Category: moving

The Great Canadian Adventure – a book to entertain and inform

Book cover for Damian Trasler's book on immigrating to VancouverI wanted to let everyone know about this great book by Damian Trasler because I am sure it will be of great interest to anyone planning a move to Canada. And the book is available at $2.99 as a kindle download (I don’t know how long this special price will last).

Damian brought his family, including three daughters (aka the weasels), to Canada in 2009. This book is beautifully written and very amusing. Believe me, most books on this subject are dry and boring, so it is refreshing to be able to recommend a book which will both inform and entertain.

You can read Damian’s own introduction to the book on his blog, or go directly to Amazon to buy the book.

Three tips on getting to know your new neighbourhood

Community notice boardWhen you’ve just moved into the neighbourhood you can feel a bit isolated at first. Here are three tips on getting to know the neighbourhood.

1. Check the local papers

You may get a free paper delivered, and in some areas there may even be more than one. Most of them have their own web sites too. Have a look at the local issues, news and upcoming events. Often it gives a sense of the community feel.

2. Check the bulletin boards

Find the local community centre, recreation centre or pool. There you will find bulletin boards on classes and events in the area.

Another place to look is on the notice boards at the local coffee shops. Here you will see what’s going on locally.

3. Check in with social media

There are a host of social media sites like Yelp, Urban Spoon and FourSquare and there you can find tips and reviews on local eateries and services. You can connect via these media to others in the area too.

Five questions to ask yourself before you rent or buy

Rent or buy a home?I met with a new arrival in Vancouver this week and one of the things we discussed was the whole issue of whether it is better to rent or buy.

I strongly believe that there is no single answer to this question as so much is down to your personal circumstances. So instead, here’s some questions to ask yourself that will help you make this decision for yourself.

1. Can I get financing?

This is the first question for a reason. If the answer is NO, then there’s no need to even think about any of the other questions!

Financing is available when you first arrive in Canada, despite your not having a credit rating here, IF you have enough money to put down on the property. That is generally 35% or more. And that can be a large chunk of change.

If you are newly arrived and have a job already, then your financing may be available with a smaller down payment. You will need to have passed your probation in your job.

My advice is to contact a mortgage broker (like ours: Keith Baker) because then you will have access to a wide range of financial institutions. There’s no charge for this and you’ll get advice that’s specific to you.

2. Do I know where I want to live?

This is a pretty basic question and one that every immigrant should ask quite carefully. Let’s face it there’s no point in buying a lovely home in an area that you sooner or later find is not one that suits you.

If you’ve done really good research and been over here enough to know what area is right for you, then buying is worth considering.

If not, then you’re probably still in the research phase of your move – even if you’ve landed. Now’s the time to rent for a while and check out whether what you think is the right area is really so in practice.

3. How long am I going to be here?

Real estate is a long term investment especially when it is your family home. If you aren’t sure how long you will be in the area, then renting might be better for you. Buying and then selling within a short time can be ok, but only when the market is active and moving up. When it is slow or the prices are going down then you might lose out.

4. What about schools?

Getting your child into a specific school can be a factor. Most schools have catchment areas and your challenge might be in finding a rental property in the right area for the school you want. And once you’ve found one there’s a possibility that your lease will not be renewed at the end of the year and you’ll be looking for another suitable place.

Buying somewhere to be in the right catchment area is a familiar tactic all over the world. In Canada it happens too. You would need to be certain that you want the school and are prepared to live in the area for the time your child is in that school. If so then buying is for you.

5. How do I feel about renting?

So far, if you’ve been following along, you’ve been asking practical questions. This one is all about your own thinking and gut feeling about renting or buying.

Some people just object to renting at all. They’re the ones who see rent as “dead money” or talk about “paying someone else’s mortgage”. Depending on how strongly you agree with this, you might be buying even if some of the other practical factors suggest renting is better.

Another psychological factor that often plays is “wanting to get settled”. Immigrating is a stressful process and for most of us, we are in limbo whilst waiting for the visas to come and the move to happen. That leads to a feeling of being unsettled that is uncomfortable. Buying a home and finally unpacking all your belongings is very appealing.

On the other hand, you might be someone who is happy to have no mortgage and to be flexible enough to move around. Perhaps coming to Canada was your chance to be freer and you wanted to move around and explore the country. Renting is for you! (Or maybe an RV?)

Living the dream or just dreaming?

A beautiful home on BC's Sunshine CoastOur friends recently wrote a post about a couple who have decided that Canada is not for them. It was rather sad reading about how their dream had become, if not a nightmare, at least something less desirable.

It has been one of my continuing themes that research is crucial in deciding on your move to Canada. I would like to add that you need to take stock from time to time both while waiting for your visas and also once you are in Canada.

When you are first thinking about a move to Canada, if you are like me, then you are really dreaming. I think that’s a good thing. You want to use your imagination to paint a picture of what you’d like your life to be like. I remember that we did this as a family. We got the kids involved in talking about what they wanted. (A pool featured quite prominently).

The next step is making sure that your dreams are rooted in some semblance of reality. Living in an ocean front property with the infinity pool and the boat mooring might not be within your financial grasp. (If it is, talk to me!).

Research can be based on hard facts – like the cost of real estate, cost of living, likely income and chances of getting the job you want. These are the basics.

I’d argue that the intangible things that we group under the title of “lifestyle” are equally important. Maybe you want to go skiing every weekend? Will that be possible? What will it cost?

Most people have their kids in mind when they are dreaming of Canada. Our girls were competitive dancers in the UK, so when we came on research trips we checked out dance schools, cost of dance costumes and the like. We also assumed they’d want to get into snowboarding, so we looked at that.

As I said earlier, it is also important to take the pulse of your new life from time to time. Things have the habit of changing! For instance our girls never did any dancing once they were in Vancouver. They were far more interested in new activities, like snowboarding and acting (in their school’s film program). Our son got into sailing, which we’d hardly considered.

Sue and I loved theatre in the UK, but found little comparable in Vancouver. Our spare time was spent in more active pursuits. Who knew that we’d be doing yoga, snow shoeing or running? We never bought a home with a pool.

As time has gone on, our kids have grown up and their interests have grown too. Two of them dance, but for pleasure rather than competitively. One has started rock climbing, cycling and hiking. Another is singing.

The changes, for us, have been largely positive. But we do know that there’s always a trade-off. Our old life had its positive points, and our new life has its negative ones. The balance is what is important.

Finally, I’d advise that you don’t dwell in the past. I have seen a few people who have spent way too much time comparing their life here to what their life used to be like. Often there’s a rose-tinted view of life in the old country that can be seductive. Several people have ended up moving back. And of those a few regret their return and come back to Canada – older and wiser!

When the honeymoon is over

The honeymoon starts now
Keep that loving feeling

When you first move to Canada the chances are that you’ll be in a honeymoon period. Just like those newly in love, you’ll enjoy everything with an uncritical eye. There will be things that are just what you expected. Some things will be better even. And even the odd Canadian foibles you come across will be endearing.

This honeymoon stage is delightful. You can really appreciate the new life you’re making. And the best way to do that is to immerse yourself in what you’re doing. Enjoy the whole experience without analyzing it.

But just like in marriage, there comes a time when you begin to find fault with things. The equivalent of your partner not cleaning up, or leaving stuff all over the floor.

What begins to irritate differs from person to person.

Actually it differs from thought to thought. After all nothing has changed about Canada. It is just that you have begun thinking about it in a different way.

Some people find this stage quite distressing.

As in a relationship it is important to remember that you are committed to the relationship.

You are in Canada and your intention is to make it your new home. Just as in marriage it is not a good idea to be wondering whether there’s not something better somewhere else. Being fully committed to your new life, like your new partner, is the best way to assure that you settle well.

The other thing that really works is to avoid comparing Canada to your previous home country. I recommend that you simply dismiss any comparisons whenever they come to mind. This leaves room for you to appreciate the experience that you are living in the moment.

Comparing and thinking about what life was like before is simply living in the past. That makes it harder to enjoy the present.

Imagine if you did this with your relationship. Your partner would be wondering if you’d rather be with someone else, and would likely feel that you were being critical. That’s not going to help the relationship!

The best thing about appreciating your new life in an uncritical way is that your appreciation will grow. The more you appreciate about Canada the more likely you are to find your experiences more and more enjoyable.

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