Whenever I talk to Romanians who want to come to Canada and I answer questions, I always end up being a bit upset. I find that people ask me too many simple questions they could answer themselves with Google and too few of the “important” questions. Maybe there’s a guru hiding inside of me, and here’s where I set him free.
LE: I could call it Zamo's Guide to Canada, but unlike Borat's to UK, I wouldn't call Romania Kazakhstan.
For instance, back when I still lived in my house, I offered new immigrants the possibility to stay at my place for a few months, complete with airport pick-up. Although it was a no-strings attached offer, at first only some guy who was coming back to Canada from a holiday wanted to take advantage of it. I discontinued it after a few years of people other than new immigrants trying to talk me into giving them free housing.
Much like a parent who wants to live vicariously through her kids and get them to do all the things she did not or could not do at their age, an established immigrant might want to help new immigrants to overcome the obstacles she had encountered, whether or not they do as well.
In my personal case, I was hugely disappointed by my arrival in Canada. Prior to coming to Canada I had traveled to some pretty advanced European countries, such as Switzerland, and had expected Canada to be just as nice and modern, if not more so. The façade was lacking however. There are many areas in Toronto with uncollected garbage, unkempt rental buildings and so on. It is said that Canada has (or, maybe, it had back when we could still talk about industry and manufacturing, now that services are on the way to dominate) a third-world, resource-extraction based economy with the appearance of a rich country. I’ve also seen a lot of poor and homeless people, and the situation is far worse on Native (First Nations) reserves.
If you could avoid the same kind of disappointment I experienced by reading this, my goal will have been reached. Alternatively, if I manage to decrease your expectations, thereby increasing your satisfaction upon arrival here, that’s another positive outcome. However, if you live in a bubble and would rather keep your rosy, surreal view of Canada at the risk of having your world turned upside down upon arrival, you might want to stop reading here.
Now, I consider a smartphone with Data (Internet) service part of what’s necessary, and recently, CRTC, a Canadian regulator, declared broadband Internet to be an “essential service”, while UN may even consider it a human right, so the definition of disposable income is debatable, at least from the “necessary things” side. Additionally, different people have different incomes.
One quick and easy way to compare Bucharest and Toronto is the Backpacker index (pot-bi). This index listed for 2016 Bucharest on the 17th place, at $29.19 (2017: $22.40), and Toronto on the 100th place, at $80.28 (2017:$64.81). The USD figures represent the cheapest bunk bed, transportation, 3 budget meals and a minimum of “fun” – it’s very hard to live on less than that, but not impossible.
As I’m writing, 1 USD = 1.34 CAD = 0.96 EUR = 0.81 GBP = 4.33 RON ; the Canadian dollar (aka the loonie) is expected to go to US$0.65 (1.54 CAD for 1 USD above) in 2017.
Romania is changing rapidly, with incomes surging, while costs are not growing as fast, but people living there don’t seem to fully understand and appreciate how good they have it.
Now, if you’re an IT professional in Bucharest, being paid an international-level salary and paying NO INCOME TAX, it’s hard to justify leaving that behind. If you’re a doctor or lawyer, you will have regulatory hurdles to overcome – it will be a long time before you can practice your profession here. If you’re an executive or investment professional or if you work in a bank, your job depends on networking and schmoozing, and it will be hard for you to reconnect here and get back to the same level. On the bright side, I know somebody who did just that, so it’s not impossible.
It’s difficult to find disposable income international rankings containing both Romania and Canada; Numbeo is one of them, with Romania listed at 78, with $483.49 and Canada at 18, with $2155.47. You can even directly compare Toronto and Bucharest based on the monthly expenses. Other such rankings, most without Romania, are Movehub, Capgemini, NationMaster, OECD Better Life Index. Keep in mind that these are averages, and more than likely you’re not spot on average with any of your numbers. You can probably get a better idea of your own personal disposable income by using the tools presented in the previous article and calculating an estimate for your own circumstances.
One idea worth re-iterating is the necessity to have traveled a bit before immigrating, hopefully including to the city you are considering immigrating to.
Sadly, for many Romanians, this is not an option. Whereas other young Europeans have “work & travel” visa arrangements with Canada, sending kids upon graduation with an automatic visa and work permit for a year, Romania has not even managed to have visa free travel with Canada, never mind working. Even visa-free travel and working in Europe is a new thing – and it might even be scaled back. This means, practically, that few Romanians have had the opportunity to get an idea about what it’s like living abroad and hold unrealistically high expectations.
You owe it to yourself to travel to as many countries you can and see what it feels like to live there. Stay in a hostel (low cost, high social interaction), be friendly, resist the temptation to brag or explain why you are superior to Gypsies, listen more than you talk, and maybe you will learn something.
A few things that you might know, but surprisingly many immigrants don’t; it’s not the order of importance, the numbers are there for reference:
- government health care – though each province makes its own law, it is government-paid throughout the country, with some regional differences; usually dentists (stomatology) are not covered and neither are optometrists (eyes) and medication (drugs), but hospital stay is, with few exceptions; Canadian healthcare is probably better than Romania, but it is far from perfect and there are people who end up waiting in ER almost an entire day before a doctor can see them while others wait years for life-saving surgery due to backlogs or not making it to ER; there is also a serious opioid epidemic (what killed Prince and possibly George Michael)
- quite a few immigrants give up and return to their native country within less than 2 years [will try to look up data]
- I have no data on this (will look for it), but it seems that a majority of couples end up divorcing in 2-5 years of arrival
- for many new immigrants, the new lifestyle doesn’t work, their health worsens and get diabetes or cardiovascular diseases; they might get the same in their native countries, though not all of them
- this varies greatly across the country, but in many instances Romania is safer than Canada (see bus death); Romania is a far safer country than most people (including Romanians) think: Toronto is 35.10 on the Crime Index while Bucharest is 28.94, and on the Safety Scale Bucharest is better as well at 71.06 vs Toronto at 64.90
- the Canadian flag and country brand – though not always acknowledged, the flag gives the impression of a clean, high-standard of living country and this may or may not have anything to do with reality; each region has its particularities, Quebec being most different or “distinct”
- many international rankings place Canada very high and often undeservedly; few people question it much like Romania is considered corrupt even though in many ways Canada is more so
- optimism bias – Canadian immigrants are not aware of or often downplay their hurdles; they want to succeed and you will hear more about successes and less about problems whereas the opposite happens with Romanians in Romania; this means that many of the problems people complain in Romania are not as bad, whereas new Canadians may not always fully acknowledge and openly talk about their problems
- justice, prejudice and corruption may be far worse than you expect, especially when compared to Romania
- if you’re upset with whom people vote for in Romania, think of Trump being elected in the grand U S of A and Rob Ford, the crack smoking Mayor right here in Toronto
- oligopoly heaven – due to silly regulations, there isn’t nearly enough competition in quite a few important areas, resulting in Canadians paying some of the highest prices in the world for Internet access (which is capped and far slower than in Bucharest) and mobile phone service
- hard to believe as it is, public transportation is more advanced in Bucharest than in Toronto; for instance, the Toronto subway got interior mobile phone coverage, for one provider only, in the past year, whereas Bucharest had it for at least a decade; Toronto’s buses and streetcars used to be more empty than in Bucharest, but the max number was increased a couple of years ago and now at peak hours buses and streetcars take longer to leave the station because there are people on the stairs, which was unheard of when I had arrived in Canada; in short, RATB has improved far more than TTC, which has arguably worsened
- if you think Bucharest car traffic is congested, check out Toronto traffic and bicycles – despite better street signage, more roads and more highways (and generally better planning and better design), Toronto traffic is one of the worst in North America because there are also far more cars than in Bucharest; Traffic Commute Time Index is 37.94 in Bucharest vs 42.37 in Toronto so Toronto is worse and it is also harder in Toronto to live closer to where you work because of housing costs and low vacancy rate
- many Romanian immigrants come to Canada with racist biases there are more or less subconscious – they don’t like to see Gypsies around them or homeless people and associate that with being in Romania alone; Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, which means that there is a huge visible minority-soon-to-be-majority, many of whom are richer and more educated than most Romanian immigrants and there are more homeless people as well
- policemen are not as nice / impotent as in Romania; giving police attitude could cost you your life
What I’m trying to do here is to present some of the negatives, not to discourage you, but rather to give you a more realistic idea of what immigration entails. Also, you might want to check out MS’s article (previously linked in the blogs set) on why she went back to Romania. You can find a commented “hallucinatory interview” with a Romanian woman disappointed by problems in Canada and a less organized inventory of such. The immigration process seems often unfair, riddled with backlogs, poor communication and corruption.
Unfortunately, I’m running out of time, so I’ll finish my more “realistic” presentation in a private document.
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