Choosing a Neighbourhood in Canada
When settling into a new country, an important step is locating the right place to live and set down new roots. One great thing about Canada is its expansive ethnic diversity. In fact, in some cities, recent immigrants make up more than 40% of the population. When we think about the emergence of some of these neighbourhoods, the truth is that the different ethnicities and cultures are what create them in the first place. Think “Little Italy” or “Greektown.”
If you’re new to Canada, you’ll find it’s relatively easy to discover an area that inhabits many people of your own culture. As you acclimate to your new environment, you can do so with neighbors who speak the same language or practice the same religion. You may even find nearby shops, restaurants, and places of worship that you’re used to having back home as well. It’s also not difficult to find a landlord that is familiar with your culture.
If you’re looking to be exposed to another culture entirely, you can easily find that too! In urban areas, it’s common to see residents that are not only a mix of different cultures but socioeconomic backgrounds as well. This is largely to do with the fact that most universities and colleges are located in these areas, which attracts a high amount of student immigrants.
Factors to Consider
Many non-governmental agencies exist to help immigrants make the adjustment to Canada. These agencies will be familiar with your culture and the city. They can help you find the right neighbourhood for you or your family based on your current or future needs.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you choose a neighbourhood:
Are you close to a doctor and dental care? If you’re a completely new resident, it will take some time for you to find a doctor open to taking on new patients, so it’s best to start this process quite early. However, walk-in clinics are usually readily available in the meantime. It would be helpful to find a location that has one of these nearby as well.
Are firefighters nearby? Is it easy to find addresses in the neighbourhood? Unless you opt to live in an area that is on the rural side, it’s pretty uncommon to live in a community with no fire department nearby. Still, if you are concerned about your safety, this is something you want to consider.
Place of Worship
Is there a place of worship for your faith in the neighbourhood? One crucial necessity for an immigrant in a new country is establishing a sense of community. While this can be done in various ways, if your religious faith is important to you, you might want to locate an area with a nearby place of worship or community you can join.
Is the neighbourhood close to public transportation? Will the public transportation system take you where you need to go and do it quickly? It might take you some time to get your driver’s license or purchase a vehicle. Until then, you’re going to want to make sure the area you live in has access to reliable public transportation. This might also be a factor if you have older kids who need a dependable way of getting to school.
Are there public parks, gyms, playgrounds, playing fields, arenas, community centers, and other recreational areas and centers in the neighbourhood? This is another excellent way to acclimate within a new community. In addition, if you’re used to having access to recreational activities in your home country, be sure to find a neighborhood that offers them nearby as well. Most neighbourhoods will have a website where you can get more information on the recreational activities they offer and how to get involved in the community. Libraries are also a particularly great place to get connected, as they will have local events and information on how to connect you or your children.
Are schools within walking distance? Do schools have access to ESL (English as a second language) programs to help your children do well? Do you feel comfortable with the students and the student mix? You want to make sure the area you live in has an inclusive and diverse learning environment to ensure your children feel comfortable. In most urban areas, schools are located within a 2km radius of any home, with a reliable bus transport system to support you should you not have transport.
If you do not have a car, can you walk to the stores? Are stores on the public transit route? It’s likely you’ll want to love somewhere where shopping centers or grocery stores are easily accessible.
Do the stores sell the foods you want? Most major grocery stores in Canada can accommodate people of many cultures. But it’s always nice when your area has a local shop that offers a variety of items you’re used to getting at home. This will be especially helpful if you or your children ever become homesick!
For South Africans, finding your Aromat spice, or Mrs Balls chutney might not be as easy, but fear not, as there are many online stores available that can help you find the small things that make Canada home again. Homesickness sorted!
If you don’t have a job, are there businesses in the area where you might find a job? If your career is more on the niche side, it won’t help you to move somewhere extremely rural where you’ll have difficulty securing employment. Think about your current career or the career you want and what areas might best align with that type of work.
For example, Kitchener and Waterloo are known to be major tech hubs in Ontario. It was the birthplace of Blackberry and many tech startups are still based in this area. Finding a home close to work will make it a convenient choice to settle.