Setting up house

Electrical Equipment

Regarding TVs. We shipped over two small televisions and accompanying video players, as we can play both British and American tapes on our machines, but it doesn’t work vice versa. They will not of course pick up the TV broadcast here and were only to be used for videos and games. The only problem is the voltage. Here is 110v, the UK of course is 230v, but we plugged them in anyhow, via adapters, to the Canadian system. Surprise, our son’s set and tape machine actually worked on the low voltage, but our daughter’s didn’t.

Having said that, the two computer systems we brought over functioned on 110v, as did one of the printers. The CD player required a small step-up transformer at a cost of twenty pounds and some of the small transformers 220v to 9v functioned, whilst others didn’t, but were cheap enough to replace. To get our daughter’s TV to work will require a heavier transformer and that’s on order.

My wife’s sewing machine has an external motor so it’s just a matter of locating an agent and purchasing an identical but 110v drive unit. The good old Dyson unfortunately remains in its box. Power tools I brought over were a waste of time, to be honest, as Canadian replacements are so cheap, as are decent hand tools. The shipping costs and fact that the power ones will not function without a tranny, make me cringe. One saving grace is that, in a deal for property, we ended up with an old 23′ RV complete with onboard generator that pokes out 220v power.

There is another solution. Forgive me, any electricians out there! This is what I have been given to understand. In Canadian homes there are two power cables arriving into the main household fuse box and each is 110v. For heavy power tools such as saw benches etc, the two are combined to make 220v and so in theory, given the right UK sockets, you could wire up your home to have two separate sources of power for both appliances. I’ve also been told that the fact that this will produce a faster cycle, shouldn’t present too much of a problem. (Quite what bicycles have got to do with this, I haven’t quite gathered…).

The plugs and sockets here are much smaller than the UK, and I believe that the 110v, whilst giving you a shock, won’t actually kill you, unlike in Britain. Not having the mother-in-law over here to try this out, I can’t confirm one way or the other.

Finally on this one, whether it is just me or not, but a kettle takes twice as long to boil here.

Canadian cookers are huge and wide – why, we just can’t find out. These are not your prissy, prissy euro ones, but monumental pieces of functionality – great for cooking missionaries in. The washing and drying machines are what you’d find in a laundrette back home, industrial and extremely practical. Never mind good looks, they do the job admirably. Most of the hardware products have the style of the early sixties – hair dryers, food mixers and blenders etc (and may actually be those).

Purchase Tax

Like the UK and its VAT, Nova Scotia has its own sales tax which is 15% and called HST (Harmonisation Sales Tax). Great, you might say, as VAT is 17.5%. Wrong. Here all product prices in the shops are net of tax, which is added on at the till. So they just about break even, in comparison. If you are here for less than 60 days, you can claim back the HST, up to a certain limit, on goods you have purchased and are taking out of Canada, when you go.

Exchange Rates

Between our deciding to leave for Canada and actually landing here, the exchange rate varied from 2.33 Canadian dollars to the pound, down to 2.23. Today’s rate is 2.27. If you do have a large amount of capital available, it would be wise to watch these rates daily. In fact we observed them changing every two minutes when getting nearer dollar purchase time. Feed this information into a spreadsheet and you can see the importance of forecasting the impact on your bankroll. Say you were lucky enough to have £100,000 in the UK. Using the above rates, had you shifted the entire amount when the dollar was at its weakest, you’d have gained an extra Can$ 20,000, over leaving it until now. That’s enough to buy a small house here! Timing is crucial – make the effort. After transferring our funds from our UK bank to our Canadian one, we’d lost around $8,000. My advice would be to contact a currency expert first and compare costs.


Very straightforward – 100 cents to the dollar. This comes in 50, 20, 10 and 5 dollar bills and in $2 (a toonie), $1 (a loonie), 25c (a quarter), 10c (a dime), 5c, 1c coins. A very rough guide when spending: half the marked price you see is the sterling value, because tax would be added on at the point of sale.

© 2002 Klondike Pete

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