The bus sped off and I started to walk towards the nearest supermarket. When I picked up my pace, so did someone behind me. Weird. I thought I had been the only passenger to get off at this stop, which wasn’t really a stop but a random spot on the main street.
I glanced over my shoulder just to make sure I wasn’t in trouble—things can happen when you’re walking down a dark street in Brazil.
Not this time, though. It was just the harmless French dude who was in the bus with us. I had seen his République française passport an hour earlier, at the Argentinian border.
He caught up with me. “Excusez-moi, excusez-moi… vous êtes québécoise?”
Evidently, he had noticed my blue Canada passport too.
“Non, Française et Canadienne,” I replied without slowing down.
The subtle nuance escaped him.
“Super. Mind if I walk with you? I’m thinking of immigrating to Quebec and I have a few questions.”
I did mind. Not his company, but the questions. Frankly, I wasn’t in the mood for them. I had a supermarket to go to but mostly, we were in Brazil and I didn’t feel like talking about Canada—it was another world, another life.
“I live in Ontario, actually, so I’m not super knowledgeable about Quebec.”
He frowned and shrugged as if to say, “meh, that will do.”
“I’m aiming for Montreal.”
Right. Of course. Where else?
“I’m really sick of France. I’m looking for better opportunities, a more flexible job market… and none of that socialist crap. Too many people are abusing the system. French citizens want benefits but no responsibilities… bunch of entitled idiots… This country is going to shit! When did you leave France?”
“Huh… in 2001.”
“Well, it’s worst now, trust me. My parents rented one of their properties,” he went on. “The tenants didn’t pay rent for three months. And guess what? Can’t evict them because it’s winter. Ridiculous.”
“Right. Well, it’s—”
“Rewarding hard work. That’s what France should do.”
“And you think Canada will be a better fit for you?”
“Ah, oui! Now, when you come to Canada with a visa, do you get any kind of support from the government?”
I burst out laughing and abandoned him in front of the supermarket—well, that was the pot calling the kettle black!
My job was easy with liberal and delusional French dude, he had just used me as a sounding board. But I never quite know what to say when someone expresses interest in immigrating to Canada and wants my feedback. As a Canadian, I will always say, “welcome!” I just can’t promise anyone their life will be better in Canada. No one can predict the future.
Every day, I receive two of three emails or comments from strangers asking me to map out their destiny. “I want to move to Canada, tell me how.” “I have a degree, can I work in Canada?” “I don’t have a job can I find one in Canada?” “I hate my life, will I be happier in Canada?”
Disturbingly specific or annoyingly general, these questions boil down to one major unknown—it is worth it to immigrate to Canada?
I have no idea. Is it worth it to get married? Is it worth it to have kids? Is it worth it to pursue XYZ career? Are we talking from a financial or a human perspective?
This is what I do know based on my limited experience as an immigrant to Canada.
If you manage to get permanent resident status, you will, at one point, have the opportunity to become a Canadian citizen. There are requirements to meet and paperwork to fill out but the process isn’t difficult nor complicated. However, I can’t promise you will feel Canadian or that a Canadian passport will change your life for the better.
Canadians usually have a fairly positive attitude towards newcomers. There are political arguments over immigration levels—do yourself a favour, don’t read The Sun’s reader comments section—but far-right parties are not as vocal as in Europe. Both Liberals and Conservatives are more likely to seek immigrants’ votes than to bash them. As long as you make reasonable attempts to blend in, you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable as an Indian-Canadian, a Chinese-Canadian, a Haitian-Canadian, etc. The concept of diversity isn’t new to Canadians. Racial slurs are strongly frowned upon and there are laws and systems to address discrimination.
You’re probably more likely to enjoy a certain level of material comfort and eventually own a car and a house than in many countries. The entire economy is based on consumerism—you will be introduced to credit cards, lines of credit and mortgages soon enough. Yet, like products, your life “won’t be exactly as shown”—it’s unlikely you will be able to afford a house downtown Toronto or Vancouver and life upgrades are expensive. That said, it’s not crazy to dream of a semi-detached in a suburb, somewhere in Canada.
I have no idea if you will be able to find a job in your field or if you will make more than your current salary. In the first few months or years, chances are you will work for minimum wage at one point, experience a round of layoffs, have less time off than before, find good opportunities and change job titles—and not necessarily in this order.
You will eventually build a network of acquaintances and coworkers but making real friends may turn out harder than expected.
You will adopt a few Canadian quirks and find many puzzling.
You will miss home at one point, even though you didn’t think it was possible.
You’ll gain a new perspective on your birth country and on the world.
Will you stay in Canada? I don’t know.
Will you live a better life? Some days yes, some days not.
Is it worth it? Who knows? I only live one life at the time—I have no idea how things would have turned out if I had stayed in France, if I had moved to China, if I had sailed around the world.
Here or there, write your story.