Monthly Archives: December 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Brits in Toronto!

Get the bird in will ya, nan?

Get the bird out will ya, nan?

Wow, what a year it’s been for us here at Brits in Toronto. Started a new blog, had a lot of fun along the way and hopefully offered a ton of useful information to help Brits who currently call the city their home, or are considering moving here.

This is our chance to take a pause and say a really sincere THANK YOU to all those who have followed us on Twitter and RTd our tweets, contacted us via the website form or e-mail, been brave enough to let us feature them in Successful Brits in Toronto (all great sports!) or read our posts.

Although most of our traffic comes from Canada and the U.K. there are a few surprises with some website visitors surfing in from Chile, Nigeria, Peru, the NSA and one person from North Korea. All in all, a very mixed bag.

With your encouraging and supportive feedback, we have even more excellent content planned for 2015 … watch this space.

We’d also like to say this time of year can also not be so fun for those without close friends and family. It’s very hard to uproot and take your life to a new country. Always remember there is a massive support network of Brits in Toronto who you can liaise with, get some advice from or just meet for tea and a chat.

In that spirit, Brits in Toronto is making a donation to the Toronto Distress Centre for those who may need a few extra kind words this time of year. Keep up the good work, guys.

So, again, we hope you all have health, happiness and some good times this season. We’ll sign off with our favourite Christmas song of all time …

New expedited work permit applications for spousal sponsorship applicants

If they weren't just characters in an absolutely hilarious '70s TV sitcom, George could have sponsored Mildred ... or vice versa

If they weren’t just characters in an absolutely hilarious ’70s British TV sitcom, George could have sponsored Mildred … or vice versa. But we’ll never know. Shame

Spotted a bit of positive news on the website of an immigration law firm.

Snip:

“The Government of Canada has announced that, effective immediately, Citizenship and Immigration Canada will expedite the issuing open work permits to applicants for permanent residence in the Spouses or Common-Law Partners in Canada class (SCLPC).

“The SCLPC permits Canadian citizens and permanent residents to sponsor a spouse or common-law partner to come to Canada.

“This change means that the spouses and common-law partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents will now benefit from expedited access to open work permits while their applications for permanent residency are being processed.

“This represents a substantial shift from the previous practice of holding work permits until an approval-in-principle had been obtained on the application for permanent residency.”

Full story here.

Successful Brits in Toronto: Stephanie Bitten

Stephanie Bitten is best known for her work as "Laughing Female Customer Ordering A Bellini" in The Keg's 2011 Christmas TV advert

Stephanie Bitten is best known for her acting work as “Laughing Female Customer Ordering A Bellini” in The Keg’s 2011 Christmas advert

It’s Sunday and we have yet ANOTHER Successful Brit in Toronto willing to lay it on the line and let us know about their life this side of the pond.

Today it is Stephanie Bitten, an actor, performer and playwright who you can read more about on her IMDB profile. Very impressive!

Break a leg, Stephanie …

What made you decide to choose Toronto as a city of choice? Did you plan a permanent move, or wanted to “try it for a while and see how it goes” and it turned out to be longer than planned?

I originally moved to Windsor, Ontario to complete my degree in acting. Poor Windsor, not the prettiest of towns, but the acting program there is one of the best in the country. But of course, Toronto and the GTA is where actors flock to for work … so I just followed the pack up the 401!

What steps did you take to land your first Toronto job? Did the infamous “Canadian experience” hinder you in any way?

Acting is never a full-time job (unless you are a Hollywood A-lister, of course … and I’m not there yet … working on it though!). So, it was important to seek out what actors call “Joe-Jobs.” These are actor-friendly jobs, which traditionally means night work, bar work, theatre work — anything that allows you to bugger off for auditions and call-backs during the daytime.

What struck me right away about Canada and employment was the fact that you need “official” qualifications to work ANYWHERE! Bar work was considered a bit of a joke back home — no offense to bar workers, I’ve been one — but here, they want you to have courses and certificates under your belt before they will hire you. Oh, and that “at least three years’ experience” thing.

That sucks hard for those trying to scrape a living having just come from the U.K. where those jobs are so much easier to book. But luckily I did my Smart Serve and used my Cockney accent to charm my way into a few positions to pay the rent during the quiet acting periods.

As for acting, I have to be able to pull out a North American accent for many auditions — but I’ve recently used British accents in small roles in both TV shows “Reign” and “Murdoch Mysteries,” which was lovely!

What’s the best/worst aspects of living in Toronto?

Best: The people. Honestly, it’s lovely to be in a city full of artistic, friendly and progressive Canadians. Alright, there are a few not-so-friendly folk out there, but I try not to bump into them!

I love the way that many parts of the city feel like little villages; for example, Roncesvalles, The Junction, The Danforth … all feel like real community-based areas. All crazy expensive, property wise, but that’s another story.

Oh, and another major thing for me is the lake. I LOVE being close to this massive expanse of water, and yet be in an urban environment too. It’s the best of both worlds!

Worst: Property prices! Seriously, unless you come to Canada with a huge wedge of sterling to convert into $, getting onto the property ladder in Toronto is very, very difficult! Income taxes are a lot steeper than the U.K. too.

Also, from an acting perspective, Toronto is a tiny city, compared to my home town of London, England! Everyone knows everyone — which can be both good AND bad.

Do you make an effort to connect with other Brits in the city, or just meet them when chance allows it? Any recommended pubs/eateries/other places for homesick Brits to meet each other and network?

I must admit, I don’t really hang out with many other Brits over here. I guess I’ve been lazy! I did go to a Pub Quiz one night that was hosted by a Brit group, and that was a lot of fun.

I DO miss a “real” British pub, though, you know what I mean? Not the pissed-up bar fights between Chelsea and Millwall fans, but a nice roaring fire, in an old, crumbling Victorian building and a good, proper Sunday roast.

I hear good things about pubs like the Bristol Yard, and some Firkins are not TOO bad — but I’ve yet to find a REAL British pub in Toronto yet. Let me know if you hear of one! (The closest I’ve got was The Poacher in Burlington … although that didn’t have a roaring fire).

Honestly, social media is the way ahead to find out what’s happening. Twitter in particular! That’s how I found you guys!

Open question/comment: feel free to write anything here/advice/tips on a Brit living in, or moving to, Toronto.

When I first moved to Canada, I converted the cost of everything into the British Pound equivalent. It just made me think that Canada was this terribly expensive, crazily taxed place! It probably still is, but I try not to do the conversions now. It’s just depressing! (No 15p cans of peas from Tesco here, love!).

Just learn to go with the flow. Hard for us Brits a lot of the time, I know.

Enjoy and celebrate the decision to move here! I miss family in England terribly, but moving to Canada was such a great opportunity, I’m glad I didn’t pass up on it.

Excellent stuff, Stephanie. Here’s her official website for those Brits — and hiring agents! — that want to find out more. Cheers!

Canada unveils new Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Pilot Program

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander calls a press conference to lay out the details of how he plans to achieve the longest photo caption on the Brits in Toronto website so far

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander calls a well-attended and interesting press conference to lay out the details of how he plans to achieve the longest photo caption on the Brits in Toronto website so far

Some news from the informative Prepare For Canada website …

Snip:

“Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced that Canada will unveil a pilot program in January 2015 to attract experienced business immigrants who can actively invest in the Canadian economy, stimulating innovation, economic growth and job creation.

“The new Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Pilot Program is part of a series of transformational changes that build on the Government’s commitment to build a fast and flexible economic immigration system.

“In addition to making an investment of $2 million for a period of 15 years and having a net worth of $10 million, immigrant investors will be required to meet certain program eligibility criteria related to language and education, and have proven business or investment experience.

“This will ensure that immigrant investors will have a strong impact on the Canadian economy, and that those admitted for permanent residence will be well prepared to integrate into the Canadian business landscape and society.”

Full story here.

Successful Brits in Toronto: Adam Straker

"Yeah, I know, couldn't believe it either. Four minutes into stoppage time and he bangs two in."

“Yeah, I know, couldn’t believe it either. Four minutes into stoppage time and he bangs two in.”

It’s a relatively balmy Sunday night in Toronto so we thought it’s time to feature another successful Brit in the city.

Give a warm Brits in Toronto “ello mate” to Adam Straker who is a Relationship Manager at the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

And so off we pop …

What made you decide to choose Toronto as a city of choice? Did you plan a permanent move, or wanted to “try it for a while and see how it goes” and it turned out to be longer than planned?

It was an easy decision. My Canadian wife and I met while she was living in London, England. After we got married, she expressed an interest in returning to Canada and the rest, really, was a no-brainer.

What steps did you take to land your first Toronto job? Did the infamous “Canadian experience” hinder you in any way?

I’m sure that my lack of “Canadian experience” was a factor in some of my job applications but it all worked out brilliantly. I had an entire summer to relax and really think about the type of job that I wanted. In the end, I found exactly what I was looking for — and it’s everything I hoped it would be!

What’s the best/worst aspects of living in Toronto?

Best? Toronto’s diversity, energy, friendliness and spectacular sunrises/sunsets! The grid system and compass needle-like CN Tower are also great for people like me who have a rubbish sense of direction!

Worst? Right now, I can’t see past the winter winds! They are … exhilarating!

Do you make an effort to connect with other Brits in the city, or just meet them when chance allows it? Any recommended pubs/eateries/other places for homesick Brits to meet each other and network?

I meet a lot of people through my work and find myself connecting with Brits on an almost daily basis. Some moved here recently while others have been here for decades and we always have a splendid time comparing notes. In all cases there seems to be an instant fellowship of Britishness with the other Brits in Toronto.

There are loads of British-themed places around the city (The Queen and Beaver on Elm Street is great and has a Man United shirt, signed by Ryan Giggs) but it’s impossible to replicate the stickiness of beer-soaked carpets, the stench of stale cigarette smoke or the faint feeling of triumph that you experience every time you get served at a crowded bar.

Open question/comment: feel free to write anything here/advice/tips on a Brit living in, or moving to, Toronto.

You have to get to know your city. Work hard, network (the Board of Trade is a great place to do that), take long walks, read the newspaper and get involved. You’ll be welcomed with open arms!

Thanks Adam, seems like you have a great life in Toronto!

Let’s all help fellow Brit Daniel find a job!

Caption

“OK guys, positions please, and … ACTION!”

Been a busy week with Brits keen to come to Toronto and find some good jobs. Today we feature Daniel, a photographer and filmmaker currently living in Edinburgh, Scotland.

“Ever since a visit I made to Toronto eight years ago, I have wanted return to live and work there,” explains Daniel. “I’m in the early stages of planning out this move. Currently in a long-distance relationship with my girlfriend in Connecticut, and after 18 months of back and forth travelling and pixelated communication we see Toronto as an inspiring place to finally be together.

“I’m two years out of university and have since been freelancing in the film and news industry. I’ve done work for Sky, BBC, Channel 4 & 5 to name a few and most notably Starz on the new series Outlander.

“Ideally I am looking for work in an art/design/media agency, either advertising, filmmaking, photography. I’m attracted to the idea of a full-time position rather than freelance as I’m guessing most freelancing is unionized in Canada and I’d prefer the security.

“Of course what I have mentioned is ideal and I am able to graft my hands to pretty much anything that comes my way.

“Right now I guess I’m curious to know what the job market is like. The logistics of obtaining an employment visa and how welcoming the local employers are to British workers.”

There you have it — sounds like a talented chap! If you or anyone can help Daniel or connect him with some leads, please contact him at danielwilliamhill AT gmail DOT COM.

Let’s all help fellow Brit Dave find a job!

"That's all from BBC Cumbria. And now, the weather ..."

“That’s all from BBC South West Cumbria. And now, the weather in your region …”

No intro needed … Dave can speak for himself:

“Hi Toronto. My name is Dave — I’m 27 and from London, England. I’m a romantic migrant (met a Canadian girl in London) and moved here last week. I’m looking for work in corporate communications at an executive or management level (in-house preferred).

“I have over five years’ experience in corporate communications with my most recent job seeing me promoted twice to become Head of Communications at the U.K. members association for digital television; members included the BBC, Sony, Warner Bros., Disney and BSkyB.

“You can view my LinkedIn profile or e-mail me at dharding22 AT gmail DOT COM with any questions.

“As someone new to Toronto I’m also keen to meet new people as well as pursuing my career. I’m a Liverpool fan and enjoy playing pick-up soccer … so maybe I’ll see you in Scallywags soon!”

Good luck, Dave!

Totally biased product review by me — Spitfire Kitchen

The Union Jack beckons you from a distance into Spitfire Kitchen

The Union Jack beckons you from a distance into Spitfire Kitchen. There’s a patio too

So, a few weeks ago we decided to finally get out to try Spitfire Kitchen, the restaurant opened by the owners of one of Brits in Toronto’s favourite food trucks — The Feisty Jack.

It was a chilly day so the crew jumped in the motor and sped off to Etobicoke, about 15 minutes’ drive west of Toronto. We opted for the brunch menu.

Spitfire Kitchen is very easy to spot from the main road, with the Union Jack in proud attendance and The Feisty Jack food truck parked right opposite. The Brits have taken over that little part of the street, for sure!

It’s not a massive place, around six tables, with a few seats by the window eating area. Nice and cosy.

Quick, friendly service — always a great start. Very welcoming. And diners can see everything the chef is doing at the back, so you feel part of the kitchen action.

Tea came, nice and strong. A real British brew. Then the star of the show …

Get yer laughing gear around that!

Git yer laughin’ gear around that!

Opted for the cremini and portobello mushrooms sautéed with caramelized onion and deglazed with red wine, served open-faced on a fresh baked roll with melted Welsh Cheddar.

It was DELISH. Definitely enough for two to share, a roll each, and also you can throw in a side too.

One critique is that we thought it was the wrong kind of bread used for that particular topping. We would have liked it actually on toast — maybe a fried slice? — and also some black pudding on the side.

We feel the menu needs a few more choices added too. But it only opened in early November so we’re willing to wait a while and go back.

Once the meal was over we perused the fine selection of British goods that they also stock, and picked up a free issue of The British Canadian.

Spitfire Kitchen sells frozen food to take home such as pies, mac and cheese and desserts too.

All in all, some slight improvements to be made but a solid Brits in Toronto 3/5 stars. Dinner will be saved for a return visit …

Successful Brits in Toronto: David Hampson

Caption

David can’t WAIT to get down the pub to watch Manchester City. He’s so EXCITED!! But first he’s going to enjoy a few crumbly biccies over a nice cuppa char

Look at that happy face above. Clutching a pack of McVitie’s Digestives like he’s won the lottery.

Which, in fact, David has. Because he is today’s Successful Brit in Toronto. The exposure alone — across Toronto, Canada, the entire Internet and Scunthorpe — is pure gold.

Anyway, before we start taking the biscuit, let’s ask David some questions …

What made you decide to choose Toronto as a city of choice? Did you plan a permanent move, or wanted to “try it for a while and see how it goes” and it turned out to be longer than planned?

My first experience with Toronto was as a university exchange student. It recently came back on the outgoing destinations after it was cleared of SARS. I had the option to go to Australia where everything I hate (spiders mostly) are poisonous; Hong Kong, I didn’t speak Cantonese; and there was no way at 19 years old, I was going to the U.S. where the drinking age was 21.

Toronto it was! Drinking age of 19 and with my passion for basketball, had the Toronto Raptors in the NBA. After meeting my partner while on exchange at Ryerson University, I decided to move back in 2009 after she had graduated … as when I graduated (2008), there were no jobs in the U.K.

What steps did you take to land your first Toronto job? Did the infamous “Canadian experience” hinder you in any way?

When I did not lack “Canadian Experience,” I had “too-little” “Canadian experience” and unfortunately you can’t say, “Well no s**t, I just moved here.”

My first job was with the Toronto District School Board as a sports coach in the Jane/Eglinton area which held me over until I started a “grown-up” job in the solar industry. With very little luck in the job market it got to the point where if no one will give me a job — even after networking at multiple social events a week — I’ll make a job for myself, and by mid-2010 I started my own solar consulting company.

Fortunately the contacts I had made whilst networking became clients over the next few years.

What’s the best/worst aspects of living in Toronto?

Best = It’s probably a cheap answer but the multicultural-ness of the city. The buildup of the city as a patchwork of different countries offering a little taste of home (Little Italy, Malta Village, Portugal Village, etc.), and probably my home away from home, Opera Bob’s Public House, home to the Toronto Blues who never miss a Manchester City game.

Worst = The fickleness of Toronto sports fans. No matter how long it takes the Leafs or Raptors or my beloved TFC to win a cup (or even make the post season), you support your home team through and through. Don’t jump on the bandwagon when they put a string of wins together.

Do you make an effort to connect with other Brits in the city, or just meet them when chance allows it? Any recommended pubs/eateries/other places for homesick Brits to meet each other and network?

I’m always open to meeting new Brits to Toronto and being able to show off the city. Fortunately, the majority of them are from Manchester and support City so we usually meet at the pub over drinks.

Being involved in Twitter and Facebook allows you to get involved with other Brits.

Open question/comment: feel free to write anything here/advice/tips on a Brit living in, or moving to, Toronto.

To integrate quickly, I find that by joining sport and social clubs (football, rugby, etc.), you’ll meet expats along the way and are a great support network but it’s also a great way to integrate into a new city, culture and friends.

After being here full-time for almost six years now, I’d say the percentage of friends who are British is less than 10 per cent.

Great stuff, David! And we think too that Sergio Leonel “Kun” Agüero Del Castillo is currently unstoppable.

Successful Brits in Toronto: Lyndon Johnson

Caption

Lyndon’s PR company started from humble beginnings. A chair in a room devoid of colour. But yet … he smiles

“Good morning Sir — how was your weekend?”

Wow, the last time we heard that it was our barber taking a little off the top. Lyndon is a very polite chap indeed. We’re very good, thank you Lyndon.

“I’m not sure I come close to any of the alumni … I’m still building my success in Canada!! I’m two years in to building a new kind of PR company for start-ups and small businesses.”

Modest too. Let’s see how he tackles our five questions …

What made you decide to choose Toronto as a city of choice? Did you plan a permanent move, or wanted to “try it for a while and see how it goes” and it turned out to be longer than planned?

Logistics. It was halfway between my wife’s family in Windsor and Ottawa. We considered Montreal, but picked lots and we picked Toronto. We didn’t plan to move from the U.K. — my wife is Canadian and we’d talked about moving to Canada as a long-term plan. We made a snap decision on a Friday night over dinner to move permanently to Toronto for a number of personal reasons.

What steps did you take to land your first Toronto job? Did the infamous “Canadian experience” hinder you in any way?

I worked as an independent contractor for a number of companies in Europe and a PR agency run by a friend of mine out of the U.S. initially. The idea for THINK DIFFERENT[LY] had been something I’d thought about for a number of years; nobody is providing services that help businesses that can’t afford the expensive PR retainers most agencies charge. In the end I realized that if I didn’t try it I’d never know whether it would work or not.

What’s the best/worst aspects of living in Toronto?

The best part is the diversity: I love listening to the different languages I hear on public transportation (and wish I could speak a few more of them) and love exploring the different neighbourhoods and communities.

The worst part is the traffic congestion. I love driving but that is being tested driving in Toronto!

Do you make an effort to connect with other Brits in the city, or just meet them when chance allows it? Any recommended pubs/eateries/other places for homesick Brits to meet each other and network?

I don’t make a conscious effort. I know a few expats but that has been more due to chance meetings than anything else. The Duke of Kent is one place that I’ve found fellow football (soccer) fans.

Open question/comment: feel free to write anything here/advice/tips on a Brit living in, or moving to, Toronto.

I read recently that there are two million ex-pat Brits in Canada, and while it is always great meeting one I’d encourage new British immigrants to immerse themselves in the Canadian cultural experience.

Get outside of the major population centres too — there’s so much to explore and you barely scratch the surface in Toronto.

Great advice, Lyndon … and good luck with your PR company, mate.

Canada gets ready to launch Express Entry

"OK, here we go. Two words. First word: fast. Yes! Second word: to go in. Yes! Well done, Peter!"

“OK, here we go. Two words. First word: fast. Yes! Second word: to go in. Yes! Well done, Peter!”

Important press release today …

Snip:

“Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander today confirmed it’s one month and counting until Express Entry launches a new phase of active immigration recruitment to meet economic and labour market needs. Potential candidates can create their profile on January 1, 2015, with the first Invitations to Apply issued within weeks.

“Express Entry will help select skilled immigrants based on their skills and experience. Those with valid job offers or provincial/territorial nominations will be picked first. Details published today in the Canada Gazette explain how candidates will be ranked and selected, based on these factors that research shows are linked to success in the Canadian economy.

“Research shows these criteria will help ensure newcomers participate more fully in the Canada’s economy and integrate more quickly into Canadian society.

“In-demand immigrants’ applications will be processed in six months or less.”

Full press release here.