What's in Windsor for me?
February 2, 2005 3:00 PM   Subscribe

Windsor, Ontario is calling. Dare I answer? [+]

Okay, I've an interview next week in Detroit's Canadian suburb. :-)

I don't know anything about Windsor except that Ritchie Hawtin, aka. Plastikman, is from there, and that there's serious auto industry in the area.

So I've jumped online and did a bit of research. Found the chamber of commerce stuff, and it's pretty standard. So is the tourism information. But since nothing beats ask.Mefi for quality answers, I thought I'd ask.

I'm wondering about general quality of life; cost of living in comparisson to, say Toronto, Calgary, or better yet Edmonton; things to do, places to see, that sort of stuff; weird stories?

So fellow MeFites, if you've lived in and around Windsor or even in the Detroit metro-area, please share your thoughts about the area. It would be much appreciated.

note: the job opportunity seems golden. I mean, exactly what I've been looking for since I escaped from college. High level technical architecture, sysmte analysis, and R&D stuff. If the company is any good, I'll probably end up going anyways (pending job offer, and that yadda yadda yadda).
posted by C.Batt to Travel & Transportation around Windsor, ON (21 answers total)
Response by poster: Perhaps they'll let even pay me to go get help with my dyslexia!


posted by C.Batt at 3:02 PM on February 2, 2005

I used to drive through Windsor a couple of times a year. It's not a bad place. It's a touch dull, but you are close to a few natural areas and some cute towns. I would imagine that it's quite cheap to live there. (It is certainly much, much cheaper than Toronto, which is the second most expensive place to live in the country.). Southern Ontario is not scenic, but it's pleasant.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 4:02 PM on February 2, 2005

Windsor is like a mirror-world Detroit (which makes sense -- stuff you can't get in Detroit you go to Windsor for, and vice versa).

Detroit has cracked, axel-snapping roads. Windsor has really amazingly well-maintained roads. Detroit has a lot of crime. Windsor has none. Windsor has lots of casinos and nightclubs to take advantage of the lower canadian drinking age.

Keep in mind that Detroit-Windsor is the most highly trafficed national border crossing anywhere in the world. And Detroit, despite its decrepitude, does have a fair amount of stuff to do. You'll be living closer to the center of Detroit than most people who work there.
posted by Tlogmer at 4:50 PM on February 2, 2005

In my experience (10 years living in the Detroit metro area), the river seems to block the soul-destroying rays of hatred and despair that emanate from Detroit itself. Windsor is like an oasis.
posted by kindall at 5:07 PM on February 2, 2005

I think kindall and gesamtkunstwerk pretty much called it. I don't think there are any drawbacks to living in Windsor that aren't obvious (the "dull" factor, which I view as "quaint"). For excitement, Detroit is really close, and Toronto, Hamilton and Niagara Falls are relatively short drives. (I used to do Detroit to Buffalo in 4.5 hours, and once did it in 3.5 in a Dodge 600!)
posted by Doohickie at 7:36 PM on February 2, 2005

I've never lived in Windsor, but I have a lot of relatives there so I've spent a fair amount of time visiting.

Night life on Friday and Saturday is interesting (to say the least) when all the kids from Detroit head across the border to take advantage of the lower drinking age. The casino is a lot like other casinos. During the week, once the workday is over, the downtown area becomes a near ghost town until some time later when the auto workers frequent their local dives (this is excluding Friday and Saturday night).

Some decent bookstores, a few nice coffee houses (if you're into that sort of thing). As others have mentioned, geographically, it's close to Detroit (if you're into that sort of thing) and Toronto, Hamilton, Niagara Falls etc. are all under 5 hours away by car.

I'd take the job.
posted by purephase at 8:03 PM on February 2, 2005

Windsor also has one of those particularly Canadian good-natured yet sleazy underbellys: gay strip bars, available hard drugs, even a (totally horrifying) gay bathhouse.

I love it there, though it does feel like a *very* small town. And winter is long. And of course, you can get all the nasty city you need in the hell that is Detroit. (And great techno and electronica. And great gospel choirs. And lots of amazing fun weirdness and a truly special Salvation Army thrift store.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 9:35 PM on February 2, 2005

I'd like to latch on a hypothetical ancillary question...

Say I wanted to work for a company in Detroit, but didn't want to live the ass crack of America.

As an American citizen, would it be possible to live in Windsor and commute to Detroit?
posted by PissOnYourParade at 9:54 PM on February 2, 2005

Response by poster: Heh, PissOnYourParade. I've been thinking of something similar too. My wife is American, and I can probably obtain a Green Card without much hassle if I wanted to work in America.

Windsor seems like a pretty sweet place to take advantage of the situation, for her especially, and for me if things go sour. (Again, pending getting the job, and all that...)

As far as I know, there's a train that goes from Windsor to Detroit, and on paper it looks like an auto commute would be fairly short (<4 5 minutes depending traffic and border crossing delays). it doesn't look impossible, that's for sure.br>
Thanks for the feedback so far folks. It's much appreciated.
posted by C.Batt at 10:17 PM on February 2, 2005

Windsor has a huge bar scene for younger folks, gay clubs, a smaller scene for older folks, coffee houses, a number of good restaurants, and lots of strip clubs. Far more than a city it's size should have because of the huge American population next door. Lots of cigar stores. Windsor has a casino and Detroit three. I second “And great techno and electronica. And great gospel choirs”. Also, a huge Goth underground in Detroit if you are into that.

Living is cheaper than Toronto. Winters are milder than Toronto and summers much hotter. Because air comes up the Mississippi through the Ohio valley and then hits the great lakes and stops it is warmer and stickier than you would expect. Pollution can be bad on hot days.

All summer long there are festivals and concerts of all types every weekend on the waterfront. Each summer Detroit and Windsor host the largest fireworks display in the world.

No trains run between Detroit and Windsor but a bridge and a tunnel connect them. Several thousand people commute in each direction each day. Many times it is a 3-minute drive but at peak commuter times it can be 35 due mostly to tie-ups in downtown Detroit. A bus runs across for a little less then $3. In the evenings a bus runs between Windsor downtown and Detroit’s Mexican town for a few dollars.

If you want to cross the border GET A PASSPORT. You need a birth certificate, and photo government id but a passport can make the difference between 2 minutes at the border and 15. You cannot cross if you have a criminal record or have ever been arrested. Some folks will tell you otherwise but it’s just not true. If you have a record get a pardon. If you have an arrest but no record have it expunged. Don’t ever lie at the border.

The job situation is very good in Windsor and everyone I know there found work as soon as they moved there.

If you get bored Toronto is a short train ride away (about $70 CND). Just right for a weekend. Flights from Detroit metro to Chicago are 40 minutes and round trip is usually under $100 USD.

It is also home Canadian Club Whiskey and to the Walkerville brewery. Great beer.

If you want more info such as where to live etc. contact me at the email in my profile. I don’t know how old you are but I am 43 and I have a 24-year-old son living in Windsor, so between us we may be able to help you out.
posted by arse_hat at 11:18 PM on February 2, 2005

On the subject of green cards, in your situation the processing time is about 14 months. During that time if you are in the US you can’t leave and if you are in Canada you can’t enter the US (you can but it’s not really a good idea. It can put your application back to the starting point.) As a Canadian or US citizen you may be entitled to work in the other country under a NAFTA I-94 TN visa. If you are in IT or healthcare it is very possible.
posted by arse_hat at 11:29 PM on February 2, 2005

As an American citizen, would it be possible to live in Windsor and commute to Detroit?

Not easily, as near as I can tell. You'd need to establish permanent residence in Canada (ie, their equiv. of a green card), which no country just gives away.

Green card: even when it's relatively not a hassle, it's still a hassle. None of it is really arduous, but it takes a looooong time and there are lots of irritants along the way. The most common way for a Canadian married to an American to get one is:

(1) American files I-130 and accompanying paperwork for a green card/IR1 visa for you; where to file depends on where your wife's theoretica residence in the US is, if any. The pure wait for this might be in excess of 3 years, so:
(2) When you get the receipt for the I-130 (or maybe the first Notice of Action), you then file an I-129F form to get a K-3 visa. This is the same form for fiancees, so it can get confusing, but it's just a mechanism that BCIS uses to expedite the process; it's quicker to get an I-129/K3 than to get an I-130/IR1.
(3) After some more paperwork and a medical exam, you go to either the Vancouver or Montreal consulates for an interview and get your K-3 visa.
(4) Move to Merka. If at ANY POINT before this you need to go to the US, you can, BUT: bring --LOTS-- of proof that you're going back to Canada at the end of the trip, and there's still a chance you'll be turned back at the border.
(5) File I-485 for adjustment of status; this is what will finally get you a green card. While this is in process, you can't leave the US --UNLESS-- you apply and pay for what's called "advance parole." In theory. We got the AP paperwork, and in 3 or 4 crossing at Port Huron, they never once asked for it and just waved us through. Murphy's law in reverse, I guess.
(6) Get fingerprinted for I-485
(7) Go for green-card interview
(8) Get green card! If you've been married 2 years or more, you get a full-on 10 year green card. If you've been married less than that, you only get a 2-year "conditional" green card and have to re-convince BCIS that you married for love at the end.
(9) Three years after you get your green card, you can take citizenship if you want to (5 if your spouse dies, you split up, etc). Both countries tolerate dual citizenship pretty well so there's no pressing real reason not to.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:34 AM on February 3, 2005

Well, I take a bit of an exception to your description of Detroit, POYP. Even granting that there are unpleasant parts of the city there are also many, many rather nice (normal, expensive, even super-wealthy) parts of the city in the surrounding metro area. The metro area like most American cities is HUGE! My wife is the only person I know who works in downtown Detroit and that's because she works at a 100-year-old pottery. No one works downtown except GM headquarters workers (and there are probably a lot of those) and some professional office workers (lawyers and such). The bulk of the city's employment is scattered around the metro areas... To me, Detroit's shame is not the impoverished areas alone, but that those areas can exist twenty miles from the wealthiest incorporated city in America (Bloomfield Hills).
posted by Slothrop at 5:20 AM on February 3, 2005

Not one single person has mentioned the Tunnel BBQ, located as one might expect within sight of the tunnel exit in Windsor. Absolutely top-notch BBQ, and a Black Forest cake that remains my Best. Childhood. Dessert. Ever. On preview: What Slothrop said - as a lifelong Midwesterner, and native Michigander, "asscrack" is a woeful underestimation.
posted by deliriouscool at 7:25 AM on February 3, 2005

Detroit, the city by the river, is indeed in a sad state. Detroit, the region, is an entirely different animal -- continuous development reaching nearly to Flint, Ann Arbor and Toledo, and most of it extremely underrated. Many so-called "Detroiters" rarely visit the core city -- they don't have to, because there's great places to live, shop and visit all over the region. So, most of us go down there for occassional entertainment, and otherwise just ignore the place as much as possible.

Personally, I've been into Detroit city limits six times in the last five years: two trips to Windsor, three hockey games, one musical. Don't gamble, so no other reason I'd go down there.

But to answer the actual question... folks I know who have lived in Windsor found it quite pleasant, not to mention cheap (not as much these days, exchange rate has been equalizing). However, the biggest gripe they had was NEEDING to go through Detroit to get to anything nice in the suburbs, as opposed to going around it on the interstates like everyone else does. They ended up needing a lot more time to get places than most "Detroiters" do.
posted by Pufferish at 10:37 AM on February 3, 2005

Response by poster: Shite. You guys rock. Especially for the extra information about the Green Card. Might be easier to just do the NAFTA visa thing as I'm in IT.

Personally, I've never had a problem with the Detroit metro area, though my wife (who was born and raised in Michigan) isn't too keen on it; loves Ann Arbor though. I've never been to Detroit proper, and I'm not too keen on it; except maybe to take pictures of all the "bombed-out" old buildings.

I'm really looking forward to this. I'm getting tired of Edmonton and it's time for a change. This might be it, it might not, but I do appreciate the feedback on the region.


PS. One last thing if anyone is still reading this: I know that there's a huge Techno/Electronica scene (birthplace of the sound and all that) and a Goth scene (thnx for the info arse_hat). I'm guessing that this all bleeds together somewhat and that there're decent Industrial/EBM/Electro sounds to be found. True or False?
posted by C.Batt at 11:10 AM on February 3, 2005

A quick note on commute times, keep in mind that it can take over an hour on a normal business day to just cross the bridge now. If there is high truck traffic, in can make time stand still (bridge and tunnel)...
As far as music, there are a lot of places to see live music, large concert halls, small venues, large bars, small bars, etc. but as far as I know (and I don't know much about Techno), we usually just have the huge blowout festival every year, I don't know of a specific venue that is Techno all the time. I may be wrong though.
posted by blackkar at 11:23 AM on February 3, 2005

Might be easier to just do the NAFTA visa thing as I'm in IT

Actually, now that I think of it, I don't think you'd be eligible for a TN visa because your wife is American.

The TN is a nonimmigrant visa, but they're probably going to assume you have immigrant intent if you're married to an American and living with an American in America, so they'd probably want you to get a green card.

It's a long and fussy process, but none of the steps are difficult, really. The hardest part of the process would likely be having to take a trip to Vancouver for your K3 interview. Green card is a better deal anyway. You can work for whoever you damn well please without needing anyone's sayso, and you can come and go as you please, and it's more-or-less permanent (it'll expire eventually if you move back to Canada). And it leads to citizenship, which, while perhaps more than a little bit embarrassing in these delightful times, is actually harmless and has a few benefits.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:46 PM on February 3, 2005

Actually a friend had a TN while married to an American. Was not a problem. Nice thing about a TN is that it takes less than half an hour. When you have the job you can then apply for the green card from within the US. The only tough part is the inability to leave the US during the process.
posted by arse_hat at 12:50 PM on February 3, 2005

I'm a native Detroiter, and loved Windsor until the casino opened. It has just ruined downtown. I enjoy the new sculpture garden, though, and still go over for various gardens, busker's festival, Fort Maldon (bit south of town) and fresh produce (comes in a couple weeks earlier than on our side of the border).

Industrial and Goth run into each other a bit at City Club in Detroit. I don't hang there anymore, but it didn't used to have any electronica, and the folks there hated electronica.

Detroit proper has more gems than most folks realize. I love showing people the place (guess I'd better stick my e-mail in my profile).

Did my library observation at the main branch of the Windsor Public Library. Wonderful library, great staff, horrible budget cuts. I highly recommend spending a bit of time there. The staff will know where to find anything you want in the area.

Great ethnic food on both sides of the border. Take the Diamond Jack boat tour from the dock near the Ren Cen to get a nice overview of both sides of the Detroit River. Avoid the downriver Diamond Jack tour - boring.
posted by QIbHom at 12:57 PM on February 3, 2005

Actually a friend had a TN while married to an American. Was not a problem.

It's chancy though. If it's not a problem, that's usually only because the immigration officers don't ask every random person who shows up "By the way, you're not married to an American, are you?" If they happen to ask for some reason (ie, if you're both on the same flight / in the same car), you might find yourself denied the visa, or, worse, find that when you get to the US they won't let you in even with it because they think you intend to immigrate. This will then leave you having to answer "Yes" to later questions of "Have you ever been denied entry into the US?" and might otherwise cause problems.

I am not an immigration lawyer nor have I played one on tv, but unless there's time pressure I'd advise against trying to enter on a TN if your actual intent is to live with your wife for an indefinite period in the US. BCIS is capricious and quick to anger once they notice something to be pissed about, and fucking with them is un-smart.

The only tough part is the inability to leave the US during the process.

You can leave, you just have to get your AP first. Costs about $100, takes 2 or 3 months usually but that depends on your local office's speed. Utterly not a big deal.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:43 PM on February 3, 2005

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