FRESH from India: A Newcomer’s Guide to Vancouver
Work, love or a desire for good coffee and sushi, has landed you in Vancouver. You’ve decided to stay. How do you establish yourself permanently in this lush corner of the Pacific Northwest? In our latest series, “Fresh”, we ask newly minted Vancouverites about the trials and tribulations they encountered when moving here. Today, in our last instalment, we feature Astha from India.
Astha is a young software engineer who applied for her PR card – or permanent residency – in India before moving to Vancouver. Her academic and professional credentials ensured Canada would welcome her! She arrived July 2018.
What brought you to Vancouver?
I have always loved to travel. I had explored South east Asia, extensively – the breathtaking beaches of Philippines, wonderful structures in Singapore, Thailand, Halong Bay in Vietnam, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, SriLanka and obviously, my incredible home country, India. I wanted to explore western countries now and wanted to be with people who are open to meeting others from different cultures, open to welcoming immigrants. Vancouver was definitely unbeatable when it came to diversity and good job opportunities so I decided to apply for Canadian Permanent Residency. Also, the weather is awesome. Given I hadn’t experienced winters for the last 8 years, I was not ready to move to colder parts of Canada.
What documentation did you need to have in place before arriving?
It’s an elaborate process so the list is quite extensive. Initially I needed the WES certification of my college degree for which I had to obtain my college transcripts. I needed to submit the scores from IELTS exam as well. Other documents I required to gather were my passport, background check certificate, proof of financial security from the banks and proof of my employment from the employer. It took around 6 weeks to receive the letter of invitation for permanent residency. Upon landing, it is advised to carry all these documents but, in my experience, the officials just check your COPR and the passport.
What documentation did you need to secure once here?
I obtained my SIN number right after I landed. However, I opened my bank account and applied for BCId after only 3 months of landing. You can only acquire BCId if you show your PR card. SIN is important because you need it to start working in Canada.
When finding a place to live, what were your biggest challenges?
It was extremely difficult to find a place and even to arrange a viewing. Often by the time my appointment was set, the place was already taken. Not to mention, the rent was exorbitant. I had such a hard time finding an apartment and then found out I had to pay move-in charges as well.
If you are new to Vancouver, you need to be really careful about the scams here. People will ask you to deposit money without any rental agreement or they will ask you for you address and phone number even before you visit the apartment. These are all red flags and you should stop communicating with these suspicious landlords.
What did landlords expect from you?
I never had the chance to interact with a landlord directly. I dealt directly with the realtor/property manager. They are very stringent when it comes to rent. Apart from that, most of the apartments don’t allow pets. If pets are allowed then the rent will be higher by $200-300. I don’t have one but I would like the option to have one.
What do you know now that you wish you knew before coming to Vancouver?
I wish I knew how much it rains here!! You need raincoats and boots to fully embrace living in Vancouver.
In addition, I wish I had a better understanding of the tech industry here and the job scenario. Frankly speaking, the job opportunities here are not as good for me as they were in Bangalore, India. Regardless, I am still happy with my decision to come to Canada.
Also, I was told by many, that having Canadian job experience was important before applying for a job. This was frustrating for me having worked with Amazon, India for 2 years and then as a senior software engineer at a startup, MindTickle for 2 years. I had a very strong technical background but not Canadian experience specifically. I received a lot of rejections from the companies without even securing a first interview so I guess they were right. Since I started working here, though, I am hopeful this won’t be the case going forward.
Thankfully, I was working remotely for an Indian company for 3 months before I secured my current job at a Vancouver start-up.
What do like best/worst about living here?
I really love how willing people here are to offer help. It was easy to fall in love with the city – less pollution, wonderful public transportation and a plethora of world famous weekend getaways within a 3 hour drive. Plus, I finally have an opportunity to learn to snowboard and ski.
I have also been fortunate enough to meet many people with such diverse life goals and that surely has changed my point of view and perspective towards life.
The worst part – or the part that required most adjustment – was doing my own housework. In India, we had a lot of help cleaning the apartment, helping with cooking etc. and these services are not affordable here. The worst part is washing dishes. But apart from that, I feel a little uncomfortable walking on empty roads in the evening but for the most part, I feel safe.
What do you miss most about home (other than family/friends)?
I miss spicy Indian food A LOT. I also miss huge Indian apartments with a lot of living space…and Uber!