My Experience Living in Ottawa/Gatineau for a Term

December 20, 2018

Hello everyone! It’s been more than three months since I’ve last posted and I’d like to give everyone an update of where I am at right now. After finishing up my summer term at Waterloo, I started off working as a Co-op Policy Analyst at Environment and Climate Change Canada. I must say that this was a very new experience for me. My past Co-ops have always been in the provincial government, so I wasn’t as sure what the federal government would be like.

I was even more unsure of how living in Gatineau would be like. I had originally wanted to rent in Ottawa, but since my workplace was just across the bridge in Gatineau and rent there is cheaper, I opted to rent there instead. My first few days there were pretty bad – because Gatineau is in Quebec, the primary language used there was French, which I only had a beginner proficiency in. I also missed the big city life in Toronto a bit too. There was really nothing much to do in Gatineau, compared to my familiar hometown of Toronto.

However, things would perk up in the next few months. Luckily for me at my workplace, they put all the students together in a whole row of cubicles, so we were able to talk to each other. I made a couple good friends from my time at work that I still talk to, and greatly enjoyed the lively atmosphere in the student area. Having some friends there helped me open up a bit to the new unfamiliar city and I began to explore the area a bit more.

For those in Political Science seeking government jobs, there’s a very high chance you’ll probably end up here too, so here are some things that I had found surprising and also new from living in Ottawa/Gatineau for a couple months:

First, let’s start off with the transit here – it’s actually surprisingly effective. I had thought Toronto would be the gold standard whenit came to transit with their subway lines spanning the city. However, the transit here is actually pretty good. They have special fully grade-separated transitway lines that buses run on, and the buses go at pretty fast speeds with high frequencies. I was pretty surprised at this.

On a less happy note, the food is a completely different game here. I’m a pretty big food guy, and I was pretty disappointed to see the Asian food options here dreadful compared to Toronto. There was just no variety, and the price of Asian food here was significantly more than Toronto due to a lack of competition. Even the Chinatown in Ottawa was disappointing to see, with mostly Vietnamese Pho joints rather than actual Chinese places. There were, however, a couple gems that I went to in Toronto that also had a location in Ottawa. The most important one, for me, was Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot, which I very much enjoyed here.

And lastly, the cost of rent. This is probably the best part of living here. The rent is so cheap compared to Toronto. When I worked downtown Toronto, I would have to commute an hour or even more at times in order to save on the rent. In Gatineau, I pay a comparable price for a similar place and I only need to walk 10 minutes to work. The convenience of being so close to work is amazing – every day I get pretty much an extra 1 to 2 hours of my life back, and time is something that I very much value in my life.

Right now I’m nearing the end of my Co-op term and will be moving back to Waterloo to finish up my last undergraduate term. I must say that I had a really good time living in and exploring this new city and who knows, I might be back here one day to continue my career!