It has been almost 8 months since I left Australia, and to be honest, right now I'm rather homesick. Although I'm not an Australian citizen or permanent resident, it will always be a country close to my heart (what do you expect after spending almost a decade there?). It's a shame that I did not manage to get permanent residency there after all that time.
This marks the second attempt in writing a post about my experiences about the pros and cons about this beautiful country. The first draft was scrapped purely because: a) I procrastinated, b) figured I was still a FOB (slang for immigrants; Fresh Off Boat) and therefore didn't have enough experience.
Anyways, onward to the topics of this post:
***** CAUTION: LENGTHY POST AHEAD *****
1. VISAS - GET IT SORTED & SUBMITTED ASAP
When my boyfriend and I decided to leave Australia for Canada, we did not plan it through properly. Truth be told, I was not expecting to immigrate until 2016, but stuff happens and we sort of rushed through the moving process. How rushed? Well, it is like the ultimate "wing-it" or "play-it-by-ear" travel/immigration edition. Both of us decided at the time that I could just get in on a Visitor Visa and wing the rest.
Now, there are times in life when spontaneous decisions results in memorable, happy accidental experiences.
This was not the case.
To surmise my position at the time: Malaysian citizen in a de facto relationship with a Canadian citizen, with little time left to reside in Australia.
This is where it got a little tricky. If I was an Australian citizen, getting a Visitor Visa would have been a breeze in comparison to what I had to go through - As a Malaysian citizen, I had to show proof of finances, career, invitation letter by Canadian citizens and my intentions/purpose of my visit, police check, etc. The list was somewhat exhaustive for just a Visitor Visa.
We obviously also thought of applying for the de facto spouse visa or known as the Family Class Sponsorship: Common-Law Spouse. However, we did not have the luxury of an additional year for it to be processed.
I would highly recommend checking out the processing times for both In-land and Overseas applications. Why? Well, depending on the offices in your region, it could either benefit you to reside overseas until your application is approved, or apply from within Canada. To most though, it benefits you to apply from the outside.
Did you notice the difference in waiting times? If we had an additional year in Australia, the Sydney office would only take 11 months to process the complete application. Instead, I'm looking at 27 months minimum. Also, note on the difference in dates of the application they are working on.
In-land applications that are being worked on dates back to 2014. WTF.
[The department is so backlogged, that they have only recently acknowledged that they have received my application that I had sent at the end of August 2015. This doesn't mean they have even started processing it yet.]
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), does have substantial information regarding what visas to apply for and what not. However, with an abundance of information, it is also easy to get lost/confused as to what to do. Just pull through, and eventually it will make sense to you.
Especially for those wishing to immigrate to Quebec: They have their own system which makes it a little harder (and assuming longer) to apply. Not to mention, you will have to deal with an additional set of forms, especially for the province of Quebec AND additional application fees.
If, for any crazy reason you decide to wing it here in Canada, don't be an idiot like me and wait forever to put together the application. Also, I would highly advice you apply for an Open Work Permit (OWP) immediately as well. I made the mistake of waiting for too long and just about a month prior to my 6-month deadline, I applied for a Visitor Visa Extension. Now, stupid me can't work.
Guess I'm not the only person suffering in this position:
Although the information provided here is targeted mostly to those who wish to immigrate to Canada under the Family Class, the point remains the same. Get the required information on the specific visa that pertains to you, and get working on it.
2. CURRENCY, FINANCE, SHOPPING & SHIPPINGFor those of you who are accustomed to paying what you see in stores or online, get ready to be frustrated beyond measure. Remember the luxury you had, when you have exactly the right amount of change leftover to pay for a coffee/snack/food? Yep, it's gone. You go up to the counter, forgetting the additional taxes, and end up being embarrassed that you don't have enough money.
If I see something advertised for $3.00, I expect to pay $3.00. Not $3.45 (or whatever the taxed amount comes up to be, depending on the province).
They probably have this system in place in Malaysia (when you go to an actual retail outlet in a shopping mall), but I haven't really noticed when I do go shopping as I was mainly focused on how cheap things were when I converted the Australian Dollar to the Malaysian Ringgit. Saying that, most places, like the night markets or pasar malam and hawker stalls, you pay the prices that you see or hear. Like, if I want a sausage on a stick, I ask how much it is. "RM1.50", I pay RM1.50.
So, after a while, I obviously became accustomed to this new way of exchanging money and decided to go back to online shopping. To me, online shopping is probably one of the best business system that technology provided to public consumers.
When I was working back in Brisbane, I often did not have the time to go shopping, so I spent my spare time at night browsing the various items for sale online and get it delivered to my workplace so I did not have to deal with the hassle of going to the post office.
Now, you might think I am THAT lazy to not want to pick up my own delivered parcel, but that's not simply the case. Full-time workers will understand that post offices operate on weekdays only, and have normal business hours, which means that unless you take a break from work and dash to the post office, or get someone to collect it for you, your parcel will be sitting at the post office for a while. Which pretty much defeats the purpose of online shopping anyways = convenience.
The initial problem I encountered was the varietal item lack in online Canadian stores. More often than not, you get directed to an American site instead. Which is fine by me. However, what I failed to realise because no one told me about this, is that there are certain items which will be sent to customs for inspection, charged the "appropriate Federal, Provincial and Goods Sales Taxes", and then get charged an additional fee by Canadian Post to deliver the said item(s) from customs to your home.
My first purchase was an e-cigarette which I really wanted from an American e-cig company. I was elated when the delivered quickly, only to be told by the post man at the door that I had to pay $25.40 in order to receive my parcel.
WHAT. THE. FUCK?
I recently had to pay almost $30 to receive jewellery craft items too. You might wonder as to why I simply then just don't go finding an actual Canadian based company and avoid this completely. Here's the thing: there's simply not enough variety. Amazon.ca, most often than not, have the items you want but they are highly overpriced.
Or, if you're like me who happens to reside in Quebec, there are some sites who offer products to everywhere else in Canada except Quebec.
If you're browsing for a specific item and it ends up on Williams-Sonoma's site, you still can see the full site. However, if you're living in Quebec, Google automatically shows you the Quebec site: https://www.williams-sonoma.ca/quebec (Let's be honest here. That's a pretty lame attempt, just may as well NOT include a Quebec version so we don't know what we are missing out on. Ignorance is bliss).
Next, let's say you're a person interested in sweepstakes. Yup, again, offered everywhere else in Canada except for Quebec. Thanks to their strange laws where promoters have to pay a percentage of the winnings as fees, and adhere to strict rules which were 'meant to protect Quebec residents', most just simply not include Quebec. This article provides a better insight.
In relation to finance, choosing the right bank in a new country can be daunting. My partner decided to go back to CIBC, only to moan about the fees they charge. The worst thing I've heard was being charged $1.00CAD after you have reached the limit of 12 transactions in a month on a debit card. This is so backwards, typing this makes me want to gouge out my eyeballs.
For Australians (Australian residents), we have been so spoiled: we have Eftpos, debit credit cards, and credit cards. Sure, we may be limited to the set amount by the bank (which can be changed at any time) but at least we are not limited to "how many transactions per day". Most of us would be making the bank even more filthy rich if they started implementing this system. I rarely had cash on me in Australia, save maybe for topping up the card for public transport.
The only bank I want to try out and hoping that he'll switch to is Tangerine Bank. Based on their website, it sounds way more promising (and no debit fees?).
Also, in terms of paying a bill online, (most, if not all? I'm not too sure) Canada is a little backwards. I had to endure my partner's swearing after realising that he could not pay a certain bill online, only via a cheque and got billed a "late fee" because they didn't receive the cheque on time, etc. What happened to direct-debit/B-Pay?
As a whole, this might or might not relate to you, but I thought I'd share this information. I sure as hell would have loved to have learned about this prior to my move.
3. Food, Glorious Food
In today's society, we have an addiction to food. Most of us are self-confessed foodies, who strive to find the best food out there. Unlike the past, where most of us eat-to-live, I think that most these days live-to-eat, and I'm one of them. I would have to blame my Malaysian heritage - exposed to a variety of traditional Chinese, Malay and Indian foods, and a culture with a love for food, it has played a large role in shaping the person I am today.
The best thing so far, would have to be the poutine. As stereotypical as it gets for the stock standard Canadian food.
The best thing so far, would have to be the poutine. As stereotypical as it gets for the stock standard Canadian food.
Initially, I did not grasp what my boyfriend was trying to say when he said that the cheese was "squeaky". I googled what the "squeaky cheese" was, and realised that it was cheese curds. Let me tell you, that cheese curds are AMAZING. Don't let its appearance fool you (I thought it looked like cheese rubber bits lol), as I find them wonderfully weird - slightly rubbery in texture, but full in cheese flavour which gets even better when slightly melted in the poutine gravy.
How can you not like poutine? It's basically just fries, hot gravy, and additional toppings of cheese curds. Omnomnomnom.
I've heard about plenty of restaurants all over Canada in the cities that offer great food. Unfortunately, I'm based in a tiny suburb about an hour's drive out of Montreal. Which means, I get stuck with somewhat unsatisfactory food. My love for food also turned me into a complete food snob
Whilst I see photos of great food in restaurants in main Canadian cities, I'm stuck with large portions of food with little quality. I don't know, like I prefer quality over quantity. I'd rather pay more to get a decent portion of expertly cooked/executed dish than a large plate of boring food that I wouldn't finish anyways.
If you are an avid coffee lover, and especially Australian or from New Zealand, you might just die a little here in Canada. As per my previous post, I touched on the topic of coffee and the reason why I'm dying a little bit day-by-day until I find the right coffee again. In Australia, it feels like there are cafes anywhere you go, and most of us enjoy a good cappuccino/flat white/macchiato/latte, etc. Here, the coffee of choice is percolated. With very little milk. Okay, think of it as a long black, with a dash of milk.
"Cappuccino Chiang Mai" by Takeaway - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cappuccino_Chiang_Mai.JPG#/media/File:Cappuccino_Chiang_Mai.JPG
I suppose, for North Americans, that is the standard coffee they order. That's what they are used to, unless they head on to Starbucks for the fancier coffees, which funnily enough, is the standard I used to drink in Australia.
Anyways, long story short, any coffee made mostly with milk, should have micro bubbles in the foam (micro foam). This is important because it provides the coffee with the smooth, velvety foam you see on coffees where there is coffee art.
This is what I received when I ordered a mocha:
I took like a sip out of it, but the foam isn't right at all. Tastes alright. No soy options too apparently
Summary:At the end of the day, moving is stressful enough as it is, let alone having to move internationally. Just make sure that you have done your research on everything, so that you've prepared yourself well - know what to expect, so you don't have to learn from mistakes, like me.
I know I have been moaning and make it sound terrible, and it is
There's always pros and cons, however, it seems like people focus too much on the pros, whereas if you're a pessimist like me, I like to hear about the bad, so I know what to expect and how to handle myself when a situation arises (instead of looking completely shocked, dumbfounded with mouth gaping like a fish out of water).
I maybe quite passionate in my complaints about such trivial things, but trust me, at the end of the day, it matters.