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Gill: From Britain To Brampton

Welcome to my new series, Ten Immigrants, Ten Interviews.

You guys all know my story by now, and you have a pretty good idea of what my life in Canada looks like. I thought it was time to let other immigrants and new Canadians speak. I contacted ten of them, who each have their own story, their own reasons to come to Canada, their own point of view on how life is up North in the igloos. They all answered ten questions, bringing a new perspective on immigration.

A new post will be published every Saturday.


Today, I’d like you to meet my final interviewee: Gill, also known as That British Woman. Originally from a small 2,000 people town in Cumbria, Britain, her husband and she decided to move to Canada, looking for a better future for their children. In 1989, they settled in Brampton, Ontario. The city of then 200,000 surprised them and she later declared the experience had been an eye-opened.

Their children grew up, went to university and left home. By the fall of 2008, Gill and her husband decided to move back in the country – but they did stay in Canada. They now live an hour from Brampton, in a Farmhouse on five acres of land. Gill knows the best of both worlds, as a city girl who also enjoy small farming communities and she explains that living the country dream again is like an adventure for her.

Gil enjoys talking about life in Canada from a British point of view. She writes a weekly column for the Orangeville Banner about her adoptive country and tackles topics such as British or Canadian, Charity Begins At Home and Lead Feet.

What brought you to Canada?

We lived in a small community where the main employer was British Gypsum, they made drywall. The mines were due to close by the time my husband turned around 40, and for him to get as good a job it meant we had to move from the area. Also we knew the career prospects for our children were going to be limited where we lived, so we decided to emigrate while the kids were little and while we were still young enough to do it.

Did you find the immigration process difficult?

YES!! We filled out the paperwork and sent it in and we were rejected. Despite the fact that my husband is a qualified tradesperson and my dad lived here. So we decided to leave the kids with my mother for a week, we flew over, and my husband picked up the Toronto Sun and looked through the newspaper to see who was hiring electricians and went door to door asking for a job. A Dutch guy was willing to take him on and was willing to deal with Immigration and wait another 6 months it took us to get approved to move over here.

How long did it take you to find a job that you liked in Canada?

I stayed at home with my children as they were young (3 1/2 & 5), however I did work on and off in offices within a year of arriving here. Please remember this was 1989/1990 and jobs were a lot easier to find.

Where did you learn French/ English? What was your second language level when you first came to Canada?

Being British English is my first language. However, there is a difference between British English and Canadian English, so even for us it wasn’t plain sailing; and even to this day when I say certain things, I may as well be speaking Chinese. The one word that most people, especially Italians have trouble understanding from me is the word, “butter.” I have no idea why, but I can’t say it the Canadian way which sounds more like “budder!” I don’t speak a word of French, although I may be able to figure of what someone is asking if they write it down. Also on my son’s Kindergarten record, he has a notation that says he has a speech impediment. You know what that is…….his British accent. The silly teacher found him difficult to understand so figured he had a speech impediment, and as we were new to the country I didn’t try and fight it, I did suggest though it could be his accent. No way would I allow that to happen now!!

What was your biggest culture shock?

Well we moved from a town of 2,500 to a city of 250,000, which has now grown to over 500,000 I would say that is a huge shock. Plus where we lived in Britain there was an Indian lady and the rest of the population was white. We move to Brampton, Ontario and the majority of the population was from another country, so that too took a bit of getting used to. Then there was the way everyone went over the top at holidays, and I don’t mean just Christmas, but Easter, Valentine’s Day etc, etc. We weren’t used to that.

What haven’t you gotten used to yet in Canada?

How everyone embraces the outdoors especially Winter. Not a huge fan of trudging through a foot of snow. Hate the humidity in Summer, and hate mosquito’s, black flies and all other flying biting bugs, that still love me despite the fact they have bitten me for the past 20 years!!

Did immigrating to Canada match your expectations?

Gill does not wish to answer this question.

Do you find life expensive in Canada compared to your home country?

No, in Britain everything is twice the price, other than vacations, they always seem to have great deals on vacations over there.

Will you apply for Canadian citizenship?

We applied for our Canadian Citizenship as soon as we could as we knew this was where we going to live for the rest of our lives. We both wanted to have a say in how the country is run, and you can’t do this without voting.

What advice would you give to someone interested in immigrating to Canada?

It’s hard, you leave your family behind nine times out of ten. Granted they are only a phone call or email away, but it’s not the same as being a short drive away. We were lucky as we are British so had an easier time adapting to the country than a lot of people may have, as we speak the language. Things have changed a lot in the 20 years we have lived here, it’s a whole other ball game from when we moved over here. Be prepared to start from the bottom and work your way up the ladder. Things aren’t handed on a plate to you, you have to work hard to achieve the success. Would I do it again……not at my age, we were in our 20’s when we arrived, and that is the right age in my opinion. If you have children in this country, they have great opportunities if they work hard at school and keep out of trouble.

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