.
  • Cons: So Indian food is strong on spices, and the aroma from these is notorious for sticking onto your winter clothing, or finding its way to the neighbor’s apartment. This is something that is frowned upon. If you are living in an Indian community, then this shouldn’t be a problem. But elsewhere, it can get embarrassing. Depends on your luck. Take care to ventilate adequately and keep your closet closed during cooking. Another big issue we faced here were the induction stoves – yeah, forget about phulkas. It takes a lot of skill to remaster rotis here. But we have devised an innovative solution for that 😉

Community

  • Pros: There are many Indian communities spread around Toronto GTA. And you’ll also find these in other cities (though I am not sure of the exact localities). Living here is like living in a modern version of India. All the stores, facilities, sights and sounds are very familiar. Most Indians prefer to live in such communities because it solves the shopping problem. This is great for people with families because having friends around can keep your elders engaged.
  • Cons: Living within your community somehow cuts you off from rest of the Canadian population, with little or no interaction with natives. Car insurance is also exorbitantly high thanks to our notorious driving habits 🙂 Indian landlords are usually more strict compared to others. Almost all of them have a no-dogs allowed point on their rental advertisement, and seek good credit reports.

Banking

  • Pros: Almost no queues. Walk into any bank and you can walk out in minutes or talk to your bank representative about that movie you watched last week. Banking is very chilled out here. Staff is super helpful, especially to new immigrants. There is no horror of Indian banking at all here. No spam.
  • Cons: They can be mind-numbingly slow. It took us more than a month to have our debit and credit cards mailed to our address. Back home, it takes five days. Almost everything is chargeable, even maintaining an account. So monitor your finances closely.

Driving

  • Pros: Automatic cars everywhere. Car price to income ratio is much lower as compared to back home. If you plan your finances, you can score a luxury car without breaking your bank. And add to this, you can really enjoy your car here (outside of downtown). Drive long, short, everything is structured. Compliance is very high, and most of the drivers are sensible. You don’t need to employ your 7th sense of expecting a speed racer on a Hero Honda, a stray dog or a whimsical cow.
  • Cons: Getting your license can be hard. Many people have failed many times and given up after acquiring G2 license. Also, if you haven’t gotten an DL extract from back home, you’ll have a waiting period before you can advance to the next driving levels. Also, Indians aren’t used to complying by rules and traffic signs. It can take a while to get used to them, and the drive can be tougher than earlier thought.

Commuting

  • Pros: If you are in Toronto or even Mississauga, the public transit is excellent. You can go from anywhere to anywhere seamlessly with a Presto card. Don’t need to fiddle for change. You have complete GPS support for local transit, and you can time your commute to the minute. The transit here is also disabled and cyclist friendly. You wont have any trouble at all.
  • Cons: Travelling in public transit during winters can be a bit hard, but not impossible. And public commute can take a long time considering the number of modes you may have to change to get to work.

Pet Parenting

  • Pros: Having a pet can be a joy here. It’s easy to train, socialize, and engage your pet in a plethora of ways that are not possible back home. You can walk into a bank with your pet, or commute in bus/train/tram with them or access the tens of dog parks nearby. Many places are super pet-friendly. You have a universe of toys, treats, accessories, etc. to shop for, and excellent veterinarian care when you need it. You can engage your dogs in sports, agility, schutzhund, etc. if you wish. And the best part is that, the people are very comfortable with pets.
  • Cons: Owning a pet here is expensive. Right from dog food and treats to neutering/spaying. You’ll have to set aside some funds for your pet’s veterinary care, which can actually break your bank.

Entertainment

  • Pros: There are so many things to do and places to see here that you can never get bored. Almost every day you have some art or food festival going on somewhere in the city. There are many sights to see, districts to check out, and shopping havens to drown in. If you don’t want any of these, you can still flee the city and take a lovely drive across the country.
  • Cons: These can be expensive at times, so you’ll have to plan accordingly. A family trip to the zoo could end up costing you CAD 120. Look for deals and passes.

Multiculturalism

  • Pros: Almost everything about this is a pro. You just have to be open enough to see it. Living and working with people around the world broadens your outlook. Makes you see the world from a different perspective than earlier. Everyday you’ll learn something new about someone or some community. This is nothing new to Indians, who encounter a different culture every 500 kms in any direction. But we hardly integrate the way you do here. I urge fellow Indians to step out of their comfort zones and unbundle themselves from their communities and explore people and culture from elsewhere.
  • Cons: None. Welcome to a new world order!

Other Points

Listing out some of the other things that I know of, but haven’t had first hand experience of (or) don’t have too much to talk about

  • Free healthcare. But long waiting times.
  • Free primary/secondary education. But expensive higher education.
  • Good child care benefits.
  • Indian parenting methods incompatible for local culture.
  • Housing cost is out of control, and is becoming unaffordable for many middle-class households.
  • Weather is fantastic. I love all seasons here. The country is fully equipped to deal with these variations. Don’t believe naysayers. 😛 Ok, it can be unbearable for people who have never seen winters below 10 degrees.
  • Places of worship are few and spread out.
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