“Will My Life Be Better in Canada?”

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Ottawa, March 2018

The bus sped off and I started to walk towards the nearest supermarket. When I picked up my pace, so did someone behind me. Weird. I thought I had been the only passenger to get off at this stop, which wasn’t really a stop but a random spot on the main street.

I glanced over my shoulder just to make sure I wasn’t in trouble—things can happen when you’re walking down a dark street in Brazil.

Not this time, though. It was just the harmless French dude who was in the bus with us. I had seen his République française passport an hour earlier, at the Argentinian border.

He caught up with me. “Excusez-moi, excusez-moi… vous êtes québécoise?

Evidently, he had noticed my blue Canada passport too.

Non, Française et Canadienne,” I replied without slowing down.

The subtle nuance escaped him.

“Super. Mind if I walk with you? I’m thinking of immigrating to Quebec and I have a few questions.”

I did mind. Not his company, but the questions. Frankly, I wasn’t in the mood for them. I had a supermarket to go to but mostly, we were in Brazil and I didn’t feel like talking about Canada—it was another world, another life.

“I live in Ontario, actually, so I’m not super knowledgeable about Quebec.”

He frowned and shrugged as if to say, “meh, that will do.”

“I’m aiming for Montreal.”

Right. Of course. Where else?

“I’m really sick of France. I’m looking for better opportunities, a more flexible job market… and none of that socialist crap. Too many people are abusing the system. French citizens want benefits but no responsibilities… bunch of entitled idiots… This country is going to shit! When did you leave France?”

“Huh… in 2001.”

“Well, it’s worst now, trust me. My parents rented one of their properties,” he went on. “The tenants didn’t pay rent for three months. And guess what? Can’t evict them because it’s winter. Ridiculous.”

“Right. Well, it’s—”

“Rewarding hard work. That’s what France should do.”

“And you think Canada will be a better fit for you?”

Ah, oui! Now, when you come to Canada with a visa, do you get any kind of support from the government?”

I burst out laughing and abandoned him in front of the supermarket—well, that was the pot calling the kettle black!

My job was easy with liberal and delusional French dude, he had just used me as a sounding board. But I never quite know what to say when someone expresses interest in immigrating to Canada and wants my feedback. As a Canadian, I will always say, “welcome!” I just can’t promise anyone their life will be better in Canada. No one can predict the future.

Every day, I receive two of three emails or comments from strangers asking me to map out their destiny. “I want to move to Canada, tell me how.” “I have a degree, can I work in Canada?” “I don’t have a job can I find one in Canada?” “I hate my life, will I be happier in Canada?”

Disturbingly specific or annoyingly general, these questions boil down to one major unknown—it is worth it to immigrate to Canada?

I have no idea. Is it worth it to get married? Is it worth it to have kids? Is it worth it to pursue XYZ career? Are we talking from a financial or a human perspective?

This is what I do know based on my limited experience as an immigrant to Canada.

If you manage to get permanent resident status, you will, at one point, have the opportunity to become a Canadian citizen. There are requirements to meet and paperwork to fill out but the process isn’t difficult nor complicated. However, I can’t promise you will feel Canadian or that a Canadian passport will change your life for the better.

Canadians usually have a fairly positive attitude towards newcomers. There are political arguments over immigration levels—do yourself a favour, don’t read The Sun’s reader comments section—but far-right parties are not as vocal as in Europe. Both Liberals and Conservatives are more likely to seek immigrants’ votes than to bash them. As long as you make reasonable attempts to blend in, you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable as an Indian-Canadian, a Chinese-Canadian, a Haitian-Canadian, etc. The concept of diversity isn’t new to Canadians. Racial slurs are strongly frowned upon and there are laws and systems to address discrimination.

You’re probably more likely to enjoy a certain level of material comfort and eventually own a car and a house than in many countries. The entire economy is based on consumerism—you will be introduced to credit cards, lines of credit and mortgages soon enough. Yet, like products, your life “won’t be exactly as shown”—it’s unlikely you will be able to afford a house downtown Toronto or Vancouver and life upgrades are expensive. That said, it’s not crazy to dream of a semi-detached in a suburb, somewhere in Canada.

I have no idea if you will be able to find a job in your field or if you will make more than your current salary. In the first few months or years, chances are you will work for minimum wage at one point, experience a round of layoffs, have less time off than before, find good opportunities and change job titles—and not necessarily in this order.

You will eventually build a network of acquaintances and coworkers but making real friends may turn out harder than expected.

You will adopt a few Canadian quirks and find many puzzling.

You will miss home at one point, even though you didn’t think it was possible.

You’ll gain a new perspective on your birth country and on the world.

Will you stay in Canada? I don’t know.

Will you live a better life? Some days yes, some days not.

Is it worth it? Who knows? I only live one life at the time—I have no idea how things would have turned out if I had stayed in France, if I had moved to China, if I had sailed around the world.

Here or there, write your story.

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

22 Comments

  1. Looking back, I’ve come to realise that my life is more or less a chain of random decisions. I’ve been living in Germany for almost 6 years now, and that wasn’t a planned decision. Neither was my decision to spend 7 years in western NY to be in graduate school. Nor was my decision in 2001 to choose linguistics as my field of study in university. But one triggered the next, and the next. And as you said, you only live one life, so might as well make the best use of it. You can only plan as much, and I’d rather enjoy my life than take all the time to plan it.

    • I know some people really plan their life and it puzzles me. Plans never go according to plan… or it is me?! I like the idea of one event or one decision triggering the next, like you say.

      • Martin Penwald on

        Oh putain… Ouais, ça explique. Ces gens ont un amour immense pour les systèmes autoritaires et dictatoriaux. Le Pen, Poutine, Trump, Erdogan, Duterte … C’est tous les mêmes.

          • Martin Penwald on

            Ce que je trouve choquant, c’est que le type a l’air de penser que l’on peut virer des locataires qui ne paient pendant l’hiver canadien. Peut-être que c’est possible, je ne sais pas, mais que ça ne lui pose pas de problème éthique ou moral est consternant.

          • Je sais, il était jute tellement suffisant… et jeune, en plus! Enfin la fin de la vingtaine je pense.

            En fait, la discussion s’est arrêtée quand je lui ai dit : “bon, tu vois la gauche? Ben moi je suis à l’extrême.”

  2. Martin Penwald on

    North America DOES NOT reward hard work. The “American Dream” is, indeed, a _DREAM_, something that doesn’t have any existence in reality. And let’s remember that the OECD rated France as one of the most, if not the most, productive country in the world, in front of the U.S.A.
    If you think that you pay too much taxes and moochers abuses the system, bravo, you’re a libertarian asshole : your dream country is Somaliland, not Canada.

    • En fait, je me demande pourquoi en Europe, les gens aiment prendre en exemple le modèle américain. “Ah, oui les Américains font comme ça!” (prononcé d’un ton admiratif). Mais, les gars… vous avez l’impression que c’est une réussite, le modèle américain? Parce que franchement, moi non. Enfin si, y’a des gens très riches. On est vachement bien avancé.

      • Martin Penwald on

        Il y a une vidéo assez ancienne de Mélenchon qui discute avec des jeunes d’une quelconque école de commerce. Elle est assez marrante vu que quelques-uns vantent le système américain, et Mélenchon leur cloue le bec en citant les données de l’OCDE.

        • Autant je peux comprendre qu’on veuille étudier l’art de faire des affaires et le commerce, autant je trouve que la plupart des écoles de commerce en France sont d’un ridicule avec leur nom anglais à la con… genre la “international school of mega-business with super dollars of trifouillis-les-oies”.

  3. Well said Juliette!

    It is true what you have written; no one person can give a “sure” answer to anything, let alone “immigrating to Canada”.

    That being said, your website gives a very good insight (might I add, a very accurate) into life in Ottawa, or stretch that to Ontario.

    It is understandable that people are anxious of the unknown and have questions; but there is such a thing called “boundaries”, or “etiquette”, or “common sense”; one mustn’t ignore those, eh!? I know I wrote you many a questions too 🙂 I hope I didn’t piss you off back then, if I did, I am really sorry.

    Alors, vous etes bien sure, que vous n’etes pas quebecoise? 🙂

    • Oh, monsieur, j’en suis certaine!

      (Perfect grammar!)

      You never bothered me with your questions because 1) they were good questions, i.e. you did your research beforehand 2) you were friendly and established a personal connection. I like chatting with people in general, but I’m human… I tend to be more helpful when the person starts a conversation rather than just expect me to do their homework 🙂

      • Well yeah, you gotta do your homework! I mean anyone really interested in moving to a different place gotta research, now it is easier than ever, no?

        • … you’d think so! And I give a pass for people who don’t speak English well or who are from countries in turmoil. But seriously, when an American asks me the most basic question about Canada, I’m like… ahem, dude, Google!

  4. People are unbelievable!
    I mean, the guy you met makes me angry.

    And this makes me realise how clueless we were when we arrived here!
    We asked questions to no one, we figured we would get the answers anyway 🙂
    And I am happy it happened like that, because actually we were not expecting anything,
    we were open to everything and that was a blessing.

    • Oh, I was clueless too! And it’s cool to ask questions, but I can’t be responsible for people’s happiness. I mean, it’s a bit of a tall order. You should see some of the emails I get… I’ll write about that.

  5. I don’t like when people ask me this kind of questions – except friends of course – but I feel like it’s because of the “distance”. I mean, i made the choice to immigrate a long time ago. I’m not sure I want to think again of the way I lived it. It’s the same for pregnancy. I have zero interest on talking about pregnancy with a stranger. I don’t want to give my opinion or recommend something. I’m sure I will feel the same about toddlers or daycare as soon as it will be over for me.

    • It’s funny because I love sharing experiences but I hate giving my opinion when I feel the person is looking for guidance. Does it make sense? I like the “eh, I did that, cool you did that” but I won’t tell someone what to do. I can’t. I also refuse to manage people (which is also a reason why I took the freelance route).

      Funny thing is, sometimes I’d love to talk about Canada to my close relatives… and absolutely no one ever expressed interest! 😆

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