Lou, her husband and her two teenage sons are from a small village in Essex, United Kingdom. They moved to Canada in summer 2010 to find a better work/life balance, and so far, their experience has been positive.
1) Why did you decide to immigrate to Canada?
My husband and I ran our own business in England and worked very long hours we craved a life that was calmer and less stressful. We visited Canada several times on holiday and we loved the lifestyle here and found the country to be much more family oriented than the UK. Generally Canadians have a much better work/life balance combine that with the outdoor living and it was just what we wanted.
(You can read more about the family’s decision to emigrate here)
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?
I wouldn’t say the process was difficult as such, the steps are pretty clearly defined. It was extremely time consuming though. The level of proof we needed was quite extensive and getting copies of birth certificates, marriage certificates, examination records etc. took months. We were even asked to prove my husbands Aunt was present in Canada by providing her bank statements (I thought this was outrageous!) We applied under the federal skilled worker programme, our application began in the spring of 2007 and our Permanent Residency Visa finally arrived in August 2010.
(You can read more about Lou’s emigration journey here)
3) How did your kids deal with the move from the old continent to the new one?
They made the transition really well and surprisingly quickly. Making sure the boys settled easily was our biggest concern, I knew it would be more difficult for me but as long as the boys were happy we knew we could cope with anything. Within about a month of being at school they both had a large circle of friends and an active social life. Obviously they miss our family and friends in the UK but they keep in contact with them through the internet and social networking sites
4) Do you speak French? Did you find differences between British English and Canadian English?
No, none of us speak French, unfortunately language lessons are very basic in English schools.
5) How do you find the cost of living compared to your home country?
It’s a real mixture as many things cost less than in the UK like fuel, housing, going to the movies but then other things like food, alcohol and car insurance are much more. I suppose when you balance it all out there’s not much difference.
6) What has been your biggest culture shock so far?
I guess the one thing that stunned me the most is the level of patriotism felt by Canadians. I had noticed the abundance of flags everywhere while we were here on holiday but I had no idea how deep it ran and how ingrained it was into their culture until we moved here. Canadians are fiercely patriotic and immensely proud of their country and they show it in many ways. They love to support Canadian businesses and by domestically produced items. I first noticed it when we were buying furniture over here and we would get an approving nod if it was ‘Canadian made’. The National Anthem (Oh Canada) is played in schools everyday, they celebrate Canada Day in July they plaster their clothing in the maple leaf and vehemently support their sports teams and any famous Canadians. They love their country and rightly so in my opinion.
7) What aspect of life in Canada did you adopt right away?
Regular visits to Tim Hortons! We’d discovered the coffee shop when we visited on holiday but it wasn’t until we lived here that we realised ‘Timmies’ is almost a national institution, It’s amazing how fiercely protective Canadians are about their favourite Coffee shop and how often they visit it. I regularly see people walking down the street, driving their cars, doing their shopping, going into work with a cup of Tim Hortons Coffee in their hand and I have to say we’d only been here 5 minutes when we’d downloaded the Timmies app on our phones!
8) What’s one thing you don’t like in Canada?
It has to be the driving standards which really are appallingly low. I find the vast majority of people drive too fast and too close and disregard the weather conditions completely. It doesn’t surprise me that there are major accidents and fatalities on Toronto’s roads on a regular basis.
9) What’s the best part about living in your city?
It has to be the geographical location, we’re about 45 minutes from downtown Toronto, we have beaches all around us, there are ski hills less than 30 minutes away, we can be in the States in less than 2 hours and up in the Canadian wilderness in just a couple of hours. We live in the ideal place for exploring a massive variety of areas and most of them are really beautiful.
10) What advice would you give to someone starting the immigration process?
I think organisation is key to a successful application and relocation. Planning everything was, for me, an important part of feeling in control and not losing my mind! I had spreadsheets of lists and folders of paperwork which became a source of amusement for my family but when you’re trying to wrap up your life in one country and start anew elsewhere you need to know where every little thing is. The whole process is a series of deadlines from the beginning when you are given dates to submit your information or having a medical to booking your flights and ordering the container and then eventually when you land you have deadlines for things like changing your driving licence. Keeping track of these is vitally important to making the process run smoothly and enable you to settle quicker. It is a stressful process without doubt but the rewards make it all worth it.