Immigrating is Emotionally Challenging – Here are 4 Tips to Help You Handle the Strain Well

Moving to an entirely different country – starting over, in a new culture with new store names, new customs and new (far colder) weather, finding a new job and home, new friends and new, well almost everything – is most likely going to stretch you, mold you, and this will hurt a bit. Let’s take a look at 4 tips to help you handle the challenges of immigration well. You might, might be a stoic rock that will not shift an inch, but the stories of those who have gone before you indicate that you would be far better off assuming that this will not be the case. As all other mortals, the challenges of immigration will test you. Let’s come prepared for this adventure.
Don’t get me wrong, you can definitely handle relocation well. Just don’t ignore the fact that there will be challenges. Call a spade a spade, and then –  play to win the game.

Talk about it

The fact that the challenges of immigration are real was forcefully brought home to us when we started seeing couples getting divorced because of it – this showed that Deanne’s own immigration experience was not unique. Immigration also challenges others, in many different ways.
In the rest of this article, we will look at factors that produce this deadly strain, as well as considering tested methods for reducing the negative impact these factors can have on you. But, if you are in a relationship and your partner is traveling with you to Canada, you must realize that such preparation can never replace the role communication plays in protecting and upholding your relationship from the rough seas of life, not least the challenges of immigration.

Communication must exist between you and your partner about the impact the challenges of immigration have on you as individuals and as a couple. The danger is that you will feel so alone in your feelings, as if nobody understands you, that you will feel that you cannot even talk to your partner about it. This will cause you to move further and further away from each other.  If you want your relationship to last you must make a concerted effort to communicate with each other. You have the incredible privilege of having one person by your side that can at least partially understand the challenges of immigration you are facing, can understand what you are feeling. It would be a shame to lose this relationship due to negligence on your part.

In order to look after this relationship, with a person who is so close to you they are moving across the wide ocean by your side – you have to communicate. This requires that you make time to converse, and that, when you talk, you do it well. And when you fight you fight clean. Check out the informative article 10 Commandments of Clean Communication for tips on how to do this well. And as for time together to allow for conversation – only you can make that happen. Luckily it is something you can start practicing before you immigrate so that you are ready for it when the immigration game begins, the challenges of immigration come forth and the stakes are even higher.
In the end, it comes down to making time to communicate, and to do it well. To share things the challenges of immigration you face even if you are not sure your partner will understand. Listening to them when they, in turn, share the challenges of immigration they face with you.
You are in this together.

Find the right location

Deciding where in Canada you are going to live should be something you give considerable thought to – since making a poor choice in this department is one of the primary sources of pressure on new immigrants. If one only picks a city in Canada because one has heard about it multiple times and the photographs are pretty, one can be in for an unpleasant surprise, birthing for yourself one of the darkest challenges of immigration. Some have ended up sitting jobless in a city rapidly draining the lifeblood form their savings.

The right location for you should be decided using at least these three variables.

  1. Aesthetic and Cultural Preference
  2. Employment Options and Income Potential
  3. Living Costs

Many people only select using the first factor and end up in a city with absurd living costs (Some Canadian cities have living costs rivaled only by a handful of other cities) and then struggle to find a job. This is not a situation one wants to be in. To avoid it and ease you immigration stress by orders of magnitude you must carefully consider the other two variables.

The Canadian immigration system is designed such that if you are allowed into Canada through any stream other than the refugee stream you have a skill required in Canada, which in turn means that you should be able to find a Job in Canada. However, not all cities are created equal. In some, there is a greater need for skill X, and in others for skill Y. Ending up in a Y city with an X skill will mean that you will have a harder time finding a job. Thus when deciding on cities to move to first seek through Canadian job listings to find cities where you know your skills are required and what your income potential would be in each city where you can find employment.

Note that it will be much easier to get a job once you are in Canada than it would be while you are still in your country of origin. Do not think you have to get a job before going to Canada. However, you should know that there are jobs in your profession available in the city you are relocating to as well as what you could expect to earn.

The third factor is very important. If can get a job in multiple cities (which will likely be the case) you will notice that earning potential will differ from city to city. You should not immediately pick the city where you can earn the most. Rather you should pick the city where you can get the most with the money you earn. This means comparing each city’s expected earnings to it’s expected living costs (primarily the cost of buying or renting property).

In the end, you want to select a city where you can get a job, one that catches your fancy, and a city where you like what kind of lifestyle you would be able to afford.  

Don’t buy a house (or rent) immediately

So, you have selected the right city, you know you will be able to get a job and you know exactly what house, in what suburb, you would want to buy. So you move to Canada, check it out and it’s perfect, even better than you imagined. So you buy it.

While this can work out very well for you, there are also multiple ways in which it can bite you. Making a mistake in this department causes some of the biggest challenges of immigration.

Firstly, you are not guaranteed of getting a job immediately, and paying the mortgage (or even rent) while you have no source of income can be a particularly violent source of stress. Secondly, you might find that you do not really like the neighborhood you bought in after living in it for a few weeks. Perhaps the traffic to work is terrible. So is there a better way of approaching this? Don’t buy (or rent) immediately.

A better strategy than buying, or signing a lease agreement, upon arrival in Canada, is to stay in neighborhoods you are considering. “Test drive” them. This can be done effectively using Airbnb. Staying in Airbnb’s in multiple neighborhoods is an effective way of getting a feel for different areas. This is because with Airbnb you stay, not in a bed and breakfast or a hotel, but in an actual home. Using Airbnb for accommodation at the start of your stay in Canada gives you time to live in Canada before you buy a home. You will be able to test the traffic to work and multiple other small things like finding grocery stores and pharmacies before you start the difficult task of moving in and setting up your own home.

Staying in Airbnb’s until one finds a job, a neighbourhood and a house one truly likes – one that is a manageable distance from your work, is an effective way of slowing the immigration process down so that you can take a good look at everything happening around you, making it easier for you to make good decisions. It spaces out the array of things you must do in your first weeks and months in Canada and gives you a chance to test different neighborhoods before you get contractually bogged down.

Study the small things

Lastly, it would be useful for you to learn about small things. Not understanding terms Canadians use or not knowing how to handle the extreme winter weather, such small things can cause unnecessary friction. Do some research about Canada. Make it fun! Find out what toothpaste they use, where most people go during the holidays, how to drive in the snow – anything you might be wondering about. There are useful resources for new Canadians, created by people who are themselves immigrants to Canada, on forums like SACanada. Here you can find information about what to do when you first arrive, how to find people who are of like mind and solutions to challenges (many you would not even be able to imagine) common to all immigrants. Such forums and a general knowledge of Canada (even the smallest things) will help you to find a community to slot into as fast as possible. Being alone is not fun, even in Canada.

Final Thoughts

A further source of emotional strain for immigrants is being far away from their family who might still live in their country of origin. In our upcoming blog post, we will discuss ways in which you can soothe this challenge of immigration and perhaps even help your family members to immigrate to Canada themselves. The very fact that you are a permanent resident in Canada will increase their chances of getting into Canada. But we will discuss the details next time.

In the end, handling the challenges of immigration well comes down to good relationships with those closest to you, a good plan, some neat tricks, like those shared in this post, and a clear idea of what to expect.

Feel free to book a consultation with Deanne Acres for more information about what it is like to adjust to life in Canada. She will be able to give advice specific to you about what you can do to be prepared for the move. A move that will be challenging, but also very much worthwhile.