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[Interview] From One Gold Mine to Another: Emily, from Australia to Kamloops, BC

Emily in Canada
Emily in Canada

In March 2012, Emily O’Hara and her husband moved from “Down Under” to Kamloops, British Colombia. Emily worked as an Environmental Engineer in a Canadian-owned gold mining company in Australia, and her husband and she were transferred across within the same company to the “True North strong and free”.

So far, they adapted very well to their new environment, and they like Canada so much that they are now considering applying for permanent residence.

When Emily isn’t busy taking up winter sports, she is also on Twitter or blogging about her adventures in Canada on her blog, Skippy or Bullwinkle.

1)      Why did you decide to immi­grate to Canada?

My husband and I were working for a Canadian mining company in Australia, and we were both transferred across within the same company.

My parents both worked in Canada when they were younger, so I’ve always had an interest in visiting the country that they loved. Neither my husband or I had been to Canada prior to moving here, but we had travelled the US a few times and knew a lot of people who loved Canada. We haven’t regretted our decision.

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?

We got really lucky with this, because it was an internal company transfer so immigration lawyers organised through the company handled the majority of it. My husband applied for a closed work permit as a metallurgist and as his spouse I was granted an open work permit. We received all our paperwork from the lawyers, and applied for the visa at the airport.

Our visas are for 3 years. We haven’t started the permanent residence process yet, but are looking to do that this year. We were able to apply after working for one year in Canada.

3)     What did you family think of your move to Canada?

Because my husband moved with me and we have the same employer, we’ve had a pretty similar experience! We’ve both had our ups and downs, he gets frustrated with completely different things than I do. We’re both happy to be able to experience something so different from home, and have the opportunity to work in a different country.

Our parents and siblings are proud of us getting further experience, and Skype means they can’t miss us too much. My parents are also using it as an excuse to visit Canada again and revisit their old stomping grounds!

4)     Do you speak French? Any funny Canadian vocabulary you picked up in English?

I learnt French in school for 6 years, but I can hardly speak it at all. I can understand some packaging information but that’s about it.

Canadian English is very similar to American English (which they don’t appreciate hearing), but it means a lot of slang we learnt through watching TV. They have some stuff that makes me giggle, “fingering” means flipping the bird, “homo milk” is full fat milk, a “keener” is someone who tries really hard. (Note from Zhu: do read Emily’s Australian/Canadian dictionary, it’s fascinating!)

5)      How do you find the cost of living compared to Australia?

I think at the end of the day it’s pretty similar. Australia is probably a lot more expensive as an expat to set up, as electronics and appliances are expensive and generally don’t come with houses. Fuel and electricity bills are also cheaper in Canada. However, car insurance  (think of all those icy road crashes), mobile/cell phones and bank accounts are all significantly more expensive.

I think at the end of the day they work out to be pretty similar while the dollars are close when you’re living there and settled.

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

I think the huge supermarkets stressed me out the most. There always seems to be so much choice but I can never find exactly what I want. Comfort food is hard to make so that it tastes the same as at home. I also found the weather a little out of control when I first arrived, but I seemed to acclimatise quickly. I actually really enjoyed winter this year.

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

Winter sports! We took up snowboarding within two weeks, just as the season ended. We bought a season’s pass at our local hill (Sun Peaks—amazing!) and I think last season we each did around 18 days. It’s been great, snowboarding is awesome because the learning curve is steep. It’s really hard to pick up, but by the end of the season we were doing double black diamond runs (though not with a lot of grace!)

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

I hate their credit system. Canadians are very proud of how their country survived the great financial crisis (rightfully so), so won’t hear anything bad about it, but it’s rubbish for newcomers. We both had good full-time jobs, but because we didn’t have credit history in Canada we struggled to get any sort of credit (phone, car loan, credit card etc.). We ended up getting a pre-paid credit card, and then after 8 months my husband was finally offered an unsecured credit card through a different company. Lending a bank money, and then being charged interest drove us nuts!

9)      What’s the best part about living in your city?

Everything is so accessible. We have a world-class ski resort within 45 minutes, multiple lakes and a river as well as hiking and camping locations. We also have some of Canada’s best weather. The summers are dry and hot and winters are mild. Perfect for all those outdoor activities.

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

Make sure you don’t come without some savings, it can cost a fair bit to set up when you arrive and moving is already a stressful experience. If you can co-ordinate a job before you arrive, it seems to make the immigration process a lot faster. Your only downside is that you will be required to remain with that employer while you’re in Canada until you achieve permanent residency.

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