Aussie expat in Canada


We arrived via Europe where the financial crisis hit hard and swallowed our hard earned savings. After a few nights in Vancouver, British Columbia to get our ‘grown up’ jobs done (social security numbers, phones etc.) we boarded a bus that would take us to Whistler. It was everything I imagined it to be, snow covered mountains surrounding a cozy village with endless hotels, shops, bars & restaurants. What I wasn’t prepared for was a ‘cold snap’ that had hit British Columbia with -20 degree wind chill; I quickly discovered this was what you looked at first on weather forecasts!


Many have experienced or had friends experience living in the UK and heard horrendous stories of countless mattresses on floors charging ludicrous rent for Aussies, Kiwis etc wanting the working holiday experience. Whistler would be no different! Myself and my 2 girlfriends were offered a room that was too good to refuse. A tiny room consisting of 2 single beds, a futon, a small table with 3 chairs, a kitchenette and the bathroom being the only separate room. All for only $ 1800 a month!!! The GFC and an average snow fall made our season difficult; I had 4 jobs within 5 months. The company I mostly worked for was a booking agent for accommodation, ski passes, equipment and sightseeing tours. Zip lining, snowmobiling and dogsledding were some of many awesome perks! Working, snowboarding after work, and on days off, and partying by night. Life was good, even on $14 an hour.


The first sign that summer was coming (or that I had gone a little crazy) was coming home from work one afternoon and putting on shorts and a singlet. With my snow boots. Headed for the backyard which was still covered with snow. It was 12 degrees! The mountains were covered in greenery, the snow was melting, the bears were awake and literally wandering around the village. The season was over, it was time to welcome the mountain & BMX bikers to Whistler along with opening up a whole new range of activities including swimming, hiking, fishing & camping. The West Coast of Canada is an outdoors paradise!


We packed up our lives and said goodbye to this amazing place. I had loved my time here but hadn’t felt I had fulfilled my dream of experiencing living overseas because a Canadian accent was hard to find, especially through the Rockies where it’s commonly known as the Aussie invasion. A bus back to Vancouver, an overnight train ride to Jasper where we hired a car and made our way through the Rockies stopping at the Fairmont hotels in Jasper, Lake Louise and Banff which, if the budget can afford, are an absolute must. Particularly in Lake Louise and Banff, there is nowhere else you would want to stay once you get there. I’d been fortunate enough to see the Rockies on a work trip a few years before in their autumn (September – November) which was perfect weather, absolutely stunningly blue lakes and all sorts of animals roaming around. This trip was spring (March – May) and where an Aussie spring is a lead up to summer (anywhere but Melbourne of course), in Canada it’s the dregs of winter so June – September are the safest months to fully experience and appreciate the beautiful outdoors.


To avoid a 3 day trek across nothing but prairie lands we flew to Toronto, Ontario which is Canada’s version of Melbourne whereas Vancouver, being a pretty city set on a harbour, is easily compared to Sydney. An hour and a half north of Toronto is a place called Muskoka, cottage country and for a country girl growing up on the Murray, I was in my element. The best way to describe this place most Aussies have never heard of is to picture the movie ‘Dirty Dancing’ – stylish holiday resorts set around picturesque lakes with cottages that have been in families for decades. It was the Australian equivalent to a houseboat holiday or camping. I finally realised that Canada does have a summer! There were 30 degree days with humidity, nasty mosquitos but loads of weekends, long weekends and summer holidays spent at cottages wake-boarding by day, beers, BBQ’s and fire pits by night.


Before I would head home I had to explore more of the East Coast we flew to Halifax, Nova Scotia where we hired a car and made our way back to Toronto. Lobster every day in Nova Scotia, even McDonalds has a McLobster – wasn’t quite the experience we expected, but of course had to try it! Very easy to know when you had arrived in Quebec as the road signs would become French. It’s a bizarre experience, but fascinating all the same. A fierce and almost bitter rivalry exists between the French Canadians and the rest of Canada, so it was nice to finally hear the other side of the story. The long and short of it – the “Frenchies” found Canada first, yet they feel they have lost this to the English. They want to cling onto their history, their language and everything else and so many want to break away and establish their own country, even at the expense of the Canadian government funding their roads, schools etc! Regardless of this I found Quebec a must – where the West Coast is scenery, the East Coast is history and the European feel with cobble stoned streets and historic buildings could confuse you as to exactly what country you’re in!


I would also recommend visits to Quebec City, the only fortified city walls remaining in North America; Montreal, a very trendy cosmopolitan bilingual city that makes my top 5 cities; and Ottowa, the nation’s capital and a very popular university city. My last stop would be Niagara Falls, the actual falls themselves were amazing but the actual place itself is Canada’s Las Vegas, the high rise hotels & casinos seem a strange backdrop to such beautiful scenery so I highly recommend the Maid of the Mist boat tour and move along to Niagara on the Lake, a quaint little town further along that is a much nicer way to spend your time in this pocket of Canada. Back to Toronto before it’s time to head home!

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! If I could rewind to my 20’s, absolutely! Living overseas would be the highlight of my life so far, I’ve adopted a second homeland and family and the memories I will have with me forever. So if this has inspired you and you’re under the age of 31 and keen to live overseas, Canada is a beautiful country, the people are amazing and it’s an experience I promise that you’ll never regret!

Blog Article by Kendall