Thursday, September 06, 2012

Canada 101 for Immigrants (3/5)


Post 3:

NOTE: ALL INFO IS PER MY EXPERINCE BACK IN 2011. PROCEDURES AND PROCESSES HAVE CHANGED. USE THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK J

Bills:

OK, almost anything here can either be sent to you via email or in paper format. The only comment I had here is that you might opt to paperless bills (emails), but please keep in mind you NEED AT LEAST 1 PAPER COPY of your bills. You will need original bills as proof of residence (you can use your Internet/Phone providers bill, Electrical Company bill…etc.).
My advice is… choose paper bills, get your first bill, and then opt to paperless (for the environment and all that jazz).

Clothing:

Winter...

Welcome to the extreme! Woohahaha!
Source: Volconovo
 
As you might read around the net about the Canadian winter and clothing…it is all about “layering”.
Officially, winter starts in December (might start snowing as early as end of October though), yet keep in mind that starting end of September the temperatures tend to go down to what we consider winter temperatures in the Middle East for example (between 5-18).

Talking about Winter, there are many options for clothing. My advice is to go for at least the below…
1-      You will need an undergarment trouser (a special trouser to wear under your normal trousers/jeans). There are many types, each are for a certain temperature range. Usually, they call them “Light weigh”, “Medium” and Heavy weight”. From my experience you’ll need 2 sets…the light weight and heavy weight;
2-      You’ll need 2 sets of gloves (one thin and another one very thick for playing in the snow or on very cold days);
3-      You’ll need ice-caps;
4-      You’ll need ear muffs (must wear when temp below -4C or your ears/hearing can be damaged over a longish period of time. I heard horrible stories about this!);
5-      You’ll need special boots (keep an eye on the temperature they are supposed to operate in. Check the shoes’ description);
6-      You’ll need a very thick Jacket. Jackets here are measured by the “Downing” in them. This is the density of duck feathers in them. The higher the better (the more expensive). The avg winter ones are usually 550. The highest I’ve seen are 850s I think.

Summer...
Summer here is AMAZING! I always thought it is a waste to leave Canada during summer and go for vacation anywhere else.
Having said that, during August you will (for sure) need a wind-breaker and water resistant jacket. It usually rains a lot in August.

One last thing to say, don’t let people scare you about winter in Canada, if you embrace it… it can actually be a very nice experience… I loved it (for now :D )

Transportation:

·         Public Transportation
Public transportation here is very well maintained, and usually very clean and safe.
There are many ticketing options, but I’d recommend (for immigrants and people staying in Canada for a long duration) purchasing long term transportation cards.
You should be able to buy one from any Metro/under-ground station (even in some train stations).
Apply for a monthly card (at least monthly, you can even save more by going for yearly for example). Most cities have an option to purchase a card which can be used on Buses, Metros and even Trains (but will be a per zone thing. As in the further the card can take you the more it will cost).

·         Driving & Signs

AAAH, THE IMMIGRANTS' NIGHTMARE!
Source: AncestrallinksBlog
OK, if you think you have this under control… YOU DON’T!
This turned out to be one of the worse experiences immigrants go through.

Now, if you are from a first world country (UK for example) moving here, you should be ok, as they will simply check your country’s driver’s license and issue you a Canadian equivalent (NOTE: each Canadian province has its own driver’s license, yet any of them are considered a “Canadian driver’s lic”).

For non-first-world-country citizens…. Let the games begin!
First advice, make sure you get your country-of-origin’s driver’s license translated either before coming or better off translate it in your country’s consulate here in Canada.
You then take this translation and go to the Driving License responsible committee or society (depending on the province you are in).
You fill in the application, show them you papers, and they will advise your case. I cannot elaborate much on this part as it is quite different from one province to another. You will generally go throw 2 stages:

a)      Written exam (electronic actually):
You must study properly for this. I saw a lot of people think they have this under control and fail… some fail more than 4 times! The advice is, get the books, read them. After that, check online for exercises and solve those.
b)      Driving exam:
DO NOT JUST TAKE THE EXAM THINKING YOU KNOW HOW TO DRIVE…YOU WILL FAIL. PREPARE IS THE ANSWER!
A lot of people whom have been driving in their own countries think: “oooh, I have been driving for 10, 20, 30 year… this shouldn’t be a problem”.
Others say: “if I can drive in xxx (Cairo let’s say), I can drive anywhere”, and they just go for the exam without proper preparation. All those fail, and if you try the same, there is a high possibility you will fail too.

My advice is to take at least a few driving lessons with “wa7ed meda2da2” (experienced person) from a driving school company. They know what to watch out for.

Another advice is (I know this will sound odd): ”Follow the signs NOT the cars”!
Yes, in countries where driving is hectic and chaotic, people (like myself back home) tend to keep an eye on other cars to avoid their mistakes (i.e. people in Cairo for example only stop at an intersection ONLY if they “see” another car, and they don’t think they can out run the other car through the intersection!).
On the other hand, in Canada (contrary to Egypt for example), if you are driving and there isn’t a STOP sign looking in your direction at the next intersection, you should keep on driving through the intersection (DO NOT HIT BRAKES TO CHECK OTHER CARS AT INTERSECTION like what we used to do in Egypt).

Following the signs will take some time getting used to. But, if you get this one right, you are good to go!

For Ontario, everything you need to do about the driver's license is here including the handbook you need to study from for the written test:
Search online for other provinces.

·         Gas Stations & Parking:


PetroCanada


Although I travelled a lot before coming to Canada, I never rented a car abroad. So, for me this was a new experience.
Unlike the Middle-East, most gas stations here are “Serve Yourself” stations (Free Service). Basically, you drive in, you get out of the car, insert your payment card (Visa or Mastercard), you then choose the gas type, and fill it yourself.
The first time I stood in front of the gas-stations pump I felt like “fala7 lesa tale3 min el gheet 3al Bandar”…I had no clue how to use the thing. lol

Another interesting thing I found out here(which I didn’t know) is that contrary to Middle-East Countries, gas prices change DAILY!

As for Parking lots, you basically get the parking spot number you left the car in, go to the payment machine, type the number, slot in your payment card, choose the duration, and then you should get a receipt at the end of the transaction. Depending on the province, you might need to leave this on the dashboard (Ontario province for example).

Medical Care:

This is something you should do as soon as possible. Apply for your provinces medical care as soon as you have a temporary driver's license or a bank statement that has actually been mailed to your address (or any other form of proof of address).
NOTE: A printed copy WILL NOT work!

Keep in mind that medical cards take a few weeks or months to get delivered to you. During this duration if (God forbid) you or your family need medical care, you will have to pay for it. And I mena PAY ( a friend’s wife had to go to the hospital, he paid more than 700 dollars!).
To offset this, you could get private medical insurance for a couple of months till you get the Government (provincial) cards.

Health cards are obtained at Ministry of Health and Long-term care outlets.
Link: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/programs/ohip/ . Check online for your provinces Medical care site.

… to be continued.

Mood: Numb :|