Being an Immigrant

When I left my home country to come to Canada more than a decade ago, for the first time in my life I did not possess a key. I was sitting in the airplane taking me to Canada without a car or a house key, crying my eyes out. I was scared to death but I was also excited for a brand new life in a brand new country.

I felt like a fish out of water outside the Toronto Pearson Airport while waiting for our landlord to pick up and take us to the basement apartment in North York that we have rented for a month.

Everything was a struggle at the beginning. Within a month, we had to find a permanent place to live, secure a mortgage for our house, settle down, find a school for our son, buy a car, understand the way life goes in our new neighbourhood. I was lucky as I got help to get a job pretty quickly through some business connections that the company I worked at earlier had in Canada. But when I started to work, I have realized that the level of my English, which I thought was good, was nowhere near enough to communicate properly.

Only an immigrant can understand what it means to arrive in a country where you don’t know anybody, you don’t have anyone from your family, friends or any kind of support system, you don’t have any idea how to navigate or handle even small daily chores. It might be one of the most challenging changes one might attempt to accomplish. Even the little things that you take for granted at home become things that you have to learn from scratch in a new country. Opening a bank account, buying a car, getting approval for a mortgage, even buying a laptop without any credit history turns out to be an extremely hard thing to accomplish.

Those were hard days, but my son and I survived them and came out as stronger and more resilient people. And we were lucky at least to have a little bit of money, a job arrangement for me and a place to stay at the beginning. Most people leave their country without any of these luxuries. They have to run while worrying about every single person they leave behind. They blend in the society sooner or later but it is not a walk in the park. Especially when they don’t speak the language fluently if at all.

We were lucky about one more thing. The country we emigrated to was Canada and this beautiful country is full of helpful and kind people with big hearts. We had hard times but never regretted rebuilding our lives in Canada. This is a tribute to everyone in this lovely country who became our family, friends, colleagues. To the people who trusted us by hiring us, by letting us into their homes, and their lives. Thank you.

I want to conclude my blog post by sharing with you a song that, in my opinion, explores the state of mind of an immigrant very well: “Immigrant” by Indo-Tanzanian-Canadian singer and songwriter Alysha Brilla. It triggers the empathy wires pretty strongly when you pay attention to the lyrics. Enjoy.

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