Daniel, from Paraguay, isn’t afraid of new challenges: he chose to settle in Quebec, Canada’s francophone province, even though French is not his mother tongue. He is also very patient and waited for two years before he was finally granted permanent residence status.
Despite the challenges he faced, he has a great attitude and easily showed he was a skilled professional. His motto is “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst”, and I certainly believe more good things are on their way for him!
1) What brought you to Canada?
I was born Paraguay, a small country in the middle of South America.
After completing university in 2000, I had the opportunity to work in an Italian university for a year. It was a life changing experience. After experiencing what it was like to be in a totally different place from where I belonged, I realize that I was missing so much.
I wanted to stay in Italy but that was not possible. I went back home and started to work, hoping I will get the chance to go abroad again. For several years, I thought that the U.S.A was going to be the place for that experience. I even stayed there for six months in 2006, just to realize that immigrating there would be really hard—and I never considered being an illegal alien.
In 2007, I came back to Paraguay and I heard about the Quebec immigration program. I though Canada was the perfect mix between my previous European and American experiences. I applied for permanent residence almost immediately and the whole process took two years. My wife, our son and I arrived in Montreal a year ago and I am working my way through this new life.
2) Did you find the immigration process difficult?
It was not easy for us. We did the whole process by ourselves and we had to learn basic French.
The federal process took a long time and the financial crisis in 2008 slowed it down. After one year of “silence”, Citizenship & Immigration requested us to send police records from both Italy and U.S.A and we were only given a couple of month deadline. This could have been a nightmare but fortunately, friends in both countries helped us do the paperwork—otherwise I wouldn’t be telling you this story from this side of the Canadian border! Once we obtained those documents we received our visas.
It took us two years to get permanent residence in Quebec, when the average processing time is only a year!
3) How long did it take you to find a job that you liked in Canada? If you are still looking, what are your goals? The obstacles you are facing?
In Quebec, we faced a language barrier. My basic French wasn’t good enough for many employers. So I took the government French course for a couple of months and landed my first job the very next day of completing the course. It wasn’t my dream job, but only a couple of weeks later I received another offer for a position in my field, the telecom industry.
All in all, it took me almost six months to land a good job. In my case, networking paid off.
Between the language barrier and the “Canadian experience” catch-22, it is difficult to find your way to your dream job. You must improve your language skills and get relevant experience, even if you’re not getting paid. It is hard at least for the first two years but once you enter in the job market, it gets better and better.
4) Where did you learn French/ English? What was your second language level when you first came to Canada?
I taught myself English. When I was a teen, I was really into American and British music, Hollywood movies and computers—and you had to be proficient in English to truly enjoy them. So I memorized songs and watched movies in English for years.
For French, I noticed the language was very similar to Italian. I liked that and after deciding to immigrate to Quebec, I finally had a reason to learn it.
My English was good and my French was fine when I arrived one year ago. My language proficiency is probably the same as when I arrived a year ago: I work for an American company so I don’t speak French at work…
5) What was your biggest culture shock?
I haven’t really had a shock per se. I came here with an open mind, knowing that I would be just another immigrant. But I found Canada is truly open towards immigration, especially compared to the U.S.A and Italy, where there are politics against immigrants. We are really lucky to be part of this country—sure, there are issues, but it is way more open to cultural differences than any other place I know.
It all depends on your attitude. Many people are shocked when they feel they are being discriminated against. I haven’t felt this way yet but you can always find discrimination if you look for it. Whenever someone else is chosen over you for a job, you can blame it on discrimination. Instead, I chose to show that I was as good as anybody else, regardless of where I was born. And what if I “lose” an opportunity this time? There will always be another chance!
6) What haven’t you gotten used to yet in Canada?
Many little things! Customer service for instance, I don’t find it great, even compared to Paraguay. People here got used to just doing their job and it is never about the customer but about business. Even salespeople don’t try to convince customers as hard, they don’t bother understanding your need or finding a suitable service for you. They figure that if you don’t buy from them, the next person will.
I still find everything here very expensive, and Montreal is cheaper than Toronto or Vancouver.
7) Did immigrating to Canada match your expectations?
Yes. I did a lot of research before I came here. The more homework you do, the less bad surprises you have.
I learned that Canada was halfway between Europe and America. Is not as “money-driven” as the US, and is not as “over-organized” as Europe, but it is a little bit of both.
If you want to start a new life in a new country, don’t set the mark too high. “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst” is a good motto.
8) Do you find life expensive in Canada compared to your home country?
It is very expensive, I try not to compare, but then again, Paraguay is one of the cheapest places in the world. To me, Canada is still more expensive than the US, and about the same as Italy— it’s not a place for a shopaholic!
You can only change the amount that you earn, so this is what you have to improve. Saving and investing is the key, and that what I hope to be able to do so in the near future.
9) Are you planning to apply for Canadian citizenship when you will meet the requirements?
I will meet the citizenship requirements in 2013. I will apply as soon as I can, Canadian citizenship will be a gift to me.
Since I’m new here, I think of Canadian citizenship as a way to ensure that I am not going to lose my permanent resident status.
10) What advice would you give to someone from your home country interested in immigrating to Canada?
Do your homework! Investigate, search, read, look at the job market and the requirements to practice your profession.
Save, come here with as much savings as you can, you don’t know if finding that you are looking for will take a year or ten.
Study! Improve your language skills, live with your mindset in Canadian mode when you are already decided to take this step. But above all, be positive!