It is my third day in Vancouver, BC and although it still doesn’t seem real I am enjoying it. It hasn’t been easy and had a few mini breakdowns but nothing in life is easy and surely this is part of the adventure right?
Yesterday me and James met the SWAP team for an orientation meeting. Previously I mentioned Bunac who are the team in the UK that helped us get here. Now SWAP take over whilst we are in Canada. They hold an orientation meeting every Thursday for their newcomers. I was really looking forward to it as I was starting to worry about not finding accommodation or work. Their office is welcoming and has useful stuff pinned all over the walls. The staff who greeted us were friendly and double checked our visas.
I was issued my working visa on arrival on Tuesday. This was daunting and scary. After reading online all the horror stories attached to immigration I was not looking forward to it. Obviously I have nothing to hide but it instantly makes you feel guilty. Bunac told me to print my Point of Entry letter, proof of funds (minimum 2500 Canadian dollars), insurance and passport (duh). These were to be handed to the scary immigration staff. When I walked into this long room with about 30 counters and only two officers working I was expecting a long wait. Me and James took a seat with about 40 people in front of us and got comfy. Not much time had passed and our names were called which was a surprise as I was expecting to progress in the queue until I got to the front. I was handed my work permit which I double checked as told by Bunac. Everything was correct but I still had to hang around to get everything stamped. It was finally my turn to walk to the next counter available and speak to the immigration officer. I just handed her everything I had and hoped for the best. She didn’t crack a smile or ask me anything really. She didn’t even look at all the important documents I was meant to bring. ALWAYS bring them though as you never know. So that was that, I have a work permit and off I went.
So going back to the orientation meeting, it kicked off with a slideshow and an envelope with important information in. I cannot remember the womans name but she was fun and had a good sense of humour. She went through the basics, what to expect, what to do and what not to do and all the different neighbourhoods. It really put my mind at ease as it sunk in that people do this all the time and succeed. The office has an open door policy so it’s great to know we can just pop in whenever we need to. They also help you with your CV aka resume and they have a lot of contacts with employers. About 8 other travellers were there, all in the same shoes. They hold events weekly, like outdoor cinema nights, walking tours, nights out and activities. A great place to meet like minded people.
From the meeting I learnt how to get my Social Insurance Number (SIN), a bank account and a sim card for my phone. Hand in hand, feeling like it was all sinking in we headed to the Service Canada building to gain a SIN. It was a super easy process, we checked in and waiting for about half an hour. A lady shouted our names and we had to hand our passport and work permit to her and she created a SIN for us both. Next stop was the bank, SWAP recommended CIBC as they do a 12 month free account. In Canada you have to pay to bank your money so a free year sounded perfect. Another helpful lady set up an account for us both, seriously Canada is full of friendly, helpful individuals. Finally we got to the phone shop, explained our situation and were told about a $40 monthly plan which included free texts to the UK, 500 Canada wide minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB data. It was a sad moment saying goodbye to my english phone number which I’ve had since day one and replacing it with a funny looking one. We felt accomplished and productive so treated ourselves to poutine. A canadian dish originating in the province of Quebec, made with french fries and cheese curds topped with gravy. It doesn’t sound pleasant to me but I’m a huge fan now. I had mac and cheese poutine which was unbelievably tasty…
Here’s more photos of what I’ve seen so far…
Today is Canada Day so going to see how the Canadians celebrate, most shops are shut so I’m hoping for a good time.