J: The Expatriate Mind
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Canada, etc.
I go by the name J and I am originally from Seattle, Washington in the United States. I immigrated to Canada in the summer of 2011 in the Family Class stream after many years in the process.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging in 2005 as I was on the verge of a decision on my partner and my first application. It didn't go well. I decided to share the trials and tribulations with others that were going through the same thing, because I didn't see many voices out there at the time that were sharing the story. I also wanted to share news and commentary about the state of Canadian immigration and the city of Toronto, which was to be my new home.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My favorite blog posts are like fresh milk - the latest ones! But an emotional favorite has to be the one I wrote after I finally landed as an immigrant after a seven year process: Landing as a Permanent Resident.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Canada differs from that back home.
Canada is not the U.S., or "U.S. light" or anything of the sort, despite what you might have heard. Seattle, while a major U.S. city, is a fraction of the size of Toronto. Every aspect of my new home eclipses what I have experienced before in scale. Only a fraction of Seattle's population lives in the downtown core. Here, the downtown is alive with residents and more come each year to the new condos being built to house them.
Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I didn't experience any culture shock, as I spent a lot of my time in the immigration process learning about Canada and its culture and history. One of the biggest adjustments I've had to make so far is not pulling out my credit card when I go to see a Doctor - and actually going to the Doctor when I need to, as opposed to when I think it's bad enough that I can justify the expense.
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 feel like I was well prepared. I am blessed to have a partner of over ten years here and she has helped me to adjust well. The biggest adjustment has been leaving family and friends 1750 miles away.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Anyone from the U.S. will probably appreciate that when I first went to a walk-in clinic for some minor medical attention, I gave the receptionist my health card and credit card. She picked up the credit card and looked at it and asked, "What's this for?"
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Canada?
- Immigration is expensive. Be sure you have cash reserves.
- Full time work in your profession is not easy to find. Be patient and be flexible in your expectations.
- Learn about Canada: its culture, its traditions, its history, and embrace them. They will become yours too.
How is the expat community in Canada? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Considering the expat community in Toronto grows by up to 60,000 people per year, I'd have to call it healthy to say the least! Honestly, I don't seek out expats in Toronto. So many people in the city are from another country originally that it's almost redundant. I have had no problem meeting people or making friends. Canadians are open and friendly by nature, and with 2.1 million of them in the city proper, it's not hard to find a few of like mind.
How would you summarize your expat life in Canada in a single, catchy sentence?
I never knew Canada was meant to be my home until I moved here.