Can someone give me some last minute advice about Canada?
July 16, 2021 7:00 AM   Subscribe

So, I'm almost in Canada. I'm leaving on August 8th, I'm headed to Kingston, ON. This has been a long time in the making, probably been planning this move since 2018. I got into grad school in CS last year and well, here I am.

At any rate, I don't supposes there's any last minute advice anyone would like to give me?

I am going for a master's degree in CS, with a research component and heavily focused on AI and software. Doing this at Queen's. It is also my intention to make my move permanent.

Anything I should know? About Kingston? Perhaps also about Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal? What about other places like BC and Alberta?

Any other thing in general?

I'm leaving soon, and while I am pretty sure I've accounted for everything, I'm sure there's stuff I don't know about.
posted by Tarsonis10 to Society & Culture (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Make sure to enjoy your grad school experience! You'll be working for a long time afterwards. And almost-welcome to Canada! Ontario's a happier place right this second than it's been in a while.

And finally, poutine is a sometimes food.
posted by wellred at 7:10 AM on July 16, 2021 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Welcome to Canada! Here are some recommendations of things to do (mostly a list of things to eat) in Kingston when you have free time:

- get brunch or baked goods at Pan Chancho (lemon currant roll, olive rosemary sourdough, asian noodle salad - all excellent choices)
- check out the Tett Centre and sit on the Juniper Cafe patio looking at Lake Ontario and the wind turbines
- take the ferry to Wolfe Island and bike around. There's also a corn maze in the fall.
- go for a hike at Lemoines Point
- check out fancy foods/cheeses/excellent coffee (beans/grounds) at Cooke's
- get lunch at the Grad Club (they need all the support they can get to get out of the pandemic funk)
- get roasted garlic, butternut squash ravioli, and excellent focaccia sandwiches at Pasta Genova
- get a roti at El Asador

Queen's is a good school and Kingston is a lovely city. Enjoy!
posted by hepta at 7:22 AM on July 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Make sure you're clear on the Covid requirements for entering Canada. Even if you're fully vaccinated, you still need a negative test less than 72 hours before entering the country and you still need a quarantine plan even if you're exempt from quarantine.
posted by number9dream at 7:27 AM on July 16, 2021 [4 favorites]

Make sure you download the ArriveCAN app a few days before your arrival and answer all the questions! And get your COVID test within 72hrs before you arrive.

Montreal is a really fun place to visit in the summer.

Canadians, as a broad generalization, are very kind, welcoming people. Have fun!

Oh, and I don’t know how much experience you have with border crossings, but it’s best not to overshare at the border. Don’t tell your whole life story or ramble on about your special circumstances. Just answer the specific questions they ask, as concisely as possible.
posted by mekily at 7:31 AM on July 16, 2021 [6 favorites]

Save up a few hundred bucks for a really warm winter coat and boots. Get a big parka with goose down filling (secondhand from FB Marketplace is good if you wanna save cash). Being warm enough in winter really makes a difference!
posted by nouvelle-personne at 7:32 AM on July 16, 2021 [6 favorites]

Kingston is quite close to Prince Edward County... home of many fine wineries and Sandbanks Provincial Park. As you plan local day trips or weekends away I'd put that high on the list.
posted by dotparker at 7:33 AM on July 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: General recollections from my time as an American studying in Ontario:

-People were friendly but slightly more reserved than I was used to, coming from the Midwest (but I'm a little more like that too -- so I didn't mind it).

-I think you're coming from a non-US country or you've at least lived abroad yes? so metric won't be a problem. In some contexts people do use Imperial still, particularly the older generation. Most food is labeled in metric units.

-You may want to pick up a cheap Canadian English pocket dictionary, if you have profs who are sticklers for spelling. Canadian spelling and vocab is a mix of British and US and you kind of just have to memorize when to use which one and the US vocab term if there's a difference (washroom not toilet/WC). Very generally, you're best off guessing the British spelling (colour not color, centre not center). Automotive terms get the US spelling because of the integration of the North American auto industry (tire not tyre, trunk not boot). Check with profs to see what they prefer. Some of mine were very "You're in Canada, spell like it," others didn't care as long as you were consistent throughout the paper, others didn't care at all.

-Pretty much everywhere takes debit cards, but get used to the (in my opinion much better) system of identifying cash by colo(u)r. And remember that the Canadian dollar is a bit cheaper than USD, plus prices are somewhat higher in real terms for most things, so you'll often be paying quite a bit more than in the US in nominal terms (e.g. $30 for a bar bill that would cost $15 in the US). Names and sizes of coins are the same (nickels, dimes, etc.)

-Along those lines, alcohol is mainly only sold at quasi-government-run stores (the Beer Store for beer, the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) for wine and spirits). Though I believe this has changed a bit in the 12 years since I lived there. Their opening hours are quite limited compared to most places in the US, so you do need to plan ahead a bit if you want to get beer for the weekend or whatever, you can't just pop out at 9:30 on a Friday night to get a two-four from the corner store.

-As mentioned above, warm clothing. You will need to learn how to do it unless you grew up in the Midwest or Northeast US. People will tell you a million times to layer. They are not wrong. Shirt+sweater+good winter coat/parka on top, long underwear+pants, have a few pair of nice thick wool or similar socks to go over your regular socks, and make sure to wear them when you go to buy your boots so you get the right size. Expect that summer weather will be from June to mid-September, spring/fall weather (sweater and/or light jacket + regular pants and shoes will be fine) from mid-March to May and October to sometime in November, and more layers from December through February.

-Try to get outside or at least find sunny south-facing windows to sit in as part of your daily routine from Christmas through to the spring. There is not much daylight, particularly as Ontario can be quite overcast during winter, and you need to get as much sunlight as you can. Winter is what you make of it; get out there! Learn (if you don't know) how to ice skate! Hikes or cross-country skiing, you're close to some beautiful country.

-Relatedly, shoes typically come off when entering someone's home, as they are often muddy or wet in winter. So wear socks that don't have holes when visiting someone; follow people's lead (if they're wearing socks when they come to the door, just take your shoes off and put them with the others next to the door, or ask "what should I do with my shoes" if it's unclear whether you should remove them or where to put them. Shoes stay on in public indoor areas (schools, offices, etc.).

-Make friends with someone from cottage country and get up there for a long weekend in summer.

-Winter driving, if you'll have a car: be very cautious, particularly right after a storm when the streets haven't been plowed yet. Black ice is the big danger: you don't see it at all, or it just looks like a puddle, until you hit it and all of a sudden you can't steer or brake. If you start to skid, your natural reaction will be to try to jerk the wheel back toward the center of the lane, but that is wrong. You want to turn the wheel into the skid so that the tires are aligned with the direction of the car's momentum; that way they will pick up again and then you have control back and can gently bring the car back. Might want to practice in a big parking lot somewhere so you can get a sense of how cars handle in snowy/icy conditions.

-Random bits: milk came in a bag. The "hydro bill" refers to power, not water as hydroelectricity is a major part of the energy mix. People are generally knowledgeable about US culture and consume US media, but kids' shows were all different so there were references I didn't know, and there are mandates for Canadian media content so there will be cultural references that you won't know. News sources: CBC is middle of the road, National Post is the conservative newspaper, Globe and Mail is the centre-left Toronto paper and the Toronto Star is left-of-centre (but primarily focuses on the GTA). Politics is totally different from the US.

-There is less anti-immigrant, anti-Black and anti-POC racism than in the US, but significantly more anti-aboriginal peoples sentiment (that may have changed somewhat in the past decade as well, particularly with the current residential schools scandals that are rocking the country). "Native Canadians" is not used: it's First Nations people and Inuit and Metis. There are still tensions between Anglophones and Francophones; tread carefully there as well until you get a sense of it.

-I found police to be generally friendlier and less scary than in the US (note: I am a POC).

As you can maybe infer, I loved living there and am finding myself a bit nostalgic at the moment! Enjoy, you'll love it too.
posted by tivalasvegas at 8:15 AM on July 16, 2021 [11 favorites]

You can now get beer, wine and coolers and many large grocery stores - although they have weird hours - and you will need to checkout at a special lane (as workers under 19 cannot legally sell you alcohol - not every checkout has an staff member old enough). Also - no self-checkout for booze.

Since 2017 Cannabis has been legal in Canada - so, be aware that the younger generations are probably much more open to partaking of that - instead of alcohol than you may be used to. (Older generations still attach some stigma to it) - there are stores everywhere now, you do not have to order online only (I have heard many people complain about the fact they didn't want the government knowing they ordered Cannabis products)

Kingston is a lovely city - as others have mentioned, you are close to Sandbanks and also close to Ottawa (but that can be a sleepy town) - chances are, if you ever want to travel for a weekend and go to a very fun town, Montreal is a great choice.
posted by rozcakj at 8:43 AM on July 16, 2021

Best answer: Get a big parka with goose down filling

Do not spend the money on a "Canada Goose" parka - other, more inexpensive brands will suffice.

Used - or find "outlet malls" (that is where I bought my last parka from).
posted by rozcakj at 8:46 AM on July 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

When it’s possible to eat out again..

Phnom Penh Restaurant
335 King St E, Kingston, ON K7L 3B5

If you’re looking for a good used book store:

Wayfarer Books Bought & Sold
85 Princess St, Kingston, ON K7L 1A6

If you’re looking for a fun photo to send to friends/family to show them where you are, there’s a human sized “K_NGSTON” sign with the “I” missing, so you can stand in the “I” space and have someone take your photo. You will need someone else, as no selfie will capture the whole width of the sign.

Streetview doesn’t do it justice, but here it is:

and it’s across the street from:
Kingston City Hall
216 Ontario St, Kingston, ON K7L 2Z3
posted by tiamat at 9:02 AM on July 16, 2021

If you want to visit Toronto from Kingston taking the train is expensive but extremely pleasant compared to driving.
posted by FungusCassetteBicker at 9:13 AM on July 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

If someone bumps into you, you BOTH apologize to each other.

If you don’t say sorry or worse yet say the American “it’s ok you’re good!” you will be silently judged for being haughty.

Makes no sense but there it is.

posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:25 AM on July 16, 2021 [4 favorites]

Please go to the Kingston subreddit if you're able. It will give you more of an idea of what it's like to live here instead of asking a general forum.

Kingston is lovely. I work for QFHT (Queen's Family Health Team, a teaching facility for family doctors through the QU Dept of Medicine) and my husband works for the university directly itself.

Unfortunately, Kingston is very Town vs Gown most of the time. (A recent chaotic 300 person house party on Aberdeen did not help recently.) Natives resent the economic hold that Queen's has in the city, whereas I (a dual citizen) just shrug.
posted by Kitteh at 11:07 AM on July 16, 2021

Best answer: A friend moved to Canada for grad school and learned these:
- take vitamin D if you don’t already, year round, you are quite far north and likely to just notice you want to die the first winter without supplements
- the postal carrier won’t collect outgoing mail from your mailbox, you need to take it to a collection box
- “the kind of town where you could fuck a dog” is colloquial for “a very rural place” and not indicative of the speaker’s interest in canines
posted by momus_window at 11:31 AM on July 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Canadians, as a broad generalization, are very kind, welcoming people.

This is flattering, but Canadians also can be very reserved, to the point of seeming cold to people from less reserved places (like the US). Kingston specifically is a very British-Canadian town (Anglo-Canadians are the most reserved), so don't be surprised if people just nod or don't talk to strangers. It's not that they don't like you, it's just considered rude to bother someone else with small talk.

The thing about apologising when someone bumps into you is absolutely true. You are also -obviously!- expected to apologize if you bump into someone else, but the thing is that you're supposed to do it so quickly when it's not clear who was at fault. The ideal thing is two people apologising to each other.

Also, I've found that it works pretty universally to just apologize, if I'm doubt. It's hard to be offended when someone is saying, "Sorry!"
posted by jb at 12:14 PM on July 16, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I find that the more time I spend outside in the fall and winter the less cold it seems. If you can make a routine to be outside for 1+ hours each day then when you're in the winter on a cold day you'll know that it's only a couple of degrees colder than the previous day when it actually was OK and your brain won't be able to psych you into thinking that it's too cold outside. You'll likely get enough sun exposure that way to not worry about vitamin D supplements as well.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:02 PM on July 16, 2021

Response by poster: Hmm, I get the feeling that people think I'm American. Well, I am not, but I do understand what some are saying here about Canadians being reserved in comparison. Yes, in my opinion some Americans are very "in your face". Regardless of that, I'm reserved too, people have told me I can be closed off, distant and emotionally detached.

Frankly, the whole thing about Canadians being reserved gets thrown around a lot. I'm really fine with that. People in my home country are too nosy and I really dislike making small talk with strangers in random places.

Other than that, there seems to be a lot of good stuff here. Someone suggested asking around on Reddit, I'm afraid that's not an option for me. That site is really awful and I don't want to go there.
posted by Tarsonis10 at 3:07 PM on July 16, 2021

If you are not already in the habit of adding “please” to your requests (e.g., ordering food/drink), get into the habit now.
posted by armeowda at 4:53 PM on July 16, 2021

I kind of chuckled because when I saw another question about grad school in Canada I knew it would be you asking again.

The biggest advice I can give you right now is to unhook yourself from the need to ask for advice. I honestly don't think it's serving you. You seem to be seeking reassurance. But the only person who can really know what's right for you is you. At some point you have to decide to trust in the decisions you've made.
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:30 PM on July 16, 2021 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm not seeking reassurance.
posted by Tarsonis10 at 5:30 AM on July 17, 2021

Fair enough, but your continual questions on here are treating the country as a monolith, instead of individual provinces. You will be fine. I think you have everything you need, and a lot of other more non-reddit (since you don't go on there) forums out there about immigration and grad school specific to the area you're coming to exist.

I worry that once you get here, you will be asking more questions about area-specific things like how to date, how to make friends, and really you're only going to learn that by boots on the ground. My advice to you is once you get to Kingston, just chill out. Walk around the city. They have given us the greenlight to have events downtown again. Get in touch with any resources for Queen's--and there are a lot, trust me--and just let yourself have the experience of being in a small city in a new country for a while. Honestly the City of Kingston website is really really very helpful for new residents.
posted by Kitteh at 6:22 AM on July 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I am afraid you have figured me wrong as well

I ask questions because this is the way I inform myself about things I don't know about. More than that I like to ask specific questions because I am very thorough on the way I plan things. It's just the way I do things.
posted by Tarsonis10 at 7:57 AM on July 17, 2021

And there's nothing wrong with being thorough. But finding a more area-specific resource for your move would be better than a predominantly US user site. I am someone who needs routines more than I care to admit to navigate my life, but sometimes you have to got to roll with the punches. Download the ArriveCan app on your phone re: your COVID vaccination proof, make sure you get a negative test result within 72 hours of leaving the country, make sure you have a back-up quarantine plan (which you will not likely need, but the Canadian govt suggests this just in case), and have all your paperwork in order.

I emigrated here 12 years ago, and it was expensive and irritating without a pandemic going on. For me, having all that ready to go saved me and my Canadian partner a lot of stress once we got to the border.
posted by Kitteh at 8:35 AM on July 17, 2021

Best answer: milk came in a bag

It comes in cartons too. I only use milk in recipes so buying whole bags of them would go to waste.

I don't know which country you're coming from, but here, cellphone plans are expensive. Our government recently mandated that the major carriers (Bell, Rogers, Telus and SaskTel) have to offer cheaper plans by July 14, 2021. Info on the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) website. In Telus' case, they're offering the cheaper plan through their lower cost brand Koodo.
posted by quoththeraven at 12:06 PM on July 17, 2021

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