Bienvenue Au Canada…

05 February 2022 – Toronto Pearson International Airport


I landed as an OWP (Open Work Permit) from Manila Philippines to Ontario Canada. As someone who lived decades of my life in a developing country in Asia, I figured out that life in the Land of Maple Leaf is cozy and familiar. Familiar in the sense that, when I was with the Department of Foreign Affairs and even before that, I worked myself to be eligible to bid for a foreign assignment. I have embraced that massive goal of living abroad. But I left the office and I knew that it was not the end of that “international dream”. That, something better is brewing up for me.

Anyway, acclimatizing to life in this country of progressive and polite people involves more than getting an approved stay. This movement gave me the conviction that “opportunities” for growth, wealth, and security are here. A melting pot that will hone all aspects of my being.

So here are the things I have adapted myself from this very diverse country.

Either you say “SORRY” or you’ll be sorry.

One mark of Canadian politeness is saying the word “Sorry”. Do you want to receive the courtesy in return? Then learn to be liberal in using “sorry“, “please“, “thank you“, “may I?“, and “excuse me“. These kind words don’t need to signal being friendly. It is simply a social standard indicating that you treat the other person as equal to you. Unlike in many other parts of the world where stature is a big thing. Here in Canada, they put into practice “real” good manners.

Resuming your professional career

Picking up where you left off jumpstarts the challenges of an immigrant. For most, they usually don’t recognize foreign credentials, so it will e difficult to incorporate them in a Canadian marketplace. My tip: bring as much documentation with you. Transcripts, International conferences, Certificates, etc. You may also make possible contacts – there are professional contacts (it’s time to do a reconciliation scene with your Linkedin account). For immigrants who use to work in a highly specialized field, Canada has offices wherein you could have your skills certified and eventually practice your profession without limitation. Just a reminder, it could literally take months or years to be fully accredited. Of course, that depends on your movement. Planning ahead is the name of the game.

The Mosaic Country

Canada is diverse. Multicultural. You walk down the street or take the bus, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by people from all over the world. From Filipinos, Koreans, Chinese, Indians, British, you name it.

Multiculturalism is Canada’s identity and it is one of the important factors in the government seat. That’s a good sign, right. You likely won’t feel the need to fit into any particular cultural mold. Say, a number of naturalized citizen is sitting in the Canadian Parliament. These people were not born in Canada, too. Truly, the country celebrates the people’s spectacular heritages. Thus, because it is built on mutual respect, Canada ranks higher year after year and is one of the best places to live.

The Habit of Tipping

Along with “Thank you“, you may shell out a small number of toonies for the server’s tip. Please note, it is not appreciated, it is EXPECTED. If you came from a culture wherein tipping is not a practice, you might e surprised by how Canadians have deeply engrained this themselves.

Tipping is also customary to any other services, most of them, those that make less than the minimum wage. Manicurists, aestheticians, cab drivers, and hairdressers are among them. Patron tips are really up to them, however, some establishments may charge a minimum of 10% or more.

Prove that you are road-worthy

Getting a Driver’s License varies on which country you come from. If you are an immigrant from Korea, Frances, or the US, it will be a simple exchange due to the fact that they have a reciprocal agreement with some of Canada’s provincial governments such as Ontario. It would be best to check out with the landing provinces on how to get a new driver’s license and equivalency requirements so you can bring the necessary documents with you from your originating country.

In countries that don’t have a reciprocal agreement, they may be asked to provide driving history and an authenticated driver’s license.

Back off your prejudices

Class-based society, that’s what Canada is. And what do a meat vendor, an educator, a company executive, and other jobs have in common? The RIGHTS! They are entitled to the same rights and freedoms, regardless of race, sexual orientation, religion, and many other preferences. Such a blanket of mutual respect incredibly liberates anyone who took the risk to thrive in this country.

Repairs are RARE!

Got your Zara winter hoodie ripped off, or your J’s got too many scratches and its sole came off. We, Filipinos, would spend time looking for an alteration/repair shop to get things done. That’s not the case in Canada. You’ll be hard-pressed to look for a cobbler or maybe a handyman to fix your glitchy appliances.

Say you find one, but getting your stuff fixed in Canada costs as much as buying a new one.

Culture shock!

You will NOT automatically earn respect by being FLASHY!

Being rich never goes out of style in this world where we live in. But the extravagant display of wealth will make Canadian eyes roll! The sad thing is it (may) come off as arrogance and bragging. Canadians do dream of wealth, but modesty comes first when it comes to that.

Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall

Canada has short-lived seasons. And everyone says “hurrah!” when it’s summer. The majority of this country has four (4) seasons. Temperature varies wildly and December to February are the coldest months. Do you that when it is winter in Canada, the place is colder than the planet Mars? Yes, it is. So, if you purchased a winter jacket from your tropical country, it’ll be useless. Better yet, buy one once you landed.

They’re more private. Get used to it!

While Canadians are known to be polite, welcoming, and friendly, they put much value on their privacy. Others perceive it to be “almost withdrawn“, that even with friends and acquaintances there is a certain level of formality in sharing their private lives. The social convention of an Asian native such as showing up in one’s house or insisting to the guest to eat a homecooked food may be considered unnecessarily and rude. Just remember that the marks of a good friendship are relative: the same thing goes with the weather and geography in Canada is different, and the emotional landscape is different as well.

The tax after the sticker price.

Moving to a developed country is a bit costly. This comes from housing to shopping and paying other bills. it is way more costly than in the Philippines. Needless to say, the amount shown on price tags is just the “starting point“. Canadian natives are adept at mental calculation which involves tax after every purchase. But for newcomers, this added cost is a visible sign of culture shock and, a strain in their pockets.

***Opinions expressed here are the writer’s own and not by any organization.

6 thoughts on “Bienvenue Au Canada…

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