I have been there when I first landed in the US and then moved to Canada. It is a weird feeling to leave your home behind to look for a better and secured future. We come to Canada to look for Financial Freedom and better life.
I am fortunate to have good friends and family members in both US and Canada who helped me with the transition to these countries. For an Immigrant it is difficult at first when you have no support. There is a difference in culture and lifestyle and also different languages to learn. It is a big learning curve and it is good for us to learn and adapt to have a better life.
1. LEARN ABOUT YOUR SURROUNDINGS
Everything may look very overwhelming coming from developing countries to developed countries.
There are rules to follow and people do not behave or act the same way.
It is a good idea to come out, take a walk to the nearest park, bus or train ride, visit the nearest restaurants.
Try to go around your apartment or home and try to talk to people and ask questions about the neighborhood. You will notice, people here in Canada are very nice and they are very happy to help even if you do not speak very well English.
2. GET SIN NUMBER
This is obvious; you want to get your SINSSN number to start working. Try to look for the
nearest “Service Canada” online and you will require to go there to get this done. It does not take much time and there is not much wait time either.
3. SET UP BANK ACCOUNTS
Once you receive your SIN number, you can visit any nearest bank to open a new bank account. TD, RBC and CIBC are very big and popular banks in Canada. There is not much difference in quality or service, they all are very good, and you can pick
You may want to be very careful with bank fees, accounts are not free in Canada and there may be charges after certain transactions, so you want to understand all the details about your bank account.
4. BUILD AND PROTECT YOUR CREDIT
There is one very important thing you must understand about developed countries; your CREDIT is very important. You can put yourself in a difficult position if you do not build or protect your credit. It takes a lot of work to build good credit and it takes nothing to ruin it.
Buying your first car or house may depend on this. So, take this very seriously.
5. PROTECT YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION AND IDENTITY
Your personal information becomes more valuable once you are in Canada, it’s because it’s being sold to other countries to run scams. So, it’s important to understand that you don’t give your SIN number, Passports, or Personal documents to someone you don’t know very well.
Someone can use your information to open fake bank accounts, credit cards, bank loans and it may end up ruining your credit. These things are way more common than you think.
Specially, SIN number, you are not supposed to share your SIN number to other people unless it is needed for Work, Accounting, or government stuff. Illegal immigrants can use your information (SIN) to work and to save on taxes. You may get in trouble with the government in such cases.
6. DON’T FALL FOR SCAMS
I am receiving a few FAKE calls every month, which is pretending to be a call from Canada Revenue Agency but actually it is a scam. They call to scare you that there is a Tax fraud case against you, and you must pay money in case you want to settle it right away. There are stories of older people falling for these scams.
Someone pretending to be in love with you, they really find you attractive but stuck somewhere in another country. They lost their bag and need money urgently to come back to Canada.
Someone may call you to give you double your money, all you need to do is to give them $1,000 now and they give you a bank cheque of $2,000. They will take your money and that cheque will bounce.
You won some stuff or lottery out of nowhere, but they want you to pay a few hundred dollars for shipping and handling. You can pay for the shipping, but you will never be receiving anything.
7. GET DRIVING LICENSE EVEN IF YOU WON’T DRIVE
- First, it gives you identity and it is easy to travel around without taking your passport with you
all the time.
- Second, it creates your driving history. You will be getting a car some day and you will need to
get an insurance, having a driving license for a long time will help you get
better insurance rates.
- Third, it is very easy to rent a car in Canada, it is one the best option to travel around to see
8. DON’T GET STUCK IN BASIC LEVEL JOBS
People need money to live and eat, and sometimes they are forced to accept some very basic level jobs to support their living. But it is important to remember and understand that it’s just to give yourself a start but not to keep yourself stuck in the same job for the rest of your life.
Trades like Electrician, Plumber, General Contractors, Mechanic, Carpenter, Nurse have very good hourly rates which is in no comparison to any basic level job. These trades are not paid very well in developing countries like India, but you will be surprised to see how expensive it is if you need an Electrician or Plumber for just 1 hr. This is one of the reasons why people here in Canada try to learn to do some basic stuff themselves.
Try to focus on your education and if you are interested choose your trade to start earning much more.
9. ADAPT TO NEW ENVIRONMENT AND CULTURE
It is important to keep your identity and your culture but at the same time you must learn about local environment and cultures. It’s nice to interact with local people and get to know them.
You will notice how often people use the words like PLEASE or SORRY out of respect. It’s important to learn to give other people space while walking on the sidewalk or travelling by bus or trains.
Due to excessing sweating and poor hygiene habits you can not resist the body odor for long unless you use deodorant. It can happen with heavy physical activities and I think the closed environment is also one of the factor, we are mostly inside in very sealed rooms and we don’t get exposed to fresh air.
You may always want to keep your outdoor clothing in the closet to make sure it won’t start smelling with homemade food.
11. PERSONAL SPACE
Have you heard of personal space before? You may have not, if you are coming from high populated countries like India.
It depends on culture and from which country you came. People had no choice than to stand and sit very close to each other. You will find that out soon enough that it is not going to work here, people like to have their personal space. You should maintain a distance from another person while waiting in the line or travelling by bus or train.
It will be nice to learn to ask nicely if you want something before using something that doesn’t belong to you.
12. LEARN TO COOK
This may be the end of eating all that delicious food your mom cooked for you and if you don’t know how to cook. Eating outside all the time gets expensive very fast, you will struggle all your life if you eat out all the time. So, it is time to learn some basic cooking to eat healthy and save money.
Most probably both husband and wife will need to work, and this is the time you both need to share the cooking responsibilities. This is one of the big changes you may see while moving to Canada.
13. LEARN TO LIVE WITH PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT LIFESTYLE AND MINDSET
Coming alone to Canada? you may be sharing an apartment with someone you don’t know. He or She may belong to the same country, but people are not the same even when they come from the same place.
It is possible, you never had to live with someone like this, but it can get easier when you put other people’s needs before you.
Are you loud? using the phone all the time? Are you throwing stuff all over the apartment? Are you a cleanliness person or a messy person?
You may want to ask these questions while living with someone.
14. ONLINE JOBS AND RECRUITMENT AGENCIES
- There are sites like Indeed.ca and Kijiji.ca which lists local jobs and which will be great for newcomers to Canada.
- Look for local recruitment agencies like RANDSTAND in your city and drop off your resume.
- New Students should try to contact other students who came before them or other’s in their Classes to find connections to get starting jobs.
15. PHONE WITH GOOD DATA PLAN
Canada has one of the most expensive phone plans, you should try to do more research to find good deals.
- It always looks like we get free phones in Canada, but you are paying for it. Cost of new phone is part of your monthly payments.
- It’s always a good idea to get new phone plans around Good Friday or Christmas time.
- It’s a bad idea to get the latest phone because it’s always the expensive option in the market, try to go with phones which came 1 or 2 year prior, you may be paying $20-$30 less by just doing that.
16. SAVE AND INVEST
- Students mainly need to save money for their school fees, just be careful from stupid SALES and Status buying to show off. Sales are not worth wasting your hard-earned money, it’s always better to buy stuff you need instead of getting confused with sale and buying wrong stuff which you are never going to use. And you are already in Canada, you do not need any showoff.
- New Immigrants are starting their lives from scratch and it takes time to build wealth. But it’s not something impossible. First thing first, you need to start saving at least 10% of your income and start investing. You can start with any small investment like Mutual funds or Index funds. Main point here is to start as early as possible; you will have to do a lot of catching up, considering you will be starting with nothing.
17. UNDERSTAND RRSP AND TFSA
Students may not need to worry about this yet considering they have to take care of their fees but understanding this part will help you to build your future.
But Immigrants, you need to understand this right away.
RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan)
It is like a PENSION FUND, there will be basic level money provided by the Government in Canada during your retirement years, but I can tell you that it’s not much. Currently, it’s in the range of $1,000 per person which is not much to have a nice retirement. This means, you need to build your own retirement plan and start putting money in RRSP. (I will share some details based on my personal experience)
- There will not be any Tax charged by CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) on the money deposited to RRSP Account.
- Pay the Tax at the time you take money out of the RRSP Account during Retirement.
- You can open an RRSP Account at any of your local banks and they will transfer your account details to CRA. You also have the option to set up an RRSP account with your Employer. Some employers give the option to contribute money (up to a certain percentage of your salary) to your RRSP account, this is mainly part of your job benefit.
Remember, do not miss this free money, I have seen people not taking it.
- Ideally, you are not supposed to take money out of an RRSP Account before Retirement, but you always have the option to do so. Banks will deduct taxes right away and will send those to CRA. There may be some penalties as well to withdraw money early from RRSP.
- Under RRSP Account, you can invest your money in Mutual Funds, Index Funds or Fixed Deposits.
- You will have the option to withdraw money from your RRSP account to buy your first home without paying any taxes and you will have to pay back this money to your RRSP account every year within next 15 years.
So, Main thing about RRSP is that you do not pay taxes on your money right now and it grows over time. You will see how much taxes we pay here in Canada, then you understand why it can be a good idea to put money in RRSP and save taxes.
TFSA (Tax Free Savings Account)
TFSA is one of the best investment vehicles to put your money in. I like this one even better than RRSP because you pay no Taxes on any returns or growth in your TFSA Account.
For Example, you invested $1,000 in Mutual Funds under the TFSA Account now and after 10 years, it’s grown to $10,000. You won’t pay any taxes on $10,000 if you withdraw this money.
- You can invest only $6,000 per year in TFSA. There may be penalties if you invest more than that. But good thing, investment limit carries forward, you can invest $12,000 next year if you couldn’t invest this year and it never expires.
- If you put $6,000 in a TFSA Account and withdraw in the same year, you lose your limit for that year, you should wait for next year to put money back unless you have some limit available from the previous year.
- You can withdraw money anytime from TFSA without any penalties.
I suggest, if you have low income then invest in TFSA instead of RRSP because you are not getting much Tax benefit using RRSP. For High Income,
18. UNDERSTAND RESP FOR IMMIGRANTS WITH KIDS
If you are a new immigrant coming with kids or planning to have kids soon, you should find out more about RESP (Registered Education Savings Plan).
It’s a savings plan for your kid’s college education, and the best part is that Canada Government adds 20-30% money to your education plan for any money invested by you (up to $2,500 per year).
For Example: Suppose you invested $1,000 in Mutual Funds under RESP Account, Canada Government will add $200 – $300 to the same account.
- This money should be used for your child’s education only.
- You will have a choice to withdraw this money, but the government will take their funds back.
- You can invest your money in Mutual Funds, Index Funds, Fixed Deposit, or any other investment available at a bank under the RESP Account.
- Bank will directly work with Canada Government to get the benefit directly; you don’t have to do anything other than filling out a form at the bank with your kid’s details.
19. DON’T GET INTIMIDATED WITH HOUSING PRICE
A House has been one of the biggest investments for so many Canadian over time and people come here with the dream to live an amazing life in a beautiful house. But lately, house prices have gone so high and it may seem like buying a house is just a dream.
Anything is possible here and buying a house is just a matter of saving and planning. Just take one step at a time and save some money to buy anything small that you can. Then slowly move up over time. This is how most of the people came before you have done.
20. LEARN FRENCH LANGUAGE FOR FREE
It will be big asset to know French language , Canada is built with immigrants and knowing as many languages is just an asset.
You can look for Government agencies providing free French Language training for new immigrants.
I am going to mention Tipping because it was not so common practice around my hometown in India. It is normal to pay around 15%-20% TIP on top of your bill for following services –
- Taxi, you can TIP based on how nice Taxi driver is or how clean the Taxi is. Or if the Taxi driver helped you with the bags to put them in the trunk.
- Hair Cut, it’s normal to pay extra $2 – $5 on top of your hair cut cost for Men. For ladies, it can be a lot more but you can go with the 15%-20% percentage rule when you are not sure.
- Eating out at restaurants, you do not need to tip at fast food places like Macdonald’s because it is self-service, and no one is going to serve you at the table.
- Deliveries, it is very common to tip a delivery guy mainly for food or groceries delivered to your home.
You can TIP 15% when you are not sure about how much you should be tipping.
WELCOME TO CANADA and Don’t forget to leave your feedback in comments section.