When I came here in Canada three years ago, I was put into an informal briefing session care of my sisters who were already residents of the country. There were two appealing details that thrilled me most: four seasons and a soaring exchange rate. I have second thoughts about the previous line as it makes me seem superficial and greedy, but I’m not going to take it back for honesty’s sake. And besides, when you converse with an average Filipino, you’ll find out my thoughts are just normal.
A few weeks into this country, I was already soaking up two-three new things at a time. Finding a job really healped me cope with the stresses brought about by an alien culture and homesickness. I learned so much about myself. I met new and interesting people. I visited famous places and landmarks. And, of course, I discovered so many things about Canada — from trivial things such as a Canadian serving size is good for two “regular” Filipino eaters to more important details like “free” healthcare benefits, competitive salary, and one year maternal leave.
Over time, I have managed to compile some information about Canada that I deem pretty essential. Note that the following list may affect your feelings toward this country:
(1) Filipinos are everywhere. Transports, bus stops, coffee shops, malls, parks, pharmacies, libraries — literally everywhere. So you don’t really have to worry when you’re running out of English words or when you’re lost. All it takes to find yourself a familiar presence is a quick look to your right. Okay, that’s probably an exaggeration but with immigration, sponsorship and whatnot, that’s pretty possible. Fun fact: as of 2011, the ballpark estimate of people with Filipino ancestry was half a million.
(2) Canada is like a big bag of Skittles with more colors. Multiracialism is so apparent there’s no need for research just to prove its truthfulness.
(3) Fancy food is for everyone. You’ll never find yourself go bitter about all those overpriced French dinners and exquisitely-decorated desserts. If you have a job that complies with the minimum wage ($11 as of this year), you are absolutely able to purchase lobsters, red wine and scented candles for added drama without having to sacrifice a day’s salary.
(4) There are two seasons in Canada: winter season and construction season. This is an old joke I heard from a coworker but is totally true. As soon as snow has melted, trucks and pylons and big, burly guys are everywhere.
(5) Snow is only appealing on two occasions: (a) on your first day; and (b) when you’re indoors. It’s always a nice feeling to play on a fluffy, white heap of fresh snow and to build snowman and snow angels but believe me, the excitement only lasts for a little while. It’ll probably last an hour, tops.
(6) Driving shouldn’t be as terrifying as it seems back home. My sister puts it this way: if it’s your right of way, take it.
(7) Fresh air isn’t very fresh. The first thing I noticed here was the air. After spending the past four years in a congested city that was home to smoke-belchers and traffic violators, this was a lovely present to me. Later on I realized it’s just the effect of cool breeze. Stats say Canada rises up to number 9 in the world’s list of the most polluting countries.
(8) Filipinos are hard-workers. Like robots, it’s as if our bodies are designed to work 24/7. I’ve met some who juggle two or three jobs in a day, obviously taking advantage of the opportunity. Life abroad isn’t as easy as it seems to be and you’ll find this true in no time.
(9) Christmas is definitely more fun in the Philippines. Firecrackers are prohibited. It’s freezing cold outside. Snow’s all over the place. Everyone’s home. This is the moment where I kneel down and pay gratitude to the makers of Facebook and Twitter for constructing the virtual tunnel of reconnection.
(10) You’re going back to school. Unless you’ve been relocated by your company, expect another round of tests and expenses. It depends on the assessment, really. It may just be a refresher program, a supplementary course, but it may also be a whole degree. Educational requirements are over the top.
Moving to a different place always entails a concoction of emotions — excitement, uneasiness, happines, sadness. Within a couple of years, I was able to learn a lot of things about living life abroad, away from my comfort zone. It’s not easy and it may come as if you’re trapped in the middle of a maze that only builds more walls as you move. And quite frankly, I haven’t found my way out there yet. I’m right there in the middle of nowhere, curled up in one corner, a little familiar but often anxious. But I’m not backing off and I’m not going anywhere because I know that this isn’t just a country with four seasons and a soaring exchange rate. There are many pros and cons to consider before moving here. But I’ll tell you this, once the maple door opens, grab your dreams and rush in.