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8 People Every Immigrant Should Have on Speed Dial

Ottawa, Little Italy, September 2018

You’re leaving your family and your friends behind to start a new life in a huge country where you don’t know anyone. It is scary.

What now? Take a deep breath. While it sounds like a daunting challenge, you will meet new people every day at work or in your neighbourhood. You may feel lonely at first but you won’t be alone. Last time I checked—or rather, according to the latest census—36.30 million Canadians will be happy to meet you. No, really. Canadians are pretty friendly.

In time, you will build a professional and personal network. Try to include the following people!

A “second mom”

This precious friend isn’t necessarily older than you but she masters life. She has everything under control, she always knows what to say and what to do and she enjoys helping other people. She genuinely wants you to succeed and feel okay, she shares tips and she is a good listener. She has random stuff in her bag “just in case,” she pays attention when you detail your latest crisis and she doles out tough love if needed.

If you happen to meet such a wonderful person and if you hit it off, nurture this friendship—and don’t forget to be there for her as well.

A seasoned immigrant from the same country as you

There are days when you want to speak your mother tongue and chat about something relatable. Maybe you need to rant about Canada or solve a cultural mystery. Maybe you’re looking for a way to tweak your recipes to use local ingredients or maybe you’re craving something imported and you have no idea where to find it.

Connect with an immigrant who has been there for a while. Chances are, they will help you just like they were helped when they first came!

A trusted childcare provider or babysitter

If your kid isn’t old enough to drive, you need a backup plan for childcare.

Usually, of one these three scenarios applies: 1) One of the parents stays at home with the baby/toddler 2) The baby/toddler goes to daycare 3) The child goes to school.

All good? No quite.

Parents and home-based childcare providers do get sick. Daycare centres occasionally close unexpectedly. There are snow days when classes and school buses are cancelled because of a snowstorm or extremely low temperatures. There’s about one Professional Development Day (“PD Day”) a month in public schools and working parents have to scramble to find childcare arrangements for these one-off days. You may want to spend some one-on-one time with your partner before your kid’s bedtime.

Both the private and public sector don’t offer much time off. You can run out of vacation days and sick days pretty fast and the offer to “work from home” isn’t always welcome.

Who would trust with your child if you had to leave the house right now without him? Have a plan ready before it happens!

A true local

This type of friend has a very British or Québécois name. in fact, their ancestors were fur traders, who came during the Great Migration from Britain or escaped the Great Potato Famine. Their only experience abroad is the occasional trip “south”, to Florida or the Caribbean.

They may find your customs puzzling or fascinating but they can teach you how to cook a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, tell you about a hidden spot somewhere in a national park and remind you that back in the day, NHL players didn’t wear helmets.

Technicians, mechanics and repairmen

Your car won’t start. The roof is leaking. Damn, the garage door is stuck. Oops, looks like the heat won’t turn on…

Before you have to make a desperate last-minute call to the last company that left a flyer in your mailbox, make a list of recommended and reliable mechanics and repair shops to avoid scammers and fly-by-night contractors.

A community leader

Neighbourhoods, schools, worship places, cultural centres and other organizations build strong communities throughout Canada. Join one of them and get in touch with the leader to find out where soccer practice for kids is, when the next garage sale is, what the next festival is about, who collects used clothes, why garbage isn’t being collected, when construction work will end, etc.

A healthcare provider

Finding a GP isn’t easy in most cities because there is a doctor shortage. In Ontario, you can register with the free Health Care Connect program to be connected with a family doctor but it doesn’t always work very well—I was on the list for years before a co-worker tipped me off about a doctor accepting new patients.

In the meantime, locate the best walk-in clinic, figure out when you can get the flu shot, find the most efficient pharmacy, etc. Ideally, you should have a list of options available before you need them.

A neighbour

Without being overly friendly if you’re not the type of person who enjoys block parties, get to know your neighbour well enough to exchange small favours like keeping an eye on a pet, picking up flyers left on your doormat when you’re away, collecting a parcel, etc.

Note that if you live in a semi-detached or in a townhouse and if you share a small patch of grass with a neighbour, it’s common to take informal turns mowing the lawn and shovelling snow.

Am I missing anyone here?

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French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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