Detour to Canada

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

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On June 27, 2019, more than one year since our temporary stay in Canada, we finally left the UAE. We said goodbye to our friends, families, and to an amazing country we called “home” for eight years. 

Our hearts were filled with sadness, but at the same time, we were excited to start a new chapter of our lives. After all, we’ve waited for such a long time to reach this moment. 

And so, let’s move on to the time when we finally moved to Canada for good.

Our 2 Years in Canada

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Lessons from Our Newcomer’s Struggles

During our first few weeks as newcomers, we were high with excitement. It was summer–a perfect time to explore new places in Canada without worrying about the cold. Because we still had my husband’s 7-year gratuity funds, we felt unstoppable (but only in our minds).

The pressure of settling in started when our newcomers’ “first day high” began to fade away. And it was after our first month here. 

For me, the most challenging struggles we had to face during this time were finding a job and getting a permanent place to live in. These are two of the most common challenges newcomers would also face. 

But we managed to go through. And here are the lessons we learned along the way.

Lesson #4: Put God first and He’ll do the rest

For every newcomer, getting a job is a top priority (except for those who got a job offer before moving here). There’s a lot of advice and tips about this topic, but we’ll cover these in another post. What I’ll share here (and in the next lesson) are the top 2 most important pieces of advice we got. 

First advice: put God first, and He’ll do the rest. 

Even before moving to Canada, my husband and I have been praying every day to God. We ask Him for what we need, but most of all, we pray for Him to guide our decisions. We often say in our prayers that if what we want isn’t for our best, then may His will be done. But as the Bible teaches us, faith must come with work. 

So when we arrived here, one of our priorities was to continue fulfilling our church duties. One of our fellow officers gave this advice to us as well: “Focus on your duties first, and He’ll bless you with what you need.”

Ephesians 3:20
Image courtesy of incmedia.org

And that’s what we did. My husband didn’t have any job interview for two months, and as humans, we couldn’t help but worry. But we continued putting our trust in God. 

Within our first three months here, here’s what happened. My husband got his driving license. We were able to buy a second-hand car (for only $2,500, and it’s still working today). And he finally got his first permanent job at DHL Express as a CRM Administrator. He also got promoted twice, so he is now a DCS Analytics Specialist. 

What happened to us is a true testament of God’s promise to His dedicated children. For me, this is the most important lesson we learned as newcomers. 

But on a practical side, let’s go to another piece of advice which came from a stranger.

Lesson #5: You can still be “choosy” with work

“There’s a lot of job opportunities here as long as you’re not choosy.” 

This is the most common piece of advice you’ll get once you come here. But a stranger we met in the mall gave us a different kind of advice. 

She told us, “If you want to work in your profession, there are many ways. But first, don’t rush into getting any job out there.”

It’s perfectly fine to work in what others consider as “survival jobs”. But it’s also okay if you start aiming for office jobs even as a newcomer. 

Sure, it might not be possible to get back your supervisory or managerial position right away (but who knows). But it’s possible to get entry-level jobs in your profession as a newcomer. It doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it’s also not impossible. 

Of course, following this advice is easier said than done. Especially when you have kids, or when you’re about to run out of funds.

Advice from a stranger in Canada

In fact, we heard about immigrants who took jobs far from their profession out of necessity. There was a dentist who got his first job as a cashier in a supermarket but never went back to being a dentist. I also met a former immigrant who returned to the Philippines because his plans here didn’t work out. My husband also met an Uber driver who was once an engineer in his home country (but he’s happy with his current job because he earns well).

On another hand, we met others who were able to go back to their profession. Some of them were nurses and engineers before coming to Canada. At first, they took other kinds of jobs. After some time, they made a move to go back to their old profession. Either they went back to school or took professional certificates. And now, they’re back to working here as nurses, engineers, managers, business owners, and so on.

We actually know a lot of successful Filipino immigrants here. I’ll be sharing their stories here soon but for now, here’s my husband’s story. 

My husband during DHL's employee conference
My husband during DHL's employee conference

After more than one month of not getting even one job interview, my husband began to feel desperate. Initially, he wanted a job that’s still in line with his profession in Dubai. But this time, he thought to himself, “I’ll just apply to whatever job’s out there.”

One day on his way to his Canadian driving license road test, he made a decision. Once he gets his license, he would apply for a job vacancy in a supermarket. Unfortunately, he failed the road test. But on that same day, a friend from church told him that there was a job vacancy in DHL Express. He applied for the job and eventually got hired.

God probably allowed my husband to fail his first attempt to get his driving license test because He had a better plan. After my husband’s second retake (while his interview with DHL was ongoing), he finally got his license.

So that’s another lesson. God’s blessings come in disguise. Sometimes, in the form of a stranger’s advice. Or in some cases, in the form of failed driving license tests.

Lesson #6: Be part of a community

No man is indeed an island. And being a newcomer in a foreign land is tough. But with a support system, adjusting would not be as hard as it could be. This is the importance of being part of a community. If you know some friends or relatives here, you’ll see that most of them are always willing to help you settle. 

In our case, we were lucky to have supportive friends and relatives. My uncle and her wife offered us a place to stay during our 3-week trip here last 2018. One of our fellow brethren from church offered us a ride home one cold evening after the worship service. He turns out to be the brother of an old friend of mine from the Philippines; small world, I know. A former high school teacher took us out for lunch and gave us tips and advice.

Local Congregation of Yorkdale (where we met our brother in faith who gave us a ride home)

On our second return in 2019, my aunt was the one who picked us up from the airport. My husband’s cousin let us stay in their place for 5 months without charging us rent (but we shared a small amount). Another friend of mine (Kristine of The Maple Diaries) shared some career advice. My husband’s relatives offered a room to my parents-in-law during their short visit.

If you don’t know anyone here yet, there are many ways to find a community. Our Church of Christ community has lots of local congregations across Canada. And most of our fellow brethren are also willing to provide support to newcomers.

Church of Christ's Toronto chapel
In front of Church of Christ's Toronto chapel

Remember when I told you about a friend from church who told my husband that there was a job vacancy in DHL? My husband just recently met him here during one of our church activities, and his wife was also working in DHL. They say that companies look for Canadian experience from candidates (but not all). So if it weren’t for them, I’m not sure where my husband would be now. 

In October 2019, we started looking for a place to move. We couldn’t rent our own apartment because our lease application kept getting rejected. This is common to newcomers for lack of a regular job or a good credit history. 

Another fellow church member offered their semi-furnished basement to us. The rent included utilities and internet, so we were able to save a bit. (You might be wondering what a basement apartment looks like, so here is a photo). 

Living area of our former basement apartment
Living area of our former basement apartment

In a way, our Church of Christ community served as God’s instrument to bless us. My husband got a job, and our family finally found a place to settle down. 

Or, you can look for a cultural community you can join in (like Filipino clubs or associations). But if a community isn’t your thing, there are still ways to build networks and connections. 

Various free settlement services across Canada provide support to newcomers. They assist with employment training, finding accommodation, and networking opportunities. Once, we visited a public library where we met a settlement worker. She invited us to a networking event where we met new faces. This is also one way to build connections especially to those within your profession. 

If you think you can do it without a community or connections, I guess that’s also fine and who knows, it might work for you. 

Lesson #7: Creating a long-term plan (and sticking to it) pays off

The last lesson I’m going to share is that having a long-term settlement plan really helps. In our case, it was actually my husband who planned everything from the start. 

Before immigrating, he was already set to study again (he took a short course at Humber College). He was also determined for us to get our car for our kids (we bought a second-hand 2004 Toyota Sienna for only $2,500). And even from the start, he wanted us to buy our own house. 

That’s why he worked towards getting a good credit score. We didn’t get a car loan yet. And we tried as much to limit our expenses so we can save for the down payment. After our first year, we were once again blessed by God with our first ever own house. 

Our first ever own house in Canada
Our first ever own house in Canada

I know that sometimes, it’s not that easy to create a long-term plan. But at least, set some general goals for what you’re aiming to achieve once you’re here. Do you want to go back to working in your profession, or to shift to another career? Do you want to buy your own house or condo within your first few years? Do you want to sponsor your parents or family within the next five years? Do you want to start your own business here? Or maybe you just want to get a stable job and live a comfortable life.

Once you have your goals set, start working on them focusing on one or two steps at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed. Usually, you’d want to get a stable job first. So it’s good to start from there. Then work towards your other goals. 

And if there will come a time where you feel your progress is slow, don’t worry. We all achieve our goals at our own pace and time (like what my Aunt Anna said here).

Progress is still progress, big or small. Just keep moving. Consistency, passion, and perseverance will eventually take us to our destination. And of course, entrust our plans to God. As long as we do our part, He’ll bless us with the fruits of our labor. 

Final Words

I hope that you’ve found something valuable from these lessons we learned from our 2 years here in Canada. As you embark on your own journey, there is much more advice and tips you’ll get from others. But remember that what worked for others won’t necessarily work for you. So, also be mindful of which advice you’ll follow.

Like I always say, there’s no single formula to success. But if you believe that you can achieve your goals, then you’re ready to take your next steps. 

This post has been checked by Grammarly
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. 

Do you have some questions about immigrating to Canada? Leave them on the comments below.

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