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[Interview] – Carol, a Filipina Live-in Caregiver in Calgary

The Calgary Tower, by Carol
The Calgary Tower, by Carol

Carol is from Philippines and she is currently living in Calgary, Alberta. She came to Canada in summer 2011—her first time ever leaving her home country—under the Live-in Caregiver Program and she looks after a pre-school child.

She describes herself as “a movie buff” who is also learning about photography and website coding.

Her new blog, Lost in the Leaf City is written for and by a newcomer. Carol isn’t new at blogging but through Lost in the Leaf City, she hopes to help others start on the right track by sharing her good and bad experiences of life in Canada. You can also find Carol on Flickr and on Goodreads.

1. Why did you decide to immi­grate to Canada?

Living overseas has always been one of my dreams. I wanted to travel and perhaps settle abroad. But it wasn’t clear to me where and when this long journey would start. Canada was open for work opportunities and it put my decision-making to a test and, eventually, to an end.

On the practical side, English—a language I am fluent in—is one of the two official languages in Canada. My language skills gave me confidence that I would start on the right track, contrary to moving to a country where I don’t speak the local language.

2. Did you find the immi­gra­tion process difficult? Which immigration category did you apply in, and how long did it take for you to get permanent residence status?

The visa process was quite challenging and difficult. It often made me question my decision to move to Canada. In total, after obtaining a caregiver certificate and gathering all the documents, it took me a year and a half to get my visa.

The lessons I learned and experiences I went through the visa process ended up playing a great part in my job as a live-in caregiver, later on. I often look back to see where I’m going and see how far I’ve traveled.

Applying for permanent residence status is my next goal. It is another stage of the immigration process I am looking forward to.

3. What did your family think of your move to Canada?

Convincing my family was unnecessary but I had to assert that I had made the right decision for myself. Actually, their lack of disapproval reinforced my life choice.

I settled in Calgary because I have relatives in this city. I think it gave my family back home some peace of mind knowing that I was not completely alone in this new country.

4. Do you speak French? Where did you learn English?

I took a crash course in French but didn’t go any further.

I learned English at school in the Philippines, and also through the media when I was a kid, through cartoons. I am much confident in my writing and reading skills than in my speaking skills—typical for an introvert!

5. How do you find the cost of living compared to your home country?

I come from a frugal family! I am just amazed of how much I could purchase back home when I convert my Canadian salary into peso (the currency in the Philippines). What I make in Canada compares to a manager salary in the Philippines.

You can make money in Canada, but you can also spend it easily—there are always sales in stores! Sales can work to you advantage, though, if you budget well.

6. What has been your biggest culture shock so far?

The expression “culture shock” has a negative connotation—but my own culture shock experience was quite positive. The diversity is overwhelming. Cultures abound. And definitely, I’m shock to see just how people treat others with so much respect despite their cultural and background differences.

Everyone seems smile genuinely and thank you regardless of your skin color. This is one of the reasons why I adapted easily, although not totally yet, to my new Canadian life.

I also find Canada very peaceful. The absence of crime—and lack of noise—I’m amaze to see how quiet my neighborhood is, and how neighbors respect your privacy. It is quite the opposite of what I was used to back in the Philippines! I remember the hustle and bustle of everyday life in my homeland…

I grow up in a country that is always crowded—transportation, places…—there are always people around you, you never get a break.

7. What aspect of life in Canada did you adopt right away?

Privacy, something everyone values here!

Canada has given me the opportunity to take part in many outdoor activities. Till I came in Canada, I have never been so much in love with the sun—it lifts up my mood instantly. Back in the Philippines, I hated summers, with the scorching heat and the 30°C temperatures. I was always hoping for rain or a gloomy day.

Biking, running, walking, and eventually hiking and other outdoor activities have been keeping me active, more than ever in my life. There are no excuses for a sedentary lifestyle here.  Even our dogs want to go out, even in the winter they need to take a short walk in the neighborhood!

8. What’s one thing you don’t like in Canada?

“Chinook” (a warm, dry, gusty wind that blows down the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies), a new word—and weather phenomenon—I learned and experienced here in Canada. That’s one thing that can keep me indoors. I have your typical Asian skin, sensitive and highly adaptable to heat. I’m having a hard time with it, though my tolerance to the cold breeze has improved over the years.

I love snow, though. After a snow storm, I always hope for the beautiful scenery to stay that way—or melt fast. I hate when snow turns to hard, slippery ice. It feels like a skating rink, and reminds me that I should start learning how to skate!

9. What’s the best part about living in Calgary?

Regardless of your race, educational background, immigration and financial status, you are entitled to indulge in art and travelling.

Just for a quick trivia, Calgary was named one of the “Cultural Capitals of Canada in 2012.” You can have it all here: the city, the nature, the culture…!  Budgeting and keeping an eye on local events has taught me on how to enjoy my stay in Calgary like a tourist.

10. What advice would you give to someone starting the immigration process?

For anyone who is about to start with the immigration process, my advice is… don’t start it yet. Before you embark in a journey, arm yourself with positive thoughts. Make sure that you’re ready for the unknown and expect the unexpected.

With determination, you can breeze through the visa process, the typical challenges, the coming-out- of-the-blue obstacles, and whatever is in between.

I wish all immigrants and newcomers a happy new life in Canada!

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