Interview with British expats Emma & Stewart in Canada

interview with Emma & Stewart living in Canada

Today’s interview is with Emma & Stewart, a British expats who are living in Canada. Emma And Stewart left Cambridge, England in September 2014 and headed off on a Canadian adventure. Emma had always dreamed of doing some long term travelling and working abroad seemed like the perfect solution to ensuring the money doesn’t run out. Fortunately she managed to convince Stewart to come along too. So armed with their working holiday visas they left their 2 gerbils behind (in the care of a good friend) and flew out to Canada. They then spent the next few months exploring Canada before settling down and finding jobs. Whilst in Canada they intend to make the most of it and experience as much of their new home as possible. Emma & Stewart’s expat blog is called Brown Bear Travels.


Where are you originally from?
Cambridge, UK.


In which country and city are you living now?
Toronto, Canada.


How long have you lived in Canada and how long are you planning to stay?
We have lived here for 8 months now and have just applied to stay for another 2 years. So I guess we will be here for the next 2 years at least and who knows after that!


Why did you move to Canada and what do you do?
Canada has always been a country that we wanted to explore, with its stunning scenery and an outdoor lifestyle. The fact that we speak the same language helps too!

Stewart works as a program manager for not-for-profit sustainable transport organisation in Toronto, and Emma works in the environmental field too.


Did you bring family with you?
No, we came on our own which is pretty scary now we think about it!


How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
It’s been surprisingly easy, and we’ve been helped by reading various websites and blogs. Everyone we’ve met has been incredibly friendly and helpful so we have managed to settle in relatively quickly. There are still lots of things we are learning, such as how the health system works or completing our first tax returns.


Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
With the help of websites such as Facebook and it has been easy to meet up with other expats and those with similar interests. It’s also been great making friends with our new work colleagues, who come from all over North America, and letting them teach us about our new country.


What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
There is always something going on in Toronto, so if you are new to city you can always find an activity to fill your weekend. Outside of the city, the Niagara Falls are an obvious attraction nearby, but Algonquin Provincial Park is equally good with its authentic Canadian experiences of canoes, beavers and moose.


What do you enjoy most about living in Canada?
The outdoors lifestyle and the fact that there is always something to do in Toronto. Butter tarts and poutine are pretty good too!


How does the cost of living in Canada compare to home?
We’ve found some things, such as food and rent in downtown Toronto to be more expensive than home but then other things, public transit for example, are much cheaper so I think it probably evens itself out.


What negatives, if any, are there to living in Canada?
Other than being a long way from family and friends and not being able to get some of our favourite foods I don’t think we’ve found any real negatives yet. The winter was tough, it being the coldest February on record in Toronto, but we made the most of it and spent time ice skating and snow tubing. Things we wouldn’t be able to do back home.


If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Canada, what would it be?
Get yourself a decent pair of warm and waterproof winter boots so that you don’t have to hibernate for the whole winter!


What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Finding work. Stewart found the perfect job straight away but Emma has found it a lot harder and has had to take a significant step backwards. There seems to be a much greater emphasis on networking which is definitely not everyone’s forte and is therefore a steep learning curve!


When you finally return home, how do you think you’ll cope with repatriation?
I think we’ll be OK, but distances are going to feel a lot smaller! We’ll miss the butter tarts and poutine!


What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?


  1. If you can afford it take some time to travel around your new country before settling down. We spent 3 months travelling across Canada and it was a truly amazing experience and gave us a great feel for the country. Once you have a job you might find you have much less time for travelling.
  2. Be flexible, especially if you aren’t sure exactly where you want to live. You never know what might come up. We planned to live in Vancouver but after visiting we didn’t fall in love with it as much as we thought we would. When the perfect job opportunity came up for Stewart in Toronto we didn’t hesitate for a second and flew across the country for the second interview.
  3. Make friends with the locals. They’ll welcome you to their city, give you tips on places to see and visit, and marvel at your accent.
  4. Don’t under estimate the time it takes to pack all your things up before you leave. The last few days before we left were absolutely the most stressful few days of our entire lives!
  5. Just go! We waited so long for the ‘right time’ to make the plunge but we don’t think there ever is a right time and would urge anyone who is thinking about it to just go. You can always go back if it doesn’t work out.


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