Welcome to Canada! Well, this time last week we were already on a plane headed to Edmonton, Canada from Heathrow, London. It was a rather traumatic week and was akin to the last 400 metres of a marathon when the pace picks up and there’s a sprint for the finishing line. We made it and the flight was boarded and landed 9 hours later in sunny Edmonton.
Our first stop was immigration and for anyone else thinking about applying for a work permit upon point of entry – absolutely. There’s a bit of a wait, but providing you’ve got the required documentation and lashings of patience, you’ll get through eventually with the signed permits and approval to stay in the country. Bit of a relief as there was no ‘Plan B’ if we weren’t successful …..
We hired a car and headed towards a service apartment which we’ve booked for a month – so all’s good.
So, the checklist upon arrival looked like this:
1. Place to stay – tick
2. Transport obtained – tick
3. Husband in a job – tick
Day 1 was already planned and 10 properties to view with a ‘Realtor’ were scheduled in diaries. It was just me and the 3 kids – with the agreed remit from husband that we ‘could select whichever property we liked’ (direct quote).
It was fascinating going around all the houses and my oldest kid became a godsend, as she was busily scribbling down notes about the good points and negative aspects of each property which after 10 – all became rather a blur!!! The biggest observation was the sheer amount of space compared to UK houses. There’s loads of it – and rooms upon rooms that you have to find a use for. Bathrooms are aplenty, and the number of washbasins has a ratio of 1:1 with the sizes of the bathtubs and showers positively mind-blowing! I saw some basements with their own gyms, pool rooms, hot tubs, bathrooms, artist rooms, playrooms, cinemas! Tempting – yes, but the practical reality of housing a lot of this was at the top of my mind.
On the negative side, Canadians seem to enjoy living side by side and directly overlooking one another in the city suburbs. I’m used to a house which overlooks Cheshire hills and only has 2 neighbours within half a mile. It was a drawback and several extremely nice properties had to be rejected literally because I didn’t want to be looking into the next door neighbours lounge. That said, we found a lovely house which will do us proud – and better still, it is vacant and looking for a quick sale.
Day 2 then found us putting an offer in on the preferred house and securing a mortgage broker who would ensure appropriate finance is put in place.
Day 3 had the offer accepted and we have agreed a completion date in 3 weeks time. I then spent 2 hours queuing for a SIN (Social Insurance Number) which then led me onto yet another building where I had to duly sign up for healthcare. There’s no getting away from it, these things just have to be done and luckily for me, the 3 kids are extremely patient (probably something to do with the treats I’d taken with me to keep them amenable!). Day 3 also saw us visiting the Edmonton Keyano Swimming Team who had asked for me to bring our oldest kid as a trial to join one of their squads. Not only are the facilities absolutely fantastic, but the number of coaches and amount of technical training offered is superb – and she enjoyed every minute. She’s now enrolled in their Provincial squad and trains with them 6 days a week.
By this point, I now had all the required documents, to enrol the kids in the local school for the house we’re buying. This was Day 4 – and all the kids were amazed at the newness of the school (it was built in 2010), the size of the playground (lots of climbing frames and swings), and the fact that it takes kids from Kindergarten to Grade 9. In England, this is like saying from Reception class through to Year 9 at Secondary School – and for my kids, also means that my oldest doesn’t have to swop to another school in June when she completes Year 6, but gets to stay with her sisters for the next few years. A great bonus when they’ve just arrived in a new country and they only have each other.
Day 5 had us purchasing supplies for the kids to use in school – each class has it’s own supply list which you are asked to provide. This also includes a laptop for the oldest kid, which we’re just hanging fire on until we get a feel for the type of laptops the others are using in her class. That said, even without this the list is long and the local ‘Staples’ and ‘Walmart’ certainly benefitted from our business!
So, with the house and school secured, Day 6 moved us onto buying a car – a Jeep Wrangler which you can’t get in the UK and well, why not! The doors, windscreen and roof all come off – and it can traverse any type of terrain known the man – why ever not! Should just about cope with the snow here then …
Talking of which, upto this point we’ve been lucky with the weather and basking in 21 degrees with blue skies and sun. Hard to believe then that Day 7 had snow and blizzard like conditions appear! It was also my oldest kid’s birthday so we took the day off and celebrated with a trip to the cinema and a nice meal.
So, checklist at the end of Week 1?
– House sale agreed – tick
– SIN Number & Healthcare enrolled – tick
– Bank account opened – tick
– Kids enrolled into school – tick
– Car bought – tick
How funny the difference a week can make? We’re only 1 week into our Canadian adventure and yet have achieved things that would traditionally take a few months in the UK. Week 2 sees the kids start school so I’ll let you know how they fare …