Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mississauga: Can't Help But Notice Things Are More Expensive, Slower, and Harder to Find Here!

"Nice to visit, but I wouldn't want to live (e.g. be a full-time consumer) there."  I think it's a phrase that applies to Mississauga, Ontario, in the great country of Canada.

Sorry to post such a downer of a message today.

I just found out that Alex's application for a very basic credit card here in Canada has been denied 

Grrrrr . . . . A sort of "last straw" moment that leads me to vent via blogging.

Yes, I know that I'm a pampered, white, upper middle-class housewife, who's well-fed (a little too well-fed), surrounded by unbelievable luxury and entertainment sources by the standards of the rest of the world.  I should be gibbering with slack-jawed amazement and joy at every aspect of my daily life here.  But, damn it!  I know how much better things can be . . . and should be . . . for everyone!

As a "homemaker," I spend a lot of time paying bills (am not going there in this posting) and buying things:  food, supplies for the house, etc.

The iron here isn't working, so I go online to see what I can find on, find a great deal on a Black-N-Decker iron with lots of wonderful reviews . . . then I remember that I'm in Canada and have to deal instead with . . . and I find prices are higher by at least a third, the number of choices in stock are much fewer (can't find any of the models I liked on, and there are hardly any reviews of the models they do have.  I've noticed this over and over and over:  I haven't yet found a replacement for my broken computer mouse; I am having Alex bring me my alarm clock from home - last trip, it was our can opener . . .  

Try to shop in Walmart here, and the story is the same.  Back in NC, I could buy a Tracfone at the local Dollar General for about $15; Here, I have to pay at least $50 to get a "pay as you go" cell phone.  So, the things I had grown accustomed to being able to go out and find easily for very little money are way more difficult to find and afford here.

When Grocery shopping, I am finally becoming numb to the sticker shock.  Probably because I'm spending my brain energy trying to find what I need among the unfamiliar packaging and strange terminology (The stores here all sell "extra-old," rather than "aged" cheddar, for example.)  But, considering where things seem to be heading economically back in the states, guess there's a good chance prices will climb as high by the time we're back in November.  So, it's probably good that I'm getting used to the shocking totals at the bottom of my grocery receipts.  Sigh.

I had a conversation with some neighbors I've just met who live across the courtyard from us (Sarah and Ku . . . I'm guessing on the spelling of his name.), and the topic of housing prices here came up.  Houses cost a whole lot here and buying a first home is pretty darn difficult for most families.  I haven't looked up the numbers, but there are a whole lot of factors here that make new housing a great deal scarcer, and so the prices are extremely high.  I haven't really read into it yet, but I'd be willing to bet that some of the culprits are restrictive zoning, higher labor costs (I sure know about the comparative difficulties of hiring and firing and mandatory benefits in Canada that are faced by Alex's company.), higher taxes on materials, various policies and laws that effectively restrict the number of companies that can compete in the businesses of building houses and lending.   

Credit is harder to get here.  Aside from our own first-hand experience with rejection, we're hearing the same story from others here.  OK, one guy who recently brought up his own tribulations in this area is a person whose annual income is way higher than ours (We know, because he is quite a few rungs further up the corporate ladder than where Alex is), but here in Canada, he's only able to qualify for a credit card with a $1,000 limit on it!  Perhaps it's merely because of our lack of credit history in this country, but I get the distinct impression that a lot fewer folks here are able to get credit cards.  Credit is just more expensive in Canada.  Certainly, the advertised rates and the annual fees on credit card advertisements we've seen would raise the eyebrows of most Americans.  So we use our debit card; but with purchasing we wanna' do online or over the phone, we are stuck with using our U.S. cards AND paying those additional transaction fees for currency exchange.

Again, I have a nasty feeling that, in a lot of ways, Canada's just a little further down an economic road onto which the States has been careening for quite a few decades now.      

OK, done griping.  We're fine.  It was sunny today.  Emily wrote two letters, and blew me away with her mastery of pronouns . . . Life is still good.


  1. Found a mouse at Walmart for $32 (same one costs between $12 and $18 on depending on the color you want, and I don't think the Walmart at Holly Springs even carries this model anymore, as a nicer one is now available.) Posted this late because my Internet connection is especially spotty today. Have given up trying to get the problem diagnosed and fixed.

  2. Your post reminds me so very much of how I remember feeling after living in England for the first couple of months when Bruce and I had a two year assignment there with IBM.

    At first, everything was coming up roses - everything that was different from home was quaint or even a better idea! Then, suddenly it seemed, I hit the wall - or should I say slammed into the wall - and I couldn't see the roses for the thorns!! EVERYthing seemed stupid, inefficient and seemingly in existence just to aggravate me!!

    Shortly thereafter, though, I was able to see the whole English rose - thorns and all - and settled in to the new rhythm of my new life.

    So, I feel your pain and frustration, Heather! Hang in there! And here's hoping that Canadian Maple Leaf starts shimmering a bit more brilliantly for you again soon! :)



  3. Aw...this explains a lot of things to me about some folks I know from Canada. would think things would be a tad easier there....but I guess not. There is always the adjustment to living somewhere else, but it's definitely much harder when everything costs so much more and your choices are limited. We experienced it to some degree in CA, though not as thoroughly as you are. Housing was the main issue- which we knew it would be....but beyond being expensive which we expected, it was difficult to find any because of all the different income and pet restrictions. It was one of many reasons we returned so soon...hang in there! ps- we got the card fro emily. we DO plan on writing back....been sick swamped with b-days.

  4. Thanks, friends, for the comments! We have finally gotten our internet connection back up at home, so I can reply. Yup, Tricia, I hear you and know that "this too shall pass," and I'll be able to appreciate the rose despite the rust. Spring will help. And then Emily will be willing to venture outside on foot more, and we can begin enjoying the advantages of living in a more metro area (lots, presumably, within walking distance, to do).

  5. It might be that as far as Canadian banks are concerned, you don't have a credit record and/or they aren't sure you're really Heather Chapman. Cheer up. Worse things have happened in Krasnoyarsk!