Despite the fact that Canada was just ranked the second best country in the world, one woman from New Zealand is saying that ‘the land of the free’ isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Here’s her stressful but also uplifting story:
“Before we left New Zealand on January 19, 2002 (myself, my husband and our three kids, ages 14, 11, and 9), I did enough research on Canada to fill a small encyclopedia. I probably knew more about Canada than most Canadians,” the Kiwi said. “Sadly, the one thing I didn’t research was the hourly rates of pay. Turns out the minimum wage in Canada is significantly less than New Zealand. Was then and still is now.”
Her family first arrived in Sydney, Nova Scotia where she found work as a bank teller. In those days, minimum wage was only $7.10, which she thought was absolutely ridiculous. “How could anyone possibly live on that,” she exclaimed.
Adding to the financial pressure was the fact that Canada was covered in ice and snow for up to 6 months of the year, leaving businesses closed and workers without a steady and reliable income.
“They also do things differently,” she explained. “Everyday things you take for granted, like car insurance (hellishly expensive - we paid $350 a month for our car insurance when we first arrived, because we were considered new drivers in Canada), or just opening a bank account. Nothing seems as straightforward as it was in New Zealand.”
She felt that all of these things, which are considered norms in Canada, just didn’t make any sense.
“Canadians are happy with this and don’t question it,” she said. “They also like to form long lines and just wait. Kiwis are too impatient for that sort of nonsense.”
Things took a turn for the worst when her husband found out the job he was originally offered in Sydney had fallen through. They had already sold everything they possessed back in New Zealand, including their house, just to finance the move. And, because they were new to the country, they were not entitled any form of assistance since they hadn’t been in the country for at least six months.
Fast forward to winter of that year, and things still weren’t looking up for the Kiwis. The husband eventually found a job at a call centre, but was miserable the entire time he worked there. At that point, the family had so little money they had to survive the winter on burning $300 oil drums and keeping the thermostat at 14 C. The kids took a toll, too. Their eldest daughter had a hard time adjusting to the different curriculum at school, and was also bullied for being an immigrant.
Things got better around 2004, when the family moved to Saint John, New Brunswick. There, they settled into their jobs and remained comfortable for the next six years. But by 2009, their situation became rocky again, as the husband was laid off his job at the steel company he was stationed at. It was tough to find work again in Saint John because it was, in essence, a steel town, so everybody was laid off with him and looking for work as well. After three months of applying across the country, he finally got an offer in Calgary, Alberta.
“He and I drove across the country and got him set up in an apartment,” she explained. “I flew back to Saint John and left him there. It was the day of our 29th wedding anniversary. That was hard. After all we'd been through, we now had to face living apart.”
From that point forward, the husband and wife continued to move around to different cities, chasing job after job. One year it was Calgary, and the next it was Regina or Saskatoon. The couple spent some years living apart from each other, and from their kids as well. Their eldest daughter got married to a Canadian and brought them their first grandchild, and their son enlisted in the Canadian military.
“They paid all this tuition and living expenses while he was at university studying pharmacy, and on his graduation from there, became a Captain in the RCAF. He was a week or so short of his 23rd birthday, and at that time, was the youngest captain in all 16 NATO countries. Yes, we are inordinately proud of our boy. Canada has been very good to him. He never would have got that sort of an opportunity in New Zealand.”
Now in 2018, the couple still remains optimistic for the future. The husband found a job in Regina, where he will be starting in April. They will finally be able to be in the same place for their 38th wedding anniversary, which is a big deal considering how many anniversaries they weren’t able to spend together in the past nine years.
“I wonder what it will be like living together again,” she ponders. “It’s been a while.”
It seems that everything is finally coming full circle for the Kiwis. Surprisingly, despite all of their struggles and disappointments, they still love Canada with all their heart and consider it their home. The wife ends her account with a moving statement about Canada and her overall experience:
“The people are wonderful, well 99 per cent of them are. There are bad eggs here like everywhere else.I have made some wonderful friends whom I love dearly. We now have three beautiful Can-iwi grandkids and two great sons-in-laws. We have a lovely new home and are looking forward to retiring in a few years. We went to hell and back when we first got to Canada, but that old saying of what doesn't kill you makes you stronger is oh, so true. We fought our way back and we made it. Canada is home, and we love it here.”