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The high cost of poor preparation

I recently flew to the UK on Canada Wise business and coincidentally was seated next to Kathy, a middle-aged woman, and her young daughter Amanda.

I asked Kathy if she’d been visiting Canada for a holiday. She proceeded to tell me the very interesting and sometimes sad story of how her and her husband Martin had brought their family to Canada, some eight months earlier, to start a new life and how this had not worked out for them.

Their family consisted of a 19-year-old daughter Kerri, as well as 10-year-old Amanda.

Kathy was returning permanently to the UK with her daughter. Martin had gone ahead a month earlier to a new job in their old home town of Newcastle. Kathy was sad and disappointed to be leaving her dream behind and turning her back on their new life in Canada.

As a settlement consultant myself, I was naturally curious to hear more about their particular circumstances, and why she felt that their short-lived time in Canada had been such a dismal failure for her and her family.

Kathy said that the main reason why they were returning to the UK was that neither she nor Martin were able to get jobs, either in their chosen careers or even in low-level jobs. I was surprised to hear this as she had just told me that her husband had a Master’s degree, he had previously been a mathematics teacher, and he was experienced in the IT field, which should have given him ample opportunities for work in his area.

As I listened to Kathy I realised that, despite their best intentions and efforts, neither she nor her husband had really prepared sufficiently well for their move to Canada and that this was the main reason why they had not succeeded in meeting their settlement goals.

Kathy told me that they had not been aware of the settlement services that were available to them, both prior to and upon their arrival in Canada.

They appeared to have been missing some very basic pieces of knowledge, for example knowing the difference between a curriculum vitae and a Canadian-style resumé. They were not aware of the “hidden job market” and how powerful “networking” could have been for them in their quest for work. I asked Kathy if either of them had considered “volunteering” with local organisations or companies in which they would like to work.

This seemed surprising to Kathy and yet it has proved to be a very popular and successful way to find work in Calgary. It allows a potential employer to see that you have gained some “Canadian work experience” as well as giving you a “Canadian work reference” which would have proved most beneficial to both Kathy and Martin in their search for employment.

After listening to Kathy, I told her I felt her story was worth telling in an effort to prevent other “newcomers” from making the same mistakes that she and her husband had made, hence this article.

Kathy and Martin had made some simple mistakes and yet the consequences were enormously painful for them, in both financial and emotional terms. They paid dearly for their lack of advance preparation and local knowledge.

They had sold their home in the UK and with the money from the sale they had purchased land in Okotoks (south of Calgary), on which they’d hoped to build a home of their own. They purchased a vehicle and signed a one-year lease on a rented house.

Kerri had begun her studies at the University of Calgary and Amanda had started school. After eight months they had used up all of their savings, and were forced to ship their car back to the UK at a high cost, as they could not find a buyer willing to offer them a fair price.

City and wilderness views of CanadaThey had all the expense and bother of selling their land, which involved solicitors’ fees, estate agents’ fees etc. Kerri withdrew from university and forfeited a year’s tuition fees of around $3,000 not to mention the disruption caused by taking Amanda out of school mid-term as well.

On his return to the UK, Martin discovered that the cost of purchasing the same size home as they’d previously owned had gone up by more than £30,000. All in all a very expensive cost for the entire family!

The lesson from this story is clear. Good advanced preparation is imperative and will save you and your family financial and emotional pain in the end.

Ask yourself seriously, “Are we properly prepared for our move to Canada? Do we have realistic expectations of what we will face? Are we knowledgeable about the city or town we will relocate to? Do we know what the job market is like in that city?” If you answered no to any of these questions or were honestly unsure of your answers then you are not properly prepared for your move!

My advice to you is firstly to spend time on the internet to find out some general information about Canada. Hire someone to support you and your family through the entire transition, preferably someone with local knowledge and connections.

Consultants, embassies, travel agents and, of course, local people can provide you with relevant and timely information. Don’t be afraid to ask.

If you would like to take Canada Wise’s short quiz “Am I prepared for my move to Canada?”, please feel free to visit their web site at www.canadawise.com. They also offer regular articles about moving to and settling in Canada and many free downloads which would assist you and your family in preparation for the transition to your new life.

Good luck with your move!

PG Author: Thelma O'Connor

Thelma O' Connor, B.A., CERC Relocation Specialist, emigrated to Canada from London in 1995 and now runs Canada Wise http://www.canadawise.com/

Canada Wise provides relocation support, and cross-cultural training/coaching for newcomers to Canada.

Contact Thelma via her web site or by phone: +1 (403) 226-4999.
Follow Canada Wise on Twitter – @CanadaWise

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