Carolyn: Lost in the Leaf City
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Canada, etc.
I’m Carolyn from the Philippines, a country where an umbrella is just as important as cellular phone. (Because of laziness, I voluntarily forget to bring the former.) The sun threatens commuter with heat stroke in summer; while on rainy days, fever can keep you in bed for days if you catch a drizzle or a downpour. I didn’t bring my umbrella when I moved to Canada in 2011 to work under the live-in caregiver program (LCP). With my knowledge in caregiving, I found out early on that being greeted with chilly breeze in summer at the airport I have to exert extra effort to look after myself and let go of laziness and forgetfulness.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging a year after moving to Canada when I realized that there will never be a perfect or enough time to blog. I’ve written on my two old blogs and a one-year break proved I can’t do away with blogging. I have to find time writing as a way of adapting, learning, and unwinding. At first I wanted a personal blog then I noticed that most of the posts were about my experiences and tips on how to become a better expat, things I would do better if I could travel in time.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My favorite blog entry is Get CRA Tax Refund In less Than 2 Weeks. Not everyone likes the idea of using technology in filing income tax return. I tried to encourage the reader letting them know there’s no harm in trying new things (referring to tax matter). I’m glad this post has high traffic in tax season; it’s an indication online filing is considered as an option and maybe favored (if I sound convincing enough). Care for one more blog post? The Best Advice For Newcomers You Cannot Miss is a special one. It’s a personal story with lesson I always remind myself and I hope others will do the same. Have fun reading the rest of the blog posts and expect more tips.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Canada differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
As the saying goes change is the only permanent thing in the world. My life in Canada is defined by change—in great numbers—at a fast pace. I have to adapt as fast as I can before other circumstances come along, uninvited or not. Like other newcomers, I too had a culture shock. Every time I go out, I get to meet people of various races since Canada is a multicultural country. The best antidote for culture shock is having an open mind and respect. And don’t dwell on it. Snap out of it and move along.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Canada? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I was never fully prepared of what awaited me in Canada. My mantra is to expect the unexpected. The best preparation I did is to psych up. Everything is new; I am only familiar to my old self. Once I leave there’s no turning back (at least for a few years.) If I could I would change one thing: I will learn as much as I can about Canada and join expat forums to ask questions. On forums, I’ve met people who are aspiring to become an expat; I admired their courage to discover the unknown which is a bit scary for me. Not knowing is how I created a comfort zone. It is definitely not a good advice for future expats. Instead of dwelling in regret, I give advice to others to keep on learning. Stay positive and diligent.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Getting lost I suppose is the most common funny/embarrassing experience for an expat. Having said that I don’t think details are necessary. (Can I be excused?) Alright, I`ll share mine so we can have a good laugh of old days but please spare yourself of the same ordeal. I don’t trust my instinct; I wonder why. Often I took the long route. I could have turned left instead I chose right and kept on moving with doubt. To avoid picking up a fight to my wanderlust alter ego, I enjoyed the view—there`s no way I can forget. So if I hear a destination I’m very much familiar with, I immediately share travelling tips. And laugh secretly as to why I didn’t have the first instinct to ask for direction. Curious for one more: getting on the wrong train. But these days, daydreaming is to be blamed. Expat or not we all share the embarrassing experience of getting lost in places and thoughts. Am I right?
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Canada?
For all the future expats starting a new life in Canada, please take seriously my three tips. Think of it as my sendoff gift minus the glossy wrapper and ribbon.
- Psych up and relax. Think of all the possibilities (focus on the good). Don’t stress yourself thinking of circumstances not meeting your expectations or plans going against your timeline—it may take some time or probably not happen at all. Be optimistic. Don’t let the well of positivity run dry.
- Bundle up and pack some more. Don’t be shy to wear layers of clothing in winter. Your backpack is your survival kit for the sudden change of temperature. Stash inside warmer gloves, ear mittens, a scarf, a beanie, and a bottle of water. Stay hydrated. Among all these essentials, I often went home without gloves. Tip: the spacious backpack will keep you from buying a new pair of gloves every winter.
- Become a student. I didn’t pay much attention to the words “lifelong learning” till I moved to Canada. Yes, I do love to read books and newspapers but through the years I’ve also started reading the policies of credit cards and insurances. I even requested a credit and investment report for the first time. I definitely prefer fictional characters but learning financial, technical or other things that interest you online or offline is rewarding and lasting. The best part is sharing the knowledge with others who may not be interested if I share the magical journey of Santiago, the heroine in the book ``The Alchemist``.
How is the expat community in Canada? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
For every race, I suppose there is an expat community to get involved with. It’s just a matter of having the willingness to go out and mingle. I had a hard time finding fellow expats because of a lack of time. It was an alibi all along. Fortunately through friends and blogging I found new friends and widened my network.
How would you summarize your expat life in Canada in a single, catchy sentence?
I long for the sunny days in winter and hide under the shades in summer. I want to change that mentality. So whatever the season, I will push myself outdoors and take chances, discover what Canada has in store for everyone. (And try not to lose anything in the journey. Getting lost? Not often, probably.)