Help me move home to Canada (except is it home???)
February 26, 2018 9:42 AM   Subscribe

I have been living in the US since shortly after graduating from college (I'm a dual citizen). I never meant to stay here this long! Now I have a family and I want to move us home, but I don't even know what that means really. I am in the very early stages of thinking things through.

I have lots of big questions about this.

- My job is currently remote (live in Ohio, work in the SF Bay Area). I work for an arts foundation and have skills that might transfer to the museum world, but am not in development or curatorial. I think my supervisors would not take kindly to me leaving the country, although it's possible I could negotiate a soft exit (6 mos to a year to wrap up current projects). Can this even happen, how do people work across the US/Canada border? The more I know about this, the better I can sell it to them.

- My spouse is a US citizen. They would be eligible to work within a fairly short period, as far as I have been advised. They are an advanced degree holder and have been on the fucking job market approximately 1 million years and we are both exhausted by the prospect of much more of this. If I propose this move (well, I have raised it as a possibility, but if we are to follow through) I will be the one who will be working the most until they qualify and then I have no idea how viable they will be on the job market - English speaker, academic, I envision no re-training burden, so I know we are in a relatively privileged position here, but we will need to do lots of managing expectations, I think. Anyone with experience in this kind of move?

- I have not worked much in Canada as an adult (moved in my early 20s). What do I do about my small retirement savings in the US? How do I make sure I maximize Canadian contributions when I move back?

- The Toronto area seems like the best job market for us, honestly, but I have never lived there (from Winnipeg, have lived in Montreal, Halifax, and rural New Brunswick). What can I do to begin a job search there? I would be looking for arts jobs and my heart sinks just thinking about it.

- A lot of my drive to do this is because of my small child. I want better for her than things currently seem to be in this country. Holy shit I can't bear the idea of active shooter training in her eventual school. So that's what's at stake. I have a year or two to plan and execute a move, and while I can envision staying if some conditions change for us (a job offer for my partner would be the big one) I really want to explore the idea of moving back.

- Winnipeg would be a great place for us (grandparents! familiarity! my remaining high school friends i.e. a budding support network!) but I think the labor pool would be a lot tighter. Anyone want to change my mind on that? Any other places I should be considering? Montreal would be tough since my partner speaks English and Spanish; my French is solid but I haven't used it regularly in years and it's probably much less comprehensive than it used to be.

- There are of course many other considerations but I feel like on some level we can just decide to do it and follow through. I am asking for encouragement and also realistic advice. Help me obi wan Metafilter?
posted by Lawn Beaver to Work & Money (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Moving somewhere where you don't know anyone, like Toronto, or know few people would be hard. It can be hard to make new friends when you are working and have young children. I would think through a major move, to make SURE you can get jobs before going and that your emotional needs will still be met despite the challenges of the move.
posted by Kalmya at 10:16 AM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think my supervisors would not take kindly to me leaving the country, although it's possible I could negotiate a soft exit (6 mos to a year to wrap up current projects). Can this even happen, how do people work across the US/Canada border? The more I know about this, the better I can sell it to them.

How sure are you that your supervisors would object?

I worked at a place with remote folks from all over the US and Canada, but not other countries. I think many places are open to Canadian remote employees in a way they might not be open to employees in, say, Europe. You'll still be in a similar time zone, and travel expenses will be similar as far as getting you to the home office or to US-based grantee sites.

At that previous employer, Canadian staff were independent contractors. I think this was done to simplify tax collection requirements and maybe also healthcare (and I'm sure to evade stricter Canadian labor laws). Day-to-day they were indistinguishable from employees and I doubt most US-based staff even realized they were classified differently.
posted by enn at 10:34 AM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

If you ever want to own a house, then Toronto might not be the city for you, and Winnipeg would be a much better choice.
posted by Johnny Assay at 11:35 AM on February 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

Work In Culture has a job board for jobs in the arts across Canada.

Toronto is a wonderful city, but I feel that I need to warn you that most arts organizations here pay very little unless you are at the executive level, and housing costs (both renting and buying) are high and rising.
posted by phlox at 11:42 AM on February 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

About 6 or 7 couples I'm friends with have done this in the past 5 years. They are all very happy they did. Go. Don't even think about it, it's the right move. Canada is much more stable and if you have kids the cost of education makes up for a couple years of reduced earnings. One of my friends was diagnosed with a chronic disease and went back to Canada and had no problem getting a job and has no worries about health care or anything like that. They have one year maternity leave. They have long vacations and predictable cost of health care for life. Overall, the consensus is that there are less opportunities there but it is much more stable. Living is less of a rat race and more of a make the most of what you have kind of thing.

House prices are bananas though, something very real to consider, no one I know could afford to move to Vancouver or Toronto from the US. They all chose smaller towns and had at least one job lined up and were sensible about where they went. People don't switch jobs as often, I don't think any of them has switched since they went back. One couple opened small businesses they couldn't have in the US due to health concerns and they are making a stable if small living in a small town on the ocean on the east coast and are very happy there.
posted by fshgrl at 11:53 AM on February 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

I love Winnipeg and if there was work for me there I'd consider it in a heartbeat. Winters are hard there but if you're from there you know what to expect.

Regarding Toronto, yeah owning a house will likely be an impossibility but you could conceivably live in one of the cities around Toronto. This is changing quickly but you could afford to buy something in the Golden Horseshoe.
posted by Ashwagandha at 12:13 PM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

I can't speak to the moving but as a Torontonian a lot of my friends who were raised in Toronto have moved to neighbouring cities (mostly to Hamilton) to escape the high housing costs, and costs are going up in these cities as well as a result (if you want to buy a house). I live in London ON and prices have gone way up in the last two years but are still manageable.

I'm not clear on why your heart sinks when you think about arts jobs in Toronto, is it that you don't want to live there or that you don't think you'll be able to find work?

Can you use the services of a recruiter? Are you on Linkedin? I get emailed jobs in given areas even though I'm not looking because I have a complete profile, that can give you a sense for the market perhaps?

If you want to move back to Winnipeg you should try tapping all of your connections about potential jobs, word of mouth jobs are still more common than listed ones. Are you and your spouse both willing to take entry-level jobs to make ends meet while you get settled?

Toronto is where I grew up, it's changed since then - the cost of rent is high and there's a tight market for good affordable rentals, and the transit system or driving commutes can be long and frustrating. That said if you love Toronto you love it, but you can't compare your life there to life in a smaller city or a more affordable one.
posted by lafemma at 12:17 PM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm not originally from Winnipeg, but I live there now and I really like it. The cost of living is low-ish so you can have a lower paying job, but still be comfortable. I like this site for arts job in Winnipeg - it may give you an idea of what is out there.
posted by toby_ann at 12:23 PM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

I think raising a kid in Canada is much easier than in the US in a million different ways*. I think you should go for it. Plan to live in a condo in Toronto instead of in a house (unless you're willing to live in the suburbs, but do you really want to live in the suburbs?). Plan on being at least in the $700K range for a two-bedroom condo.

I'm not so sure your employer's going to care if you move to Canada, but if you are, can you just not tell them?

* I have lived in both places. I've only had a child in Canada. However, I've put my money where my mouth is here because I have actively declined to explore opportunities in the U.S. precisely because I can't imagine trying to raise a kid there.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:49 PM on February 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

Toronto: 700k+ for a 2-bed condo is right on. The already pressured market for detached housing is getting even worse (with tougher rules for new mortgages; lots of people think this is going to push condo prices up even further). Rentals are scarce and expensive (or else not where you might want to live. A room in a shared apartment averages $800/month [this may be in a basement]).

The city has not kept up infrastructure planning to keep pace with intensification (wherever you look, a new condo tower's going up), making getting around difficult for pretty much everyone. People are used to minimum 45 minute commutes (within town, and 1-1.5 hours each way if living in the suburbs, which a lot of people have to do. NB housing isn't much cheaper just outside of Toronto, the crunch/bubble has affected cities within 2 hours of TO.)

You would likely need a combined income of 100k to afford to buy any kind of property in Toronto (which is doable for those working in tech, finance, real estate, or healthcare, or those with reliable, salaried jobs in middle management in other sectors. NB almost all of the new jobs reported last year were temp/contract/part-time, mostly in retail, hospitality, service]... with legalization of cannabis, there might be more opportunity somewhere in there.) It's much more difficult for others who don't have access to other money from somewhere.

Anecdata, friends working in academia have had to move to get decent commitments. A couple have turned themselves into consultants (one's an "ethnographer" [market research person], not sure if that's helpful). Friends in arts, media, and the non-profit world are hustling to keep multiple gigs going or transitioning to tech or development/fundraising.

I don't think it's a great place to start over with a family, unless someone's in (or moving towards) one of the booming industries mentioned. Edmonton seems like a much less abnormal town, and it's great if you have roots there.
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:46 PM on February 26, 2018

Is your spouse looking to work in academia? Be aware that the number of tenure track positions in Canada is way way way smaller than the number available in the US. I (Canadian) am moving the opposite direction from what you're considering, because my (American) partner didn't even have TT jobs to apply to in Canada, but was hired in one in the US. So unless your partner is either a) not looking to be tenure track, or b) willing to give up on that... They may have seriously constrained career prospects in Canada vs the US. (YMMV depending on their field, I'm sure, but I think it applies at least to some extent across the board...)
posted by snorkmaiden at 4:01 PM on February 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

I am self-employed and recently relocated to Europe (dual citizen, so I could) to be closer to my grandkids. When I told my primary client that I was relocating, I expected the client to fire me. Instead, the client was eager to find out if I was willing to continue my regular gig. My situation is different than yours, but want to reiterate what was said above by another poster. It's hard for me to believe that a SF Bay Area company is happy to have you work for them from Ohio but Canada is just too far. It might mean you would need to become an independent contractor or some such but it may be possible to work things out with your current employer. I am a total American, I am so American, and yet I can't imagine raising children int he US right now. And if there's any way you can move closer to your family and remaining friend, you should go for it. Support networks matter, and you've been away from home for a long time. It may help spread the emotional burden too, because your partner may need a lot of hand-holding initially and you've got young children so support is a Good Thing. Best of luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 4:07 PM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Since I posted this question, I have had a direct conversation with my immediate supervisor/closest colleague, who said that she didn't see why I couldn't keep working for the foundation from Canada. My mother has offered us their house in Winnipeg for as long as we might need it - even said they could move out for a year or so (this is a bit extra, mom!)
We are going to take this year to dig in and plan. Thank you everyone for your thoughts! There are still some big questions but Operation Canada is, I think, underway.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 6:35 AM on March 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

« Older What are your favourite subtle emotions?   |   Portland, ME Advice/University of Southern Maine Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.