Note: This is just an adjustment period. This write-up is an eye-opener and to inspire everyone. This is to make aspiring immigrants of the pros and cons of living in Canada. Nothing is perfect but it’s all worthy.
How time flies! Been here in Canada for five months now, I’ve somehow discovered and experienced the life of being a local. So let’s do some reality check! All events were only based on my own personal experiences and adventures of being a Permanent Resident. I’ve lived and worked in the Philippines, Singapore, and Dubai which means I may have already seen and appreciated the beauty of each country. Nevertheless, Canada is my new home but I still left my heart in PH (I will always love the country even how polluted and corrupted my country is.)
1. HEALTHCARE IS FREE.
It’s already self-explanatory. Though dental care is not part of it, still some employers offer this as an additional benefit. Vaccines, blood test, ultrasound, and doctor consultation were some of the services we’ve recently used, and we didn’t spend anything from our pocket. Such a relief!
HEALTHCARE SYSTEM IS FRUSTRATING. Well for me, I was really frustrated. Since healthcare is free of charge, it won’t be easy to see a doctor right away. Yes, walk-in clinics are around but you really have to wait for ages. I’ve tried it once and I hope that would be the last. My child was feeling unwell and I simply wanted to bring her to a pediatrician. My appointment was 1:00 PM but I already left the clinic by 5:00 PM. So, the system here in Canada, you must have a family doctor first to be referred to a specialist. Since we used to see a pediatrician back in PH and Dubai, it feels strange to meet a general doctor for the treatment of my child. Usually, pediatricians here prioritize children with the special condition. That’s what I’ve heard. So far, I haven’t found the ‘one’ yet. I haven’t found a very good OB-GYN, PEDIA, or even a FAMILY PHYSICIAN. The search is not over yet. Sigh.
Call me ‘maarte’ but I somehow appreciate the healthcare system in Dubai. I can see my trusted doctor anytime. Probably I was just lucky to have an insurance which was covered by my husband’s previous employer. Nevertheless, Canadian healthcare still tops the list because it’s a FREE LIFETIME BENEFIT. I am just frustrated with the system, but I am very grateful for this opportunity!
2. CANADA CHILD TAX BENEFIT.
The CCTB was a tax-free monthly payment available to eligible families to help with the cost of raising children (high-income families are excluded from this benefit). Since I only have one child, we usually receive around CAD 400 monthly (around 15k in peso). It’s not a huge amount considering daycare fees here are very expensive. But still grateful that government still provides support to Canadian families (until your child reaches 18 yrs old).
Raising a child here in Canada is quite challenging too because everything is expensive. In Dubai, we usually hire a part-time nanny because we can’t afford to send our child to the daycare which enables us to save some money. But here in Canada, both daycare and nannies are very expensive. Since we don’t have any choice, for now, my husband and I had decided to send our 3-yr old daughter to a daycare because we want her to quickly adapt with the changes of our environment and she can also socialize while preparing her to a formal schooling next year. Good thing, my child will already start JK next September, which means that her education is already fully covered by the government. Formal schooling starts at age 4. (Note: Schools are very disciplined, they won’t accept your child to kindergarten if he/she is not potty-trained. Good thing that my child was trained early.)
3. BUDGETING IS VERY CHALLENGING.
We’re a family of three and I’m the ‘family accountant’. (self-proclaimed, not my profession at all. Just to be clear). When we’re still based in Dubai, I never had any single issue in balancing our finances. It’s because we never pay for our house rent because we live in a hotel as part of my husband’s benefits which means we never have to pay for utilities, internet, and even transportation. I’m not bragging but in complete honesty, we’re living the life back in Dubai. Meaning, I never have to stretch our budget just to meet the ends. We were able to maintain our savings monthly and enjoy the luxury of traveling yearly, happiest state. But now, it is very tough… house rent, car insurance, hydro, water, gas, internet, mobile, daycare, grocery, car fuel (INSERT: SAVINGS! How I wish!). I think for new immigrants it’s more challenging because you really have to surpass all the expectations and adjustments. There’s no looking back. Will try my very best on that part.
One thing I appreciate here in Ottawa, we never spend our family weekends at the shopping malls unlike in Dubai. There are plenty of ways to enjoy family time. If Dubai is more materialistic, Canada is more of spending quality time with family. Canada taught us how to live a simpler life. And we somehow appreciate the beauty of simplicity. Family time is well valued. Employees are not forced to do overtime. My manager respects my schedule, I usually leave the office every 4:00 PM because I have to collect my daughter from the daycare.
4. CANADIANS ARE THE KINDEST!
Wow. This was an eye-opener to me. We don’t have any relatives and friends when we arrived here in Ottawa. Our neighbor knocked on our door and introduced themselves to us. One neighbor even invited us for a dinner and welcomed us to their lovely home. We were amazed because Canadians are extremely kind, and they really reach out. There was even an FB group in our community that is called, “Buy Nothing”. It literally means that all my neighbors were just giving away stuff for free. Some of my daughter’s winter clothing was free because it was only gifted to us.
Pinoys in Ottawa? Everybody needs a friend! This might sound desperate but it’s quite a challenge to make friends with Filipinos. Maybe because I’m not in the right area. Once, I’ve tried making friends, I end up being pursued to join a networking! Kabayan, kamusta ka naman? Kakarating lang namin at wala ako panahon para diyan. Hope you don’t take it personally pero real friends ang hanap ko, hindi Networking! Hindi ako open-minded sa ngayon. Hays.
5. WINTER WONDERLAND.
I’m a huge fan of winter but only in the movies. Kabayan, please make sure to fully enjoy the weather in PH. Kasi mama-miss nyo rin ang pawisan kayo. It may sound funny but I’m telling everyone that weather condition should be taken seriously. Prepare yourself to accept the harsh weather condition here in Canada. I’m based in Ottawa kaya mas malamig dito kaysa Toronto (at this moment, it’s -13C). Pero mas acceptable naman ang cost of living dito.
You can’t have it all…. That’s what I always tell myself each time nakakalimot ako and starts ranting. I believe everyone was blessed in different ways and we just need to embrace changes to serve the purpose of our life. I am here because I chose to prioritize my daughter’s future. It will never be an easy journey, but I know it’s going to be worthy. I may not appreciate everything now, but I know this is God’s plan and I have to trust Him. I will continue sharing my experiences because we’re all on the same path. Kaya keep striving for the best kabayan, let’s shovel the snow together! Good luck on your Canadian journey!
By Kristine Tuazon Kasselis