Sunday, 24 March 2013

Twelve Months in Canada - What I don't Miss from Aus

This weekend marks 12 months since we first EVER arrived in Canada. It was our first time being in the Country and we had no idea what to expect. We were told we would be cold 24/7 (lies), that Canadians are just like Australians (lies) and that we would love it here (fact).

I'd like to think our first year has been a resounding success. Everybody loves us, the move was completely smooth and work has been just perfect. HA! I kid! However looking back nothing has been so difficult we've looked at jobs back home, there's been no (out of the normal) tears, and we've most definitely had a positive experience.  We've met some incredible people, made friends that we will have for the rest of our lives, had new experiences with friends from home and managed to catch up with some of our friends in North America. A resounding success I think, though maybe not from the first reasons listed.

In honour of the country that's hosted us for the last 12 months, here's a list of 6 things I do NOT miss about Australia.

1. Bogans
Now Canada has rednecks, there is no denying this. However I am yet to see a "Fuck Off We're Full!" sticker on the back of anyone's car. The worst racist/ignorant comment I've heard was from a British cab driver who said he moved to Kamloops from the UK because there were too many coloured people in England. Lovely!

2. Always buying last seasons fruit
You would think since we have such a huge agricultural business that you'd be able to buy true fresh fruit and veg at the supermarket. I lived in Tasmania for 18 years, and could never work out why it's so hard to get a good apple.

3. The evil rich people and radio shock jocks
These people make me sad, and embarrassed to be Australian. Gina Rinehart in particular, who thinks poor people are all lazy drunks. I'm pretty sure you worked SUPER hard getting that inheritance. Eating most likely..... It's like their only focus in life is to become richer, no matter the cost to their families, friends or reputation.

The radio shock jocks have no place in an intelligent society. Laws, Sandilands and Jones I'm looking at you. You pander to stupid people and give them justification for their ridiculous views. GO AWAY!

4. Unexplainable high prices
This same thing happens in Canada, there was a Government inquiry and they found out one of the main reasons is that suppliers aren't negotiating better deals because "Canadians are used to paying more". I'm pretty sure the same thing happens in Australia. Why on earth is a jar of moisturiser in Canada $50 and in Australia $85? No legitimate reason I guarantee.

5. Politics
Our current government is a joke, the opposition is a joke. Every so often things that I'm actually proud of happens (carbon tax, NBN etc.), but I'm sure none of it will last.

6. The flies
This is a country thing. It's a bad country thing. It's almost like those bastards enjoy drinking insect repellent. If/when the drought kicks back in, the first things that will come back strong will be the flies.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Spring Time is Tax Time

We've been keeping a low profile recently, when O'Hara has had days off we've just been going up to Sun Peaks and chilling in Kamloops. We've been meaning to head to Banff for about 2 months but are terrible friends and haven't made it. The one positive, we've doubled the days needed to pay off our seasons pass. You'd think we'd be epic snowboarders by now, but sadly no.

One thing that has been nice about hanging around Kamloops has been the weather. I think I've acclimatised to some extent as I'm not nearly as cold as I was when I arrived last year. I haven't needed gloves or a beanie for at least a month. We've also seen double digits over the last few days which has been awesome. I'm starting to get super smug about the fact we're going into summer (suckers). While Australians were posting their wonderful sunshine photos, here it was cold and dark and I was homesick. Now that daylight savings has started, payback is about to commence. Be prepared southern hemisphere, it's going to be brutal!
Here comes Spring suckers!
Sadly, this means it's tax time here for us. As we only submitted our Australian one about a month ago I'm feeling a little ripped off. ALL tax returns are due here on the 30th of April, so no slacking off for us unfortunately.

Taxes here are confusing for us. As far as I can find on the internet, Canada and the US are the only countries that have completely separate taxes in each province/state. This also means (as far as I can find) these are the two countries where taxes aren't included in any sales prices. I think everyone has that awkward moment when they first travel to the US or Canada when they have the cash for their purchase, only to be told at the register they're 5-15% short. It's almost impossible to get rid of small change.

I've learnt to appreciate that paying Employee Insurance (in case you can't get a job or go on mat leave) and Canadian Pension Plan (forced payment but not like super) could benefit us. If I get pregnant here I can claim maternity leave even though I'm not a permanent resident or citizen. It's dead money for O'Hara and any expats on a work permit, as you are required to be working at the place specified on you visa. Luckily we opted for me to be a spouse visa rather than my own work permit, WIN!

While I find it pretty annoying that EI and CPP are separated out and Canada claims it has really low "taxes", in Australia you pay for the same things in the overall tax rate but expats on a 457 visa are not entitled to any of the same things you are here. Canada, you win this round. We've just got to get pregnant and have a baby while we're here and get our EI back!

One thing that is a total scam however, is the fact that everything that the company pays for as a "benefit" (gym, healthcare etc.) gets added to your taxable income. So you pay nearly 50% anyway. BUT when your claiming deductions, you only get 10% back.... shady!

This is not a pregnancy announcement. Repeat, this is NOT a pregnancy announcement!

Friday, 1 March 2013

D is for Dangerous

Everyone is so convinced that Australia is a death trap. You've heard it before, "every living creature there wants to kill you". This is true to an extent. However, I am completely convinced that at least in Australia you can generally avoid such terrifying creatures if you wish.

In Canada near death experiences are at every turn. Whether you're crossing the road, camping, hiking, driving, doing snow sports, or crossing frozen lakes it's a matter of life and death half the time.

Deathly Weather

We've worked out Kamloops has a relatively mild winter, this can't be said for the rest of Canada however. Think you can survive outside for long when it's -30 degC? Unlikely! I hope you like frostbite, frozen lungs and hypothermia because that's what will happen. If the cold isn't enough, feel free to add some freezing rain or fog, wind chill or a blizzard. Check it out all the ways the weather wants to kill you at CBC, love!

Apparently avalanches are a thing here as well. This weekend there is an "Extreme Risk" or something because of the pineapple express (I'm just as confused as you are). The highways have to get closed every so often for avalanche control. Crazy!

Terrifying Creatures

How may you die by an animal in Canada? Let me count the ways.

  • Brown and Grizzly Bears
  • Wolverine
  • Cougars
  • Orca
  • Rattle Snake
  • Elk
  • Polar Bear
  • Moose
  • Recluse Spider
I can't really complain about snakes and spiders in Canada, Australia is obviously worse. However, I maintain I would much rather be bitten by a Brown Snake than a Rattle. I figure while the venom may be much more toxic, the fact that browns are Elapidaes and often do dummy bites totally works in my favour. I can control my lymphatic system much easier than my heart!

Elk are mean and will attack if you're not careful, Moose are generally just dangerous road blocks though I have heard stories of them going after you if you bug them too much.

The amount of camping and hiking stories that have given me chills, is a zillion times higher than the number of people I know who have been involved in a shark attack. This may be due to the fact that you usually don't get a lot of warning with shark attacks, or maybe there are just a lot more carnivores wandering the bush in Canada!

Lethal Driving

Since winter is on the way out, it seems like driving in the snow and ice was just a bad dream. Sadly I know this isn't the case, and really it's the most dangerous part of Canada. The roads and driving conditions are only made worse by the Canadian drivers. This isn't a grumpy expat comment, Canadians have told me on multiple occasions that Canadians suck at driving. I've never corrected them. I mean, would you correct a Victorian when they said people in Victoria couldn't drive?

Living on the edge everyday. It makes Canada such an exciting place to live!