Category: moving

How to get your children involved in the move

School buses might be part of the kids life in Canada
Will your kids be getting the school bus?

If you have kids then it can sometimes be a struggle to know how and what, or even when to tell them about your move to Canada.

Making the decision

I recommend that the older children participate in the decision to emigrate since this is going to have a big impact on their social life, education and lifestyle. Having a family meeting is well worth doing. Let everyone have their say.

Listen to your child’s point of view. Teenagers for example, may be reluctant to make the move for a whole variety of reasons. Letting them express this and talking about what you want from the move can help them feel involved in the decision – and ultimately to accept it.

Designing your new lives

In the process of deciding to make the move to Canada, you will have spent some time imagining what your life in Canada will be like. I recommend that you continue this even after you’ve made the decision because it will help you all to stay motivated and begin planning the details of your move.

For older children, you can begin researching schools and how those work. Probably more importantly, for their adjustment to Canada, will be to find out about life style. Get them talking about the sports they might like to try. Skiing and snowboarding are obvious ones, but there’s a lot more.

Younger children may enjoy finding out about Canadian wild life, beaches, swimming pools and snow tubing!

The idea here is to get them interested, if not excited, about their potential new lives in Canada.

Planning the move

As the time to leave for Canada approaches, the amount to do increases. At this point you can start getting really organized.

I suggest that you have regular family meetings to talk over what needs doing. Everyone can be given things to do.

For little ones it might be no more than tidying up their toys, but at least they’ll feel involved. And it might help!

Older children can do more. For example if you have a lot of stuff to clear out of the house, they can organize a garage sale or car boot sale. Pricing up things you’re selling and being the salesperson can be quite motivating. You may end up paying them for their help, but if it is their stuff being sold that’s only fair.


Saying goodbye to friends and family is not going to be easy.

You may want to make special plans for the children so that they have play dates with their special friends before they leave.

A big party for the family as a whole is a way of marking your departure. Consider also having one for the children so that they can have their friends over.

In Canada

We found that the move brought us closer together. That was because we came to rely on each other in those first weeks in Canada. At that time you don’t have anyone else, so that is to be expected.

Now is the time that your dreams of Canada and your preparation will pay off. You should have a good idea of what to expect and you can begin to settle into your new life.

School age children can start at school where they will easily make friends. The worst part will be the first day, or the fear of the first day. Prepare them if you can by visiting the school beforehand. Let them find out about things like the clothes other kids are wearing (no school uniform)!

If your children are pre-school then there are lots of activities available. These will also enable you to meet other adults.

I also recommend that you follow through on all those plans you made before you came to Canada. For example if your children wanted to learn to snowboard, sign them up for snowboard camps.

Remember that all this advice also applies to adults. Now you’re in Canada you too can make your dreams come alive.

What have women got that will make moving to Canada a success?

Well organized women
Well organized women rock!


[This post is a re-post of one we did in 2005. It was drawn from interviews with a number of women who’d immigrated to Canada at that time.]

Making a success of your move to B.C., I believe in part, is due to the WOW factor. I am talking of course about the Well Organized Women! Let me share some of the WOW’s tips from the women themselves.

So what makes a WOW? They all do or have the following in common.


The WOW gets herself/partner/family involved in a research trip. They are internet savvy, have access to a lot of information before they come over, make appointments and set up meetings and accommodation in advance.

One WOW brought her whole family over whilst she went for a couple of interviews, and looked at areas, housing and schools. She went back two weeks later with a job offer. Her husband had also found himself a job during that two weeks as well.


All the WOW’s I have met have one or several of the following:

  • Alphabetical file of contacts
  • Maps and regional information
  • Spreadsheets or budgets (which they stick to)
  • Daytimers/filofaxes/Blackberry or iPhone with all their useful contacts on it.
  • Mobile (cell) phones – usually tri-band to make calls in both countries.

They are women who are used to organizing their careers, homes families and juggling several different aspects of their lives.

One WOW told me “By the time I got to Vancouver, I felt I could organize a small country”


One WOW came over in January to see what the winter was really like. She said “If we could live here in the depths of winter, we will settle here, I know”


Questions like:

  • What is the neighbourhood like?
  • How to I get my child into school?
  • How far is the commute to work?
  • Where is the nearest rec centre/swimming pool/hockey rink/dance class?


WOW’s visit different areas and look at how they will live there. After looking at a lot of different areas one WOW found an area that reflected her lifestyle. An area close to nature trails, national parks, hiking, kayaking and skiing. Then she went looking for an affordable house in her chosen area.

One WOW loves the urban downtown life and picked an apartment that enables her and her partner to walk to everything on offer, visit cinemas, museums and shops and be in the thick of things.


When she was offered a new job, one WOW told me “My company gave me a cheque for relocation expenses and said ‘see you in Vancouver on the 19th’ – now that is not much time to get from one end of Canada to the other, find a place to live and start a new job!”

When one WOW found out that she and her partner could not afford a town house in any of the areas she had chosen, she went looking for an apartment in an area that was up and coming, which would be easy to rent out at a later date. She told me, “It is a nice place to live and a great area and when we are ready to move on, we will have this as an investment for our future.”


WOW’s get involved with their local communities when they get here. They join the PAC (equivalent of the PTA) at the school. They join in clubs and weekend activities to meet like minded people. They get out a meet people socially though work and other events and join in the Canadian networks. One WOW was even offered a job from another woman she met in the playground during her first week. Networking works!


One amazing WOW sent out 400 résumés before she came to Vancouver and had arranged 4 interviews before she got here. She was successful in one interview and worked at her job for 6 months. During that time, she made many more contacts and found a higher paying job with a promotion which was much closer to her ideal job.

Another WOW, landed in Vancouver on the Sunday and attended job interviews on the Tuesday and Thursday. She was offered one job and started the following Monday.

I find meeting and working with WOW’s very inspirational. I don’t want to suggest that men can’t be WOW’s too – though WOM’s hasn’t got quite the same ring!

I hope you too find these WOW’s inspiring. It shows what can be done with the right attitude.

How to adjust to prices in Canada

Vancouver farmers' market
Checking the prices at the farmers' market

When you first move to a new country there is a period of adjustment that you go through. One part of that is getting to understand prices and what is good value.

There’s a psychological element to this as you’d guess.

Much like the early honeymoon period that most migrants go through at first, the early days may well be a time when you spot all the good things about prices. Gas prices might be one for instance.

This honeymoon period is our way of confirming we made the right decision in coming to Canada. We are on the look out for all that’s good, and price comparisons are included.

If the exchange rate works for you, and this is admittedly unlikely, then you might be tempted to mentally translate all the dollar prices back into your old currency. That is a mistake. You really need to adjust to looking at prices from the local perspective.

There’s a psychological effect which I will call “price anchoring”. This is where our expectations of  a good price are set by our first experience of buying or considering buying something. That sets the target price. When you’ve moved to Canada, your price anchors may still be referring back to prices in the Old Country.

So how do you reset them?

Time will eventually reset these price expectations, but since the first weeks after arrival are usually the time when you’re doing a lot of shopping, it is a good idea to reset them as soon as you can.

The best way is to be aware of your own thinking. Avoid comparing back to the Old Country prices, but do look around locally. Ask advice from people who’ve been in Canada a long time. Canadians love a bargain, so you’ll likely get a lot of advice. You are then consciously setting your anchor price for a lot of things.

Before long you’ll be like most of us in Canada: grumbling about the gas prices!

Everyone has got it wrong about Canada

Map of Van Dusen Gardens
Is your map helping?

Sue and I were discussing how people’s expectations and experience of Canada differ so much. We were wondering why that was and what we could do to help.

As we have both trained in NLP, we were reminded of  Alfred Korzybski‘s phrase “The map is not the territory”. This phrase was adopted as an NLP presupposition because it is a useful reminder that we all look at the world through our own maps.

The map is not the territory is a quick way of saying that reality (e.g. life in Canada) is not the same as our expectations or experience of it. Our maps are built up from our own personal histories, our experience, values, beliefs and decisions. The map is like a lens through which we see the world. Because everyone’s experience is different, their maps are different.

Your map of what to expect when moving to Canada will be built up on the basis of your own life. It will, I hope, include real visits to Canada. It will also include things you’ve heard, read or seen about Canada. These experiences are the basis of judgements you’ve then made and ultimately helped you make the decision to move.

At some level the map can never be the territory. That would be like expecting the restaurant menu to taste like the food it describes.

So if your map can never be the territory, what might you expect to come from that?

When you get to Canada, my guess is that you will be in a honeymoon period at first. This is when your brain is running around congratulating itself on making such a good decision. Whenever you see, do or hear something that fits with your map of what Canada would be like, you put a big tick in the box and a big smile on your face. The process is natural. A bit like when you’ve bought a new car and suddenly notice how many other people were smart enough to buy the same model! You want to find validation for your decision.

After a while though, you will probably begin to notice things that differ from your map. These can be small things or big ones.

I am really hoping that you don’t find any really big differences. Chances are that you’ve done a research trip and seen Canada for yourself. This is a good way to confirm that your map is at least close enough to reality! Vacations are not always so useful. You are not there deliberately testing your map against reality – on a vacation you are there to enjoy yourself.

Smaller differences will inevitably show up. And this is where the subtle differences in people’s maps comes into play.

For instance, many people have maps that say Canadians are friendly. When you visited it is likely that you got talking to a few Canadians, perhaps in the coffee bar or at the checkout. But does that mean Canadians are friendly?

It depends on your map. For you friendliness might be just getting the occasional smile from a passerby. For others, whose experience is of neighbours dropping in unannounced at all hours of the day, the occasional smile might be darn right unfriendly. So whether or not you find Canadians friendly may well depend on where your past experience (your map) sits on this friendliness scale.

The longer you are in Canada, the more your maps can change. Your experience of life in Canada will serve to update the map. If it does, and you still enjoy that life, then your move is going to work out. If not, then you might want to review your maps and see if your expectations were unrealistic.

As any explorer will tell you, it is better to set out with the best maps you can get – or make for yourself!



How do you expect to get around?

Transport options
Car, taxi or foot - how do you expect to get around?

Doing a research trip is a great way to find out about the place that you hope to make your new home. Part of the benefit of doing this is testing your assumptions about the place against reality. That can be a shock.

This is a good thing. Actually in many ways it is what we are all about. We want to make sure that your expectations about life in Canada are accurate and not hallucinations or wishful thinking.

This week we had a couple of research tours and there was quite a difference in their expectations about Vancouver – specifically about public transit.

The first couple were Jane and Jack. They expected to live in walking distance from the shops. They also expected to be able to get on public transit and commute to work. They didn’t want to drive except for weekend trips or for their weekly supermarket shop,

The second couple were Tony and Cristal. They were not in the least interested in public transit. They didn’t want to know about buses, trains, skytrains or the seabus. They expected to drive. They preferred driving. They wanted to drive. What they didn’t want to drive too far. Half an hour commute was the most they’d tolerate. They were tired of long commutes of an hour or more.

Which couple do you think had it right?

In some ways it is Tony and Cristal. After all Canada is highly dependent on the motor car, so they could well fit in very well with their expectations of driving everywhere. But they want to live in downtown Vancouver. If they do that then they’ll actually be able to achieve what Jane and Jack want – to be able to walk to shops and restaurants. The adjustment that they might want to make is to accept that they can also get around on public transit. After all Vancouver is a city which does have public transit. It even encourages cycling. If they are to adjust completely then perhaps they too will be cycling around Stanley Park and the seawall.

What about Jane and Jack? Their expectations were quite different, but were they so wrong? At first yes. They’d never been to Canada and understandably they’d imagined it was like their home in England. They expected to have corner shops a few minutes walk away from their home. Also a train service to whisk them in overcrowded bliss to their workplace.

We spent half the day showing them around, seeing areas that were in the price range and might suit. After that they realized they weren’t in Kansas anymore – nor were they in Kingston!

What happened was that they’d adjusted their expectations. Now they knew that Canada wasn’t exactly what they’d expected. It was different and they could adjust accordingly.

Perhaps their adjustment would be a large one. Maybe they’d learned that Canada would not work for them. Maybe it was a small one. They might need to look at getting into a car more often, or try harder to find a home in a more central location.

Research trips pay off whether you find out that you were right about Canada or wrong. Finding the truth out first hand lets you make a decision about your move that is based on reality. And you can’t argue with reality – well if you do, you never win!

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