A Belgian traveller’s tale

Do I have a valid passport? Why doesn’t the lady from the office answer? Will the man from the employment office accept my letter stating I will not look for work in the country therefore forgoing my rights to unemployment without a whimper? Is my insurance still valid? So many questions – this is only Belgium after all. Let’s not forget that the Canadians also excel at putting spokes in the wheels of travelers. So the little Belgian girl can expect a lot of hassles as she begins her trip planning. If only to get her visa.

Yes, a work visa is only obtainable upon the recommendation of an employer (which despite modern technology is impossible to get when one is thousands of kilometres from Canadian territory). What other option is there? Having to make a living on a student visa is out of the question. If under 30 years old, she can opt for a working holiday permit. The idea is enticing except that the infamous permit is only obtainable after many delays and tricks with dozens of documents to fill out as a bonus. Turns out Canadians aren’t very anxious to witness half of Europe landing on their shores. Let’s not forget that the permit is only valid for one year, is non-renewable and comes with sine qua non conditions (valid insurance, $250 cash minimum upon arrival and more). Is it worth the effort? And once here how to find a more or less well-located apartment for less than $1500 a month, utilities included? By “well-located” I mean an apartment that isn’t in the eastern part of Vancouver and that doesn’t require $170 worth of public transit or 6 hours of travel to get to work each day.

Yes, for the little Belgian who can cross her own country in three hours by train it is hard to comprehend Canadian geography and to successfully combine lodging, work, supermarket and Skytrain without her head exploding. But the Craigslist website is superbly organized so that this arduous task can be accomplished with the least damage possible. With all of those questions resolved, what’s left for us? Oh yes, a job of course! The little Belgian carries her bag and goes from cafe to cafe with her limited English and says many times, “Hello, I’m looking for a job.” But wait, oops, her work permit doesn’t allow her to remain more than 6 months in one place without risking trouble with the Canadian authorities. Go and try and find an employer after all that.

Never mind, this little Belgian has a thirst for discovery and embarks on the adventure. And good for her as this long journey strewn with obstacles leads to the discovery of a gorgeous, multicultural city where life is good, and the warm-hearted locals will make her forget her rocky start. Whether she chooses to pause in Kitsilano, Yaletown, Chinatown or even Mount Pleasant, she will discover numerous cultures all perfectly integrated into Canadian life while preserving the initial richness of their distinctive features. What will the next leg of his voyage be? Victoria, Banff or Yoho National Park? Vancouver Island? An ocean of opportunity lies before her, and she doesn’t plan on stopping now.

Translation by Barry Brisebois