You only live once is a truthful concept, and in many ways it played a role in inspiring my husband and me to relocate to Canada. My home – the UK – is a mess as the international world looks on amused at the fall of the once dominating nation. As a gay couple living in South Korea, we knew that South Korea was still failing on human rights, even under a leader who has a background in human rights.
I admit that my motivation to move to Canada wasn’t strong. I had visited Canada several times and didn’t plan to return – taking English language assessment tests (IELTS) wasn’t on my to-do list!
Our arrival from Seoul’s Incheon airport to a small airport, which doesn’t have much sparkle to it, confirmed in my mind that maybe Vancouver wasn’t destined to be our home.
Nevertheless, we worked our way through the “old school” airport to meet the immigration officers, who welcomed us to Canada as new residents – all from immigrant families themselves and all very friendly.
We then spent a week exploring the city and finding our feet, including registering for our SIN (social insurance number) at Service Canada, opening bank accounts and getting new phone plans.
Opening bank accounts was a lesson in itself. Each bank offered appealing benefits for new immigrant accounts, and the overly friendly service was uncomfortable for a Brit who isn’t used to this chatty tone. As someone who has lived in Korea where business is done quickly with little chit-chat, this kind of service was a little irritating, but this is the Canadian way!
Shopping for a phone deal was incredibly similar to shopping for a bank account. There is something that people arriving in Canada should know: think about your credit check before you apply for either of these – your choices impact your line of credit.
I found looking for a job incredibly hard in Canada. There are jobs out there, but the salaries in Korea are much better. I have had a few jobs in five months: from working in a Canadian office that reminded me of working in England, to working in a call centre, to working in a commercial coffee shop that opened my eyes to the more personal customer service provided in independent shops.
Now I am back in a job similar to one I had in Korea, but I’m thinking about new options and ideas. Vancouver seems to be a place that may not make the list of a place to call home, but you just never know – things might change (after all marriage was never on my list either).
Vancouver is home for now. Maybe we will stay long-term, or maybe we won’t. The city is becoming familiar, the nature is attractive, but the city is clearly one that can be labelled as “a work in progress.” I’ve fallen in love with the natural beauty, and for a city boy who loves the “bally-bally” (Korean for “quick quick”) lifestyle, that is quite an achievement. Vancouver offers golden gems in mountains, water views, beach views and coffee shops.
A while ago I was interviewed by a local TV company about the issue of homelessness, and as I was questioned, I realized that my new home is one of so many social issues. It is a city that really needs better management.
Furthermore, since I am married to a Korean, I’ve realized that there is a problem with racial issues. Now, more than ever, I wish I spoke Korean fluently and could close my ears to English and the comments made about Chinese, Koreans and “foreigners.”
I see here a divided yet united place that is in need of better management: we need to look to the future, not wake up to a mess tomorrow.
Canada can really shine but needs to learn from immigrants, just as much as from locals. You’re more flexible than most places, so make it shine!