As an immigrant, moving to a new country is always a challenge. Whether you are moving to Canada or anywhere else, you will very likely be living away from your friends and family which in addition to having to adjust to differences of culture, weather, and language, can make it seem like a very daunting prospect. But leaving the familiar for the strange isn’t always such a mountain to climb. This is especially true if you are moving to Canada, which is an exceptionally immigrant-friendly country and where the majority of immigrants have overcome these challenges successfully and with relative ease. You can too, with these 10 tips that will help you settle in and feel right at home.
1. Know your city
Familiarize yourself thoroughly with the city you have chosen to live in as this will help you make informed decisions on important aspects of your life. Study your city map and find out which places in your city are safe, which places have the most jobs relevant to your expertise, and which areas are well-connected to the public transportation system. Canada has some of the best public transportation networks in the world so it would be wise to make good use of it. It will save you lots of time and money and make it much easier for you to get around, aiding your progress considerably.
2. Improve your English language and computer skills
Language and computer skills are vital in any line of employment these days, and it is no different in Canada. For most immigrants English is not the first language and while the best way to learn Canadian English is by conversing with Canadians, it is an absolute necessity to invest in English classes to improve your language literacy skills. Conversational English may be enough for you to get by but unless you have a recognised academic certification in English, you will find it difficult to find higher-level employment even if you are otherwise highly qualified. Similarly, learning basic computer skills is also important as most jobs require you to at least know enough to carry out basic administrative tasks.
3. Use government programs for newcomers
The Canadian Government runs a number of programs to help immigrants settle in the country, and while it can be time-consuming and requires quite a bit of paperwork to register for them, it is worth the effort. These programs are specifically designed for newcomers, and entitle you to numerous benefits and privileges. For example, you can participate in English language classes fully funded by the Canadian government to improve your language skills. Or you could qualify for a federal program that grants loans of up to $45,000 to immigrants who want to start their own business. You could also use the Federal Internship Program to obtain quick work experience – details of which is posted on Service Canada’s website (http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/). Another useful source of information is the Canadian Benefits website (http://www.canadabenefits.gc.ca/), which lists various programs available to all Canadian residents.
4. Invest in education
It is quite possible that several Canadian employers may not recognize your international education credentials. If that happens, invest in upgrading your education. Take up the necessary college or university courses to bring your qualifications to the level required by employers. These courses may require a couple of years to complete in addition to the investment on fees, and the challenge of juggling all other responsibilities, but the rewards are certainly going to make up for all the effort. Canada is the land of opportunity, and people who actively update their education find jobs in their areas of interest sooner rather than later, so it definitely pays to invest in education.
5. Build your network and make quality contacts
Developing a quality network is vital for everyone, and especially so for immigrants. You can build your network by attending events, talking to people at your workplace, or even to strangers while standing in a queue. Building quality contacts now could help you in the future, so don’t shy away. It is also important to be in touch with fellow immigrants. They share the immigrant experience, understand what you’re going through and in turn will help you understand the challenges faced by people in your situation which can be useful in helping you settle down in Canada faster.
6. Relocate to another place if needed
Most immigrants entering Canada land up in the big cities like Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal, and as a result the job market here tends to be very competitive. If you struggle to find a job and make yourself financially stable in these big cities, you should consider moving to smaller towns like Alberta, Saskatchewan, or Manitoba. Most immigrants stay away from these towns because of the mistaken impression they have of the cold and remote nature of these places, so the job market isn’t as competitive and there are plenty of work opportunities. Working in these smaller towns may be a bit more challenging, but it is a good way of gaining some Canadian work experience while earning decent money. And if you do prefer city-life, you could always move back to your city of preference once you have the required work experience and financial stability to do so.
7. Obtain the necessary Canadian work experience without being picky with jobs
There is no shortcut to success in life, even in Canada. Even if you have high education credentials, there are chances that these will not be recognized by Canadian employers and you will not get the job you have your heart set on. You will have to start at the bottom and work your way up. So take what’s on offer without being picky with jobs. It is important to get some work experience in Canada as soon you can, so take up any job – work in a factory or a fast food chain, even if you just make the minimum wage. It is worth the effort because in the process you are getting Canadian work experience and some income to invest in your education that will help you get the job that you want.
8. Curb your expenses and build up your credit
Most immigrants new in a foreign land have limited financial resources, so it makes sense to spend money wisely for the first few years. Do not splurge on outings every weekend just because everyone else is doing it. Instead save money and invest in real estate or education, something which will bear rewards later on. It is also important to build a good credit with your bank or financial institution, as a good credit rating will help you secure bank loans when you want to buy a house or a car in the future.
9. Look for a reliable family doctor
The healthcare system in Canada works a lot differently from what most immigrants are used to in their countries of origin. The Canadian government funds and controls the healthcare system, which means that doctors in Canada focus on avoiding liabilities by prioritising prescribed guidelines over the treatment of patients. As a result, getting a doctor’s appointment may take weeks and this may make things worse for you health-wise. Since health problems will only delay your career goals, it is therefore important to choose an appropriate family doctor who can care for you and your family’s medical needs.
10. Visit the famous tourist attractions in your city
Finally, living in Canada should not just be about struggling to make a living. Canada is a country of great natural beauty, and hundreds of thousands of tourists from all around the world visit Canada every year just to see its sights. So make sure that you take time out to see them. If in Toronto you could visit the Royal Ontario Museum, CN Tower, and the Niagara falls. Similarly check out the Jasper Lake and Banff if you are living in Alberta. Whatever the case, do make time to explore and appreciate your new home.