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Neeraj, From India to Toronto


Born 200 kilometres Northwest of Mumbai, Neeraj was raised in India. When his parents decided to move to Canada in the mid-1990s, he was transplanted into a totally different culture. Maybe that’s what prompted his wanderlust several years later.

A business analyst by day, Neeraj is also a world traveller. In 2008, in the midst of the economic crisis, he proudly “helped the travel industry to recover from its lows” and quit his job to go backpacking through India and Southeast Asia. After climbing a bunch of insanely high mountains, he returned to Toronto where he now lives with his wife, Bhakti.

A proud Indo-Canadian, Neeraj masters two cultures and follows his motto, “Dream, Fly and Discover!”

1) What brought you to Canada?

I came to Canada as a dependent child. My parents came here from India for a brighter future.

2) Did you find the immigration process difficult?

I came to Canada as a dependent child in the mid-1990s. At that time (before 9/11), immigrating to Canada was not too difficult.

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

I came here when I was still in school so I didn’t face any issue.

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

I learned English in India in school. My mother tongue is Marathi and I also speak Hindi fluently.

5) What was your biggest culture shock?

My biggest cultural shock was the lack of respect shown to teachers. Back home, teachers were like God; in Canada, kids verbally abusing their teachers were quite common. Also, kids here were much more materialistic; the brand of clothes and shoes made someone “cool” or “not cool”.

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

I haven’t got used to hockey or any winter sports!

7) Did immigrating to Canada match your expectations?

I grew up in a time when there was no internet and only one TV channel (in India). This combined with the fact that I was very young meant that it was difficult to set any (realistic or otherwise) expectations regarding Canada.

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

Depending on where you come from, if you convert Canadian dollar prices to your home country’s currency, then practically everything is more expensive in Canada—this is especially true for those coming from South Asia and Southeast Asia. However, if we take prices as a percentage of income, then many things, such as food, are cheaper in Canada. Accommodation in Canada is expensive with very few budget options. Phone services (land line and mobile/cellular) are also very expensive in Canada; this is primarily because a few anti-competitive companies hold the Canadian consumers at ransom.

9) Why did you apply for Canadian citizenship?

I’m a Canadian citizen. There would be no point in not obtaining Canadian citizenship if we immigrated here as a PR.

10) What advice would you give to someone from your home country interested in immigrating to Canada?

Come to Canada with realistic expectations, especially with respect to finding a job in your field. Your first job here probably won’t be very good and it may be worth undertaking some Canadian education to get yourself a better job. On a positive note, it may be a good opportunity to change fields if you’re unhappy with your current field. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, Canada is an excellent place to start a new business—take risks; Canada is the “land of opportunities!”

Since it is difficult to make new friends (in any new place), it’s a good idea to join a few “personal interest clubs” such as the Toronto Outdoors Club if you’re interested in hiking or other outdoor activities—it’s a great way to meet new people and make new friends. And use Google!

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French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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