Welcome to my new series, Ten Immigrants, Ten Interview.
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.
Guillermo Ziegler came with his family to Canada in 2005, looking for a better life as he saw Argentina, his home country, plunging into an economic and social crisis. He currently lives in Ottawa with his family and they will all become Canadian citizens very soon.
Guillermo writes chronicles of his Canadian life in the very popular Spanish-speaking blog Los Ziegler En Canada. He is also the author of a highly recommended ebook for prospective immigrants to Canada: Buscar Empleo en Canadá Contado por Inmigrantes.
What brought you to Canada?
I think the best way to answer your question would be answering what kicked me out of my country. Canada was just the aftermath of a decision based on that and, to be honest; it was Canada as it could have been Australia. Yep. Sorry if I hurt any feelings here!
By the end of 1999, beginning of 2000 my professional career was virtually stopped. The economical catastrophe that was approaching Argentina at that time (the beginning of a furious recession period that ended with the default in late 2001) put an end in the ascending career I was having since 1990. After that, everything started going down and I was never able to recover: not my career, not my way of living. Same happened to my wife.
At that time, we could have migrated to Australia or Canada, we had the money to do it… but not the guts. By late 2003, we decided to put an end to all that. We just said enough and started the paperwork with Quebec, that at the time was the most viable option for us.
By mid-May 2005 we were landing in Canada: my wife, our two kids and me. It will be 5 years soon, it’s hard to believe how fast the time passed… So fast, that we are becoming citizens in a few more days!
Did you find the immigration process difficult?
The bureaucratic process itself is not difficult at all. Paperwork is simple and you can find plenty of help in the Internet. The most difficult part of all this is your preparation and fighting with your own anxiety… there are more challenges at the emotional level than at any other if you think about it. How do you tell your parents you are living ten thousand kilometres away from home? And even worst… how do you tell them you are taking the grandsons with you? How do you deal with the sorrow and pain of leaving 30 years of your history behind just to arrive to a place where you are no one and no one knows you? That is the most difficult part.
How long did it take you to find a job that you liked in Canada?
Almost a year. Nine months to be exactly… but I have to be honest. After that time I found the job I was looking for… and that is not always the one you like! I still don’t know what job I like… One day I was on the phone with a Canadian I used to know, I was telling him how challenging was to find a decent job and was asking for his help (some people call that “networking”) But suddenly he asked me “Guillermo, what is your dreamed job?” I muted. I’m still not sure about the answer.
Where did you learn French/ English? What was your second language level when you first came to Canada?
I started learning English when I was 6 years old. One day I arrived home from school with a very bad, low mark in English from my teacher at Elementary school in Argentina. My mom got so, so angry that she started sending me to English classes. I studied English until the age of 18 and since then I always had a job where I used it.
French was a complete different story. I started learning French in 2003 when we sent the papers to the Quebec Office in Buenos Aires. After that I went to the French classes that Quebec has for immigrants and when I moved to Waterloo I forgot about French for a while. Nowadays, back in the National Capital Region, I must admit I have some difficulties with French but still can have a basic a conversation with someone if I have to.
What was your biggest culture shock?
Let’s see… It’d be the Canadian protocol for salutation if I have to put a name to the problem. When do they say “Hi!”? Under what circumstances you can say “Hello” and be sure it will be returned? Why they don’s say “good morning” when they arrive to the office (most of the times)? Why does a stranger say “Hi!” when you are taking a walk around the pond in your neighborhood even when you have not see that person ever in your life? What can I talk about with a Canadian being sure I’m not crossing a forbidden line? How do I make friends with these guys?
I’m still struggling with all this.
What haven’t you gotten used to yet in Canada?
Besides what I said above? I’m still having some troubles to accommodate my life in order to find more room for social activities. But it’s all related I think… Other than that, living in this country seems to be easy… as far as you follow the rules, everything will be OK.
Did immigrating to Canada match your expectations?
Living in this country was everything I thought it was going to be. But there we also a lot of other things I did not know that were going to be. Those are the things that sometimes make you think if you made the right decision. But I cannot complain. There are good days and bad days everywhere.
Do you find life expensive in Canada compared to your home country?
Yes, life in Canada IS expensive. And life in Argentina is expensive also. What is the difference? How much access to credit you have! That can be good but can be very bad also… You just have to be careful because you can get into financial troubles very fast in Canada!
If you are not a Canadian citizen yet, are you planning to apply for Canadian citizenship when you will meet the requirements? If you are already a Canadian citizen, why did you apply for citizenship?
I will be taking my citizenship oath soon. Being part of the first world club is an advantage you cannot let go… and after 5 Canadian winters I think I deserve to be part of it, right?
What advice would you give to someone interested in immigrating to Canada?
Research, research and more research! Learn about others experiences! Learn the language! Don’t give anything for granted! Don’t believe this is El Dorado! Dream… but have realistic expectations! This is a nice place to be as far as you understand the meaning of “effort”