Tuesday, January 25, 2011

We finally landed, now what ?

We were given a form to fill on the plane.It was about things that we were bringing with us, we had nothing but clothes packed in 3 suitcases and one old lap top. We did not plan to bring anything else since we didn't have it, but if you plan to import let say a car or household items you need to write down the description and value of these things, and a serial number if it's a car or something electronic ... We didn't purchase anything at the airport either so we left the form mostly blank.
We landed in the afternoon, it was a gray rainy day on Toronto airport, I remember looking trough the window and thinking after all that horror of a flight :" Oh God, what is this?" it was such a sad and depressing sight.After landing the first thing to do was to pass the immigration and then find the luggage. Our procedure lasted about 15 minutes,we reported how much money we had and they asked to see our bank confirmation, we applied for the PR cards and that was it, it would be sent to us within ca 10 days on the address provided.A nice woman at the counter for the new immigrants gave us the bag with brochures and sealed documents for health insurance and child benefit, she said to fill everything and send it.
We found only two suitcases, the baby's was missing,that meant no spare clothes and diapers for him, the rest stunk of alcohol because someone's spirit probably broke and it leaked over our luggage. I was at the verge of tears at the custom counter, he just looked at us and said "welcome to Canada..."
At the time we had a friend waiting for us to take us to his home in Kitchener.
When we first applied for visas we didn't have the faintest idea about life in Canada, I canvased the internet but could find anything to help me with understanding how things function here, the only thing I new was that it was probably better than where we were...My husband and I had a crazy idea to go to Fort McMurray work very hard for several years, save money and then move to a more hospitable place and have kids, well that changed over time because the years of waiting were passing and we wanted to have a kid before our thirties. We thought about Alberta for a while, we never wanted to live in Toronto because we don't like crowded big cities, in February 2010 when we finally got our visas we still had no idea where we were going and we were taking the 9 months old baby with us.
Luckily we contacted a family from our hometown, my husband's ex teacher at the university, that immigrated to Canada some 10 years ago and they agreed to help us and rent us their apartment in Kitchener.
They practically saved us, if it wasn't for them we would be lost in some awful and expensive motel in Toronto and we would probably hated being here from day one. Instead, we went to their home and were treated as guests, I loved Kitchener it reminded me of Europe because of the people there, they were all so nice and kind, always saying hello and laughing at us in the street, many of them helped us so much. I miss that feeling very much, in Toronto people mind their own busyness and don't even look at you, no one says hello and I stand in the elevator as a convict silently waiting to get out with a bunch of strangers. Big cities remind me of ant's nest, I don't like them.
Went to the bank and opened account with President choice, we put some money to make so-called credit history and got debit cards.
The next day we went to apply for SIN, we were waiting at the Service Canada Centre and about 20 minutes. and got that done as well. Be sure to carry your passport everywhere you go.
Next was applying for health insurance, that we screwed up, we were waiting half an hour just to be told the necessary documents are pr card, passport, contract for an apartment or a cable, a report from the bank accounts and to document the names of both spouses, we didn't have all of them yet.We had to fix that latter. 

Before we came I contacted several agencies for rental apartments, only two responded to my mail, mostly all of them want you to have Canadian  documents,  the PR card, bank account with income, two rents, first and last, and the contract for one year. In principle, it is almost impossible to rent an apartment for the first month, maybe if you find someone to be a cosigner ... we were so lucky that we found the apartment before we arrived.
I can not write about hotels and motels, I know that they are not cheap but we didn't have  to go to one so I was thrilled.As far as I know from google searches reservation is required at least 2 weeks before arrival and room rates are ranging from 50 to 100 CAD per night, hotel ,motel whatever.

Living in Canada

It's been more than 7 months since I moved to Canada, in the meantime some of the things I have written on my other blog in serbian language have helped a lot of people from my former country who came here to Canada searching for a better future.
I really hopped that someone else will be able to read it in a language other than serbian by using google translator but when I tried to do that, it came out as a bunch of nonsense, so I've decided to slowly translate most of it into English myself. Some things that are not that important will be omitted but I'll try to do my best and give along the way the information that might be useful to newcomers and that certainly was useful to me.By the way this is not immigrant info blog, this is my experience and my views and thoughts, so what I write down in this blog reflects only my picture of Life in Canada not everyone's else, and as I always say every person who comes here has their own path, some find it great some find it not so great and with a lot of bureaucratic obstacles in their way...


To understand my story a little bit better I'll try to shortly explain what my life was like in the country I came from. I was born in a country called Yugoslavia that doesn't exist anymore, it was torn apart by several consecutive wars that started in the early 90ties and lasted the next several years, even though the historical archives can put the start and the end dates on those wars, for the people there 90ties have brought a wave of darkness and despair that is still omnipresent in their daily life, the economy collapsed and never fully recovered after numerous crises and hyperinflation...it seems as though it is never going to be better and that there will always be some kind of crises that will prevent you from living your life as you should and put you down to miserable bare survival.
I try to avoid this subject all the time, because I didn't see my future there, I have learned a lot about things and people, about values in life, about politics and elite,about choosing your battles carefully, but that kind of schooling I wouldn't wish to anyone.
Anyway, after 2003 my future husband and I realized that things are going for the worse once again, the new prime minister who wanted to cut the crime and old politics and bring the country into EU was murdered and the old regime took over once again, we decided to immigrate even though we had jobs at the time and were living at his parents house.We were the lucky ones, most of young couples in Serbia cannot get a job or find a place for themselves, simply because there are no decent jobs since the economy is almost non existing. They are forced to live with their parents and share income of one or two small salaries among several family members, sometimes that monthly income can not even cover a single utility bill.
We had two salaries and that gave us the opportunity to save enough money over 4 years to be able to immigrate.In 2006 we applied under the old skilled worker program and finally in 2010 immigrated to Canada with our baby that was born in 2009. We actually thought that we have waited enough and wanted to get on with our lives and have a baby when the letter from embassy came, it took us then one more year to arrange papers for the baby. We arrived to Canada beginning of June 2010.

The Departure

If you are lucky enough to get a visa and are able to immigrate buy airplane tickets as soon as possible because the ticket price changes in thousands of euros (in our case ) the  closer the departure date comes ...
We bought tickets three months earlier at a cost of 900 euros for the three of us, the baby pays only some 30 euros and doesn't get the seat of his own, one week prior to the departure date the same tickets were nearly 4,000 euros.
Buy a ticket out of summer touristic season, if you can, that means do not buy dates after 15 of June to 1 September because the tickets are most expensive in that period and during the holidays.
Be sure to regularly check your flight, what happened to us was that Alitalia canceled our flight a week before the trip and we were not informed, I almost got a heartatack! If  something like this happens the arangments  for the new tickets and flight are free of charge as long as you didn't cancel the tickets and it's their fault.
Some companies give a discount for buying tickets online, call their representatives on the airport, you can save some money  if you purchase it online.
Cheapest tickets are economic classes, no special services for children or babies, by airfare companies logic children under 2 years don't need to have their seats, but a flight of 15 hours is quite an effort for babies as well as parents, from our experience.
Seats are small and uncomfortable, flight is long, you are lucky is if there is enough empty seats on the plane that you can put your child to sleep beside you, in other circumstances it should you sit in your lap non-stop ...

Ask about the luggage limits

Each carrier has a limit depending on the price of tickets, the cheaper the tickets less luggage allowed, the rule is 23kg per 10kg for children, and hand-5kg or 10 kg per person, of course, make sure you don't end up paying 10 euros per excess kilogram, or 100 euros per suitcase if the weight and dimensions are not proper.
There is no "discount" when it comes to luggage for immigration or emigration.
Baby strollers are not included in the weight of  the luggage.
Bringing food and water into the airplane is not a problem if you have a young child with you, I had  4 bottles of food and milk and 2 bottles of water and no one has said anything, I also had a blanket, spare clothes, bag with diapers, plastic bags for waste and other baby stuff ... all that I needed for my baby I brought on the plane without problems.


In principle, all overseas flights are flown in a similar aircraft, the difference is in the price of the tickets and a connection.
We took Alitalia  and it was quite stressful, but a bargain compared to the others.One week before the departure they canceled our flight without any warning and without informing us, we tried to get the next flight, but they forgot to make a reservation for the baby ...As we arrived to Belgrade  airport we found out that one ticket is missing, Alitalia's office at the airport did not work because the worker was not coming that day and we were one hour away from the flight and with only two tickets  ... JAT our connection flight to Rome somehow provided a ticket for the baby to Rome and told us to solve it there with Alitalia's workers.Then it turned out that the luggage is a problem, we had a surplus of 4 kg for which we needed to pay 100 euros, we decided not to, somehow we got the guy in charge to let us go  because these were all baby items, we told him he can take all the diapers and baby clothes and toys out on the floor if he wants to, but I don't want to pay that ridiculous amount of money...at the end we gave him 10 euros instead and he let us go.
In Rome we caught to a train to the terminal we had half an hour to fix the ticket problem but 325 people were waiting to board the same flight.We got split seats, I pleaded them and  asked that we sit together, explained that we have a baby and that we should hold it for the next 15 hours, finally they had mercy and we got to sit together.

The plane was a mess, small narrow space full of people, and small seats. In front of us was a guy with two wives and four young children, crying, screaming and running around, he'd play music on his cell phone and turn it very loud...It was hard with a small child, no where to move or turn and baby could not sleep because of the noise and the crowd ...I told myself I'm not getting on a plane until he is big enough to endure the flight or to sleep it over in his own seat.
My advice to you is: if there is any chance to take the night flight do it, the child will at least get a bit of sleep and you'll get some time to recover ...
Some have advised me to give him fever medication that will make him sleep but I didn't want to do that, I didn't see the point we would be dead tired after landing and he would be fit for fun, that would probably be even harder to cope with.
 It took us all together 20 hours to reach our final destination.