Reporting from Ottawa
Updated: Dec 10, 2019
The day has come and flown by, and it is now my reality. I have moved to Canada. Ah! What a crazy thought. The last couple of weeks have been hectic. I’ve said so before, but I’ll repeat myself again: moving abroad as a professional for an extended period of time is complicated. Much more complicated than studying abroad. Particularly outside Europe. I miss the times without responsibility, when I didn’t know how a health insurance worked or how to file a tax-return form.
I can say I have been feeling anxious for some time now. The idea of leaving the comfort of my home to move to a completely foreign environment accompanied me wherever I went, and I remained in a slightly panicked state for weeks. I was – am – particularly anxious about finding a job, and quickly. Like everyone else, I have heard those accounts of young job seekers that have struggled to secure a job in Canada. I know that without Canadian experience on my resume, and a temporary work permit instead of a permanent residency, my chances of even getting an interview are slim. Others have succeeded before me though, so I know – hope – it is only a question of time.
Since I’ve moved though, I feel much calmer. Not being alone helps tremendously. It seems like nothing can go wrong as long as my partner and I stick together and work as a team. Every day, we tackle something new. We’re accustomed to dealing with administrative tasks and we have decided to take a relax approach towards the whole process. It is necessary, because we both know we will face setbacks and long waiting times. However, we know everything will work out fine eventually.
We have taken some proactive steps too, to make sure we can fall back if something goes awry. Our original plan was for my boyfriend to move to Toronto before we would both settle down there. This way, he could sort out accommodation and enjoy the summer in his hometown while I was getting my sh*t together at home. It was a good plan. However, after over two weeks in Toronto, my partner realized that without jobs, it was going to be tough to find a good place to live. Even finding jobs in our fields was not going to be that easy.
The reason? Competition.
We had faced the same issue in London, so it didn’t come as a massive surprise. We thought it would still be easier. However, in metropolitans such as London and Toronto, life is tough. You may have access to everything, but it has a cost. Rent is crazily high, and it seems like there’s always someone more qualified than you. It drawn on us. We could make a life here in Toronto now, we knew we could. We could get a shitty place, delay our plans to adopt a dog, secure shitty jobs and make due. Life would not be perfect, but we would be where we wanted to be.
Or we could move.
It is much more common for North Americans to move to another State because of a job than it is in Europe. It is called workers mobility, and the European Union has been struggling with it ever since its creation. In a perfect economy, workers are supposed to move where work can be found. The country therefore is not supposed to face unemployment or shortage of workforce, as people keep moving around as the economy evolves. In Europe though, it still isn’t very common practice. People tend to want to stay in their region, regardless of whether the job market is right for them. "Nowhere is better than home" should be the European mantra.
My partner and I, however, have always moved a lot, even before we met. We have both lived in several countries before, thus the idea of changing plans do not scare us – too much. We tend to take decisions quickly, and to act on it just as quickly. The situation does not sort itself out? Fine, let’s do something else. I think that should be our moto. We are young and we have no responsibility. We can do what the heck we want. This freedom is precious and we are grateful to be able to do what we want.
We thus decided to move to Ottawa instead, at least for the first year. It makes a lot more sense for us as a couple and will allow us to build solid foundations for the future. The job market is firstly much more adapted to our skills: we have both studied political science and that is where the Canadian government is located. Furthermore, we have been told again and again that they are looking for bilingual professionals. Lucky me, French and English are my go-to languages. The rental market is much more manageable too. We will still have access to all the amenities a life in the city would bring, but in a calmer, more stress-free environment. Finally, Ottawa is only two hours away from Montreal, which is one of my favourite cities on the planet.
So here we are. I landed in Toronto on August 13. We got a car, packed all our possessions in it and didn’t look back. We have been in Ottawa for a few days only, but we both feel it’ll be a good match.
Settling in a new country is fascinating. I get excited for simple things, like massive 1kg packs of blueberries or 2$ bagels at Tim Hortons. People are ever so polite and friendly. It is not uncommon to start a conversation with a complete stranger and to learn interesting aspects of their life without even knowing their first name. I am also trying to get used to the exchange rate, to never forget to add a 13 percent sale tax on the price displayed, and to calculate quickly a 15 percent tip. I start to remember too the ridiculous number of squirrels that lives in this country, and I’m growing suspicious of racoons. I notice that consumerism is much more powerful here than in Belgium, that it’d be so easy to fall for all those exceptional offers and deals. Trust me, I discovered Canadian Tire and I had to force myself not to buy the whole shop. As soon as we get a place though, I know it’ll be game over. It is even better than IKEA because you literally have everything you could think of. Paradise.
My life is simple as much as it is complicated. There’s something incredibly soothing into having goals as straightforward as finding a job and getting an apartment. It’s like playing The Sims without the cheat codes. It takes time, but the gratification in the end is priceless.