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Living in Canada as a foreigner

GiancarloZ

You can also call me Karl
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My wife is from Québec, and some months ago we were discussing moving to Canada in a few years. In May, though, she's visited her family and decided she wanted to anticipate the moving. So we bought the tickets and moved to Lachute, Québec, on August 23.

Things didn't work as planned there and she couldn't secure the job offer she's had when she visited in May. A Brazilian childhood friend of mine invited us to know Winnipeg, where she's been living for 5 years, and we decided to stay here.

We completed 3 months here on November 23. Thus far, some good impressions:
1. Safety. This is the highest quality of this country. We feel very safe on the streets, even at night.
2. Affordability. Overall, everything is affordable - food, clothing, electronics, furniture. There are expensive things, but on average you can get good quality stuff for good prices.
3. Social democracy. It is not paradise as generally Canada is pictured, but it does have a more democratic society than Brazil. There is no such gap between social classes and it is much easier to have social mobility.
4. Good architecture. It seems like every medium-sized or big city has architectural landmarks, of the most different eras and styles.
5. Volunteering. The volunteer culture is huge and has a lot of support. This is wonderful.
6. People are generally willing to help. All the time I voiced my worries and how I've been feeling, a lot of people showed up to help somehow - either here or at church.
7. Good food. Good quality food is more affordable and easier to find than in Brazil. Although, sometimes is difficult to find the same fruits and vegetables we have there.

Bad Impressions so far (talking specifically about my experience in Winnipeg - I don't mean to be offensive, those are just impressions, not judgments):

1. Obviously the weather. By the end of the summer, temperatures had plummeted rapidly, and we already had 0ºC in October. The sun also went away fast. The dawn has been at 8 and the sunshine at 4 - but the sun hardly shows during the day, at least until now. Not having sunshine is terrible.

2. Awkward social interactions. It is a consumerist society - less than the US, but much more than Brazil (also due to the better financial conditions), so it's increasingly individualized and lonely. Social interactions are usually very limited to the context in which they occur and it seems difficult to extrapolate them into the personal field and create friendships. Interactions with strangers on the streets are even more awkward, and many people do not know how to navigate simple things as waiting for others to get out of the elevator before getting in or saying "excuse me" in a hallway without running over you. It does not seem like a lack of education like the million pushes you get in Brazil, but rather an incapacity of interacting.

3. The difficulty of living with so many different cultures. In Winnipeg (and I believe in almost every major city in Canada), there are many immigrants and from all over the world. This is good and brings diversity, but there are practical life challenges that are complicated. In our building, for example, there is a serious problem of compliance with the most basic rules of hygiene. People from India, for example, have a very different understanding of cleanliness / dirt, privileging the cleanliness of the body in detriment of the environment, and thus they'll throw their garbage out anywhere at any time. The elevators and hallways look filthy on weekends when there are no people cleaning up.

4. Cultural shock. Yes, it exists! Even though I speak English and can communicate just fine, so no verbal communication barriers, non-verbal communication, references, usages, and customs are very different. I also miss speaking Portuguese on a daily basis, especially for more sophisticated conversations for which I generally lack vocabulary in English.

5. Health system. The public system is not universal like in Brazil (there, it's is really universal and there are no conditions to use it - even foreigners are covered). Here, there are thousands of restrictions on access and it takes a lot of time for you to enter the system. The private system is expensive and not everyone has the right to have it - it is very complicated and is usually complementary or supplementary to the public one.

6. Poverty, mental illness and aboriginal peoples. The aboriginal peoples, at least in Winnipeg, often suffer from mental illnesses as a result of the poor treatment they had until very recently, as forced separation from their families. The traumas go from generation to generation and result in poverty and very poor emotional state. The number of indigenous persons in situations of alcohol and drug abuse and extreme poverty is alarming here. In Brazil, they're not in a perfect situation, but it's different and look they're better than here.

What I miss the most from Brazil:

1. Friends and family.
2. The way social interactions flow more naturally and the way I know how to navigate them.
3. The weather and the huge amount of Sun we have there.
4. Tropical fruits and vegetables.
5. Speaking Portuguese.
6. How you can feel happiness in the air even though most people are facing difficulties.

The conclusion so far? There is no paradise on earth. I knew this before I came, but seeing it with one's own eyes is always a good way to reassess everything in Brazil with other lenses. There is no better, just different.
 

Carolla

wondering & wandering
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Such a comprehensive view Giancarloz - thanks for sharing your perspectives. I think I would agree with your insights, although I am Canadian - you've been very fair & realistic.

Many decades ago I spent a month in Peru - and from that brief experience I do appreciate the longing for hearing & speaking one's own language, and eating familiar foods. The weather there in Lima was cold & gray & drizzling most of the time - and it got on my nerves too. You will soon see more sunshine in Winnipeg I think - but it will be very cold!! I hope Christmas will be a time you and your wife will be with friends, and not feeling too homesick.
 

BetteTheRed

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6. Poverty, mental illness and aboriginal peoples. The aboriginal peoples, at least in Winnipeg, often suffer from mental illnesses as a result of the poor treatment they had until very recently, as forced separation from their families. The traumas go from generation to generation and result in poverty and very poor emotional state. The number of indigenous persons in situations of alcohol and drug abuse and extreme poverty is alarming here. In Brazil, they're not in a perfect situation, but it's different and look they're better than here.
Agreed, but what you don't realize is that there are healthier and happier indigenous populations elsewhere. From my understanding, the Prairies and Northern Ontario are two of the hardest places to be native in Canada. Reserves that have a casino, for instance, like Rama north of me, have a much better economic base, and much healthier schools, housing, etc., as a result. Here in Barrie, we have a well-used, and well-respected Native Friendship Centre. The yearly vigil for MMIW is always attended by at least one rep from each of the OPP and the local police force and native/police relationships are generally good.
 

GiancarloZ

You can also call me Karl
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Thank you for so openly sharing your impressions. Moving is hard no matter where you go!
Thanks, @Tabitha ! It isn't easy, indeed. I'm really thankful for you guys here helping me to settle.

Such a comprehensive view Giancarloz - thanks for sharing your perspectives. I think I would agree with your insights, although I am Canadian - you've been very fair & realistic.

Many decades ago I spent a month in Peru - and from that brief experience I do appreciate the longing for hearing & speaking one's own language, and eating familiar foods. The weather there in Lima was cold & gray & drizzling most of the time - and it got on my nerves too. You will soon see more sunshine in Winnipeg I think - but it will be very cold!! I hope Christmas will be a time you and your wife will be with friends, and not feeling too homesick.
Thanks, @Carolla ! We'll spend Christmas with a couple of friends from Church, so though I will be homesick I will also be very grateful that I will be able to spend it with people I like. Also, thanks for sharing your experience - it helps me not feeling crazy or too dramatic.

Agreed, but what you don't realize is that there are healthier and happier indigenous populations elsewhere. From my understanding, the Prairies and Northern Ontario are two of the hardest places to be native in Canada. Reserves that have a casino, for instance, like Rama north of me, have a much better economic base, and much healthier schools, housing, etc., as a result. Here in Barrie, we have a well-used, and well-respected Native Friendship Centre. The yearly vigil for MMIW is always attended by at least one rep from each of the OPP and the local police force and native/police relationships are generally good.
Thanks, @BetteTheRed! You are right, this is very much about my experience in Winnipeg. Thanks for sharing different perspectives and realities.
 

ChemGal

One with keen eye
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Agreed, but what you don't realize is that there are healthier and happier indigenous populations elsewhere. From my understanding, the Prairies and Northern Ontario are two of the hardest places to be native in Canada. Reserves that have a casino, for instance, like Rama north of me, have a much better economic base, and much healthier schools, housing, etc., as a result. Here in Barrie, we have a well-used, and well-respected Native Friendship Centre. The yearly vigil for MMIW is always attended by at least one rep from each of the OPP and the local police force and native/police relationships are generally good.
Prairies is a bit of a mishmash, some of the reserves in Alberta do quite well. Then there are also those who don't live on the reserves, I know people who are well educated and affluent.
 

Inannawhimsey

M&M, Cascadian Lovers
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@GiancarloZ
I actually envy you; you getting go experience a brand new Country
Culture
Beliefs
Social norms
Etc.
Wow.
And able to observe and communicate these observations. So very very cool.
Seeing that part of the world as it Truly is (I find that most of my daily life consists of relying on memory, so when I meet another person I am not really seeing them but my memories of them. Same things with trees. Buildings. Food. Unkess I intentionally concentrate. Also the culture and social norms of my home country tend 2 b invisible 2 me; they become more evident if I'm away for a while)
I've experienced culture shock before. In a place I never expected to have culture shock: Washington State. I eventually got over it :3

Again, thanks for sharing.

Good thing you did not move to BC SW Coast. winters are horrible; cold and WET lol

Prettily Ugly,
Inannawhimsey
 
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@GiancarloZ It must be hard to make such a huge transition. You will get used to the flow of things soon, I think.:) You seem open minded.

I moved back to the town I grew up in, a smaller city (less than half the size) after living 20 years in the “big city”. I had to get used to bit of culture shock all over again. Everything slowed down and got more boring for awhile. The thing is I didn’t “want” to get too used to it here. I planned to move for a short time after going through some personal life stuff...I once swore I wouldn’t move back here until I’m a senior. But here I am in my 40s. I needed some R&R, a change of scenery, but I now feel a bit homesick for what became my home city! It’s too expensive there, though. (Only a bit better here.) I do have family here (we’re not really a close family though)...but I miss some friends and familiar places, and the eccentricities. This place has different eccentricities...i.e. it’s more set in its ways here, rather than the “free-form” urban city life. :cool: It’s very pretty and quaint and charming here but you can drive around the entire greater metro area in about an hour so it gets monotonous. I used to like taking transit around my old city greater metro area, to different outer suburbs/ townships. It was easy to have “staycations” (where you can play tourist in your own town on your days off and always see something completely new). I do run into an old neighbour from Vancouver who now works at a supermarket I go to here. I didn’t know him but we recognized each other from “the neighbourhood”. We commiserate , in the grocery store, about missing the city, the neighbourhood. He moved back because his dad was sick, and now passed away. But...l don’t have the guts to say “let’s meet up”... I don’t know if it’s appropriate because he is