I’ve been in Canada two months now. It’s kind of insane the amount that your life can completely change in eight weeks. It doesn’t feel like that short a time ago that I was stepping off the plane in Pearson International, completely overwhelmed and scared about how I was going to get from the airport to my hostel. Even thinking back to that day now, I can feel my fear. It was an almost tangible thing, how scared I was. It froze everything inside me. I couldn’t even cry. I guess the only thing I can do now is do a recap of what happened to me to explain what the general Irish emigrant goes through when they get off the plane.
I arrived on the 13.50 Dublin-Toronto flight that Aer Lingus run daily. That daily flight is the flight that 90% of the people I met got. Different days, different weeks, but always the same flight time. It’s like an express route out of Ireland. I remember getting off the plane and having every single document I would need at the ready, passport, visa, insurance, proof of funds, Garda clearance letter – everything. I had everything ready as I stood in line at immigration.
And what happened? Nothing, I got asked a few questions about what I wanted to do here and where did I go to university and that was it. Visa stamped and that was it. I mean, yes, I did accidentally say I was here “to have some craic” to the immigration officer. But he had obviously had a couple of thousand Irish past him and was unfazed. Still, I wouldn’t recommend it. It is not a suave thing to do when your trying to impress someone.
How I managed to get two insanely huge suitcases off the luggage carousel and into a taxi by myself remains a mystery to me to this day. But I did it and driving into Toronto for the first also remains one of the scariest things I’ve ever done (and I’ve been to Coppers on a Saturday night). You don’t realise the size of the place, it is just so huge, this sprawling city and you have not one clue where your going. You could literally not be any more lost that you are at that moment. Also, the taxi drivers here are not into the chat, so I was in complete silence the whole 45 minute car ride, with just me going ‘Jesus Christ’ if we passed anything cool.
For my first six weeks in this city I stayed in a hostel, The Canadiana Hostel on Widmer Street and I can say it was possibly one of the best decisions of my life. Future Emigrants! A bit of advice! STAY IN A HOSTEL YOUR FIRST FEW WEEKS! You will meet your new Canadian family and have the best time just exploring the place together and having the craic. The Craic in your first four weeks is what will take up much of your time. You will want to have the most of it and have it all the time. You will go drinking every night and lie about the hostel during the day saying how much fun you had the night before, then doing it all again as soon as 6pm hits. This is what your first couple of weeks are for, getting to know the people who you will be living with, who you will be sharing everything with, the people who are basically taking over from your family. You need this time. Take it and enjoy it.
From my time in the hostel there are now a group of about 30 of us that are a little family. We all live together in groups, have a Whatsapp group where we post everything from nights out to what we’re all doing at weird moments in the day, an example being what type of ski mask we were all gonna buy to stop our faces freezing off. It’s just so good to have them. And possibly one of the best things about Irish people abroad is that everyone looks out for each other. When we all started to go on job interviews there was nothing but support and a will for everyone to get on well. No meanness, no fabled Irish begrudgery, just honest to god support. Seriously great to have that kind of network around you.
Finding a job wasn’t that hard. I’m not gonna lie, you don’t get off the plane and walk into a career here. It just doesn’t work that way. Most people here have been to college and have a degree but all of us are in the same boat. Working in retail and service jobs. I’m working in guest services in the aquarium here and its seriously fun, and the money isn’t too bad either! But if you want to continue your career from back home here, or even start it, be prepared to face an uphill battle. Canadian employers in areas like Marketing, HR, Business etc. all have Canadian graduates to pick from and want you to have Canadian experience. Which, you obviously don’t have. But look, I have a two year visa, so I’m not panicking. It’ll happen, you just have to be patient and work really really hard, which is something I’ve found Irish people are really really good at. As we said in the hostel, It’ll be grand lads…..it’ll be grand!
Do you know what is really hard though, here in Toronto? Finding somewhere to live. Getting a place to rent is perhaps the single biggest nightmare about living here. It is nigh on impossible to get somewhere decent without spending about $700-800 on rent. That’s just the facts. Once you get over the sick feeling of having to pay that every month then you’ll be able to deal with things a bit easier. You will need to jump through several fiery airborne hoops to be able to rent in Toronto though, credit checks, employment letters, first and last (and sometimes an extra month in-between) is all needed to secure somewhere. And even then, more than likely your gonna end up living in a hole. Just be prepared for a hard old time of it when looking for a place. Because otherwise you shall be living in a crack den that makes the RV from Breaking Bad look like a palace and still paying $700 for the privilege.
I’m currently living in a sublet with 6 of my friends. We all have our own rooms and are paying basically nothing for rent, because we have to be out by February. But the thought of having to spend Christmas in the hostel was just slightly depressing, so we took it and haven’t looked back. We get to save now until then and the househunt starts again in January. We’ll have ourselves a bit more together by then so I’m not too worried. Yet.
So…..House. Friends. Job. The big three. All checked off. It’s weird, because when your on that 13.50 flight on your own, the fear of not having those things is so all consuming that when everything falls into place, you don’t notice because your too panicked about finding one of the others. It’s strange. I’m only writing this post now because this is quite possibly the first time in two months that I have been able to sit down for longer that an hour and think about how my life has changed since I stepped onto that plane. It boggles my mind a little bit that it has only been 8 weeks. It feels so much longer, but then again I can be sitting on the subway on the way to work or walking past the CN Tower and you’ll be like…..ARGH! I’M IN TORONTO!! Then you cop on and go about your day.
It’s very strange. But in a good way.
Oh….but it is F**KING FREEZING here. No joke. There will be frozen Irish people littered around these streets by winters end. For sure.