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Khatia Odzelashvili: From Georgia to Ottawa

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.

Khatia Odzelashvili (and the Canadian Parliament in the background)

Khatia Odzelashvili is from Tbilisi in Georgia, a country located between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. She studied law in Germany for four years, hoping to eventually come back home and work in Georgia. But while in Germany, she met her husband. They were both foreign students and they decided to move somewhere together to a third country where they could settle. After much consideration, they agreed on Canada.

They applied for permanent residence under the skilled worker program and landed in 2008. They have been living in Ottawa since then.

You can follow Khatia Odzelashvili on Twitter or see her profile here.

What brought you to Canada?

I had never thought about immigrating to Canada. I was studying in Germany to come back to my home country, Georgia, and contribute to society. In Germany, I married someone from totally different country. Neither of us would have had similar chances in a country of our origin, so we figured it was best to move somewhere else. We listed countries (my husband listed Canada) and started discussing the best choice. The more we researched Canada, the country itself and people, economy, history etc. the more we realized this was the country where we wanted to move.

Did you find the immigration process difficult?

Not really. I was lucky; my husband took care of all the paperwork! Actually, when we applied for immigration, we were still attending classes at university and we were very busy. We were approved the year before we graduated and were given a year to « land » in Canada. As soon as I completed university, I rushed to pack to Canada! Moving itself was more difficult than the immigration process. Officials were always friendly and professional, so things went quite smoothly.

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

I worked in a position I liked for a year. I was a law student in Germany. I had all my documents certified but so far, the paper that formally recognizes my German degree as equal to a Canadian degree hasn’t helped much. It’s somehow understandable. Law in Europe is different from law in Canada, these are two different systems. So it will take time before I can reach my career goals. I started from the very bottom and I have seen some improvement the last two years. I have hopes.

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

I learned English in school in Georgia, but in Germany, I had no one to speak English with so I forgot a lot and definitely couldn’t improve my language skills.

I could understand the language and even communicate basic things when I came here, but my English was pretty bad. I started listening to CBC Radio One not only to improve my language skills but to integrate to the society. I also attended some language courses for new immigrants. All that helped but I must say the attitude Canadians has towards me helped a lot too: they are very patient and helpful. They listen to you carefully and try their best to understand … and they don’t want to disappoint you. This kind of attitude makes a newcomer like me more confident and it helps me to improve my English.

As for French, I didn’t speak it at all but I’m now starting to pick up some words. I just need time… Unfortunately, learning a language takes time!

What was your biggest culture shock?

At first, I felt here like Gagarin must have felt walking on the moon. It was quite strange: everything was new.

Take the colourful bins on the street, for instance. I thought there were garbage bins! Now I know they are newspapers bins. I didn’t know what the white light with a walking person meant either, when crossing the street, so I kept on waiting for the green light (note from Zhu: in Ottawa, the crosswalk signal features a red hand for do not cross and a white light with the pictogram of a man to show you can cross). Oh, and bus drivers don’t sell tickets on the bus.

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

I don’t like when some people don’t care and throw garbage on the street instead of walking two steps to deposit their garbage in the garbage bins provided everywhere. But this is definitely not what Canadians are generally doing: a lot of people here actually help clean up the Ottawa River every year!

Everybody is different. We all have different personalities, and because being Canadian also means being different and celebrating our differences, then these differences eventually vanish and we all become the same.

We are all different. All of us have different personalities, and because being Canadian also means to be different and celebrate our differences, then this differences vanish in this perspective and we all become the same.

Did immigrating to Canada match your expectations?

Yes and no. There is no paradise on earth. People always face difficulties, and there are always issues to work on. It’s not just about living in a great country: you have to make it happen and overcome problems that can arise.

But because Canada is a free country and because nobody stops you to improve your life, I do think that I came to a great country. Canada overmatches my first expectations.

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

Canada is definitely more expensive then Georgia. Yet living here is way cheaper then living in Germany. Only a few businesses have a monopoly, such as phone and internet companies, banking etc. Except for that, people always have the choice to take their business elsewhere, which is good.

Will you apply for Canadian citizenship?

Yes, I am going to apply for citizenship in a year. I can’t believe I’m not even Canadian yet!

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

I would suggest prospective immigrants to read more about Canada. Visit relevant websites (such as those for new immigrants, job search, education etc.). You may also want to improve your English and your French.

It is also important is also to connect to various services for new immigrants, they are very helpful. But make sure you only use official sources and no middlemen. You can start with the website of the ministry of Citizenship and Immigration.

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