Leaving Canada

It’s easier to leave Canada than to enter it. That’s what we told ourself this Winter while preparing our departure from Vancouver, BC. Indeed it took us more than a year to immigrate to Canada. However to fly off to new horizons, it has taken us less than a month which I tell you in a few lines.

As an opportunity to leave takes shape, we gather information about our next destination, Malta, a small island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. There are at least two positive aspects: English is spoken and Malta belongs to the European Union (which means we don’t need a visa). It would make our move easier.

We evaluate what we own in Canada. We have no furniture because we live in a furnished apartment nevertheless we have hoarded quite a few things over time. All that we decide not to take is put for sale on Craigslist, the local classifieds website.

For the things we want to keep, we buy cardboard boxes and packaging tape to send them in parcels. Argh! After checking the fees, it would cost us 300 € per parcel. We wish we had not bought cardboard boxes. We look for the different possible solutions and decide to take the boxes with us on the plane as extra baggage ($50 for the first extra bag).

We begin sorting out, throwing away, selling and giving but we have few answers to our ads. We visit car dealerships to sell the car but without success. Business seems slow for car dealers. We place an advertisement in Craigslist for the car but it hasn’t any effect. Eventually, my partner finds a more distant car dealer who agrees to buy the car.

selling on the internet

It’s not so easy to sell our belongings on the internet.

After the sale of the car, we terminate car insurance and credit card. We give notice to terminate Internet service. Lastly we buy our plane tickets.

Progressively we say goodbye to the people we know in Canada. A few days before leaving, we start packing. We rent a car to save time for the last things to settle such as redirecting mail, disconnecting phone or the last trip to the laundry.
We cancel our health insurance coverage. It’s easy and immediate on Internet, which is irritating given that it took us more than three months and never-ending phone calls to enroll in BC health insurance.

On the day before we leave, we give a book to the library and the things we haven’t sold (kitchenware, clothes…) to the Salvation Army. We give our last Canadian coins to an understanding cashier to buy the dinner.

The last day is scheduled down to the minute. We pack our luggage and cardboard boxes. We vacate the apartment. We give back the modem to the Internet provider and we return the rental car in a traffic jam (the traffic jam was not planned because our plane is 2 hours late.

After several weeks of rush, we wait in the large terminal and say goodbye to Canada.

Drawing of spirit of haida gwaii, a sculpture by Bill Reid at Vancouver Airport

The spirit of haida gwaii, a sculpture by Bill Reid at Vancouver Airport

Version française

Vancouver in pictures

I end my articles about Vancouver with my favourite photographs of the city:


Vancouver (click on the pictures to enlarge them)

Stanley Park and Downtown

Stanley Park and Downtown. I like the contrast between the trees and the skyscrapers.

newlyweds in Steveston

These newlyweds have their photograph taken on the beach of Steveston’s small harbour… between two container ships.

Stacked pebbles by Vancouver Seawall

Stacked pebbles by the Seawall which is the path that goes along the sea around Stanley Park.

Dr Sun Yat-Sen Park

Dr Sun Yat-Sen Park. A picturesque Chinese garden in the middle of Chinatown.

Downtown Vancouver

West Vancouver

West Vancouver and its waterfront houses.

Stanley Park at dusk

Stanley Park at dusk

Reading another time this article, I realise that almost all the pictures I have selected show the sea. It’s not surprising because I think seasides are the most pleasant places in Vancouver.

Version française

Vancouver summer look

Here is an article I have written for http://thezieglersblog.com, a blog (that is closed now) about the experiences of immigrants to Canada.

Even if we find the same clothing stores everywhere in the world, I have noticed that each country has its own trends regarding fashion. There are even local trends. Here is for example how many Vancouverites like to dress in summer:

A Vancouverite

seen on the Seawall in Vancouver

In brief, if you want to look like a Vancouver girl, wear a colorful T-shirt, shorts, flip-flops, nail polish of your favourite color on your toenails and a large smile. Also hold a cup of ice coffee while walking on the Seawall and admiring the scenery.

Vancouver men wear exactly the same outfit, except for the nail polish 😉

Version française

When will a bike sharing system come to Vancouver?

Vélib Station

Vélib Station in Paris. photo Martin Tod (c) Creative Commons

After Velib in Paris and Bixi in Montréal, it’s Vancouver’s turn to be interested in a bicycle sharing system. With such a system, you pay a daily or yearly subscription and you can take a bike from one station and return it to another station on the other side of the city. Stations are distributed throughout the city so that you can go wherever you want. You pay the rental according to the time but the first 30 minutes are generally free.

In Vancouver, one obstacle to a bike share system is the helmet law, otherwise this is a means of transportation well suited to the city for many reasons:

  • Cycling is developing slowly but surely in Vancouver
  • There is room to install the bike stations
  • This is the ideal way for tourists to pleasantly discover the city
  • I think there would be less vandalism than in Paris
  • You can drop the bike off at the nearest station and finish your journey by bus in case of sudden shower
  • The city’s size and terrain are well suited to bike trips
  • etc.

I believe the city of Vancouver is up for implementing a public bike system but the financing has yet to be found.
Meanwhile, in Canada the Montreal Bixi is a success and Toronto plans to launch its bike sharing scheme sometime within 2011.

drawing of a young woman on a Vélib in Paris

Young woman on a Vélib in Paris

Version française

My immigration process to Québec (2/2)

I resume the story of my immigration process to Québec with our interview at Québec Government Office in Paris. The objectives of that interview were to check the information in our application, to test our knowledge of Québec and above all our motivation.

Interview at Québec Government Office
My interview at Québec Government Office

The interview went well and the agent told us we were selected. So we moved on the next stage: applying for a visa at the Canada Embassy.

Another application, another check and another waiting period while Canada checked that we were no criminals and we had no criminal record.

After 6 months, we received the instructions to take a medical examination with a designated physician. The medical examination is mandatory to get the visas. If you are HIV-positive or if you have a disabled child, you won’t be authorized to immigrate to Canada.
I find this medical condition discrimination chocking but it has occured for years in Canada and in the USA apparently without anyone objecting.

Having the good luck to be healthy, 3 weeks after the medical examination, we received the confirmation that the visa office was ready to issue our permanent resident visas.

The immigration process lasted more than a year between the application and the visas’ delivery. It costed us about 3000 CAD for 2 people at that time.

I continue with my adventures in Québec in my expat diary (read it in reverse order). Finally I take the liberty to give a piece of advice to the readers who are interested in immigrating to Québec: Prepare a backup plan in case it doesn’t work. Not everybody is made for immigrating to Québec. Give yourself a few months to test the beautiful province while keeping the possibility to go back home. Having a plan B was very helpful when we started wondering wether we were really made for living in Québec.

Version française

My immigration process to Québec (1/2)

From time to time, someone asks me how to immigrate to Québec. So I have decided to tell the stages of my immigration to Québec. Even if things may have changed since 2007, I hope that my story can give an idea of how it works.

The story of my immigration starts in late 2006. My partner and I had had the idea to live abroad for several years but we never knew where to go nor how to proceed.
That year, my partner heard about Québec and that it was open to immigrants, offered job prospects, a quality of life and a French-speaking environment.
So we attended an information meeting organized by Québec Government Office. Such a meeting is informative but you need to take a broader view of things. Indeed the speakers were here to sell Québec. They emphasised the upsides and didn’t linger on all the downsides.

Following this meeting, we did some research on Québec (if you read French, I give some links in the French version of this post).

immigrant's daydream
Immigrant’s daydream

After weighing the pros and the cons, we decided to try our luck in Québec.

The next stage was to determine which visa to apply for. There are several possibilities (You can see the different visas on Immigration Québec website and if you are between 18 and 35, you can also check International Experience Canada ). We chose the permanent resident visa that would enable to stay in Canada as long as we wished. To meet the selection criteria, we needed to have enough points. The points are given by degrees, being of childbearing age (Québec needs to counter population ageing), speaking French and English… On Immigration Québec Website, you can fill out a Preliminary Evaluation for Immigration that enables you to evaluate your chances of being selected by Québec. The result of our evaluation was positive, so we started to fill out the official immigration application.

It took us a lot of time and effort to prepare the Application for a Selection Certificate. We had to get degrees, school reports since high school, work certificates, certificates of internship… To ask for those proofs, we had to call workplaces and schools we had not visited for years.

After presenting our immigration application and paying 500 CAD, we waited 6 months. Then we were invited for an interview at Québec Government Office in Paris.

The waiting period can be shorter if your occupation is listed “in demand” in Québec.
The waiting period can be longer and last several years if you live in Africa or in South America.

We took advantage of those few months to visit Québec, practice our English and to enquire about professional orders. Professional orders manage a number of occupations in Québec ( cf the list of interested occupations ). For example, an engineer who has studied somewhere other than in Québec needs to apply for membership in the order of engineers. If his application is rejected, he won’t be able to use the title “engineer”. Sometimes, a professional order requires the applicant to start again his studies from scratch in Québec in order to be recognized. Thus it is important to be informed of professional orders before immigrating to Québec.

I will publish the continuation of my immigration process including the interview at Québec Government Office in Paris in a few days.

Version française

The best place on earth?

In Canada, your license plate shows the province you live in. Sometimes a motto of the province is also printed. Thus British Columbian plates say ‘Beautiful British Columbia’.

British Columbian license plate

I agree with this statement because there are breathtaking landscapes in this province. To give you an idea, here is a picture of a deserted beach in Vancouver Island :

deserted beach in Vancouver Island

A special license plate has been issued for the Olympic Games. It says a new motto for British Columbia: ‘The Best Place on Earth’.

British Columbian olympic plate

This other slogan is more pretentious and also more arguable. Is British Columbia the best place on earth? It depends on whom you ask. It’s true that I have met peaple saying that British Columbia is a paradise. But I have also talked to people who are eager to leave this province. I have made up my mind about this, after a few months in Vancouver: British Columbia is no El Dorado but it’s liveable (otherwise I would already have left 😉 )

Version française

The Olympic streetcar

In Vancouver, a streetcar operates between Granville Island and Olympic Village during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

When I was living in Paris region, I had the opportunity to take a streetcar for a few months and it had convinced me of the streetcar’s usefulness in a city. To my mind, streetcar combines subway’s reliability with bus’ friendliness.

Olympic streetcar in Vancouver
Olympic streetcar

The Vancouver Olympic line is free until March 21 2010. At the height of the Olympic Games, there was a long line at each station but I was able to take it when it was less busy. My opinion is lukewarm: the streetcar is slow and noisy, seats are uncomfortable and interior space is not optimized. But those defects can be corrected.

The real bad news is that the streetcar won’t last longer than the Paralympic Games in the absence of funding. I finds it is a little sadistic: we get used to a convenient and not much polluting mode of transport and then it will be suddenly suppressed.

Version française

Flags and banners for the Olympics

Whereas Olympic venues are invaded by tourists, in the rest of the city life goes on as usual. The only sign of the Olympics’ presence is a sudden proliferation of Canadian flags. Canada’s colors are proudly displayed on houses and cars.

Canadian flags on a house and a car    Canadian flags on a bike
Flags are displayed on houses, cars and even bikes!

The biggest flag is 32 metres high and wraps the hotel Georgia in Downtown Vancouver. The smallest flags are on label pins, which seem to be fashionable again during the Olympic Games.

reflection of the giant Canadian flag        giant Canadian flag
Giant flag on the hotel Georgia (on the right) and its reflection in the building across the street (on the left)

In the middle of this very consensual display, others try to make themselves heard. On East Hastings Street, a village of tents has been set up to draw attention to homelessness and housing problems in Vancouver. Recently, the prospect of the Olympic Games has accelerated the gentrification of Downtown Eastside, Vancouver’s poorest neighbourhood. Shabby buildings are demolished and replaced by new condos whose rents are too expensive for the residents. Around the Olympic Tent Village, banners demand housing for the forgotten of the Olympic Games.

Olympic Tent Village

Olympic Tent Village
On this poster, the Olympic mascots have blood on their hands

Olympic Tent Village

Version française

Vancouver sees life through red-coloured glasses

Those days in Vancouver red and white are fashionable. Indeed Canadians are patriotic and they are not embarrassed to wear their country’s colors.

young woman with her Olympic mittens
Fashionable women are satisfied with a small touch of red and white: they wear a scarf or the famous olympic mittens. The official mittens are certainly the most popular Olympic collectibles. They are red with a maple leaf (symbol of Canada) on one side and the Olympic rings on the other side.

You can see many red jackets but also caps, hockey jerseys, flags…


Canadian supporters           Canadian supporter

A Canadian supporter from the Mountains
A Canadian supporter from the Mountains

Canadian supporters
Some supporters with Team Canada Hockey Jerseys and a Canadian flag

There are a few supporters of other countries but most fans are here to support Canada. I have only taken pictures of few people but you must imagine nearly half the people on the street wearing red clothes. It is quite impressive.

Version française