Wednesday, September 2, 2009

'The Canadian Dream'

This tongue in cheek article I wrote for was published a couple of months ago on their website.

"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:


Krishnan said...

This was the article that redirected me towards your blog. Awesome blog you have here! I am on my way there, waiting for my Visa.

I love this part "But no one is listening, especially the lady with the Medical degree who is cleaning the table next to you."

Keep going Nalini...I already have your blog in my "regular" reading list!! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Mrs.Nalini i just came across your blog today on 16th sept. 2009 at 2:20 AM here in india ( just thought of mentioning the time ). i was searching the net for the condition of indians in canada. Actually i came across a site called there one can find the similar views u have expressed in ur blog. sometimes it makes me think whether i should come to canada for studies as what is the use if my credentials will still be of no value. by the way did u get a job in ur profession ? And sorry fr my bad english

Namita Chandra said...

I love your narration. I checked the full form of PR it was Permanent Resident card. I am curious can anybody apply for a PR card for Canada?

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
Interesting Blog. My folks too were immigrants who came to Canada in the late 90’s and well maybe they got lucky or whatever you want to call it have great jobs and have been
“successful” meaning the material comforts that Indian associate as success. My dad is a CA, but before coming to Canada he knew that he’s CA designation would not be valid , so at the age of 50+ he did his CPA designation and then when he moved to Canada that CPA helped him get his CGA quickly and thereby within a yr was able to get a Corporate Tax Auditor job in revenue Canada. Well as for me, I did my underagrd degree in Canada, but did my Masters in Australia and then came back home to Canada, so one could say I have a foreign degree, still I had no problems getting a job.
The moral is when you go to a store you don’t just buy anything you see, you do your research and then buy it right, so they if you are going to be moving to a whole new country why don’t you take some time out and do some in-depth research instead of just applying and hoping on a plane and then once here complaining about this place and if this place is so bad then why get this country’s citizenship? The grass is always greener on the other side, you can complain and complain like all you people do or you can be pro–active and do something about it, because that’s the beauty of this place. I am proud to be Canadian, vive la Canada!!