This answer is not a guide to help prospective immigrants to settling down. Here, I am precisely answering the question “what did you wish I knew before immigrating”.
- Getting an apartment for rent is not an easy process. Most companies check your credit history. If you’re a new comer and you don’t have credit history, then they ask for an offer letter. Else, they demand a co-signer who guarantees that you’ll pay the rent on time (good luck finding a co-signer). Despite not knowing this fact, I was lucky because I came here alone. I could crash into my friend’s place for the first week and then an Indian PG for the next 1 month. Then I got an offer and before joining, I started searching for apartments. Luckily for me, the company accepted my offer letter as a proof that I am capable of paying the rent. Only after getting the apartment set, I booked the flight tickets for my family. Never do the mistake of all of you coming together and living in a basement. That’ll drain your savings.
- Most companies wait only 2–3 weeks for you to join after offer. I made the mistake of searching for a job while in India without quitting my Indian job. I got an offer and when I said that I can join only after 3 months, they were taken aback. So, I quit my job in India and towards the end of my 3 months notice period, I started the search again.
- Your ex managers/leads will be called for reference check. The last process of any interview is reference check. In my case they called 3 leads/managers with whom I have worked over the 10 year time period in India. With my most recent manager, it was a 30 minute call. So, maintain a very good relationship with your peers before coming here.
- Interviewers focus heavily on technical skills. I got the feedback from many friends that software developer interviews are not as tough as that it used to be in India and we only need to learn to communicate efficiently. They were wrong. It’s even more difficult here and very specific to the job position. Behavioural questions are also not a piece of cake. Since I started my job search from India itself, I got to know this at an early stage and I prepared very well. This may (or may not) be applicable for other jobs.
- A credit card is so important. It helps to build credit history. So, start using it as soon as you land. I applied credit card only after 2 months of landing (around the time I started my new job) since I didn’t realize its importance. Once I flew to Ottawa for an interview and stayed in a hotel. The hotel needed me to provide a credit card to block some advance which they will release if I check-out after paying the bill. They were not checking me in since I did not have one. Luckily I had the Amex card I used in India and they blocked the amount on that. So, get a credit card as soon as you land.
- You get health card only after 3 months (in Ontario). Get yourself covered using a private insurance for these 3 months. Also, bring some basic medicines from home country. Since I did a soft landing an year before, I was under the impression that I don’t have the waiting period. I was wrong. Waiting period starts the moment you establish residency. I took a private insurance only for a few weeks. Even here, I was lucky as the company agreed to extend my period up to 3 months.
- The health care “system” is atrocious. I am not talking about the quality of healthcare or emergency services. It’s the system that’s horrible. Firstly you are tied to a family doctor and you are theoretically not allowed to visit any other doctor without the referral from your family doctor. In India, if you have severe headache for months and you suspect brain tumour you can visit a neurosurgeon, get an MRI scan done and diagnose the problem within a few hours. Here you can’t visit a neuro unless referred by your family doctor. But if he/she has to refer you, they should be convinced that you really have a tumor otherwise they ignore it as your “fear” and send you back home. Secondly, it’s the waiting period. Even if the family doctor refers you to get an MRI scan, you get an appointment only after a few weeks (if not months). Some of my friends who had severe joint pains or fractures (not apparent outside) were not given treatment immediately and they had to wait for XRay appointments. These people instead take a ticket to India and get treated there. This is the topmost reason I plan to relocate back to India a couple of decades later. I don’t want to spend the sunset years of my life in Canada with such a pathetic system. Now I am young and healthy and I barely visit a doctor. But that won’t be the same when I grow old.
- Get your driving licence and extract from the home country. Otherwise you’ll have to wait 1 year to get G2 and another 1 year to get G. You need a minimum G2 to drive a car by yourself. Ensure that the extract is printed on the letter head of the RTO. I made a mistake as the RTO officer did a stupid mistake of printing it on a plain paper. The Ministry did not accept it here in Ontario. (The officers sitting here know exactly how the letter head looks for each state in India) Then I got my wife go to the RTO and get a proper extract.
- You get better utensils, appliances and clothes here in Canada. I made the mistake of bringing kitchen utensils and clothes from India. Later I realized that the ones we get to purchase locally are much superior and almost the same cost (if not less) when converted to INR. Only thing is we have to go through the flyers and purchase when they’re on offer.
- Winter is not so bad. All you need is a good parka, a thermal pant, winter boots, good pair of gloves, a hat and a scarf. Last weekend I went out for a 1 hour walk on a -18 degree temperature and I was completely warm throughout. I just wore a -30 degree rated parka on top of my t-shirt (no layering) along with a -30 rated winter boots. Buy these gears on the Black Friday sales in November where you’ll get the good quality jackets that costs $200 for as low as $100. For spring and fall, a cheap Chinese jacket would suffice.
- Do courses online and showcase it on LinkedIn. Find any courses in Coursera, Udemy, Udacity, etc that are relevant to the job you plan to do in Canada. Possibly, do it before you land here.
PS: I will keep adding more as I recollect.