March 23, 2016
By Hugo O'Doherty
You’ve made it. After all the dreaming, the planning, and the constant refreshing of your online IRCC account, you’ve finally arrived. Now you're faced with your first week in Canada.
You’ve done some unpacking and walked a few blocks. But what to do next?
Here are some of the essential things you’ll need to do during your first week in Canada.
1. Get your SIN
Your Social Insurance Number is a nine-digit number that you’ll need to work in Canada. It’s similar to the PPS number in Ireland, the National Insurance Number in the UK, the Social Security Number in the U.S., or the Tax File Number in Australia. If you’re in Canada on a temporary work permit, your SIN will begin with a ‘9’.
You can apply for a SIN at any Service Canada office, and if the queues are short, you should have it all sorted within an hour. Be sure to bring your work or study permit with you. It’s also possible to obtain a SIN online or by mail, but these options take a bit longer.
Getting a SIN is something you should aim to do within your first week in Canada. Our SIN Canada guide has more information on what you’ll need.
2. Set up a bank account
Banking in Canada is convenient, but many account types will have charges that may be higher than you’re used to paying at home.
Nonetheless, it’s important to get one set up so you can manage bills and debit card payments, and avoid potentially costly withdrawals from your home account.
Bear in mind that each of these banks usually have monthly fees associated with their chequing accounts (known as ‘current accounts’ in some other countries). The average Canadian will spend more than $200 in banking fees each year.
Read our guide to help you find the best bank in Canada for you.
Need help settling in?
3. Get a local cell phone plan
There’s nothing enjoyable about researching and comparing phone plans. It’s even less enjoyable when you’re jet-lagged, and inclined to explore your brand new surroundings.
But this exploring will be made easier when you have a local data plan, and can find your way on Google Maps. The earlier you get a local phone, the more you’ll avoid costly roaming charges from your home provider. And if you’re on a two-year visa, and considering entering a two-year contract, you’ll want to align these as best you can.
Bear in mind that caller ID, and even receiving local calls, can incur charges. Our cell phone plan in Canada guide goes through what you need to look out for.
4. Begin your apartment search
If you have no Canadian credit history or local references (like most immigrants), you may be at a disadvantage, as some landlords will give preference to applicants who can provide these. If you come across this, you’ll just have to keep trying until you find a landlord who’s more flexible.
In my experience, it also helped to make enquiries using a Canadian cell phone – I found landlords far more likely to answer a local number compared to calls in my first few days from my Irish phone.
Websites like Craigslist and Kijiji will have listings. Padmapper also acts as a good aggregator. Some of these listings will be out-of-date – usually, the only way to tell is by calling or emailing the person who put up the posting and find out.
Check the ‘Where to live in…’ sections in each of our City Guides for information on the different neighbourhoods you’ll have to choose from in your area.
5. Make friends
Once the dust settles on all the errands you have to do, it’s time to get to know some people and start building a solid network of good friends and acquaintances that can help you feeling truly at home in your new city.
Moving2Canada has Facebook groups for Canada’s major cities where you can introduce yourself and say hello. Visit our City Guides section for links to each city.
6. Be good to yourself
You’ll be jet-lagged. You won’t know where the best place is to buy your daily conveniences. You’ll occasionally struggle with the knowledge that your entire support network is several time zones away. And the grind of apartment-hunting won’t match the months of Utopian daydreaming you did when you planned this whole adventure.
That’s okay. Remember that it’s normal to be cranky when you’re tired, and it’s normal after a few weeks in a hostel to miss having your own bed. Don’t beat yourself up about this, and remember that other travelers are in the same boat.
7. Tick something off the bucket list during your first week in Canada
Between the stress of winding down your life back home, and the stress of setting up your new life here, it can be easy to forget how exciting this whole thing actually is.
Balance your jet lag and your studious efforts to build a life in Canada with reminders of why you decided to travel in the first place. Go to the top of the CN Tower, climb the Grouse Grind, rent a car for the weekend and explore. Do something you’ve been dreaming of.
You’ve arrived. Get out there and see the city.
- Save yourself time and money on your travel insurance for Canada. Read Our Guide.
- Know someone who’s looking for work? Check out our Jobs Board.
- Read more: Celebrate Canadian culture with these 10 things Canadians do
March 23, 2016
By Hugo O'Doherty
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