“The Canadian Dream”
We moved to Canada, our family of four, in July 2008. It is almost one year since we left Chennai airport and flew into Toronto with our PR cards in hand and looking for the end of the rainbow. Well, we haven’t found it yet.
Why have I titled this article, "The Canadian Dream"? Because if you are planning on moving to Canada, from India or the Middle East or wherever you live now, thinking that your life is going to be like what you see in foreign magazines or English movies . . . wake up . . . you are dreaming!!
We live in a relatively mixed neighbourhood. Indians, Canadians, Philippino’s and Pakistanis. We have met many Indians who have moved both from India and from other countries, especially the Middle East. One thing in common with nearly everybody you meet? Their opinion of having moved to Canada quickly becomes apparent. Conversations normally begin with, ‘So, have you found a job yet?’, or, ‘Are you still living in a basement?’
Let me set the picture straight: When you went for your PR card interview and the person behind the counter nodded and said the magic words, ‘Here is your visa’, like all of us, you must have breathed a huge sigh of relief. Glad that the stress of filling in all those forms, taking those endless Xerox copies and making all those pocket pinching money transfers is finally over! Now you can start booking your tickets and packing your bags!
You sell your assets, throw or give away your household goods, get your children’s transfer certificates from school and travel across the ocean to reach your dream destination.
Standing outside the airport, you get the first of many shocks. First - the weather. If you have landed anytime between the end of September and the beginning of April, the cold will hit you like a ton of bricks. Be prepared! The second shock? The taxi ride (unless you are lucky and know someone who is picking you up) to any place is going to cost you at least $60 CAN. Plus tip. If you have come with a ton of luggage….lucky you, you get to take two taxis, because most of them don’t have the space for our world famous, Indian luggage capacity! Remember, if you have also come with ten members of your extended family, each and every one of them is going to need a seat belt. So, forget the days of traveling in crammed up Ambassadors or cheap autos.
Once you get to where you are staying, jet lag will hit you. This is a good thing. This means that you will have your only good nights sleep in the near future, as you will be too tired to even think about the fact that you now have no job, no home and no income. Sweet dreams.
Day two of reality checks: The family member that you are staying with, who is still giving you that welcoming smile while handing you the mornings cup of coffee, is actually thinking, ‘When is this guy going to get a job, find a house and leave our house?’. So don’t get fooled by the smiles. Unless, that guy too happens to be an immigrant who moved just before you did, and is still staying in the same Uncles’ house that sponsored you plus the other four families.
You take the newspaper to read the ‘jobs wanted’ section. You circle the ones you think are interesting, the ones that require your skill and knowledge. The ones that will earn you the dollars you had been dreaming about.
You send out your resumes and give them your Uncles address and phone number. Then you wait. One week, two weeks and three weeks later . . . you think, ‘Okay, maybe the post office lost my letters. How come no one has called me for an interview??’.
Your name happens to be Dharminder Singh. Your Uncle suggests you change the name on your resume to, ‘Danny S’. The first week you get three calls.
The first interview morning, you are riding the bus with forty other people to get to the other side of the City. Remember, you don’t have a license to drive, or a car yet. If it is winter, you will be layered in two or three sets of clothing, boots, gloves and hat.
Let’s skip over to the interview. You shake hands; you sit down and then stand up again. You have been asked only one question, ‘Do you have any work experience in Canada?’ The second you say, ‘no’, the interview is over. You get back on the bus and head home. Oops. Your Uncle’s home.
Three interviews and rejections later, it slowly sinks in that maybe all your experience and qualification in India . . . are worthless here in Canada.
You quickly find out that all your neighbors are immigrants too, and the guy next door knows of an opening where he works. He can get you in. You don’t even have to know English or have any previous experience in Canada. Sounds good!
Your new place of work is huge! You get your own id badge and employee number. Maybe even a uniform! Then someone hands you a broom and asks you to start sweeping the floor before the customers come in. ‘What?’ you start to say, ‘But I have a PhD in physics and I worked for a car company in India for thirteen years’. But no one is listening, especially the lady with the Medical degree who is cleaning the table next to you.
When you first come to Canada, be mentally prepared to slide down the corporate ladder. From working at McDonalds or working at the airport as a security guard . . . you may just end up doing something like this for the first couple of years. It pays ok. Enough to put food on the table and . . . well that is it. If your spouse works too, now you are talking. Two incomes here can quickly get you out of your Uncle’s home and into a basement of your own. Then you work your way up, literally, to the upstairs of a home. Then someday, the entire home. By this time you would have gone through the process of failing a few driving tests, (no you cannot pay the guy Rs.200/- like you did back in India) and finally getting your license (another cause of great celebration here).
Then buying your first second hand car, putting your kids in the school that falls in the same housing district (and finding out that you live too close to the school and therefore are not eligible for the free bus service) and installing an un-authorized satellite dish.
Then the real Canadian dream starts – clearing your very own driveway of snow in winter, (clearing the same driveway of leaves in the fall), mowing the lawn, doing all the laundry, cooking and house cleaning by yourself. Because guess what? Your maid, driver and ironing guy are back in India, enjoying a cricket match on TV and telling their family about what a nice time you must be having in Canada!
And while you are doing all of the above, plus trying to fix that leaky kitchen pipe (a plumber will charge $100 just to have a look), telling your kid who gets no homework to go study something, and wondering what kind of cereal you want for breakfast . . . keep telling yourself that you are happy because you are now living the Canadian Dream . . . . . .
by Nalini Raj
Authors note: This article is a tongue in cheek story about what many Asians go through in Canada as new immigrants. Don’t despair. There are many nice things about Canada too, and you can check out what some of them are in my blog: www.chennai2canada.blogspot.com