Holly, our “English Girl” came from across the pond to live with Luke, the “Canadian Man”. Hey, it happens, right? These Canadian guys are irresistible! Must be that “snow glow”…
The two of them live in Hamilton, Ontario, and they are now sorting out Holly’s immigration status—she is hoping to get her permanent residency visa soon.
Holly has to be the sweetest person I know. She is into arts and crafts (knitting and crocheting), has a wicked sense of humour and is determined to make Canada her new home. She blogs at English Girl Canadian Man where she shares her adventures in Canada, snapshots from her past live in the UK and her favourite things to do in Canada.
1) Why did you decide to settle in Canada?
The easiest answer to this question is that I decided to settle in Canada about a year after Luke (my partner) and I had been seeing each other and we had reached that stage in our relationship where we both felt ready to take the next step. However, that is not the truth. Luke and I began to email each other in October 2011. In November 2011 I was working out ways in which I might be able to be with Luke in Canada. In December 2011 I saw Luke for the first time in ten years and after five days, he told me he loved me and I told him I felt the same way. He then said, ‘so now what?’ I replied, ‘well obviously I will move here’. And that was that.
2) What is your current status in Canada? What’s your immigration story?
Currently life in Canada is tenuous. I came here in January 2013 with a year-long work/travel visa under the ‘International Experience Canada’ program. Last week, that ran out and I am now here, unable to work, with a 6 month visitor visa. At the end of this visitor visa, I will apply for another. At the end of that, I will apply for another. And so on and so forth until my permanent residency visa comes through. I don’t know how long that will take as my first permanent resident application was lost. My second has just been submitted. I may have to wait for 18 months before I can work again, or before I can see my family again.
3) What did you family think of your move to Canada?
For the most part my family have been incredibly supportive. Clearly, it has been a difficult move for all of us, but I have never felt unsupported by them in my move here. My parents, particularly, have been incredibly supportive. In many ways it has helped that we are such a close family as I am never out of contact with them – speaking to them daily – and this makes me feel less homesick and more involved with what is happening in my family. Next to Luke, they are the most important people in my life!
4) Are there any words you found funny in English Canadian, as a Brit?
Yup! I feel like I have now become so integrated with Canadian culture that I don’t find anything peculiar any more. When I first came here I am sure there were a lot of words that I found funny, but I need to wrack my brains to remember! I suppose the biggest thing that I find is that people say that I talk strangely. They don’t always understand the words that I use – and yet the words I use can be found in any dictionary! I continue to find pronunciation funny – bagel, for example is pronounced with a short ‘a’ sound here, so it is ‘bag-el’. In England it has a long ‘a’, so it is pronounced ‘bay-gel’. These words still make me laugh a lot. They sound so silly – like people are getting them wrong, although of course they aren’t.
5) How do you find the cost of living compared to England?
To begin with, I thought that Canada was far more expensive than England. Now, I definitely think the reverse. You just have to know how to bargain hunt here. My grocery shopping, for example, takes me first to Dollarama for cheap tinned goods, cheap cleaning goods and cheap hygiene products and then to the farmers market for produce and finally to the cheapest supermarkets – sometimes more than one supermarkets depending on the products they have on offer. It is time-consuming, but is absolutely cost effective. House prices are cheaper, vehicles are cheaper, wages are higher. It is definitely easier to make ends meet in Canada.
6) What has been your biggest culture shock so far?
Being known as ‘the English girl’, it is difficult to go from anonymity to being labelled in this way. It takes much longer to build real friendships because all people see initially is the fact that you have an English accent and you use different words. It takes a little longer for people to get beyond that and see the person behind the accent.
7) What aspect of life in Canada did you adopt right away?
I now say ‘have a good day’ in the most genuine way when I get off of a bus, say goodbye to someone, buy something at a store, pay at a restaurant. I am more open and converse more easily with people I don’t know. I have adopted the Canadian world-renowned politeness and I am all the happier for it! It was something I embraced and cherished immediately!
8) What’s one thing you don’t like in Canada?
That is easy – sorry to say it to you Canada – but I do NOT much like the winter! I didn’t mind it when I was visiting – it was such a novelty! I didn’t mind it for the few months when I first came and it didn’t go much below -8. This last winter has been a different story. I hate getting frost nip on my toes. It is painful. I hate that my breath freezes on my scarf and turns into ice and, in turn, water when I go inside. I hate that I get brain freeze when I walk the dog and I have to run to get inside. It is like that film ‘Day After Tomorrow’. I am seriously hoping for a warmer winter this year!
9) What’s the best part about living in Hamilton?
Another easy one. Hamilton is a really vibrant city that is undergoing a lot of change and development right now. Everything is improving – malls, restaurants, homeless shelters, child services, events, housing… Mostly though, I love the fact that Hamilton is home to more than 130 waterfalls, the top 20 or so of which are truly spectacular. Hamilton is city and country all at once. You don’t have to travel far to feel you are in the middle of nowhere and you don’t have to travel far to find your favourite store or place to eat.
10) What advice would you give to someone starting the immigration process?
Research! I can’t stress that enough – and people and blogs like Zhu’s are an excellent source of information. I would strongly advise that people keep up to date with information – check all of your facts constantly, because they are prone to change. The processing centre I sent my permanent residency application to change in a heartbeat and I was unaware of it and accordingly, my application is missing. Check laws, regulations, forms to ensure that nothing has changed – you MUST keep up to date!