Here we share stories about expat life in different countries, reasons and ways to move, advantages and disadvantages of living in a particular country.
If you have lived in another country for more than a year and would like to be featured in our next interview, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, check out our previous interview about illegal immigrant life in New York.
I met Andri 4 years ago at the sales conference organized by AIESEC in Ukraine. He then was a student at an Architecture department in one of Kyiv’s Universities. One could tell from the first glance that he is an intelligent guy. After 4 years, Andri is a permanent resident of Canada, married and working on making his grand life plans come true.
Where are you from and why did you decide to move to Canada?
I am from Ternopil, a small town in western Ukraine. Before I moved to Canada I lived in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.
I have always considered myself a global citizen. I was looking for new life experiences and, most importantly, freedom. Freedom is my biggest value in life. I wanted to travel, meet outstanding people, challenge myself, influence others and simply enjoy a fulfilled life. It seemed like I could get it all in Canada.
Tell us your story of moving to Canada?
Let me give you some background…
I come from a very simple family: three kids and parents musicians who switched to entrepreneurship. As a kid, I remember moving a lot. We lived in so many weird beat-up places, you wouldn’t believe: from a shipping container to the most charismatic dormitories. I was changing schools quite a few times. In a very early age, I learned that change is a good thing and that you can actually take control over changes you want to see in your life.
As a teenager, I was a member of a Ukraine’s scouting organization where I learned a precious lesson – it’s not a matter of resources, it’s only a matter of resourcefulness.
It’s not a matter of resources, it’s only a matter of resourcefulness
While still being a student, I started helping parents with their business. They produce picture frames and sell embroidery goods. After graduation (Bachelor of Architecture) I knew exactly that I enjoy business environment way more than anything else. I decided to find a way to get some business education from Canada and potentially move there permanently.
In my life, I always try to take the path of least resistance. Therefore, I picked the shortest business program that allowed me to work in Canada after graduation. Paying for even the cheapest education program in Canada and life in Toronto was out of reach for my parents. The idea sounded as impossible as flying to the Moon…
To make this happen, for my 2013 New Year’s resolution I publicly set a goal to substantially increase our business’ profits. The difference was supposed to go towards my education in Canada. I’m proud to say that by July the goal was achieved. I have generated funds to cover the first semester of my program.
What about the second semester? That’s a whole different story. To be short, I was fortunate to meet people who borrowed me some money. I remember getting a cheque in the mail to pay the tuition fees on the latest due date. I have also worked part-time on campus and that income alone helped me to survive. Oh, there was one other motivation booster – my then girlfriend.
Vira joined my Canadian journey a few months after I have started it. That whole year was quite a rollercoaster. I was living outside my comfort zone so long that nothing would surprise me. Most important part: I love being in that state. That is the state of rapid personal growth.
My education experience in Canada was pretty awesome. I wasn’t an A+ student, but I have learned a lot and have received three different scholarships, which were very helpful at the time. I have also co-founded an international student club at my college and served as the first president, which was quite a journey!
What are you doing now?
After graduating I was furiously looking for an employer who would support my immigration plans. I ended up on a pretty low paying but challenging customer service/sales position in a logistics company. That job has taught me a lot.
As a result of tremendous efforts, in about 2.5 years since my feet first touched the Canadian land, I got my Permanent Resident status. What a relief it was, I must say!
In 2016 I moved to British Columbia to work on my dream job and experience the beautiful part of this country. Currently, I work in a Real Estate Development company performing duties of a Project Coordinator. I am involved in business and creative side of construction. It feels incredible when I think about the impact I make on how people will live in the communities we develop.
Last year I have bought my own little piece of real estate (mortgage loan). Again, it is simply a pursuit of a new life experience.
Have you experienced any cultural shocks after your arrival to Canada?
Canadians, if you can generalize this nation at all, are very nice and warm people. I remember being impressed how much an average citizen respects nature. Even in a rush hour, they would obediently stop to allow geese, squirrels or raccoons safely cross the road. Animals like a deer or an elk are so used to people, they proudly walk around the block checking out what’s going on in town.
Generally, I don’t think there is anything really shocking in this open-minded and multi-cultural nation. Canadians are so diverse and different, though! Especially in Toronto, where I lived the first couple of years, people are very different. Just think of it, over half of Toronto’s population was born outside of Canada!
What are the best things you like about Canadian culture?
There is no such thing as a well-defined Canadian culture. It is a mix of everything, originally with English and French flavors. I would say it is also very similar to American culture. It’s a country with only 150 years of history. History of immigration. Canada is a melting pot, a mosaic of different cultures. And that is what I love about it.
In Canada, I didn’t have to “fit” to belong, at least not in terms of cultural or social norms. A good thing for me was having to adjust to the high standards of life.
Also, I like the fact that it’s so easy to become a part of a local community. People here tend to think you are a good person until you prove them wrong. Not the other way around. That’s a game changer.
I remember last spring my wife Vira and I have joined an amateur volleyball team. Every time it was a game against another team. Nobody knew each other before the game started. What has surprised us is the supportive spirit of our teammates, contrary to what we are used to. Even when we screw up a passing or miss the ball, they would say “nice try!” From time to time a more experienced dude would put a hand on your shoulder whispering you a handy advice. Even if we would loose they would summarize: “We did pretty well, though! We’ll make it next time!” With that kind of support, you do feel encouraged and determined to win next time.
What are the benefits of living in Canada?
In addition to it being extremely beautiful and immigrant-friendly, think of affordable education, free healthcare, and other things. People say Canada is great for family life. I don’t know. It was never a deal breaker for me. Also, I have lived for long only in Ukraine before I moved to Canada, so I don’t have much to compare with.
Canada is an early adopter of the idea of one human race
A big reason why I feel so much at home in Canada is simply because here way more people have common life values with me. Even though I grew up in Ukraine, I’ve always been a very unique dude and never fully belonged. I never really lived up to the general notion of being Ukrainian, to be honest with you. I am used to being an outsider from early stages in my life. Therefore, being an immigrant in a country built by immigrants feels just fine. Everyone is different. Here this is celebrated and used for good. Honestly, I think Canada is one of the early adopters of this practical idea of one human race.
What salary would be enough to live a decent life in Canada?
Median annual family income throughout the entire country is C$78,870. The lowest minimum wage in Canada is currently C$10.65/hour. I think that living in Canada is more expensive than in the US. Salaries are approximately the same, but the currency is cheaper, taxes are higher and prices for almost everything (including accommodation) are also higher.
What are the disadvantages of living in Canada?
The only big disadvantage that I see in Canada is cold winters. The good thing is that in the region where I now live, winters are considerably shorter than in Toronto. The temperatures are more comfortable, but still, it snows a lot.
Another thing is taxes. Many people, including myself, feel that the system is built to protect the poor, but not to motivate the high-achievers. However, these issues are so small compared to the things happening in other countries! Canada is definitely one of the best places on Earth to call home.
How does your typical weekday & weekend look like?
Weekdays. I generally aim to wake up at 5 am, but that does not always happen. When I do, I am the most productive. I am working on my morning routines, such as meditation, gratitude journal, and affirmations. Then I am at a gym by approx. 6 am. By around 7 I am usually at my desk. The first hour I work on my own stuff. I am currently working on launching my first private label business, so it’s taking a lot of my attention. I learned that the way I start my day makes all the difference. What I do every day is the only thing I have full control over. No excuses. 🙂
You can change your life only through a system of daily habits
From around 8 am until 5 I work on my job-related projects. My job is very demanding, but is also very rewarding emotionally, which helps to stay pumped throughout the day. I am using the Productivity Planner, and every day I try to finish the most important tasks before lunch. Once my day job-related work is done, I switch back to my business stuff, which takes on average between three to five hours a day. I like my daily schedule. Here in Kelowna commute takes very little time, which is super convenient.
Tuesdays are a little different. We have a date night with Vira every Tuesday.
Now weekends. When we are not on a beach and not out road tripping and exploring new hiking trails, I work on my own projects. If it isn’t fixing my house, I often go to my office or a coffee shop downtown to focus on my business.
What is your favorite place in your town?
I like places where I can unwind, relax and recharge my batteries. Places with a view or where I happen to have good memories.
Kelowna is a dream town for outdoorsy people. It has so much to offer whole year round! I think my favorite place here is Gyro Beach, which is about 3 min drive from our home (after living in Toronto, proximity matters to me). When I go for a walk there, I feel grateful for my life. I like relaxing on a beach with an audiobook, playing volleyball, meeting people, working out, having serious conversations or laughing out loud with friends.
What are the reasons to visit Canada?
Oh, there are so many reasons to visit Canada!
Let’s start with Toronto. Downtown Toronto is a unique spot on this planet. There is probably no other city in the world where so many different people happily coexist in one place. Toronto is young and festive. World class everything and shocking contrasts on the streets. There is always something going on: 24/7/365. Just don’t go there in winter; it’s way too cold to enjoy the city. Niagara Falls is about 90 min drive from Toronto and is worth visiting. It’s impressive and the views are way better from the Canadian side.
Being the second largest country in the world Canada has a lot to offer not only for urban explorers but also for nature lovers. I drove across the continent when we were moving from Toronto to Kelowna. It’s a grant country and is definitely worth an adventure. Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City are all worth visiting if you happen to be on the East Side. West Coast marvels are Vancouver, Victoria and, certainly, the wine region called Okanagan Valley, where we currently live.
If you are one of those camping freaks or road trip addicts, Canada is for you. Especially, British Columbia and Alberta: these rocky snowy summits and emerald colored lakes, the variety of wild animals, the millennial forests and views from so many tops… I didn’t know I could be so astonished by the beauty of nature before I came here.
What would you miss the most if you would have to leave Canada tomorrow?
I would miss people who have been so great to me. Also, I would miss our lifestyle and the grand power of local nature. It really is that gorgeous.
I do consider moving somewhere else one day. Not before I get the Canadian passport, though. 88% of the world will then be available to me visa-free. This goal clearly plays towards my biggest life value: freedom.
What is your recipe for designing your life?
I think it is first and foremost keeping the big picture in mind and looking at your ultimate WHY. Next goes the mastery of positivity. Also, it’s important to understand that there’s nothing worth achieving that comes easy. Hard work and patience is the name of the game. However, again without your personal big WHY in mind it’s next to impossible to remain positive when life punches you in the face.
You may have an impression from my story and these pictures that it’s easy to survive and strive in a new country. It’s not. It’s likely way easier for you to become successful in your home country. Quite frankly, there is no need to relocate, unless your life mission is clearly about global impact.
For example, I can only imagine fulfillment of my own true potential through projects of international scope. That is why I had to move. Staying focused on your ultimate life mission is what makes any struggle worth it. That is what allows you to experience happiness on your way. Even on a bumpy ride.