Twelve years ago I immigrated to Canada from the United States. Today I thought it would be fun to share a list of things I learned about moving up north that I found surprising, funny, or interesting.
International Postage is Slow and Expensive
It costs me about $1.35 to mail a greeting card to the United States. Once I actually ended up spending more to mail a small box of gifts to a family member than I spent on the presents themselves. Needless to say, I don’t regularly send boxes of goodies to my loved ones down south these days. They are only mailed off for the most special of occasions.
There’s also the time factor for international packages. It is often much slower than it would be to to mail something to someone within Canada. You need to send stuff early if you want it to arrive on time, especially during the busier seasons of the year. Normally I try to mail stuff out at least two weeks before I hope it will arrive. This is usually overkill, but there have been times when packages haven’t arrived until the tail end of that window of time.
Immigrants Are Everywhere, and They Are Welcomed Here
20% of the people who currently live in Canada were born somewhere else in the world. That percentage is more like 50% here in Toronto.
It’s so interesting to hear stories about where other Canadians came from and how they ended up living here. Some of my fellow immigrants originally moved here to go to university or to accept a specific job. Others came here because they fell in love with someone who already lived here just like I did. Regardless of why they’re here or when they arrived, I love hearing people talk about their adventures along the way to temporary work visas, permanent residency, and/or citizenship.
While my adopted country definitely isn’t perfect, stories like this are common here. I’ve personally witnessed similar random acts of kindness playing out more than once in Toronto. It’s one of the things I really like about living here. There is an openness to strangers in Canadian culture that seeps into your bones once you’ve lived here long enough.
Canadians Have a Dark, Unique Sense of Humour
On the flip side, one of the first things I noticed when I moved up here was how dark the Canadian sense of humour can be. It’s not quite as dry or self-deprecating as British humour, but I can see how it was influenced by them . Both Canada and England laugh at things that aren’t quite as common to joke about in the States.
Sometimes my Canadian-born spouse likes to gently tease me when I react to Canadian jokes like an American would. They make me pull back even though I know there’s nothing malicious about them. I simply don’t quite understand why they find stuff like Nina Conti’s monkey puppet act so hilarious.
Obviously this is one of those things that not every Canadian immigrant will notice or think about. So much depends on which country you grew up in and what assumptions you make about how society works when you move to a new culture.
I hope that other Canadian immigrants who read this blog will consider writing their own posts about what they’ve observed here. It would be so interesting to get other perspectives on this. If anyone does this and lets me know about it on Twitter, I’ll edit this post to include links to their posts!
You Are (Probably) Going to be Doing Most of the Traveling to See Everyone Back Home
My parents spent a lot of time visiting us in Ontario during the first year or two I lived up here when I wasn’t legally allowed to leave the country. I was still waiting to become a Permanent Resident at that point, so the government wanted me to stay in the country full-time until all of that paperwork was sorted out.
Once I became a Permanent Resident, though, it quickly became clear that it’s a lot cheaper and easier for two young adults to go visit a few dozen relatives between the ages of 0 and 90+ than for those relatives to come up to Toronto.
We really appreciate getting the visitors we do up here, but my spouse and I are used to doing most of the traveling these days.
On a positive note, family reunions quickly become the highlight of your year. It is so much fun to be surrounded by relatives who are all thrilled to have you around for a week or two. Sometimes it feels like being a mini-celebrity because of how excited your family is to see you when you go back home.
These are a few of the many things that I didn’t know about life in Canada before I moved up here. Perhaps I’ll share more of them in a future post!