Monthly Archives: August 2018

Successful Brits in Toronto: Katya Garipova

Katya Garipova

Katya used to sound British but now she sounds like a Russian Australian … a Braustralian, if you will

Pete Beale from EastEnders was the loveable market trader that constantly tried to flog spuds to punters as they wandered around Albert Square. Who can forget his cheeky Cockney banter and shout of, “Awight tweacle?!” to Sharon, or Kath. We can’t recall who, but he was a sales legend.

Katya Garipova also tries to flog her wares, but because this is not 1985 EastEnders, now has the power of the Internet to help her. In fact, we first spotted her on Facebook in a Brit-expat group and offered her a slot as our next Successful Brit in Toronto.

Katya is a British illustrator, designer and art director living in Toronto. Her family is still living in Berkshire, Leeds and some in South Wales.

We’re not sure which part of South Wales, but probably not Pontypridd.

That’s a bloody shame because here’s some fun facts about Pontypridd we featured a while back:

  • Pontypridd is twinned with Nürtingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany and Mbale, Uganda.
  • Notable people from Pontypridd include Tom Jones, Indie-folk band Climbing Trees and the drummer for AC/DC.
  • Pontypridd has its very own community radio station GTFM 107.9 run by a voluntary management committee.

So, let’s DRAW some ARTful answers from these following questions to ILLUSTRATE why Katya is successful …

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 was not originally intending to stay in Toronto or even Canada permanently, but things changed a lot and now I’m a permanent resident! Initially I came to visit on holiday eight years ago and loved everything about the city, so I applied through the BUNAC program to live and work in Toronto for an extended period after graduating with BA from Winchester School of Art.

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

I started doing freelance graphic design work for a small Canadian company while still in the UK to have something to show on my resume when I came to Toronto. Skype and e-mail was my best friend.

Before I arrived, I made sure to research. I applied to some job postings before arriving and told them when I will be arriving, to which a few replied with, “Sure, get in contact when you’re here” — which I did.

When I arrived, I immediately started to apply to more places and doing interviews from the connections I built before coming. That in turn landed me my first proper Canadian job in a multimedia design and production studio.

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

It took some time to get used to not being able to walk over to any ATM and take out money for free. (Your bank, only!) Or not having free bank accounts here in general.

Also, the added 13% tax on everything still throws me off at times! And the tipping took getting used to, definitely.

However, the best would be the friendliness of people, the incredible mix of cultures and backgrounds of everyone around you. Almost everyone you meet is from somewhere else, and made Canada home.

There is also so much great food here it’s ridiculous. I have never been so adventurous with food until I came here.

People are very open minded, and supportive. This city is also probably the most influential in the country. When it comes to the art, design and advertising industries, it’s the most buzzing with opportunity. And it’s growing like crazy.

Do you make an effort to connect with other Brits in the city, or just meet them when chance allows it?

I actually don’t know any other British people here! Although many of my colleagues have family in the UK. Over the years I have made a lot of great friends through work and hobby-based meet up groups or events.

Any recommended pubs/eateries/other places for homesick Brits to meet each other and network?

To be honest, the only places I would advise if you’re craving some Twiglets and such would be British themed sweet shops in downtown Toronto, which there are a bunch (expensive, though!). There are also many British-style pubs.

My favourite option has always been to have my family mail me or bring me my favourite things during holidays or visits.

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

For students: As far as I’ve found, people in the art, design and advertising industries here don’t really care about your schooling or educational background … it’s not something they’re familiar with; GCSEs or A-Levels is gibberish.

So if your work is solid and you’re willing to go out of your comfort zone and meet people, you can become successful.

It’s always going to be tough to leave everything you know behind and start a new life elsewhere. You have to want to it to make it work. The amount of growth as a person you experience from doing something like that is immeasurable.

You’ll need to adjust to the language and slang for sure, but it’s not a big deal.

Expect for everyone to tell you how exotic and amazing your accent is. They love it here.

After some time away, your British accent will probably morph and you will become a foreigner to your own people back home. There will be laughs. After seven years of living in Canada, people here can no longer pinpoint what I am — I get Australian a lot! — and my South-England British accent is now permanently tainted with Canadian intonations, “Rolling-rrr’s” and unintended “‘eh’s.”

There’s also hints of Russian in there. But that’s just more exotic, I suppose!

Brilliant stuff. Katya’s art is also very good and you can see an extensive selection of her wares at these following fine Internet establishments:

Etsy
Instagram
Facebook
LinkedIn

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Things the UK government should be ashamed of: Parts I-III

UK government

Grrrrr! We’re so bloody angry!

Nigel Nelson is a regular contributor to Brits in Toronto, and is a member of the non-profit Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners (CABP), and Past Chair of the (also) non-profit International Consortium of British Pensioners (ICBP).

Here’s his latest thoughts on the “frozen pensions” policy. All views are the CABP’s and Brits in Toronto does not endorse them and is not held liable in any way. As always, do your due diligence.

Things the UK government should be ashamed of – Part I

Millions of you out there viewing this blog (I wish!) will have read several outspoken articles that I have written on the UK government’s “frozen pensions” Policy which has been in existence for over 70 years now.

If you live in one of 120 countries (of which Canada is one) your UK State Pension is “frozen” at the level at which it is first received, and you will not receive the annual increases. This affects the over 133,000 recipients of the UK State Pension who live in Canada. The UK is the only country in the OECD (out of 35) that operates this immoral and discriminatory policy. The Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners (CABP) has been lobbying the UK government for over 25 years in an attempt to annul this outdated policy.

I would like to tell you about Vic Williams, one of the strongest CABP supporters, who died a couple of months ago at the tender age of 96. I know that this blog normally tells you about successful Brits living in Ontario. As Vic lived in Mississauga, I think that he would have counted.

Vic Williams

Vic Willams. Photo courtesy of Wendy Williams

Vic passed away at the grand old age of 96, and he was of the old school. Born in the East End of London he was a true Cockney, and, like all Cockneys he was a born storyteller, entertaining all who new him with fascinating (and often hilarious) stories of his rich life, which began in London England, where in his youth he was a talented soccer player.

His service as a young man in the Royal Navy on the aircraft carrier HMS Formidable took him around the world. He joined up because “it was the right thing to do.”

Back in post-war London Vic met Helen, and they were married in 1954. They emigrated to Canada in 1956 and settled in Mississauga in 1958, where their family of three soon grew to five. Vic worked for Alcan for over 25 years, rising to a management position, and in the process teaching his children the values of diligence and hard work. Despite the Cockney accent that never quite left him, he was a proud Canadian, camping with his family and exploring Canada with Helen.

In retirement, Vic and Helen became founding members of the Probus Club of Mississauga Centre which provided them with many opportunities to enjoy activities with new friends. Vic was known as an avid horse-racing enthusiast and a prudent handicapper, who usually came out as a winner upon placing a bet. A generous man, Vic often gave his winnings to family and charities. As a proud WW II veteran, he was a member of the Royal Canadian Legion, participating in Remembrance Day ceremonies each year.

Until recently, a fiercely independent Vic continued to live in the Mississauga house that has been the family home for almost 50 years. Vic was always proud of the fact that, in his youth, he knew Michael Caine. Even when he was in his early nineties, he was still able to attend the CABP AGM’s where I had the honour of meeting him.

In 2013, Vic, in conjunction with the CABP made a Remembrance Day video for the then Prime Minister, David Cameron beseeching him to revoke the unfair, immoral and discriminatory “frozen pensions” policy. I am not sure if Mr. Cameron ever saw the video.

Because of the UK government’s “frozen pensions” policy, UK pensioners living in Canada who retired at the same time as Vic, and who have earned a “full” UK State Pension will have received more than £67,000 less than their peers in the UK, even though they will have made the same level of National Insurance contributions. In Canadian Dollar terms (using historic exchange rates), this amounts to close on CAD 129,500, which is not chump change and is a life-changing amount for many older pensioners who may have become dependent on the Canadian government for handouts and subsidies.

According to Statistics Canada, as at 2016, there were 828,000 pensioners living in Canada aged 65 and over on “low income,” and, according to the Government of Canada, as at 2016, 10.3% of men and 10.8% of women aged 65 and over were living below the poverty line — in terms of UK pensioners, this means over 14,000 of them are living below the poverty line.

According to the UK’s Department for Work & Pensions (DWP), there are 38% of UK pensioners living in “frozen” countries (like Canada) who are receiving a UK State Pension of less than £20 per week (CAD 32 per week), at current exchange rates. Who can live on this?

Things the UK government should be ashamed of – Part II

If you are a regular follower of this column, you will know that I have a good friend, James (real person but name changed) who is a doting pensioner in his eighties (https://britsintoronto.com/2018/03/19/brexit-update-nothing-is-agreed-until-everything-is-agreed/). I usually find him chortling in his G&T, but times are so hard that he has run out of gin. He recently went down to his wine cellar to get a bottle of claret, but he has also run out of that. Times are hard. Things haven’t been helped by what is happening (or not happening) with Brexit.

With the UK Parliament in recess, and no clear way forward in terms of the UK divorcing the EU, it is UK pensioners living overseas who continue to suffer. When the Brexit referendum result was announced there was an immediate fall in the exchange rate:

Exchange rate small
(Larger version here.) Source: https://www.currenciesdirect.com/en/currency-tools/currency-charts

All UK State Pensions are paid in GBP. Most pensioners are living pension cheque to pension cheque. This mean that they are hostages to fortune when it comes to exchange rates, and have to take the rate on the day that they receive their pension cheque.

According to the latest DWP figures, the average UK State Pension received by pensioners living in Canada is just over £41 per week. At the beginning of June 2016 (just before the Brexit referendum), this would have been worth nearly CAD 80 per week. By the middle of July (just after the Brexit referendum) this would only be worth CAD 70 per week. The longer that the UK government prevaricates over the Brexit deal (or no deal) the more jittery the currency exchange markets become, and this means the UK pensioners living abroad will be worse off.

In fact, my friend James receives a smaller UK State Pension today in CAD terms than when he first retired. When he first retired in 1998, he was receiving £64.70 per week. The exchange rate in those days was 2.37 CAD to the pound, so he was receiving CAD 153 per week. Today, he is still receiving £64.70 per week, but this is only worth CAD 109 per week — so he is receiving a staggering 29% less now in real terms than when he first retired.

Meanwhile, according to the Bank of Canada, inflation has risen by over 46% since 1998, when James retired. Whilst the UK government cannot be held completely responsible for the changes in exchange rates, it is impossible for UK pensioners living in “frozen” countries to budget when their income base is in decline, and inflation is rising at an average rate of nearly 2% a year (at least, in Canada).

However, the annulment of the “frozen pensions” policy is entirely in the hands of the UK government, and the fund from which the State Pension is paid (the National Insurance Fund) currently has a £6 billion surplus. Meanwhile, to uprate the UK State Pension for all pensioners living in Canada would cost a meagre (in comparison) £159 million per year. Hopefully, Brexit may force their hands, but that is a story for another day.

In the meantime, it is enough to drive James and his pensioner friends to drink … except they can no longer afford it. The gin is all drunk, and so is the wine. All that is left for them is to try their hand at homebrewing.

Things the UK government should be ashamed of – Part III

Prior to the General Election called by Theresa May in June 2017, the then Pensions Minister, Richard Harrington had asked for a meeting with the International Consortium of British Pensioners (ICBP) — 50% owned by CABP. The CABP flew a Board Member to London for the meeting. Mrs May called a General Election before that meeting could take place, and the meeting was called off at the last minute.

After the General Election, the Pensions Minister role was downgraded to the Parliamentary-Under-Secretary role, and Guy Opperman was appointed. Since then, there has been no contact. There was no apology, no offer to reimburse the ICBP for the costs that they had incurred – nada.

Yet another reason why this current UK government should be ashamed …

If there are any questions you have relating to the UK State Pension, you can call the CABP toll-free on 1-888-591-3964 or contact info AT britishpensions DOT COM.