DC and VA Region Living FAQ's
Frequently Asked Questions by CAF Families Posted to DC and VA
Q: What area should I live in/what is a good neighborhood/where are the best schools?
A: We've answered all of these questions, with the help of local families, on our Important Local Links page....as this one is the most common question and a very tough one to answer (as our region includes 2 states and a district)! In addition to those local links documents, Military Family Services (MFS) can help you get the answers you need by matching you and your family with a "sponsor" - a local individual or family that is similar to yours (ie. similar demographics, maybe living in the same place you're considering, working in the same area, etc.). They act as a local point of contact and support, and can give you input on what life is like in the area. If you're interested in being part of our sponsor program, email your MFS Coordinator here.
Q: What are schools like?
A: We've answered all of these questions, with the help of local families, on our Important Local Links page. In our region you will find some of the highest rated schools in the country. While some kids excel (and are well ahead of the game upon their return to Canada), others are challenged. Some parents report that schools here can be "intense", with long hours of homework and a high focus on sports and competitiveness. Schooldigger is a great site to find and evaluate schools in the area you're looking to rent. Children's Education Management is a great resource for families of school-aged children. For tutoring, allowances, FSD's, guidance counselling, etc. check out their site here.
Q: What is medical care like in the Capital Region?
A: The majority of the Canadian families in this area use U.S. Base Medical Treatment Facilities (MTF) instead of private facilities, and primarily use the MTFs (see DC MTF list here and Hampton Roads MTFs here). Overwhelmingly, their feedback is positive about the care they receive. When seen at a U.S. Base MTF, CAF Members and their dependents are covered under Tricare (the same Medical System that covers U.S. Members and their families), therefore you don't have to pay in advance or worry about billing, advances, reimbursement, etc. Pharmaceuticals can also be accessed on site, and are also covered under Tricare. To listen to the recording "Navigating the U.S. Medical System" by the CDLS(W) Health Admin Officer, click here. To get a list of D.C. area MTFs click here. To see the Hamptons Road Clinic Info click here.
Q: How easy is it to find work there?
A: Many professionals find the processing of licensing somewhat lengthy and challenging in the U.S., and some have chosen not to work or to work in another field. Teachers report having an easier time getting qualified, but that the pay is less than what they are used too. There may be opportunities to work at the Canadian Embassy through the Human Resources Department. To get connected to HR please email your MFS Coordinator here. U.S. Bases have a variety of Employment Readiness Programs to assist you as well, and include everything from resume and interview preparation, to access to job listings. To listen to a recording by CDLS(W) Protocol Coordinator about applying for your Employment Authorization Document (EAD), click here.
Q: What is the Canadian Community like in the region?
A: Awesome! We have concentrations of CAF Members working in Fort George Meade, Patuxent River, Naval Station Norfolk and at the Canadian Embassy, with other "onesies and twosies" scattered throughout the rest of the region. While it is challenging for all of us to convene due to distance and traffic, we at MFS do our best to support families by connecting you to those who are in close proximity to one another.
Q. Are you on social media?
A: Yes! We have a secret group for families in our region. Simply contact your MFS Coordinator here to be added. This is a great place to ask the community questions, for referrals, or to link up with new friends.
Q: What's traffic like around the Capital Region?
A: When we asked families "What is your biggest complaint about living in this area?", the overwhelming majority said traffic/commuting! Aggressive drivers, lots of honking, complex interstate system, regular and unpredictable traffic jams - it certainly takes some getting used to! Driving into the downtown core seems less conjested through the summer months, and some people notice less traffic on Mondays and Fridays. It can be challenging to find parking downtown on weekends. It is wise to find a good traffic app, like WAZE. Or, use the metro! With bridges, toll roads, tunnels and lots of construction, traffic in the Hampton Roads area can also be challenging. Wherever you are living, DC or Hampton Roads, remember to check your commute time during rush hour—it could be as much as an hour difference than during non-rush hour periods.
Q: What is the metro system like?
A: The Metro is the rapid transit system serving D.C. and several jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia. In Maryland, Metro provides service to Montgomery and Prince George's counties; in Virginia, to Arlington and Fairfax counties and the independent city of Alexandria. Combined with its ridership in the independent Virginia cities of Falls Church and Fairfax, the Metro service area is largely coextensive with the inner ring of the Washington metropolitan area. The system is currently being expanded into Loudon County, Virginia. It operates mostly as a subway in the District itself, while most of the suburban tracks are at surface level or elevated. Metro is the second-busiest rapid transit system in the United States in number of passenger trips, after the New York City. Multiple system repairs and upgrades have been occurring recently, causing headaches for many regular users. You simply need to plan your route accordingly! Plan your trip here.
Q: What's the weather like in the Capital Region?
A: We get all 4 seasons - in the spring we get to experience the beautiful cherry blossom season, the summer is hot and humid, the fall brings gorgeous vivid autumn colors. In the winter we get the odd huge snowfall that brings the city to a standstill, as it is quite ill equipped for snow removal! For the most part, it's very temperate and enjoyable year round. However, Virginia can see its fair share of severe weather, including flooding and the odd hurricane.
Q: I have a question that isn't addressed here - who should I contact?
A: Your Military Family Services Coordinator, Brenda Dunne, is more than happy to help point you in the right direction, direct you to the appropriate contact person or resource, and provide overall support during your transition to the U.S. and during your posting. Reach out anytime via email.