A braindump of tips for other new immigrants from the Philippines

For Anna Simbulan (welcome to Toronto!) and others this can help along the way. =)

  • Winter and clothing

    Toronto can be cold. Dress in layers. Long underwear, sweaters, gloves, and hats can help you keep warm. Thinsulate is better than knit when it comes to blocking out wind. Layers are better than a big coat because you can adjust the warmth depending on changes in weather, physical activity, etc.

    Winter can also be pretty grey and depressing. If you’re finding it hard to get through the day, get plenty of sunlight. Sometimes colourful things can be helpful, too.

    Things might look pretty expensive, particularly if you do the CAD-PHP conversion and think about how much cheaper you could get things at ukay-ukay or bazaars. Check out second-hand stores like Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Value Village. You can usually find perfectly good clothes, coats, and household items for much cheaper than the retail price.

    If you need to walk around downtown Toronto, check out the underground PATH.

    Find something to enjoy about winter. I’ve learned to think of winter as a season for cooking, baking, hot chocolate, and early(ish) bedtimes.

  • Home and society

    Be prepared for homesickness. It’s a natural part of moving.

    Be prepared for cultural differences. Avoid making jokes or statements that are racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise politically incorrect.

    It can feel pretty lonely when your barkada and social support networks are half a world away. Check out classes, go to activities, meet people, make new friends.

    Free video-calling programs like Skype and social networking tools like Facebook help you keep in touch with old friends.

    If you want to cook recipes from home, you can find many of the ingredients in Chinatown or even in some of the larger supermarkets. For example, you can find Skyflakes, ampalaya, bagoong, and halo-halo ingredients in Chinatown. The No Frills supermarket in Dufferin Mall has Skyflakes, too.

    There aren’t that many Filipino restaurants downtown, though. Definitely worth learning how to make things at home. You may find some neighborhoods with Filipino stores (including places where you can buy balikbayan boxes). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Manila#Toronto

  • Resources

    The Toronto Public Library is amazing. Sign up, get your library card, and use http://torontopubliclibrary.ca to get books delivered to the branch closest to you. It even has a number of books in Filipino. Check out the e-books, movies, music CDs, and graphic novels as well.

    The library has many seminars for newcomers and job-seekers. There are many other newcomer organizations, too. Take advantage of the services and training they offer, such as networking events and free training.

    Public transit works pretty well. You can even use maps.google.com to plan your route.

  • Work

    If you’re applying for a job, it’s worth reviewing your resume and using the Canadian conventions. For example, people here don’t indicate their age, marital status, height, or weight on resumes.

    If you get stumped by employers requiring Canadian experience, consider volunteering or working in a different position for some time in order to pick up that experience.

  • Finance

    If you’re having a hard time getting a credit card, get a secured credit card first, then use that to build your credit history. When I started, I got the TD Green Visa card. I deposited some money and that deposit was used to secure the card. Once you qualify for a better card, you can switch to something like PCFinancial Mastercard (equivalent of 1% rewards) or MBNA Enrich (3% cashback on groceries, 1% on regular purchases).

    Compare prices online. Buying textbooks or other things? Check ebay.ca and other sites before buying things in person. You can often find significant discounts online, too, and shipping is reliable. Look for free or cheap stuff on craigslist.ca or kijiji.ca, or join a Freecycle group.

    Keep some savings in a checking account as an emergency fund / buffer and the rest in a high-interest savings account. Don’t overload yourself with credit card debt. Pay off your credit card every month, if you can, and plan your spending so that you don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck.

    Enjoy life. =) There will probably always be things and people you will miss, but maybe Toronto can become a second home.


    What other tips would you add?

  • Anna Simbulan

    Yeah, I’ve heard about the Seasonal Affective Disorder. Good thing we’re still excited about the snow so I don’t think we’ll acquire that. ;)

    Definitely, CAD to PhP is a no-no! You’ll just get depressed! :P

    As for Filipino cuisine and boutiques, there’s a handful at Wilson Ave / Bathurst St.

    Thanks for this Sacha! You’re really a big help!

  • Nice job, Sacha.

    But knowing you, you’re always looking for improvement. Here goes…

    You did nicely on the links to the public library and Little Manila. But what about links to Toronto Underground Path? That would’ve been helpful. Also for Skype. You can leave out links for Facebook… seriously… is any immigrant NOT on facebook?

    Also: for work, and as a partial remedy for depression, go to meetups. See this: http://www.meetup.com/find/?userFreeform=toronto,+canada&gcResults=Toronto,+ON,+Canada:CA:ON:Toronto+Division:Toronto:null:null:43.6525:-79.3816667&op=search

    A newcomer might be afraid to join a group of people – but meetups are precisely that. Check out the number of people attending, if it’s sufficiently large (say >50), one can easily ‘melt into the crowd’ and remain anonymous while listening to the talks.

    Re: Volunteering to get experience. Good call. My sister in Vancouver and has been job hunting for 4 months now with no luck. Work wise, it’s easy to sell oneself short. In Manila, you may have been high up in mid management and ego might get in the way of taking an entry level position so you could learn the ropes. Think of it as ‘consulting’. You’re not stuck to the position, but it will help you springboard into the position you want.

    Also, if you have time, crash some large lectures at McGill (www.mcgill.ca), or University of Toronto (www,utoronto.ca) Yes it does take a bit of cojones (is that SFW? sorry) but you can sit in at an entry level econ 101 lecture without people really noticing. People are not going to check attendance when the lecture hall holds 300 people. This is way better than watching the same lecture on youtube.

    AND… As our dear Sacha is apt to omit (sorry dude). Leverage the church. ’nuff said. I think God’s trying to tell me something since the Captcha required to post this is so hard to read…

    Finally: JOURNAL. Write down your experience because it will be a story that will be treasured by your kids and grandkids.

    (That’s about it, Sacha. Please don’t hurt me. I’m you’re friend… remember?)

  • Don’t keep on bundling up too heavily. It’s best you develop a resistance to the cold weather.

    Get your driver’s license, not necessarily a car. It gives you the flexibility to go outside the TTC area, be more independent and allows for opportunities outside of the TTC zone.