Settling into a new country is a very long journey filled with stress and tension and more often than not, the whole process is arduous and draining. You basically feel like complete strangers trying to fit in a whirlpool of a new and modern system in a foreign land when you initially settle in. The hope of having a better and brighter future for your family seemed to be elusive at first but fear not, once you embrace your new life whilst accepting the fact that the forthcoming journey would be very difficult, all your hard work will eventually come into fruition. Trust me, mine did.
A year after our arrival, I will tell you straight from our experiences the difficulties we faced when we first arrived here in Canada. As everyone knew firsthand, the move has not been easy for us. We all knew that moving in between countries is an expensive process which involves a lot of money, time and most especially, a lot of effort. Aside from that, here are the list of the difficulties we faced in our first year (in no particular order):
1. Lack of Credit History
In Canada, when it comes to making purchases, most people use financing. For newcomers like us, basically we have a zero credit rating (since we are relatively new and we do not own any property). What affects us are the following:
1.1 Finding an Apartment
Since we, like most Filipinos who migrate to Canada, are not millionaires when we came here, we couldn’t afford to buy a house right off the bat, therefore we needed to rent an apartment but since we don’t have a credit history, they rejected us in renting an apartment. In our case, we needed to pay a whole year’s worth of rent expense in order for them to accommodate us. Yeah, it sucks but that’s their way of making sure that they are paid even when all hell breaks loose and you find yourself in unlucky situations.
At first, I knew nothing about this little City of Winnipeg. Going from point A to point B proved to be very difficult because I am a newcomer! Especially when your only medium of public transportation a.k.a the bus (taxis are impractical especially when you’re a newcomer, transit fares are cheaper), have a designated time of arrival only on designated stops that you will have to wait. Obtaining a driver’s license is also extremely difficult because of all the rules you have to memorize and all the tests you will have to prepare for. Purchasing a car, especially a brand new one, right off the bat is also quite impossible since most likely you will be rejected because of your lack of credit history unless you are paying with cash which is also probably running out by that time. So, your only chance of reaching point B is to ride the transit whether you like it or, you have no choice, you WILL like it.
In short, our budget was drained in just a few months after our arrival. Now I know why Immigration Canada requires a settlement fund for all aspiring immigrants. Of course, we couldn’t have done it without the help of our sponsors and relatives, because of them we overcame all our problems.
Advice: Make sure you have enough settlement fund (extra is always better). Settling, especially if you don’t have any relatives, would be more difficult.
By now, I think everyone would probably know that Winnipeg is the coldest city in Canada and the world. After all, they named it Winterpeg, Manisnowba. Of course, our first winter was an amazing experience and we will always remember it as something very unique and special. Since we were born and raised in a tropical country, adjusting to the harsh winter climate was one of the greatest challenge we ever faced. The winter here is so severe that you will need to wear glasses to protect it from the cold because your eyes can freeze like ice pops LOL. It’s so cold to the point that all your blood are being squeezed out from your skin and your paled, cracked and pinched extremities suffer the brunt of the savage wind-chill. Oh, what is it called? Dry skin, clogged nose, cracked blue skin that develops into a wound and, God forbid, hypothermia? Well, just imagine you are in a place colder than your average refrigerator where temperatures plummet down up to -50 at broad daylight, but I guess it’s alright, at least we get to enjoy ice skating and tobogganing, eh? Not to mention Canada’s sport, hockey.
Advice: Always check the weather before heading out for the day. Maybe turn your television on and watch out for the news while you enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning, or check the weather app in your smartphone. It won’t hurt. Bringing an extra layer of clothing or jacket would also prove to be very smart rather than face old man winter’s fury and freeze to death. Our winter tips can be read here.
3. Language Barrier
I’m not entirely biased, but I think Filipinos have this very special ability of adapting very quickly and effectively in terms of speaking in a foreign tongue amongst all other Asians in here. We can speak or should I say “I” can speak English carabao but my biggest problem is understanding their words when they speak with an accent. Yes, I had a hard time understanding them but it’s just a matter of time, I’m sure you’ll get used to it. Grammar wise, I always have my ‘palusot’ since I got my degree, “I am an Engineer, there is no wrong grammar in Math”. Of course, it was only in my mind. Let me put it this way, it’s not only you. You are not alone. There are lots of people who doesn’t even have a perfect grammar, even Canadians!
Advice: Relax, just be yourself. The most important thing is that you convey your message, you get your point across and everyone understands it. Canadians are naturally forgiving and understanding. They won’t poke fun at you because you don’t have an accent and you can’t speak English fluently because truth be told, the first who will scrutinize you is, unfortunately, your own race.
4. Social Interaction
Missing the support of friends, family and extended social circles is a big factor for most newcomers. Luckily, there are a lot of orgs, clubs and Filipino institutions that you have at your disposal whenever you’ll need them. In Winnipeg, look for Manitoba BM if you are in process on your visa, Life of Peg if you want to discuss life in Winnipeg and some sports buddy and 204 FM, the hot group as of today if you miss Filipino foods and of course, our relatives here. Most especially, our Pinoy-Canada.Com followers and subscribers who continues to support and spread the joy of the Filipino spirit through the use of the internet. Mabuhay kayo!
Advice: Look for Filipino Communities in your area (hanging out with your fellow kababayans will surely make you feel at home!) and Like our page!
Finding a job was probably the most difficult circumstance I’ve ever been through and it definitely is on the top of my list. I was a Licensed Engineer back in the Philippines but when I came to Canada I learned that they do not recognize credentials from other countries. It’s just either you “challenge” it by taking a test or you go to school again to acquire Canadian credentials for you to maintain your profession. I’ve worked in Singapore before but still my foreign experience was ignored. I will write a separate story of my survival jobs.
Advice: Take whatever job is available. I know this is VERY difficult for some especially when you have a high paying white collar job back in the Philippines. Finding a job and slowly moving up the ladder is incredibly difficult. I started as a sub-contract in my current company, received a salary increase after 6 months and before my 1 year, I was absorbed and am now a regular employee. Hooray! Long way to go! Ooops, didn’t I tell you I will write separate story on this?
In conclusion, we experienced highs and lows during our first year in Canada but I am still grateful because based on the statistics of most people I talked to, most of them took 2-3 years before they become stable and if you did that in just a year, you are lucky! (and rich, I guess) For us, well, we are not at the same level as what we have been before migrating but we are on the right track. Looking back, I can now proudly say that we have come a long way (no pun intended), we have gone through terrible times and we are still standing and all I can say now is it’s all worth it. Up to now, I can never deny that we still face problems in any way, shape, or form in our daily lives but the best feeling above all is having that sense of fulfillment when you overcome these hardships knowing that you worked your butt off trying to reach this point, knowing that nobody handed you the good life, you worked hard for it, you EARNED it.
Good luck newcomers!
Note: This is a case-specific problem. It may differ from yours. Like those who has children, no family etc. So, if you have encountered problems aside from the ones aforementioned above, you may add them in the comment section below so we can know how you successfully overcame all of them and who knows, maybe we will add in a Part 2 with your name on it so that you can effectively share your amazing story with the rest of the world.