Newcomer Pt. 3

One phrase: Show up.

When you move to another country, it’s a given that everything will become unfamiliar. But, give it time. I’ve been in Canada for 5 years now and I only really started to have friends around 2-3 years ago. Before that, it was a blur of acquaintances and coworkers that stop communicating after you or they leave the job.

In my first few jobs, I noticed that people bonded over attending the same university. Now, I’m in university, I notice that people bond over attending the same program or the same classes. Because you’re a newcomer, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll meet someone at work who went to the same university.

So, I did a few things to (1) socialize and (2) practice my spoken English:

I volunteered for a couple of film festivals. Growing up, I used to watch international films on Saturday nights. There was this one TV channel that would feature them late at night. They were really obscure in my home country. It was quite difficult to discuss “Farewell My Concubine,” “Postmen In The Mountains,” and “Not One Less” with people I knew. I continued watching what I used to call “offbeat” films in university (back in the Philippines). I met a few people who shared my enthusiasm for these things. I even found a personal bootlegger to get me weird films for a lower price because we both knew no one would buy those. That’s how I learnt about “Volver,” “Where Is The Friend’s Home?,” and “Welcome” (2009). In Canada, volunteering was a nice way to talk to people from different walks of life who had the same love for film. I also enjoyed the freebies that came with volunteering.

Whenever I got invited to a party, I showed up. I didn’t care if the only person I knew in that party was the person who invited me. I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin that being a wallflower is not something I find negative at all. Sometimes, people do approach and make small talk. You don’t have to force rapport. If it’s there, it’s there and you’ve made yourself a new friend. If it’s not there, that’s perfectly fine too.

I enrolled in some hobby classes. The Toronto District School Board has this program called Learn 4 Life and it has seasonal evening classes. It can be anywhere from basic French to sewing. Community Centres have sports facilities that may be free to use. The Art Gallery of Ontario has art classes too. Or, go to Meetup or Eventbrite to find your niche.

Some nights, especially in your first couple of years, will be lonely. But, if you put yourself out there, you’ll find your tribe… or tribes. Sometimes, you won’t even need a tribe to just do what you want to do. Grab a pint at a local pub because you can. I go there for the Irish music. I often go to art galleries and museums alone because I enjoy looking at artworks in silence.

The opportunities are there, you just have to show up.

I used to feel homesick a lot. I still do, from time to time. It’s still very important to keep in touch with your friends from your home country. But, I’m sure you have room for new friends and new experiences. You have a new home here in Canada, so start feeling comfortable.

In the next part of this series, I’ll write about future plans; because everyone needs to have at least one.

Other parts of the Newcomer series are available here:
Part 1
Part 2

Evening Stroll #1

Adobe Spark (4)I enjoy a little stroll around the neighbourhood sometimes, when my mind needs a reset. This playlist is best enjoyed at sunset into early evening.

1. Coney Island Stroll – Slow Hands
2. Dear To Me – Electric Guest
3. Fight Or Flight Or Dance All Night – Kommode
4. Begin – Shallou featuring Wales
5. Higher – Two Another
6. Locked In – biLLLy
7. anemone – slenderbodies
8. Cool Blue – The Japanese House
9. Good Love – Zola Blood
10. Warm On A Cold Night – HONNE

See you later, xo

Newcomer Pt. 2

Disclaimer: I’m not a legal or policy expert. I’m writing based on my own experience and I recognise that this may be different from another person’s experience, especially if that person lives outside Ontario.

I’m assuming that before you arrived in Canada, you are well-educated and most likely the best in your field in your home country. Unless you came here as a skilled worker (like a caregiver), it will be challenging to find work in the same field.

You’ll hear the phrase ‘Canadian experience’ in your job search. 100%! This means having work experience in Canada. So, regardless of your expertise, say being an engineer for 20 years plus with several projects under your name in your home country, Canadian firms in that field will be hesitant about hiring you. I’ve met several people in Toronto who’ve had successful careers in their home country but moved here because they wanted something better for their family, only to find themselves driving an Uber, cleaning toilets or delivering pizza.

The Canadian government made some initiatives to address this underemployment. Universities offer bridging programs, as in the case of foreign-educated nurses and doctors. I think Canada will benefit greatly from the talents of immigrants. I personally find it unfair that highly experienced people are stuck in service jobs when there are several sectors in the job market that barely have any applicants, and the only thing stopping these people from applying is ‘Canadian experience.’

So, what did I do?

I started in service jobs, from fastfood restaurants to hotels. I looked for tasks and acquired skills that I can transfer in the next best job I could find. I used my customer service experience to land a position in the mailroom. My boss sent me to different assignments outside the mailroom too and that gave me experience with reception. Reception led me to office administration work. The entire process took me 3-4 years.

My heart is in health and science, though. So, I went back to university last fall. But, that’s an entirely different blog post.

So, here are some things to keep in mind. Determine whether your occupation is regulated in Canada. If it is, regulatory bodies will let you know what you need to practice in your field here. It might involve some schooling. If it does, make sure you have enough money to fulfill your basic needs while you are in school. Do the math. You might need to work for a few years or maybe 6 months, depends on how long you’ll stay in school. If there’s no regulatory body for your occupation, some of my older friends suggest getting your foot in the door. It may mean starting as a cleaner, mailroom guy or volunteer. In this case, networking will be your friend.

It’s hard work, I know. Sometimes, you’ll feel worthless. I did. Other times, you’ll find yourself questioning whether you made the right decision on moving here. You made the right decision, I’m sure. Canada is a great country for so many reasons (that may need its own blog post too). I can tell you one thing: if you work hard enough, you’ll see the fruit of that hard work.

Next time, I’ll write about homesickness, making friends and going back to school in Canada.

For Part 1, click here.

Summery Daiquiri

Adobe Spark (3)I’ve been told that my music is summery. Here you go!

  1. Riquelme – Yumi Zouma
  2. Say Yeah – Kishi Bashi
  3. Agitations Tropicales – L’Imperatrice
  4. Crush – Tahiti 80
  5. I’m Callin’ – Tennis
  6. Florida – Luke Temple
  7. Moai Y Yo – Maria Usbeck
  8. Suddenly – Drugdealer feat. Weyes Blood
  9. City Boy – AM & Shawn Lee
  10. Yesterday – Swim Mountain


Adobe Spark (1)I’ve been into downtempo music lately. I need a vacation, can you tell?

1. Light Pattern – Bonobo
2. Sunday Drive – Stephane Pompougnac feat. Charles Schillings
3. Epoca – Gotan Project
4. Jazz Lick (Unreleased) – Moodorama
5. All I Ask – Rae & Christian
6. Memories – Waldeck
7. Universal Traveler – Air
8. Fine (Album Mix) – Kate Rogers
9. Anything You Want (Not That) – Belleruche
10.Sweet Sadness – Gabin
11.My Society – De-Phazz
12.Alright – Unforscene

Enjoy xx Bessy

Newcomer Pt. 1

5 years ago, exactly this month, I arrived in Canada.

Before the plane landed, I didn’t know if I was supposed to wear an extra sweater. I heard spring had just started and it might be a little chilly still. When we arrived, the first thing I noticed were the CBSA officers. They were huge! They meant business, guys. We were moved into this cubicle for an interview. I don’t remember much about it. I was too excited to see my mother and too nervous about adapting to Canada and Canadians.

“Will I be okay?”
“What will they think of me?”

Finally, I saw my mother and one of her friends offered to drive us to our new apartment. It was almost midnight. The streets were empty. The buildings were mostly made of exposed brick. The architecture is totally different from where I came from, which is a tropical country. Our apartment was almost empty (not for long though!). The heater beneath the windows really stood out for me. I never really needed heaters for over two decades until that day.

I don’t ever remember being tired or hungry. I do remember being anxious. I was very aware that I only knew my parents, my brothers and my aunt here. Nobody else. I left my friends and my comfort zone on the other side of the world. I knew I had to speak English every day from now on. I also had a feeling I will need all the guts I could gather if I intend to succeed here.

Next morning, we lined up for our SIN cards, OHIP, opened bank accounts and even got ourselves library cards. Back then, we didn’t have anything else but TV and basic furniture in our apartment. So, if we needed to print our resumes to apply for jobs, we went to the library.

I would like to especially mention the genius that is my mother. We did all of the above within 2 days. She planned it really well, so that we can just walk from one office to another, and back to our apartment. At the time, the only person who had a job was my mother. And, having to pay for tokens for a total of 5 people was quite expensive.

Next time, I’ll tell you about job searches and navigating services in Toronto.

I’m writing this series hoping that a newcomer to Canada will chance upon it. I’m also hoping that my experiences settling in my new home will help someone out there make sense of a possible rollercoaster of emotions they might have as they discover different aspects of living in the Canadian society. And, if you want to start a conversation around this topic, feel free to leave comments or send me a message.

Not Just Kids

I rarely talk about this now because it’s been a long time.

When I was bullied, the reasons that got me through were (1) my family needed me to succeed as there was just no other way, (2) the handful of teachers who saw through my strange behaviour at school and actually listened, and didn’t think that “maybe you’re overreacting” is a good advice to a confused teenager, and the (3) few wonderful students who saw beyond the rumours and offered me their friendship when I doubted it yet needed it most.

Adults need to see cruelty as it is. “They’re just kids,” is never a good excuse to not address those involved. Removing accountability from the bullies only encourages them to do it more. Once a bullied child knows that the adults can’t be trusted, they become withdrawn and will no longer trust you or listen to you for anything else (I’m talking parents and teachers). They look for authority or heroes elsewhere.

If you are bullied, don’t fight the pain. Feel it and move past it. Then clear your head and do something about it. It will be hard, trust me, but trying is worth it.

Report incidences to teachers and parents. Keep a document of everything that happened. Adults will ask you for details and you need to be ready if you want to be taken seriously and if incident reports need to be filed. Should your school fail to act on your report, escalate. Seek support groups online for recommendations on how to move forward with your report. They may be able to provide psychological and legal assistance.

Focus on your studies. Pursue other interests and make friends outside school. Spend more time with your family. The bigger your support network becomes, the less lonely you’ll feel. And if you don’t have to deal with troubling emotions, you can concentrate more on important things that need to be done, like college applications, or just the future, in general.

Remember, when you grow up, you will meet people that will remind you of your bullies. Take this as practice on not taking bullshit from anybody. The real world will want you to be brave and grow some thick skin.

But, the real world is also full of good people, more of it, actually. This is why you need to find your tribe somewhere else if you can’t find it in school. You need to remember that there are good people. Not everyone’s out there to get you.

See, I’m grown and I’m glad that more people are bringing this issue to the fore. The bullying has long been over and life got better. Have hope – life does get better.

These suggestions and resources are the ones I wish I would have known and done back then. It may be different to anyone being subjected to bullying right now. Ultimately, I hope that you realize you can actually do something about the situation and most things in our lives are temporary. People come and go, bullies included.

I hope these words help.

Now, enjoy this video of Aziz Ansari. xo