Expectations vs reality: What you should know if you’re moving to Canada

For everyone who has decided to emigrate, settling down in a new country is the adventure of our lives. Emigrating can be seen as a long held dream come true, but at the same time as a big risk or a huge mistake.

No matter how good your research is before emigrating to Canada, many times you’ll find that your expectations don’t match reality.

That is what happened to me when I moved to Ottawa at the start of 2018. But even though I faced some challenges, those things didn’t prevent me from loving my new life in Canada. No regrets, that’s for sure!

Rent

You have the money you need to rent an apartment or house in the Canadian city you’re moving to, but that doesn’t mean that you’re going to be able to do it just like that!

If you have no job when coming to Canada (which is the case for a majority of new immigrants), landlords are going to be wary and reluctant to rent their properties to you.

After all, you don’t have any history in Canada and they may be afraid of having their property  fall into the hands of the wrong person.

My husband traveled from Lima to Ottawa two months prior to our move to rent a house. He didn’t have a job in Canada, so the owner of the house we liked refused to rent it to us.

He tried to rent another house, and offered the owner six months of rent in advance. The owner agreed. It felt a bit like it was our last chance.

john by statue in major's hill park
John By statue (Major’s Hill Park)

Job

Before coming to Canada my Canadian husband was very optimistic that I could find a job immediately. He used to tell me that as an immigrant woman, I would have good chances to land a job, because there were laws to promote employment for women and minorities.

Well, that was not the case. He got a job almost immediately, but it was not that easy for me. I am a journalist but I was not expecting to apply for a journalism job because I was not sure my English would be good enough.

I thought that perhaps I could find a job as a salesperson instead, so I went to the nearest mall to leave my resume in the stores that were hiring. But I didn’t receive a single phone call.

I also sent my resume for other positions, such as being an administrative assistant, but with no luck. The truth is that I never got a call to go for an interview. That was pretty frustrating. There are other immigrants in the same boat.

This is because we immigrants don’t have any local experience when we come to Canada, which is what Canadian employers are looking for. Our degrees and work experience in our home countries are often not enough.

To make a long story short, I managed to find a once-a-week job as a Spanish teacher, which I got by contacting the principal of an elementary school who was in need of a Spanish instructor. That first job led to the one I got now, which is a daily part-time job.

How much time passed between the first job and my current job? One year and five months. The good thing was that relating to other Spanish teachers enabled me to get my current job and also to teach Spanish to adults.

So, I can say that I got those jobs by networking and not by sending resumes.

dow's lake in ottawa
Dow’s Lake

Cold

Everybody has heard about the extreme cold in Canada before moving, but what you don’t know is if you’re going to be able to cope with that cold or it’s going to be like months of torture.

I was sure I was not going to like it. Our move was in January, usually the coldest month in winter here. I envisioned myself trapped in the house, looking at the snow through the window and feeling miserable. Probably I was going to be sick, with a cold and coughing. That’s what I imagined.

But what happened was the opposite. I was able to cope with the cold and I never got sick during those first winters in Ottawa. And when people asked me how I was doing in Canada, I said that I thought that it was going to be a lot worse.

I have to thank my husband who insisted that we go out and enjoy winter activities as much as possible. I think that was a good start in the process of adapting to the Canadian cold.

I know that facing Canadian winters can be a totally different experience for other people depending on their personalities, backgrounds and on their capacity to adapt.

heavy snowfall in ottawa
Heavy snowfall in Ottawa

Scams

Canada is seen as one of the best countries to live in the world due to many things such as its political stability, a solid economy, a common sense of security, and overall wealth. Canada is seen as a developed country free of the negative aspects of lesser developed nations, such as corruption, which is something that is common in many third world countries.

That’s why I was so surprised when I found out there are lots of scams here, and that the scammers even call you at home. I freaked out the day that I answered the phone and a male voice recording said that Revenue Canada had detected some things in our file and that we could be sued for it.

Well, that was totally a scam. I’ve forgotten how many times I have received the same phone call to our home telephone number and to my cell phone number. When you’re a newcomer and you don’t know anything about this, you can be fooled.

The same thing more or less took place when we were looking to buy a Golden Retriever puppy, and one of my daughters put an ad on Kijiji. We received tons of calls from people offering us cute little puppies, but they asked us to make a deposit to reserve the pet. People even called us from other provinces offering to put the puppy on a plane and send it to us in Ottawa.

All of them were scammers. There were news stories about the wide-spread scams. Fortunately we waited for a person who didn’t ask for a deposit, and we drove two hours to see the puppies in person and to buy one.

Social life

If you’re a sociable person, and you make friends easily, and you think you’re going to have lots of friends among the locals in a very short time, forget about it.

Canadians take their time to be friends. Don’t expect a new Canadian acquaintance to tell you all about his or her life the minute you meet them, or that they will open their house to you.

They’re very friendly and kind and good at small talk, usually about the weather (their favourite topic), or job matters, but not about personal things. It takes time for them to feel comfortable talking about themselves with people they don’t know.

statue the man with two hats in commissioners park
The Man with two hats (Commissioners Park)

Well, that was my experience in these first three years living in Ottawa. I hope you find this post interesting and if you relate somehow please share your experience in the comments. Take care.

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7 thoughts on “Expectations vs reality: What you should know if you’re moving to Canada

  1. Hello, i really appreciate your engagement, i’m will move to Canada as soon as borders will open, and your blog is very helpful, it give me lot of important informations. Thank you for all .

    Aurélie

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  2. Thank you so much for your blog. I really like ist. It is a very good preparation for our move to Ottawa by end of June. We are a family of 4 and moving from Munich, Germany to Ottawa. Do you have also some hints regarding school? Private vs. Public? My Kids are 11 & 14 and need to go to secondary/ high school. Honestly, my biggest concern are how my kids will settle in Canada.
    Greetings from Munich Dana

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    1. That was my concern too. Have you read the post about my kids’ experience in school? https://ottawaisnotboring.com/2021/03/02/my-kids-experiences-adapting-to-school-in-canada/
      Private schools are very good, usually more demanding academically and there’s more discipline, but the main difference is the cost. They are expensive, monthly payments can be equivalent to one month of rent for a house. There are also excellent public schools. The top high school in Ottawa is also academically distinguished. Thanks for reading the blog! I wish you all the best for your move.

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  3. Very nice article. I think the job finding it is more related to which profession or career you have if you have a career in IT you will find a job very fast because anything IT related is in high demand, however, other careers don’t have much demand but in my experience, as long as you are good in what you do, things will be good for you.

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