Sunday, December 19

Before you move to Canada

There are few things more annoying, other than having your candidate lose his bid for the White House, than deciding to move to Canada and discovering that you need to wait in line for up to a year in order to get a work permit. So while you are waiting, I would like to suggest that you take advantage of the wait to check out some other options before you pack up and leave.

Moving out of the country is a pretty drastic way to escape from under the President and his supporters. If you are willing to take such drastic action, perhaps you do not need to actually leave the country, why not just move to a bluer part of it?

If you happen to be the only one who voted for Kerry on your block other than your husband, wife or partner, than perhaps moving is a logical solution for you. As we all know, some parts of the country already embrace the ideals of the Democratic Party. Take Washington, DC for example. Sure, the president lives here, but it is not like you are going to be his neighbor. He spends very little time in the city at all and he spends most weekends either at Camp David or home in Texas.

So what about moving to Washington, DC? Sure, it’s no Canada, but it does have some good points. First, the city is and has been controlled by Democrats. Many of the District’s residents are foreign nationals, which has the same effect as moving out of the country to an international utopia. The residents who can vote overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party. With the Federal Government being the biggest employer in the region, I would guess that a majority of them do not like their boss considering the local election results. My one Bush vote was canceled out ten times over by Kerry votes.

While District income taxes are high, they are progressive to impact the rich much more than the poor. There are tax breaks for people with low income, including subsidized housing and reduced rent if you are under set income limits. DC has one of the country’s strictest gun bans in the country. There is no ‘state’ death penalty. DC also has a European-quality public transport system. With it you can take the metro not only to work, but also to all the protests downtown.

Another benefit would be having your government at arms reach. Instead of sending flaming emails and just showing up at a weekend protest, you can go right to the offices of all the members of congress to make your feelings known in person.

Of course all of the basic things would be the same; the language, monetary system. There are no international dialing codes to call friends and relatives, and you can still use regular stamps.

If you are still dead set on getting out of the country, then I highly suggest you visit where you want to move to first. If you have lived outside the country before, then you already know. This suggestion is for those who have never been anywhere outside the country. So get yourself a passport and experience life outside the US. We all remember the phrase “the grass is always greener…” well you might be surprised at what you see.

I spent over four years living in Finland. I was told numerous times that Finland is “The most American Country in Europe.” Don’t let that fool you into thinking that it is anything like the US. I was amazed at how often I felt stupid for not understanding how the system there worked.

One of the most annoying tasks while living there was finding a job. I was pretty lucky as I managed to find three jobs. The work was offered because I had a specific skill in demand. So if you have a specific skill in need, you might manage to find work in your new country. The most common rejection reason I heard was that I needed to be able to speak their language. You can expect the same excuse. Now before you go and learn it, I have a warning for you. Once you learn the language, they will find other excuses not to hire you. It just so happens that the language excuse is the easiest one to dismiss you with. Learning Finnish only got me to the second excuse which was if I could speak their other national language, Swedish. Even though Swedish is the native language of about 6% of Finns, I suddenly was confronted with the fact that it was the more important of the two languages. Strange that it was not mentioned before I mastered the now completely useless Finnish. The last time I checked, Canada has two official languages, so be prepared.

There are some other serious problems in finding work in other countries besides language. Most other countries have a higher unemployment rate than the US. According to Statistics Canada, Canada’s unemployment rate in October was 7.1%. Unemployment in the EU averages about 9%. If you can find a job, there are two differences you can expect from your present job, lower salary and higher taxes. Not only are income taxes higher but so are sales and ‘value added taxes’ or VAT. The VAT for purchases in Finland was 22% and was applied to almost everything.

Some people will not need to look for a job because they own their own internet business and can run it from anywhere. For those in this situation, I highly suggest that you carefully research the tax implications of your move. You may end up being taxed in both countries. The IRS generally excludes the first eighty thousand in income not generated in the US. This probably would not apply if your internet business is generating revenue from purchases made in the US. I am not sure how Canada would view this income. In Finland, all of your global income is taxable, once you have been a resident there for six months, subject to double taxation treaties.

Don’t expect that the locals will like you just because you share their hatred of our president. Europeans hated Bush before he was elected president the first time and they hated America well before they ever heard his name. In a bar in Belgium, an attractive woman from the Netherlands heard me speaking English to a woman had I met there. She came over and interrupted the conversation to tell me how much she hated Americans. With nary a thought, the reply “get in line” came out of my mouth as I quickly returned to trying to convince my new friend that she really did want a tour of a merchant ship. The Dutch woman quickly walked away, clearly agitated that I could care less about what she thought. That was in 1992. I have since been confronted by Germans, Finns, Brits, Canadians, and Australians who shared the same opinion. I have been to a number of countries in the Middle East and was always received warmly by the locals, who all seem to have a relative or two already living here. I was confronted once in the UAE, by a Brit who hated Americans because they earned much more than he did there. The last time I checked Great Britain is our ally. My guess is that not all in Canada will welcome you. You might want to find out where the Red and Blue provinces are before you move up there. I bet that you do not want a Bush supporting Canuck for a neighbor.

Speaking of Canada, there are some basic differences that you would have to adjust to if you do move up there. Now I have never been to Canada, but I understand that Finland shares a similar climate. Anyway, if you are moving from the southern US, you are going to need a new wardrobe for starters. The further north you go the less sun you’ll see in the winter. Anyone who has drive up and down I95 has seen the cars with the Canadian license plates headed to Florida for the winter. This would have me believe that Canada’s ‘Banana Belt’ is somewhere inside the Sunshine state.

We have all heard that prescription medicine is much cheaper in Canada. What you have not heard is that not all medicines are available, especially the newest drugs. About three months after arriving in Canada legally, you should qualify for public health care. The good news is that everything that is covered is free. The bad news is that you might have to wait months for treatment. Prescription medicine just happens to be one item that is not covered.

Don’t think that paying for treatment will help you receive better service. If the national system treats the illness you are suffering from, than it is illegal to pay for better treatment, as it would be unfair to those who cannot afford to pay for better care. You might end up back in the US for treatment, without the medical insurance your former job provided you with. However, you can probably find a Canadian doctor to treat you as many have migrated to the US.

As far as I am concerned, I can care less if you move to Canada. I would rather have you move there than to DC. The last thing I need is yet another person asking me if I have a minute to help kick Bush out of the White House. However, I ask that you take a minute to realize that we are all Americans and it is simply impossible to get two hundred plus Americans to agree on most anything. I managed to survive eight years of Clinton in the White House; I am sure you can survive another four with George running things. This country is by no means perfect. I am sure that Canada is a nice country too. I look forward to visiting there sometime in the near future. Would I want to live up there? Perhaps, but that decision will be based on what is best for me, not whether or not I like the persons running the government. If moving north is best for you, than I wish you good luck on your adventure. I look forward to greeting the Canadian that moves south to take your place.


jedati said...

Will you be back to blogging anytime soon?

Doug Hainline said...

Brilliant! And very well-written, too. I especially liked your point that not all Canadians are anti-American. That goes for Europeans, including Finns, by the way. (Look at the fight little Finland put up against Stalin in 1939. No wussies there.)

Jarrett said...

1) Lovely.

2) That's true, not all Canadians are anti-American. About 30% vote for the Conservatives, who are basically between the Dems and Republicans.

3) My American friends (IE born in the US, raised in Canada) said that they've lived at least fifteen years of people hating them because of their nationality. That's not to say that it's apartheid over here; you have to get out of it by saying, "Yeah, I hate them too" or something stupid like that. Canadian national identity is so insecure that the MAIN, FUNDAMENTAL thing we base ourselves on is that we ARE NOT AMERICAN. If you ask what makes Canadians Canadian, they'll list things like being "nice" or having health care, which can be found anywhere. Why do they make us Canadian, especially when things like Health Care have only been around for a very short period of time?

"Well, the US doesn't have those things."

4) If Canada is so great, then how come the ratio of Canadians moving to the states compared with vice-versa is 75-1? All the smart Canadians are getting the hell out of this mismanaged socialist Trudeaupia where disagreeing means that a) you're un-Canadian or b) you're a bigot.

5) French is the second language, but unless you work in the provinces of Quebec, New Brunswick, or the city of Ottawa, it won't be necessary. MAYBE for the federal service, but English gets you by just fine.

(BTW, I speak fluent French)

6) Our unemployment rate is higher, but part of the reason is that they count them differently... things such as, if you glance at a want ad in a newspaper, you're considered "unemployed". But, you should point out, unemployment is STILL higher, but a) Canadian workers make FAR FAR less, and b) their productivity is significantly less (15%?) than US workers.

That, and a far greater section of your income gets taxed.

As for sales taxes, the rule of thumb is a federal GST (Goods and Services Tax) of 7%; all provinces except Alberta (the one with the best economy) have a PST (Provincial ~) that's usually between 6-8%. In BC, we pay 7 and 7, so 14% of almost everything you buy is paid into a government slush fund.

One of my favourites is the tax-on-a-tax situation. GST on a postage stamp, for example. Gas prices are another one. Gas is far more expensive in Canada (to the point where on the border, people drive to the states to fill up); oil isn't more expensive or anything. It's just that the majority of the price of gasoline is federal gas tax. (And then, on the final total of gas price plus tax, you also pay GST. Tax on a tax.) It's supposed to be put towards all the infrastructure projects they want; instead, they put about 5% of it to it, and the rest to pay for all the other mismanagement... like just LOSING a billion Canadian dollars.

As far as I know, Revenue Canada taxes every penny you ever make, no matter where it was from.

Even scholarships and bursaries...

6) As for provinces, all provinces are blue except for Alberta, although it really depends. Any sort of urban area is usually blue (except Alberta) whereas rural areas tend to be Red. Some provinces (Saskatchewan and Manitoba) are only "red" provinces because of social issues, like abortion and gay marriage. When it comes to government, they're blue.

(Alas, all the good areas of the country are "blue"...)

It does get cold in Canada, but the West Coast (IE Vancouver) is beautifully mild.

Next, three months waiting for surgery is very general. It really depends on the procedure.

For URGENT cardiovascular surgery, the average wait time in Canada is "1.4 weeks", so 10 days or so.

For less important things like, say, orthopaedic surgery, the wait time is just, you know, "24.1 weeks" in Canada. On average.

Of course, this doesn't even come close to my dad's "elective" back surgery (herniated disc), during which time it either took him a year and a half to either GET TO AN MRI or get to surgery... I can't remember which. Trust me, there are a lot of us fighting for private medicine in Canada, but we're lynched every time we suggest it.

Anonymous said...

The Swedish language issue in Finland is typical of this country's numerous contradictions:

On one hand, you cannot deny the fact that the majority speaks Finnish; on the other hand, it's an historical fact that the better jobs go to the Swedish speakers.

Even more laughable is how the obligation to pass the national Swedish language test has been abolished, right at a time when the number of Swedish speakers just dipped below the 5% bar. Fuzzy logic? Wouldn't the Swedish speakers be worried that almost nobody is left to offer them services in their own language? Think again: During all the time when passing the Swedish language test was an absolute condition to landing your high school or university degree, a number of ethnic Finns reluctantly became extremely proficient in Swedish, which suddenly gave them access to jobs that traditionally went to the Swedish speakers. Now, with the Swedish language test finally abolished, Swedish speakers can finally sleep in peace knowing that their children will soon be the only ones left to fully qualify as mastering both languages, thus ensuring that Swedish speakers can once again land all the better jobs.

Meanwhile, the only official language foreigners can learn as immigrant labour training is, you guessed it, Finnish, which likewise ensures that in addition to Finns, foreigners will also be prevented from getting the better jobs.

The above is just one of many examples of what I've come to call Psychological Judo, a technique that Finns of both ethnic groups master to Machiavelic extents. In the above case, it was the Swedish speakers leveraging the ethnic Finns' hatered of compulsory Swedish language classes to their advantage.