Going Native

So I’ve decided to apply for permanent residence here in Canada.

I know, many people apply for PR first, before they upend their lives and move thousands of miles. But I went for the work permit to start, since a) It was faster, and b) I didn’t know if I’d like it here.

After my gushing last week about how much I love living in Victoria, that second reason might sound silly. Canada’s safer than the US, with a smaller prison population, more public transit, and (generally) better health outcomes. What’s not to like?

And yet I worried. I’m 43, well past the age most folks immigrate. I worried I’d be unable to adjust to a new system, and end up clueless how to take the bus, or rent a car, or handle my finances. I worried I’d encounter a version of the ice-cold reception I got in Seattle, and never get a chance to meet new people. I worried it would be too cold, or too rainy, or cloudy, for me to ever dream of going outside the apartment.

I worried, in short, that Canada would reject me. Spit me out like a bad piece of gristle, sending me back to San Diego on the next plane.

But — so far, at least — that hasn’t happened. I have had to depend entirely on the kindness of strangers in order to navigate the various bureaucracies here, but so far, that help has been forthcoming. From the ICBC clerk who told me exactly how and where to send over my driving record to lower my insurance premiums, to the librarian who quietly reminded me that my “password” for using the self-checkout was probably the final part of my phone number.

It’s only been two months, and already, I want to stay.

So I’m assembling the pieces I’ll need to apply for Express Entry. The first part was an assessment of my college degree, to see if it meets Canada’s standards for university credit. That’s done (and my degree passed!), so now it’s on to the next piece: Taking an internationally-recognized test of English skills to verify my fluency. I’m not too worried about the test, but I’m going to take some practice exams anyway, just in case.

Once that’s done, all I’ll need is a letter from my current employer that they intend to keep me on for at least a year after I get PR status. I certainly hope they’ll be okay providing such a letter!

At that point, I’ll be able to apply. But I’m going to take one more step: Take an exam for French proficiency.

I studied French for two years in college, and I’ve brushed it up every now and then. It’s been good enough when I’ve needed it, on trips to France, so that I could get by without English. I’ve never kept up with it enough to get fully fluent, though. That’s going to change.

I found out that in 2020 they changed the rules in Canada. If your main language is English, and you test well in French (thus proving you can communicate in both official languages), they’ll give you an extra 50 points on your application. To put that in perspective, the current cutoff for getting invited to apply for permanent residency is just 66 points. So if I do well on this test, I can boost my application up and really increase my chances of getting through.

So that’s what I’m going to do. Submit my initial application as soon as possible, and then study, study, study, for the French exam. I’m hoping to be ready to take it sometime in October, which means I’d be able to update my application with the results before the end of the year.

Wish me luck!

Three Things I Love About Living in Victoria

When I made the move from San Diego up to Victoria, BC, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d never been to British Columbia before, hadn’t even been to Canada except for a brief trip to Toronto in 2019 (which was great, despite it being November and thus cold as hell). I’d heard good things from people who’d vacationed on Vancouver Island, but stopping by in the place for a night or two is one thing, living there is altogether different.

So two months in, I’m happy to report that I love it here. I feel like I really lucked out with my choice of apartment and city; if anything, I’m kicking myself for not moving out here sooner.

Here’s three of the many reasons I’ve fallen in love with Victoria:

The Size

Even though it’s the largest city on Vancouver Island, Victoria is incredibly walkable. From my apartment (which is on the edge of Chinatown and Harris Green, near North Park, aka nowhere particularly interesting in and of itself, and outside the core) it’s a ten minute walk to the Save-On Foods, there are two coffeeshops within two blocks, and the Parliament Buildings (where the BC provincial government meets) are just twenty minutes hike south.

It’s not just the distance that make it walkable, of course. There’s gotta be sidewalks (check), bike lanes to keep the walkways free for pedestrians (check, there’s so many people biking around town), and cross-walks clearly marked plus lights so getting across the street is safe (check!). One of the main bridges between Victoria and West Victoria/Esquimalt has about one-third of its width dedicated just to pedestrians and bike traffic.

So far, I’ve only found one place in the entire city (and I’ve been walking 10-20 km every weekend, exploring) where the sidewalks end, and that was in a super-ritzy neighborhood on a one-way street heading down to the beach. I’ll forgive it. All this infrastructure and density add up to a city where you not only can walk everywhere, you kind of want to, because…

The Outdoors

It’s gorgeous out there!

Seriously, I swear there’s a park every few blocks. And most of the streets are lined with trees as tall or taller than the buildings. And they’ve lined most of the coast with public parks, so you’re never far from being able to see, hear, and smell (not always pleasant, I’ll grant) the ocean.

I grew up in West Texas, where the deserts of the Southwest meet the central prairies. Trees were few and far between; you were more likely to see briars and thorns growing in a yard than grass. Forests were things I’d read about, but never seen.

So to be dropped onto Vancouver Island, a temperate rainforest, is like a kid’s dream come true.

In one of my first weekends here, I grabbed a locally-written book about walking/hiking trails in the area (from one of the five (!) bookstores within walking distance) and I’ve been working my way through it. Granted, these are all managed parklands — no wilderness trails for me, yet — but hiking through them, I feel like a little kid again, exploring the fields around my house with a backpack and a compass.

There was a point last weekend when I was hiking through Highrock Park where, towards the top, I came to a stop in a little clearing. No one else was up there. It was just me, and the trees, and the rain. I couldn’t hear the city. No traffic, not even a dog bark. Simply glorious.

Not that I mind my fellow Victorians, though, because…

The People

They really are nicer!

One of the many things I worried about, moving up here, was that it would be like Seattle. I found Seattle to be absolutely dreadful; unlike Portland, no one at Seattle seemed to want to acknowledge my existence, let alone my humanity. I visited the library, and in that hall of cold glass and stone I made the mistake of trying to take the elevator between floors. When the doors opened, there were a handful of people in it, all spread out to occupy the whole space. When I asked if they could scooch in so I could get inside, they just stared at me, vacantly, like they could not even contemplate making way for someone else.

Brrr.

Thankfully, my experience in Victoria has been the exact opposite. Everyone’s been welcoming, and they don’t seem to mind that I’m from Southern California (another thing I worried they’d be cagey about). The folks at the bank actually seem to want to be helpful, which is a revelation after decades interacting with US banks. Even the people at ICBC — the equivalent of the DMV here — went above and beyond to help me out, giving me advice on how to get my complete driver’s record transferred so I don’t have to overpay for car insurance (!). And after just a single meeting of the Victoria Creative Writing Group I found a writing circle to join.

Conclusion

I’ve only been here two months, true, but so far I’m very, very, glad I made the move. If you’re thinking of making the change to Canada, have a look beyond the big cities of Vancouver, Montreal, etc. Maybe you’ll find your own perfect spot to explore.

Three Things You Should Do Immediately After Moving to Canada

Getting to Canada — securing my work permit, opening a bank account, finding an apartment — turned out to be just the start of the things I needed to do in order to settle in here. Besides learning the ins and outs of my new apartment building and trying to find — emphasis on find, supply chain problems are everywhere — furniture so I didn’t have to sleep on the floor, there were a few more bureaucratic hurdles I needed to jump through.

I’ve picked out the biggest three below, in the hopes that someone else might be able to plan for them better than I did.

Change your health care

I talked about this one before, in that you should not expect to have health care coverage when you first arrive. That said, one of the very first things you should do on arrival (you can’t do it before you’re here and have secured a Social Insurance Number) is sign up for health care in your province.

I say province, because Canadian health care is administered differently by each province. There’s no one-stop federal service to sign up with, and they don’t auto-enroll you when you get a SIN. Depending on the province, you’ll be able to sign up online; the website for BC is here.

Note that there’s normally a wait period before your covered, which could be 60-90 days. Which is why you should sign up as soon as you possibly can. This is the first thing I signed up for when I got here, and it was the last card to arrive.

Change your driver’s license

Even if you don’t plan to drive in your province (like me), if you have a driver’s license, you should swap it out. For one thing, Canadians use their driver’s licenses a lot as their primary means of ID, so getting one means you can stop carrying around your passport everywhere. In addition, it’s often illegal for you to keep your old out-of-Canada license past a certain point (in BC it’s 90 days), so the sooner you take care of it, the better.

Unlike the California DMV, I found going to ICBC to actually be delightful. I made an appointment online, got seen immediately, got my eyes tested (they’re stricter here, and won’t let me drive without my glasses, which made me feel oddly safer), and took an oral “test” where they asked me what I’d do in certain situations, and then corrected my answers as I gave them. That is, instead of the test being a way to filter me out, it became a way of bringing me in, of letting me know some of the key differences in driving in BC versus the US.

The picture was still terrible. I think that’s just a law of the universe, though.

Change your phone number

This one seems trivial, but don’t ignore it. Not only did I rapidly get tired of having to give my country code out everywhere, my cell service was terrible for any local call, and I hit my roaming data cap really fast.

Your cell number affects your credit, as well. Remember how you won’t have a credit history when you move here? Well, without a local phone number, you can’t even apply for some of the credit cards you could use to build that credit history. You’ll be stuck going to your bank, hat in hand, begging them to take pity on you and “give” you a credit card.

Since I plan on going back and forth to the States for the next year or so, I got a separate phone for my Canadian number, and I’m thankful I did. Calls don’t sound like staticky garbage anymore, and I have a local, properly Victorian number I can hand out. I even went the extra step of setting up a localized (Canadian) Apple Id for the phone, which has also helped clear up some issues I’d been having with using my debit card (but that’s a whole other post).

Conclusion

So: phone number, driver’s license, local health services plan. Get ’em switched over as soon as you can after moving, so you can actually start to relax, explore, and enjoy your new home.

Three Things They Don’t Tell You about Banking in Canada

So last week I tried to pay a bill from a US company using my Canadian accounts.

Big mistake. Huge.

And it’s a legitimate bill! One I want to pay. The company that helped me get my work permit has finally charged me for their services. I want to pay them as soon as possible. They deserve it!

And yet.

I went into the bank, spent about half an hour there, and in the end still wasn’t able to send the money. Why not? Well, let me share some of the things I discovered…

Nothing is Free

Back in the States, I was used to — spoiled by — all the free banking services available. Free checks! Free accounts! Free credit cards!

Not so in Canada. Canadian banks are apparently unable to tap into Wall Street’s billions to make them solvent, and so they actually charge for things.

There’s a monthly charge just to have an account. Any account. For each account.

You want checks? Yeah, those will set you back $50CAD just for basics.

Pulling money from an ATM? That’ll cost you, if you’ve gone over your transaction limit.

Yes, transaction limit. There’s a limit to how many times you can use your account, before they start charging you more fees.

So when I went down to the bank naively thinking I was going to wire the money, they sat me down and explained that each wire transfer (I needed to send three) would cost $50 to send. Not $10. Not $20. $50. A piece.

Needless to say, I did not end up sending the money by wire!

Nothing is Simple

My bank in the US was entirely online. Need to send a wire transfer? Fill out this web form, submit it, done. Need to pay a bill? Add the bill’s account info to this list of payees, choose how much to send, done. Everything, and I mean everything, was done via the online interface.

In Canada? Not so much.

At first, I thought it was much the same. I was able to open an account entirely online. Even managed to put money in it, once I’d figured out how to send an international wire (again, without having to go into a bank anywhere).

But then I got a notice that my account(s) would be closed if I didn’t present myself, in person, to a bank in Canada by X date. Said date was a full month before I was planning on being finished packing and moving up from California.

So I had a bit of a scramble to get everything packed and shipped from the US so I could get up here in time to walk into a bank and prove that yes, I am a real boy.

That turned out to be just the start of the things I needed to do in person.

Opening a credit card? Go in to the bank, because you don’t have any Canadian credit.

Sending a wire transfer? Go into the bank, we don’t trust you to do that online.

Need a debit card? Go into the bank and have them print one for you, because we’re not going to send you the one we promised.

Need that debit card to actually work? Hahaha, oh my sweet summer child.

Granted, every one I’ve interacted with at the bank has been lovely. Not rushed, genuinely interested in helping, just great people. But the fact that anything beyond giving my account information to other companies so they can auto-deduct money from my account requires at least three steps, one of which is always going into a branch, really slows me down. Speaking of which…

Nothing is Fast

Okay, I take that back. If another company has your debit info, they can take money out of your account very quickly.

But anything else takes lots and lots of time.

My credit card application took six weeks, seven tries, and an hour-long visit to the bank to be completed and approved.

The checks I ordered to pay the US bill will take two to three weeks to get here.

The debit card I was supposed to get when I opened the account never came.

Sending money back home to my wife takes a week (not the promised 48 hours).

Conclusion

In short, banking in Canada requires a lot more patience and time than I’m used to. Not that I can’t get used to it, mind you, and I know I should be grateful that — so far — everything has worked out, just not in a timely fashion. Things could definitely be worse.

But again, something I wish I’d known before moving here, so I could have better prepared myself for it.

You Can’t Ship That to Canada!

I have a love-hate relationship with Fedex.

On the love side, when I was searching for the best way to send books and clothes up to Canada, they quoted me an incredibly cheap price — less than $300USD — sold me boxes, and helped me re-pack some items. My first five boxes spent a week going through Customs, but they made it here safe and sound.

On the hate side is…well, everything else.

After moving into the apartment in Victoria, I went back to San Diego for a couple weeks, to pack up my remaining books and personal items (ok, I’ll admit it: toys). I ended up with seven boxes this time, which barely fit into our little EV. But I managed to get them downstairs, into the car, and then into the Fedex store — the same one I’d used before — to ship out.

The total was quite a bit higher this time — $800USD — but I paid it, confident that these boxes, too, would be treated well and arrive soon. Got on my flight the next day, feeling proud of getting that big thing done before I left.

So I was shocked and dismayed when my wife sent me a photo— as I was crossing from Vancouver on the ferry — showing those same seven boxes, stacked neatly outside of our house in SD, with no explanation from Fedex as to why.

I checked the tracking info for the shipment, and sure enough, it said they had been delivered (!) to San Diego, having been rejected by Fedex as soon as they picked them up from the store. The reason? “Improper Shipment.”

I confess I may at this point have uttered several curses which are not appropriate to type. With one stroke, Fedex had turned my accomplishment — getting my office cleaning out to make room for my wife’s family — into one more burden placed on my wife, who now had to deal with seven very heavy boxes.

This is the part of the story that, were this a movie, would be told in montage. Scenes of me on the phone with Fedex, alternating between tapping my foot as I wait on hold and raising my voice in frustration to the poor customer service agent on the other side. Scenes of me tapping away at my computer, hunting for information online that Fedex itself did not seem to possess (the one explanation they came up with — “your shipment was missing its commercial invoice” — was easily disproven when my wife found the commercial invoice taped to one of the boxes).

Finally, finally, we would get to the good part. I found an employee at the local (SD) Fedex who dug around enough to find out what really happened: It turns out you can’t ship your stuff from the US to Canada via normal Ground shipping. You have to use Express.

This is mind-boggling, to put it mildly. How does it help Canada to make me pay more to ship there? They’re going to hold onto it anyway, to inspect it at Customs, and I’m fine with that. Please, open my boxes and gaze upon my reading selection! Just…don’t make me pay $300 a box to ship it, huh?

But! This Fedex employee said as a way to apologize for the hassle, he could re-ship the boxes for me, Express, without charging me anything extra. The one condition was that he couldn’t have someone pick them up, my wife would have to bring them in. On a weekday. Before 6pm, so he could be there to process it.

And my wife came through! She had a Friday off, so she scheduled a contractor to come to give us a project quote, and had him load the boxes for her. Then she spoke with the Fedex employee about what to do, drove them to the Fedex store, and dropped them off! She sent me a photo of the receipt with one word: Done!

…Only it wasn’t done.

Because the very next day, I’m Facetiming with her, and what do we see? A Fedex truck pulls up to the driveway. Starts unloading seven very familiar looking boxes.

Confused, I had another look at the receipt she’d sent me. And sure enough: They’d shipped them Ground again.

At this point, our little movie would be no dialog, just a series of bleeps.

Somehow, my wife convinced the Fedex driver not to leave the boxes with us. Somehow, he said he’ll take them back to the warehouse and they’ll ship them Express this time.

So my books and speakers and keepsakes are…somewhere, right now, in a kind of shipping purgatory.

The moral of the story? If you’re moving to Canada, and you want to take more stuff than you can pack on a plane, just get a moving pod. It’ll be cheaper, and a lot less hassle.

Why Victoria?

Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal…These are the big, bustling, Canadian cities that most folks have heard of, the ones that most new immigrants head for.

So why did I choose to move to Vancouver Island, instead of Vancouver?

To be honest, after living here full-time for just a few weeks, my reasoning is already shifting. As the Oracle says in the Matrix:

…you didn’t come here to make the choice, you’ve already made it. You’re here to try to understand why you made it.

But! I’d like to set down my original reasons for picking Victoria, in the hopes that my research can benefit others who might be contemplating a move to Canada.

Our Requirements

My work is remote, so in theory we had the whole of Canada to pick from. In practice, though, we had several constraints on where we could live.

No-go Ontario

Our first, oddly enough, was our dogs. We have two of them, one a German Shepherd/Lab mix, the other our “pocket pitty,” a 45-lb pit bull mix.

It’s the latter that gave us the constraint. You see, the province of Ontario has banned pit bulls, full stop. You can’t breed them, you can’t bring them into the province, you can’t keep one as a pet. If they think you’ve got a pit bull, they can seize it, and make you go to court to prove it’s not a pit bull. If you fail, they kill it.

This is a ridiculous law, and I hope it gets repealed soon. Most dog bites are from small dogs, who (obviously) are more likely to feel threatened by people and thus lash out. Pit bulls themselves were originally bred as “nanny dogs,” to watch over children. Children.

Anyway, since we’re looking for somewhere to live long-term, even if we weren’t going to bring the pups up immediately, there’s no way we could settle in Ontario. So Toronto, Ottawa, all those communities were out.

Non, merci, Quebec

Ok, so what about Montreal? Or Quebec City? The home of poutine, what’s not to like?

Here we had two more constraints, both related to my wife.

The first is that she’s got Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD). Basically, the words you say aren’t the ones she hears. It’s like she has an autocorrect constantly running in her head, and it’s just as inaccurate as the one on your phone. So the prospect of having to brush off (and perfect!) her high school French was daunting. I speak French, so could help her out, but who wants to live in a city where you have to depend on someone else all the time to get basic things done?

The second constraint was simply the weather. I know, everyone knows it’s cold in Canada, and my wife’s no wimp. But she had major jaw surgery twenty years ago, and still has metal screws in her face (under the skin, goodness). In cold weather, those screws hurt.

So Quebec was out.

The Rent is Too High

That left British Columbia. I know I’m skipping over the Maritime Provinces — see the problems with Quebec, above — and Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba — ditto, with a side of “I’m from Texas, I don’t need to live in Canada’s version.”

We looked at a couple of different cities. There’s Vancouver itself, obviously. Further east you’ve got Kelowna and the Okanagan, and Kamloops north of them, both regions that are supposed to get less rain than the coast without the severe winters of the eastern provinces.

All three were enticing, but here again, we had constraints that narrowed our options for us.

For one, the plan shifted from both of us going up at the same time to just me, so my wife could stay behind and move her mother up to San Diego (that’s a whole other blog post). Naturally, she would keep the car, not only so she could get around San Diego, but also because our vehicle — a 2021 Chevy EV — is currently under recall for battery issues. And you can’t bring a car into Canada if it’s under recall.

No vehicle ruled out anything that’s not sufficiently urban to have a walkable downtown core. So Kelowna and Kamloops were both out, as being too car-dependent.

That left Vancouver, and though I’d heard good things about the city, I soon discovered one thing everyone said was completely true: The rents are absurd.

Not so absurd that there are a lot of places available, mind you. I started checking rental sites — a half dozen or so — multiple times a day, looking for units in areas where we thought we’d want to live. If anything came up at a reasonable price, it was usually gone by the time I contacted the building manager. Anything that lingered was out of our price range.

We had an extra set of constraints there, because we wanted to keep the house in San Diego (so my wife’s mother could live there). So we had to be able to afford both the place in Canada and the house in SD. Our already tight budget got tighter.

I was starting to despair of finding a place in time, when I got the idea to look at Victoria.

The Obvious Choice

And I’m glad I did. Victoria ticked all the boxes: Walkable downtown core, where I could get all my chores done on foot. Reasonable rental prices in modern buildings, so we wouldn’t break the bank. Available units, so we could move in when we wanted. Close to Vancouver, so in a pinch I could commute to network up there. And far enough south that it’s the only weather station in Canada to record a winter without going below freezing.

So Vancouver was out. Victoria, and Vancouver Island, were in.

Better All the Time

In hindsight, the choice was obvious, but at the time we fretted. We’d never been to any part of British Columbia, so we were judging everything from other people’s reports, scouring Google Maps, and watching video walk-throughs sent to us by building managers.

Since coming here, though, I’m glad we picked Victoria. Vancouver is gorgeous, but so big and expensive. Everything feels so accessible here; I can walk out my door and fifteen minutes later be in a park with bright flowers and tall trees, where the sounds of the city vanish. Or go down to the coast and gaze across the Strait at the Olympic Mountains. Or pop into one of dozens of coffee shops for a warming cup.

So if you’re looking to make the move to Canada, I urge you to do your research. Have a look at the laws of the province, to see if any are going to rankle. Set a strict budget for renting, and stick to it. And have a look at cities outside the big ones; you might find something smaller fits you better.

Three Things They Don’t Tell You About Moving to Canada

It’s taken six months, but I’m finally here, in Canada, for the long term.

Immigrating, even from the United States, is no joke. Things have gone relatively smoothly for me, but even so, there’s been a few surprises along the way. Since they’re things that folks usually don’t tell you when you’re thinking of immigrating, I thought I’d set them down here, so future immigrants can come better prepared.

So here are the top three things I wish I’d known before moving:

No Health Care

I know, Canada’s a single-payer system. Universal health care, and all that jazz.

That’s true, but what’s also true is that Canada’s system is really 10 different systems, because each province handles health care on their own. There’s no single, federal system you can carry with you from province to province.

Instead, when you first move to a province (waves) you have to sign up for their health care system. Does immigration tell you this? No. I had to learn from a co-worker.

To sign up, you’ll need a SIN. What’s a SIN? It’s a Social Insurance Number. That you get from the federal government, at a Service Canada station. You can’t get it till you arrive, work permit in hand, though. Good luck getting an appointment; they’re backed up 4-6 weeks, depending on where you land. For mine, I had to go stand in line for four and a half hours in downtown Vancouver, and I only got in because I showed up right when the Service Canada centre opened (even so, I was in the back of a line that stretched out their door and around the corner).

Ok, you’ve got your SIN. You’ve submitted your application to your province. You even did it online, because you and your province are fancy like that.

Now you wait.

And wait.

And wait.

…you see, the provinces are all backed up. So they straight up tell you it can take 3-6 months for you to get onto the province’s health care program. And even if you do get on, if you leave the province for “too long” (say, to take care of a family member back home), they’re drop you, and you have to start the process all over again.

Till then, you’re in legal limbo.

Wait, you say. This is Canada, how can they do this to people and call themselves a free country? Well, you see, it’s because you have:

No Power

That’s right. You can’t vote. You can’t run for office. You’re a person that works and pays taxes but has absolutely no input into the political system. You basically have no rights, save what they dole out to you.

This was brought home to me when I was waiting in line to go through Immigration at the airport. It was a large room with bad lighting, and chairs arranged in four rows, all facing a set of raised, plexiglass-enclosed cubicles. There was no signage, and no one said anything to me as I entered. I sat in the chairs, because everyone else was sitting in the chairs. I didn’t know what else to do.

Every so often, the figures behind the plexiglass would call out a name. Someone from the front of the line would stand, excitement on their face, and present their papers, to see if they would get through. We’d shift forward a few chairs, and settle back into waiting for our own turn.

It quickly became apparent to me that most of the would-be immigrants in line with me did not speak English as their first language. They seemed to have a language in common — they appeared to be from East Asia, but I don’t know enough about those languages to guess which one they spoke — as I saw multiple unrelated groups chatting with each other or asking questions.

It also became apparent that the Immigration officials had no translator, and no patience for those who did not speak English fluently.

I heard them yelling at people to get out. I saw them throwing translation cards at people. They taunted them, made fun of them, and generally verbally abused anyone that didn’t have a simple, up/down, fluent-English case.

It was terrifying.

They didn’t physically assault anyone, while I was there. But I realized they could have, and then what would I do? I felt rooted to my chair, afraid to speak out or help, because it would threaten my own ability to immigrate.

So no, the province doesn’t have to help you get your paperwork in order. And no, they don’t have to give you health care when you arrive. You have no political power, so they can write you off.

No Credit

Speaking of power, you don’t have any credit power, either. Because your credit history, back in your home country? Doesn’t matter here. They can’t access it, so you effectively start over from zero.

This might not seem like a big deal, until you try to get a bank account, or rent an apartment.

(I say rent because if you try to buy you’ll pay upwards of 20% extra as a straight-up tax when the sale closes. If that doesn’t discourage you from buying, then you’re probably rich enough you can smooth over the difficulties I’m outlining here)

Here’s the catch-22: You can’t rent an apartment without a bank account. Your landlord is going to want to know you can afford to rent the place. Without a credit history, your only recourse is to show funds in a Canadian bank that can pay for it (and also be used for automatic withdrawals every month). They’ll also likely want a secured bank draft for any deposits, once again drawn on a Canadian bank.

But you can’t get a Canadian bank account without a residence. Naturally enough, the banks want to be sure they’re only opening accounts for folks that are actually Canadian residents.

And even once you manage to solve that problem, if you’re thinking of maybe buying a car or getting a nice, points-based credit card, think again. You don’t have any credit history, so you don’t qualify for anything. In some cases, you not only won’t qualify, you can’t even apply without a Canadian phone number (oh, did I mention that? you’re going to want to swap out your home cell for a Canadian one. what’s that? you’re not ready to tell everyone and every account your new number? too bad)

Conclusion

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sorry I moved. Vancouver Island is absolutely beautiful, the folks who live here are quite welcoming and friendly, and it’s nice to be living in a place with reliable public transport again (because I don’t have a car, you see).

But immigrating hasn’t been easy, and I’m still working through the kinks. I’m still waiting on access to the province’s health system, for example, and I just now got a Canadian cell.

So to others thinking of moving to Canada: Go for it. Just be prepared for a bumpy ride if you do.

Keeping Score: February 7, 2020

So the move was…rougher than I expected.

As you can see above, I sliced my head open while unloading stuff into our new garage. It’s better now, but at the time we thought I’d need stitches, because it just wouldn’t stop bleeding.

(And yes, I went to Urgent Care, but they couldn’t see me, because — and I’m not making this up — they were overwhelmed with patients coming in prior to the Super Bowl).

We had help moving, but even so it took us all weekend, plus Monday and Tuesday evening, to get everything out of the old place and into the new one. I swear I had no idea how much stuff was crammed into that townhouse.

And now we’re unpacking. Or, as I’ve come to think of it, the “Where the hell are my socks?” phase. Every day is a new hunt for things I used to be able to pinpoint without thinking about.

Oh, and I didn’t take any time off after the move. Which in hindsight was maybe a mistake? Given how much we’ve had to do every night, after work.

As a result of all that, I’m tired, I’m frazzled, and I only got 250 words written this week.

But there’s a weekend coming up, and while it’ll be full-on unpacking and organizing, all day each day, it’ll bring some sense of order to this place. Reduce my cognitive load enough to where I can get back to (writing) work.

I hope.

Going Home

Thank the gods 2016 is over.

I think it’s been a rough year for many people. My rough 2016 actually stretches all the way back to fall 2015, when my wife and I upped stakes and moved back to the mid-south to take care of her mother.

The stress of that time — her mother’s health, the terrible condition of the house we bought, the shock of discovering that all traces of the friendly South we’d once known were gone — almost undid us. We felt abandoned, hated by our neighbors and resented by her family.

Things improved when we were able to tread water enough to reconnect with our friends, plug back into the community of accepting nerds and geeks we’d missed.

But the presidential campaign, culminating in the election of a liar, a swindler, and a bigot, convinced us that nothing could make up for the fact that we don’t belong here. And never will.

So we’re moving back to California.

Back to a state that takes life seriously, and so passed the most restrictive gun control laws in the country.

A state that takes liberty seriously enough to want to offer it to refugees from a horrible civil war.

A state that knows the pursuit of happiness means respecting the many diverse ways that its citizens go about it.

I can’t wait to be back home.