Monthly Archives: March 2015

British citizen living abroad? You can apply to be an overseas voter

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Have your say about who does what, where and when, and with who, sometimes, in this beautiful building

It’s the big one. The next UK general election has been set as Thursday, May 7, 2015.

The campaigning officially kicked off yesterday and there’s still time to register to vote if you live overseas.

Check the website About My Vote for all the details. We think it’s important to still have a say in who runs the UK back home.

Here’s the timetable of events so you can keep up with all the action over the next few weeks.

We already have some related articles lined up … so watch this space.

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Behind the scenes of … a fish and chip shop

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Breaking news: enjoy your halibut while you can. And we need to start a mushy peas campaign. Read on …

We’re very excited to launch a new series of articles: Behind the scenes of …

On a regular basis (we’re not committing to a definite schedule in case the series flops and this is the only one) we will contact British institutions — such as a fish and chip shop — and ask the hard questions that no one dares to explore.

It will be groundbreaking, truly insightful and, yes, sometimes we’ll walk the editorial tightrope of pure fear and excitment to bring you the scoop on information that you’ve always wanted to know — but never had a Brit blog to take care of for you.

That changes now.

So, without further link bait ado, let’s go behind the scenes of a fish and chip shop!

To help us in our quest, Kevin from Sea Witch Fish and Chips very kindly agreed to answer our thought-provoking, deep and probing questions.

Although not a Brit, Kevin describes himself as, “A pretty typical Canadian: a mix of a medley of immigrants. Fell in love with Britpop in the early ’90s. Toured the indie record shops in the north a fair bit. That, and fish and chips, is about as British as I get.”

But that’s totally acceptable; he runs a fish and chip shop.

Hold tight as we go … behind the scenes.

How long does the oil take to cool down and how often is it changed?

I have a system for “seasoning” the grease in the different fryers. Loosely, I remove a fair bit and add at least 40 lbs of pure rendered beef dripping every morning. As for how long it takes to cool down … I’m pretty sure you could dip your finger in it an hour after we close, but we’re long gone before it is “cool.”

What’s the most popular type of battered fish do you sell?

In Canada, halibut is still king. And it will always be that way until it approaches the $20/order mark — which is coming soon. Although, as the price climbs, haddock sometimes comes close … but never surpasses.

What happens to unsold food? Is it just thrown away or given to charities or organizations?

Happily, we don’t waste anything. I’ve been doing this for a while and, I guess, have learned how to prep enough without wasting.

For fish, I’d rather sell out of one or two — we have five types on the menu — than throw some out.

For spuds, if there are any blanched ones left at the end of the day, one of us will take them home and make a hash out of them in the morn. Taters blanched in beef and finished in bacon fat? Yes please!

Why is it always served in newspaper? Why not in a magazine or on an e-reader or something?

Hey, chips wrapped in an e-reader is a perfectly good waste of chips. As you know, the newspaper wrap is one of the vestiges of a working class meal. Cheap eats served on a free supply of packaging.

Sadly, fish isn’t so cheap anymore.

Any plans to get pickled eggs or curry chip sauce on the menu for the Brit palate?

In my experience, items like these are nostalgically mentioned occasionally but are not actually requested with any frequency. Like mushy peas. And Salad Cream for a chip butty. Scraps, bits. And kebab vans.

What’s the one surprising thing about a fish and chip shop that the punters don’t know?

This is a great question. Unfortunately, my top 10 answers can only be shared over pints! On the record, though, all fish ‘n’ chippers, after a time, eat things with legs, not gills.

So there you have it. We broke the news about the price of halibut going up and that — woe is us — staples like mushy peas are not frequently requested.

So, thanks to Kevin, and we’re off for a lie down while we digest these revelations. Until the next behind the scenes of …

CONTEST: Win two tickets to the Totally British Festival!

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There may be a special guest appearance at the festival by Michael Caine’s butler dog holding two flags

We published a blog post back in the heady days of 2013 asking: Do we need a Little Britain in Toronto?

After much debate in the Brits in Toronto office — settled by a game of slapsies — it was decided that no, we don’t. Brits are scattered far and wide across this fair city … but now and again (especially during World Cups) we tend to congregate as a tribe and (modestly, ahem) celebrate all things British.

Thanks to Paul and Michelle Meade, the publishers of The British Canadian Group of Newspapers and Totally British Magazine, Brits will have that chance again to meet up and have some jolly old fun at the Totally British Festival being held at the Hamilton Convention Centre on May 16-17, 2015.

There’s tons of great stuff going on, but we also asked Paul to explain a bit more about the event …

It’s being described as the biggest British Show in Canada for a reason. The Totally British Festival will have two days packed with traditional — and not so traditional — British entertainment, with an emphasis on fun.

The event is taking the place of the annual British Isles Show, which is usually held in Mississauga. The organisers announced they were postponing the spring event, and possibly moving it to the autumn. That’s when Totally British Magazine stepped in to fill the gap.

Publisher Paul Meade says, “We didn’t want this annual event to stop. We look forward to it, and so do thousands of people within the British community. So, the magazine and The British Canadian newspaper are backing an entertainment extravaganza for all ages.”

Instead of the usual Coronation Street character being the big draw, organizers hope the varied entertainment will bring people in. From Morris Dancers, to a Beatles band, to a Punch and Judy Show, Tom Jones tribute artist, a Classic Car show, Robin Hood Village, Brass Band, Coronation Street Quiz, model trains, a Concert Band, a bit of British Pantomime, and some seriously funny audience participation, every hour will be packed with family entertainment.

There will be dozens of British vendors on hand selling everything you miss from back home, and there will be a bakery, sweet shop and British grocery, as well as a hot food stall selling pies, pasties, baked beans and mushy peas.

Organizers decided to move the venue to Hamilton because, as Meade says, “This will be more convenient for people from Mississauga to Niagara, and everywhere in between. And we hope Toronto Brits will make the journey as well. I promise it will be worth it. This is going to be a British show like no other.”

But Meade and his team are not new to British festivals. They have put on several shows in British Columbia, and none of them had Coronation Street characters. “We believe that if we can make the entertainment the focus, then people will leave our show having had a brilliant time. I always tell people to imagine you are coming to a British wedding reception or a pantomime — expect the unexpected, and you will have a laugh!”

Entry has been reduced to $10 per person, and there is an online offer that gets you in both days for just $10, but it’s a limited time offer only available at www.totallybritishfestival.org.

The website also has details of a weird talent competition being held at the festival. Brits are invited to enter Briton’s Got Talent where they are can display weird and unusual talents to win prizes.

CONTEST TIME!

All sounds great, eh?! Now here’s the good bit — Paul has kindly offered TWO FREE TICKETS to the show as a contest prize!

It’s quite simple: just tweet why you’d like to attend the show and (1) include the hash tag #britstix (so we can track entries) and (2) link back to this post (here’s the short link [http://wp.me/p3SIGx-om] so you can save space in your tweet).

If you are not on Twitter, just post your reason to attend the show in the comments section below. It’s that easy.

We’ll pick a winner the week before the show and arrange with Paul to get them the two tickets.

Hoping to see a massive turnout of Brits in May!

Top 8 things you need to know before you go to Canada!

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Nick Noorani, always a happy chap

Reprinted by kind permission of the smiling gent above who started Prepare For Canada.

This year is the beginning of my seventeenth year in Canada. Seventeen years of working to help immigrants succeed and thereby give back to the country I adopted. Here are some tips beyond my 7 Success Secrets!

1) Get all your papers ready. Starting from your educational documents, birth, and marriage or divorce documents. Driver’s license, valuables, good to follow all critical. For a complete list, go here.

2) Research your location. Most immigrants go to where they have a close or distant relative which is good but not ideal from a career perspective. Find out the labour market demand for your profession and choose your location accordingly. Remember, with Canada being so big (second largest country in the world by landmass!) once you land moving becomes pretty expensive.

3) Research your career — is it a regulated or unregulated career? If it is the former and you go through the process of getting your credentials recognised, do remember that this changes form one Province to another. In other words, if you move from Ontario to British Columbia you need to see whether your credentials still meet the requirements.

4) Choose your landing time if you can. I hear of so many who land in December or January when the weather challenges will distract you from the whole settlement process. Additionally, that is not a time you want to be going out looking for a job. The ideal time is mid-year when it is summer and just right before schools open in September. You get to go familiarize yourself in new city, connect with a settlement agency and hopefully make friends!

5) Get your finances organized. If you have attended our webinars you know that we work exclusively with Scotiabank as we believe they provide a superior product and customer service for newcomers. Find out more about their StartRight program here.

6) Have realistic expectations. Many immigrants migrate at the peak of their career and, understandably, want to pick up where they left off when they move to Canada. Have realistic expectations, but aim for the sky. Here’s the point: It took me 23 years to reach where I was in the advertising industry in my home country, so I cannot realistically expect I will instantly be at the same point immediately in a new country!

7) Understand your strengths and weaknesses. Not exclusive to migrants, fully understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses and being truly self-aware is not always easy. As human beings, we often find it difficult to face up to reality, accept when we’re wrong, admit to making mistakes, and acknowledge we may not be very good at something. To thrive in a new country, it’s critical to put down your defenses and to objectively reassess your skills in a new light — a Canadian light.

8) Seek help and advice. The first thing you should do is connect with a credentialing service that will help you get started on having your education qualifications recognized. Click here to get started. Next, ask for assistance from the many immigrant settlement agencies. They will help you with an accurate self-assessment of your soft skills which you can elaborate on in job cover letters and interviews. And don’t just stop there! Get a mentor, start networking within your profession and get on your way to success one step at a time.

So there you have it. More tips to help you succeed in Canada! Every month, I will be talking more about this in our newsletter. The only way to get it is to subscribe here.

Lastly, don’t forget to attend our Know Before You Go webinar and prepare for success in Canada!

Reddit discussion: How would a British person fit into life in Toronto?

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Lots of good comments in this Reddit Toronto thread

We love Reddit Toronto and they often feature some good, relevant content to our subject matter … like this one.

Here’s a very specific discussion that Brits in Toronto readers may find useful, or decide to participate in: How would a British person fit into life in Toronto?

There’s some positive and negative comments in the discussion, so take a butcher’s!

Don’t forget, Brits, you have to file taxes in Canada. How about $20 off? And a wormhole?

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Tax. Just like a sad love song, it affects most of us and makes our bottom lip tremble

Let’s face it — this is not a fun, well-crafted, witty and spellchecked post reviewing some nice British-themed food, or a heartwarming story about a Successful Brit in Toronto.

It’s about TAX!

There, we said it. But you have to face it. So we made it a little easier and partnered up with Taxback.com to make the task not such a pain. And as it’s a sponsored post, they’re also offering you $20 off your filing fee. We’ll repeat that fact at the end too just for more impact.

So, let’s get filing those taxes!

Tax season has come and gone as quickly as the snow this year (well, maybe not in the east), but nonetheless, the deadline is approaching for us all to file our tax returns. If you’ve worked in Canada in 2014, you’re obliged to file a tax return.

Unfortunately, the Canadian tax system does not mirror that of the UK’s, where tax is looked after for us. In Canada, we are entrusted to file our own tax returns each year.

It’s not all bad news however, because if you paid tax in 2014, you’re more than likely due a tax refund. Taxback.com’s average refund for international workers in Canada is $904, which is not to be sniffed at! What would you do with $904?

So, where do you begin? Luckily, Brits In Toronto has partnered with Taxback.com to guide you all in the right direction. Taxback.com specializes in filing tax returns for international workers, and look after the whole process for you.

They will even send your refund to your UK bank account if that’s what you want.

Taxback.com can send you a free no-obligation tax refund estimate in three days, and all they need from you is to fill out the following registration forms online:

1. Click here to fill in the registration form
2. Click here to sign and date the Canadian tax forms
3. Send your completed registration form, T4 and copy of passport to canada@taxback.com

Mention Brits In Toronto in your e-mail and you’ll get a $20 discount on your filing fee.

Might as well, right? You have to file them somehow. You could then invest that extra $20 in a tax-free savings account, which will create a tax wormhole and implode the fabric of time and space in a singularity.

And who said tax wasn’t exciting?!

Red vs. Brown: Which sauce are you?

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Forget the general election … this is REALLY important

A fun little item caught our SAUCY eye today. Ha! Come on readers, KETCHUP will ya? Ha ha!

OK. It was a slow news day. But we still like this as it will divide a nation of Brits and have families fighting at the table. Red or Brown?

The “Red vs. Brown” campaign pits Heinz Tomato Ketchup lovers against fans of HP Sauce. It has kicked off with the message being spread on the brands’ social media channels.

There is a dedicated website to vote on your favourite sauce flavour. The votes will be tracked on a regional map to highlight the divide in popularity across different parts of the UK.

You can vote and also win a year’s supply!

So, prove your alliance once and for all and let’s see what sauce comes out on top.