Thursday, October 18, 2012

Canada or US, which country would you rather live in?

I read this article today, probably written by a Canadian, that got me thinking of my thankfulness for having made a great life-choice and opting to go to Canada for my post secondary education as opposed to the US as most Indian middle class kids do. Here is an excerpt from the article -
Canadians receive better social benefits such as healthcare, paid maternity leave and greater subsidization of their post-secondary schools. Both countries generally have around the same annual income. However, the cost of living in the United States is remarkably less. While Canadians may pay less for larger-life events, Americans pay less for day-to-day expenses such as eating and housing costs. Maybe it all evens out in the end, or perhaps one place really is better to live than the other.
When I made that choice, some thirteen years ago, I was not thinking of settling in this cold and obscure country. Little did I know about its universal health care or care about maternity benifits. Back home if you got sick, you hoped you had a connection to get into a hospital on time and had enough money to pay for it and with maternity leave, one got 3 months unpaid leave with no job security. Frankly I was healthy, young and far from family minded. The only thing that stood in my mind back then was the reputation that the US of A had for racial discrimination, riots, profiling, ghettos. I chose Canada because the university degree was cheaper beyond compare (especially for a middle class foreign student) and I felt I was less likely to be marginalised due to my colour.
Turns out that I made a choice wiser than I could have hoped for. I arrived in a very generous country, greeted at the airport by an ex-Pakistani family(!). I have since stopped marvelling at bus drivers that smile and greet you when you get on and friends that are welcoming, down-to-earth, and more often than not, a mixed racial group.
Five years ago, my husband and I were at a McCormick and Schmick's in Denver, CO. I remember noting that I must have have been the olny coloured patron at that restaurant, barring the servers who were all visible minority. This experience was repeated in Minneapolis which I used to think was more like Canada than US. I am not sure what my friends and former classmates from India, that chose to settle in the US, have to say to that. All the ones I have met have seemed fairly prosperous and happy. But since those trips to Denver and Minneapolis I have had a couple of kids. Starting a family is an expensive time in people's lives, you have baby stuff to buy, one parent is about to lose their income and then there are the associated medical costs. How we would managed had we lived in the States, I cannot fathom. Here the pre-natal care, delivery, post natal care, vaccinations all cost me nothing out of pocket. Or I should say nothing more than my income tax of 30% marginal rate. (Apologies for not having any idea what people earning the same as I do pay in the States). Knowing we would not be left with scary hospital bills post-baby helped us start a family.
Then two years back my parents moved to Canada and from the day they arrived they were covered for health care much to their surprise, and eligible for old age security in ten years.
It makes me think of the Mastercard commercial:

Two children - $0, one professional post graduate degree - $8,000 (actually got a $20,000.0 university grant for that so was ahead by $12K when I left), dad's heart surgery that I was on the hook for - $0. Zero discrimination (you guessd it) - Priceless!.
I can safely say that I have saved enough money to buy my 4 bedroom house outright (in theory).

This is not to say Canada is perfect, for one there is no recognition for foreign credentials, so don't be surprised if you find a dentist trained in Egypt running the hygenists mini autoclave for a job. Or a Philipino architect working as a technician. Then there is the political apathy, and yes, every consumer good costs about 20% to 30% extra no matter if the dollar is at par. I do love the fabulous cities of the US, built on cheap immigrant labour (even immigrants here make the legal minimum wage (unless they work in the publishing industry)), and yes, I will be heading south of the 49th to buy some cheap winter tires and perhaps some clothing. But I will always be glad to call Canada home.

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About Me

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Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
I am a forty something mom of two girls, an architect by profession and an avid sci-fi and My Little Pony fan. I love to cook, but only occasionally and am in the middle of rediscovering my heritage through food.