Detour to Canada

7 Important Lessons from our 2 Years in Canada (Part 1)


It has been 2 years since we moved here to Canada as immigrants. And for me, it was a roller coaster ride.

In the past 2 years, we experienced both exhilarating and depressing moments. We met new people, visited new places, experienced new seasons–it was a brand new kind of life. But we also faced struggles and hardships—financial, physical, mental, and emotional. 

Along the way, we learned a lot of important life lessons that helped us in our life here as immigrants. To celebrate our second year in Canada, I’ll share the story of our early days and some of the lessons we’ve learned.

Our 2 Years in Canada

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Part 1: Practical Lessons from Our Early Days

Part 2: Life Lessons from our Newcomers’ Struggles

  • Put God first and He’ll do the rest
  • You can still be “choosy” with work
  • Be part of a community
  • Creating a long-term plan (and sticking to it) pays off

Lessons from Our Early Days

We arrived here in Canada for the first time on February 3, 2018, but it was only a temporary move. We returned back to the UAE after 3 weeks (if you plan to do the same, check the latest policy first). Although these 3 weeks went by like a vacation, we’ve learned a lot of practical lessons.

Lesson #1: It’s better to take a direct flight when you have kids

We booked our flight to Toronto through Saudia Air. It was the cheapest flight we could find, but we had one stop-over. But during our transit, we realized we should’ve booked a direct flight. 

Having a stop-over when you have two small kids isn’t a good idea. The airport then was jam-packed with passengers, so we had to wait for our boarding time sitting on the floor. We’ve checked-in our kid’s stroller, so my husband had to carry our then 10-kilogram son who was asleep. That’s on top of the heavy backpack and hand-carry luggage he was carrying. 

When we returned to Canada in 2019, we learned our lesson and finally booked a direct flight.

View from above of Toronto, Canada (February 2018)
View from above of Toronto, Canada (February 2018)

Lesson #2: Don’t fear the interviews with CBSA officers

Upon landing at Toronto airport, CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) officers interviewed us. It was a standard procedure for all newly-landed PR visa holders. 

We were a bit nervous at that time, not knowing what questions the officers would ask. Although if you go to IRCC’s website, there’s actually a list of interview questions.  I don’t remember looking at that list before.

CBSA interview questions

When it was our turn, I couldn’t exactly remember the questions except for one: “How much money do you have with you?”

For some reason, this was something we fear because what if we didn’t bring enough? Would they deny us entry? We knew we brought enough funds, what if our Dollar to Dirham conversion was wrong? What if our funds were actually insufficient?

We told them the actual amount we have, and then that’s it. They didn’t even ask us for any proof. But of course, this doesn’t mean anyone should lie. Because what if they decide out of the blue to ask for proof? 

As warned by IRCC, Canada will ban anyone from staying here if they make any false statements. So I guess the important lesson here is: there’s no reason to get stressed about the CBSA interviews. As long as you tell the truth, you’ll be fine.

Side story: Because of too much stress, my husband forgot one of our luggage at the airport. The good thing is we got it back after a week or so.

Lesson #3: Winter in Canada is no joke

It was winter when we arrived in Toronto, but we prepared for it (or so we thought). We bought jackets, shoes, and accessories from Dubai which we thought were enough. 

And this is an important lesson for newcomers: take the winter in Canada seriously, like ever. Sadly, I learned this the hard way. 

The boots I took with me in Canada was a pair of ankle boots I bought from Dubai way back 2013. The first time I used it in Canada was when we visited Niagara Falls one Sunday after our arrival. Its sole was smooth, which is actually a no-no. I had to walk slowly to avoid falling to the icy ground. But the worst thing happened the next day.

We took a public commute to Service Ontario where we applied for our national IDs. When we reached the bus stop after a 7-minute walk from my uncle’s house, my boots were already soaking wet! 

Inside the bus, I felt my toes freezing. I even feared that they might fall off! So when I saw a shoe store after we got off the bus, I immediately bought a new pair (for only $10). This time, it was an actual winter boots. Although it was a bit heavy, my feet felt warm in it. 

The gloves we bought from a retail shop in Dubai were also a mistake. They were made from wool, and while wearing it, the cold seeped through us. It didn’t matter that we were wearing a thick jacket on top of layers of clothes, or the proper winter footwear. Once our hands got cold, our winter clothes couldn’t warm us anymore. 

We bought a pair of thick gloves from Walmart for $5 (sale price), and it was one of the best decisions we ever made. 

So another lesson is: don’t wear the right winter clothes alone. Make sure to also use the proper accessories (i.e. gloves, scarves, and beanie). 

And don’t worry about buying them here. There are lots of places to buy cheap but good stuff (like Dollarama, Walmart, and outlet shops).

First public commute in Canada
Our first public commute in Toronto

Goodbye for now, Canada

There are actually more stories I want to share during our 3-week stay in Canada, but let’s save them for another time. For the meantime, here’s Part 2 of this article where I shared the lessons from our newcomer’s struggles. 

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Kevin and Kris

About the author:

JK Legaspi is a permanent resident of Canada since 2018. She and her family lives in the beautiful Niagara Region. As the founder of Detour To Canada, she aims to help aspiring and future immigrants reach their Canadian dreams by sharing her family’s own immigration and newcomer story. 

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