April 12, 2011

Frequently Asked Questions partie une

We're often asked a myriad of questions starting with "why are you here?" I thought I would answer some of these questions and at the same time provide updates about why we are here.

Do you like it in Canada?
Why, yes we do. We've been in Montreal since October 2008 and it's been an adventure to say the least. Once we got through all the pain it the ass moving details and starting life in a new country, it's been okay. We survived filing our first Canadian taxes and will never complain about taxes again in the U.S. Kish continues to try and covert her U.S. speedometer to kilometers per hour and has unfortunately been unsuccessful on a couple of occasions. She also tried to convince a Montreal police officer that if the bright red sign that said "Arret" had said "Stop" she would have stopped. He didn't care.

However, in general, we do like the quality of life in Canada.

How are you liking that free health care? I heard they have death panels in Canada!
Well, it's not free of course because over 50% of our income goes to taxes and the majority of Quebec budget goes to health care. Our roads may suck, but we have health care. We did not have a problem finding doctors. However, what makes it easy is that we do have a supplemental health care policy through Paul's job. Think of it like Medicare in the U.S...those who only have Medicare have a more difficult time than those who have another policy to help out. (Our universal health care is also called Medicare). Most doctor's offices do not handle insurance at all. They swipe your Medicare card and if you need to pay for anything else, you pay out of pocket and then get reimbursed from the insurance company. Despite the rumors, you can't just cross the border into Canada and get free health care or cheap prescriptions. In order to get a Medicare card you have to show a lot of paperwork, pay some fees, get some stamps, justify some government worker's jobs, etc. But, in the long run, it's been relatively easy for us and we have very few complaints, if any.

Are you Canadian citizens now?
No, we are temporary residents through Paul's work permit. We all have visas we keep in our passports. We are treated like Canadians when it comes to customs and all that so we do have restrictions on what we can bring across the border, which I've written about often on this blog. We pay taxes like anyone else, but we can't vote. There are a few other things we are not entitled to either...mainly when it comes to school-related programs that are for Canadian citizens.

I've heard college is cheap in Canada?
Why, yes it is, relative to the U.S.  However, since we are not permanent residents or citizens and despite the fact that we pay taxes here, that still does not apply to us right now.  When Danielle turns 18 she will be able to apply for permanent residency herself, which would enable her to attend University in Canada at the "cheaper" rate. For those of you in the U.S., think of it as in-state versus out of state tuition. The prices also vary by province with Quebec being the "cheapest." Here in Quebec, Danielle could attend a university like McGill for less than $4,000 per year (for tuition). Yes, you read that right, $4,000 per year, not per month as it would be for many schools in the States. There are many other fantastic universities in Canada which are more expensive, but nowhere near the inflated prices in the U.S.

Do you want Danielle to go to college in Canada?
Do the math. Ideally, yes.

Wait a minute...isn't Danielle only in 11th grade or a junior in high school...why is she graduating from high school this spring?
In Quebec, high school goes from grade 7 through grade 11. In grade 11, actually a bit earlier, kids need to decide what track they want to continue with for their education...social sciences, sciences, vocational or whatever. So, after grade 11, kids go to CEGEP which is like a two year junior college program. Then, they can go to university in Quebec (or not) and it's three years. Some kids choose to go to a year or two of CEGEP in Quebec, then transfer to another province (or not). If a kid attends high school in Quebec, they must go to CEGEP for two years before going to University in Quebec. However, if someone in high school in another provinces, which goes through grade 12, they can come to University in Quebec when they are finished with their respective high school program. Confused? It's taken us a two years to get this figured out.

So, what's Danielle doing next year?
Danielle applied to three Commerce programs (like business) at CEGEPs in the Montreal area and got accepted to all three. She's decided to attend John Abbott College and was accepted to the Honours Commerce program which is where she will go. The school is located five miles or so from our house, and easy public transportation since she does not yet have a driver's license (which is not uncommon here). It will be nice to not have to commute to the city. She will be in a program with about 40 other students and is very much looking forward to it. We're taking it one year at a time and it's a two year program. Since we are not residents we will have to pay, however, if we were residents it would be basically FREE. For our friends in the U.S., it's like free freshman year of college.

Does Duke understand French?

to be continued in a future post.....

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