Stepping out of your comfort zone, taking a leap of faith, giving up all that worked for you for nothing certain, is very challenging. Life of an immigrant is really difficult. The struggle is real. There is no other way; you have to burn your boats and start from scratch! Even when my husband was booking our flights to Canada, right before he clicked the last button, I tried to convince him to stay.
He had applied for provincial immigration even before we got married. After our marriage, he included spouse details in his application. He did mention that he is applying for it. I honestly didn’t take it seriously and told him that I love the life in Pakistan and would never like to move abroad. He said we’re only applying. Let’s see.
Moving to a new country is never easy. Everything is different and confusing. It’s like a baby who has to start learning about the world from the start. You are not familiar with the grocery stores, electronics, banks and language. Everything has to be learned from scratch. Many things are opposite to what you were used to, all your life. Perfect example of this: Light switches, driving side of road and drivers seat in the car. This makes you skeptical for a long time.
You don’t feel like yourself when you’re in an alien world. Your real personality doesn’t show as you’re busy observing how others act. You’re trying to put your best foot forward so others can’t tell that you’re absolutely clueless. The worst part is the loneliness. Suddenly, your near and dear ones, the whole life you knew is no where. You have to literally create your life all over again. For me, its worse because its not the first time I’m making a brand new life for myself. I have done it twice before. This was the reason for my resistance. I know exactly how hard it is! Having said that, a good and supportive spouse can make it a little less hard.
This article shows the summary of all we had to do after landing here in Canada in order of priority. In this country, there can be major differences of procedures from one province to another. I am only telling you how it is in Halifax. Some areas may be different in other provinces of Canada.
From Pakistan, Haaris had done his research and found two good BNBs. Reviews are very important. We actually made good friends with the hosts. Later we had to extend our stay and unfortunately they were pre-booked so we had to move to another Air BNB for last 10 days before we moved into our own apartment.
2. Travel Insurance
My husband got travel insurance for us from Allianz for three months even before flying to Canada. This is to cover the costs in case of a medical emergency till you settle down. Even though I wasn’t really for it, I can’t thank him enough that he got us covered. It sure was handy when I was suddenly down with my eye injury recently. He was right. One shouldn’t take any risks when it comes to our health. Fully recommended.
3. Buying Canadian gear
Buying warm, water-proof footwear and good jackets for Canadian weather is a must.
Make sure you check the labels to make sure they will keep you warm for temperatures like -20/-40 degree C.
Canada is very cold and makes your skin and eyes dry. So make sure you invest in a good face and body lotion (e.g. Nivea or Vaseline). Also keep a stock of Systane Lubricating eye drops to keep your eyes free from itching and redness from the extreme dry weather.
4. Buying monthly bus pass
It is impossible to get around your city without a bus pass after landing. A monthly bus pass is mandatory which costs $78 and is valid for one calendar month only.
5. Getting the hang of buses
You need to download Transit App on your phone. This app along with Google Map directions are two vital ways to know bus timings and routes. Both these apps show you which bus number to take to your destination. The tricky part is which side to catch the bus from. This is where you have to go to the bus stop and make sure the bus stop number which is in the bracket in both apps matches with the bus stop number. In case it is different, you need to run to the opposite bus stop on the same road. Another way is to know the names of main areas. The bus destination can be read so you have an idea which side you want to go to.
All banks in Canada charge a monthly fees on chequing account so one has to be careful to open an account or set up a procedure to avoid monthly fees (as honestly I don’t see a point of that). There are different types of chequing accounts which offer limited transactions a month. The unlimited one is the most costly which charges approx $15 monthly. Canadian banks offer free packages for new immigrants for limited time period only.
Bank of Montreal is the only bank that offers free banking for a year for new immigrants. After the first year, if you have a specified amount of funds in your chequing account, your monthly fee is waived off. ATM fees is also charged by most banks along with the bank of ATM so its best to only use same bank ATM machines or take out cash in advance to avoid paying unnecessary fees to banks.
9. Health Card
It is vital to get a health card made very soon after you land from MSI. You have to apply for it.
Know that if you have any problem, you can call up 811 (24 hour nurse facility) for urgent care.
Apply for PharmaCare when you go to pick up your health card. After filling out the forms of this campaign, you might be eligible for free prescriptions/medicines for sometime.
10. Getting familiar to the area
It is vital to start learning the names of main areas in and around the city through Google maps. The sooner you learn the names of areas, the sooner you will feel in control. Otherwise you will keep feeling lost whether you’re catching a bus, conversing with people or simply trying to get your work done.
They offer pre-arrival services/courses for which you should register online soon before the move.
Register there after landing
Get orientation session from there
Free personal employment specialist with whom you will have regular meetings till you get a job
Free CV improvement sessions
Get free training details for immigrants and register if interested
12. Canadian photo ID
You can get this from a government institute called Access for $17.70 which is valid for 5 years. It is not mandatory to get this made. It is only required in case you’re not able to get a Canadian driving license soon. We didn’t need this.
If you have a UK license (like mine), all you need to do is take a vision test and have a permanent address, pay the fees and get the license without taking any driving test.
If you have a Pakistani license and have been driving for over 10 years, then you can show them the original and give vision, theory and road test to get a Canadian drivers license. If you don’t bring your Pakistani/UK license, you have to start from scratch and it is a long process.
Canadian driving license costs about $80 and is valid for 5 years.
14. Apartment hunt:
Kijiji is a good source of finding new places and things in Canada. Killam property is a good company through which we got an apartment too. Try to convince your husband to get an apartment with a dish washer. I lived without it in England for 5 years. I am over the moon to have it installed here in our new apartment. It sure makes life so much happier. All Allah’s blessings!
With the apartment, you have to obviously get the following:
Internet package – Options: Bell & Eastlink. We got the first one
Contact provincial power to turn on electricity of the new apartment. Nova Scotia Power charges a security deposit $150
In most apartments, you have to pay electricity $50 after 2 months in NS
Renters insurance needs to be bought before moving in – Options: TD, Zipsure
If you need something vintage and don’t mind it being used, Kijiji and Value Village are good options. Its great to know about these as you can sell/donate your things there too if you don’t need them.
We were stuck with DHL but they told us conflicting quotes and we haven’t at all been happy with the whole shipping arrangement.
17. Finding Food
Initially it was a challenge for us to find Desi stores here. Once I got to talk to Pakistani girls here, they suggested some good reasonable stores here. Halal meat hasn’t been a problem as most grocery stores have sections. My favourite grocery store is Wallmart as it is a one stop shop for anything you need for your fridge, kitchen or house and all that at the best price. Sobey’s is good for food (esp fresh fruit, vegetables) and its closer to our house so thats always a plus. Atlantic super store is also great.
We recently discovered Bulk Barn here. And I was really excited about their spices and sauces section. You can literally buy anything from here in as much quantity as you need. The prices are damn good and customer service is great. I accidentally broke a spice container I bought, and they gave me another one for free. I kept asking them to charge me but they didn’t. Fully recommended store.
18. Finding a family doctor
Call up 811 to apply for a family doctor near your area. You have to register for a family doctor ASAP as there is mostly a queue. A family doctor is important so he can refer you to specialists in case you have problems.
We’re not planning to get one anytime soon as summer is here and we have good bus routes near our apartment. The main decision is whether to get a second hand reasonably priced car. Or to wait for a good credit and then get a new car on a contract. There are 0% interest options available on certain companies like Toyota and Hyundai. One has to do proper research prior to the time.
20. Credit rating
Unfortunately when you land in any new country, you have zero credit and building it up from scratch takes time. Without a good established credit, you are not entitled to many privileges that others have. Even getting a credit card is a nightmare as no banks offer you that without your credit history. Without a credit card, its difficult to shop online on most stores. We got a Debit Mastercard through BMO bank which isn’t unfortunately acceptable on most online stores. And we’re having trouble getting credit card. Now we’re trying for a secured credit card and that’s also taking time.
21. Job hunt
Your employment specialist at immigration services has a role in your job hunt as discussed in point 10. LinkedIn profile and networks also play a role. I don’t plan to start this till I have taken a career break and sorted the rest of my life out but the following are recommended to start applying:
Making a list of places nearby for weekend escapes (of course in Summer). I have made a quick list of places to see around here on my Mobisle notes application on my phone. It mainly consists of recommendations from our bank representative and our cell phone contractor. I brought home some brochures with Hiking and trail information from the library. We have already been on two of these trails. Hiking is a great activity specially now when we have a lot of time to spare.
I have always been fascinated by looking out for UNESCO World Heritage Sites. I love making a list of places to see around my place. So whenever you have a day or two free, you don’t have to find them. There are a lot of trails around Halifax. We have already been on two of them. Trekking is a great activity!
For me this was very important. I absolutely love spending time in libraries. Most of the time I take my laptop and work on my articles there. You need to find the closest branch to your place and register them one time. Then you’ll be able to use any library in the city. Here is a link to Halifax Public Libraries.
This is one of the most important points as loneliness in a new country can even get you in severe depression. A lot of people told me to join the FB group Soul Sisters. I’m so glad I wrote on their wall about my move. I have already made a lot of friends through that message. I have already been invited to several parties by different groups of girls here. In Halifax, you have to really make an effort yourself to find and meet Pakistani community. So I had to make some phone calls to start making friends.
The app Meet Up is also amazing. You can just download the app on your phone and tick all the categories that you’re interested in. Try to go on their meet ups to meet like minded people and make new friends.
Grocery stories like Sobeys have a board near the entrance where they list down meet ups like board game nights, healthy cooking sessions etc. Note down the time of meetings you’re interested in and pop in at that time. They offer free food and you can make friends there.
25. Get Organised
My loyal readers who know me by now would be able to guess that none of my articles can be complete without the ‘O’ word. When you have survived such a huge move, you are obviously shaken up. You are confused and you feel like your life’s control is out of your hands. It is completely natural. But the first step towards getting your dominance in life back is by organising your belongings specially your legal documents.
After landing in Canada, you will receive some vital documents like your PR Replacement letter, PR card, SIN Number, Health card, Canadian English assessment result card, apartment lease, monthly bus pass, bank details and driving license. These are all important documents which you cannot afford to lose. I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping these under your control, safe and backed up on your personal cloud ASAP. Now that you have got the other main important things sorted, it is vital for you to sort these out and back them up on your cloud. Here is my article on this important subject. If you have brought your jewellery with you, make sure you go and put it in the locker at the first opportunity you get. Let’s all be fully prepared and not procrastinate when it comes to our important possessions. A stitch in time saves nine. The sooner we do these things, the better.
P.S. For all those who live in our beloved Pakistan, but always criticise it and find excuses to shift abroad; Please learn to love all that Allah has blessed you with. The life in Pakistan with family and friends is ideal. The unborn children which you would rather raise abroad will have the worldly luxuries but they will be missing out on moments which are far more important for their upbringing, personality and life.
They will be missing out on immeasurable love from their Nani Nana, Dadi Dada (grandparents), Khalas and Mamoos. They will be raised in quiet apartments, not in noisy homes full of giggles, laughter and childhood friends. This life away from loved ones is just a compromise. The passport which we get after years of struggle never changes the fact that we don’t belong here.
This was just a round up of all you need to do when you move to a new country. In case, you are moving to Nova Scotia, this one is meant for you. These were just the basics and of course not all that one has to manage in a new country. I think it’ll take about a year for us to fully settle in. This was just the start of all we had to manage after landing here. Let me know your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by.