/ Travel

What to expect after arriving in Toronto for the first time?

(What I write is solely based on my own experience)

A transition period is not the easiest times even if it happens in the smoothest way. Ours wasn’t too easy either, it’s a couple of months now since we’ve traveled all the way from Bangladesh to start a new life. I didn’t have any close friends or close relatives before coming here who would help us out. Once we came here we have received supports in the most unexpected ways from the ones we expected the least. That’s the beauty of humanity, especially the ones from our country became our guardian angels. It may not always be those who you have expected to be there for you but life doesn’t stop for anybody, someone else would fill that void even better.

Our first impression of Toronto was not the best one because of the old YYZ Toronto airport. Especially after coming from the modern Istanbul airport, this one may not seem to be the most impressive one for sure. You also got to hold yourself for a cultural shock as well if it’s your first trip here. Going somewhere for short term is one thing but for longer term it is not the same. One would realise it pretty well in the first few days here. Besides, we took our AirBnb close to York campus in North York which is pretty far from Downtown and you have to walk for 10 minutes and get another 10 minutes bus ride to get a cup of coffee. There are houses there, but everybody seems to have cars who lives in that area near Blaydon Avenue. At the very beginning, it's safe to stay around Victoria Park/Danforth where thousands of Bangladeshis live. It makes one feel a little less homesick. You may be sick of Bangladesh if you are in Bangladesh or any other country in the sub-continent, but once you are here, it's inevitable to feel homesick. A sense of "not belonging" here might be strong initially because it's different from what we have experienced all our lives. Dreams often are more beautiful in our sleeps, when we wake up to reality, we see the difference. We came here knowing it all, but when we are in it, we realized that, it will take time to get used it all. Yes, it's a beautiful country, the society is one of the best in the world and everything about the place is amazing but everybody has to go through the initial hurdles before they can start enjoying. It’ll take you a while to get used to the law of the land and how things are. Say for example, you’d be paying at a supermarket, if it’s below hundred dollars, you have to tap your card to the POS machine. If it’s more, you got to insert the card and write your pin. This is a very simple example that you may have to learn after being here. You can’t cross the road without a zebra crossing and that too when you get walk sign on. We are not so civilised, that we require overpass in our countries for walkers. I haven’t seen one in Toronto though. People has to walk so much.

Things you must do after arriving here in Canada:

1. Get a sim card:

That doesn’t mean you have to buy it from the airport after a long journey. But this is the first thing you got to do because the next steps depends on this. Everything you do, you got to give them your number. You only need your passport to buy a sim. Data is expensive, try to use wifi whenever possible.

What mobile carier to pick?

If you have so much money to spend, go for Bell, Rogers or worse- Fido. Fido charged me and my wife $550 (around 35,000 Bangladeshi taka) in one month so beware of this. They have hidden and overage charges and will surprise you the way even your wife or girlfriend cannot. After getting shocked, I ported my number to Freedom, they’re charging me what they said and they have no data overage policy so no surprise here. It’s cheaper as well. Another option is Public mobile which offers cheaper rates but I picked Freedom mobile from the second month by porting our numbers from Fido after the way they cut my throat.

2. Open your bank account:

I’ve opened my account with TD bank and so far I’m satisfied. They have amazing apps through which you can track your account and spending. I’ve got a credit card too. CIBC is my second account because it’s free of charge. There are other options like RBC and Scotia Bank. All of them provides great services.

3. Buy a monthly TTC Presto pass:

It’ll cost you $155 (I got my student pass for $125 from Sherbourne station though) and you can then have unlimited trips for a month. Otherwise, you’d be paying a lot more if you buy normal presto card (depending on the trips you take). TTC and subway might become your best friend so learn the routes by getting a map available on buses and trains. Sooner you learn, better for you. It’ll take you a while to get driving license here and to buy your car. Download TTC app, although, I like Moovit and Google maps more because they're easier to use and good for planning your trips. They gives real time updates on bus or trains.

4. Get your SIN number:

Simply google “Service Canada near me” and google maps will show you how to get there. Once you get there with your study/work permit or PR related papers, along with your passport, they’ll process it and get your SIN within half an hour. You’ll need it for employment, bank or tax. Remember- NEVER SHARE YOUR SIN NUMBER WITH ANYONE ELSE.

5. Get your accommodation:

Your next most important task is to get a suitable accommodation. I can write a whole different article on this one but in short- this is not going to be easy. Make a budget, list down your preferences. My preferences were to get a house near the subway station or a bus stop near to that station. It’s a must for someone who doesn’t have a car. Uber is very expensive here so you better watch out. Besides, public transport is world class here so why not take advantage of that? Also you gotta check if there’s grocery stores and restaurants around, trust me it’s important. Personally, I don’t prefer basements, at times they’re gloomy and may not be the healthiest option. Some walk out basements are nice but they’re going to be expensive. Apartments are not easily available and they asks for credit history which a newcomer will not have. Most apartments are old and new ones are expensive here. I’ve moved to a townhouse unit which has plenty of light and air. It’s also close to all the amenities and stations and bus stop is just in front of the door.

Where do you search your house?

I’ve searched everywhere like a crazy person and called so many people. I’ve tried kijiji but it didn’t help at all. Finally, my wife found an ad on a very helpful Facebook group of Bangladeshi community - "BCCB" and this one fulfilled our requirements. Initially you need people from your country to help you out as people from other countries may not trust you. One house owner asked me to pay 6 months advance and I was not interested in that term. You need luck and got to be patient, eventually after some viewing, you'll get the one suitable one for your needs.

House rent rates

Rents in general starts from around $800 for room sharing with others. A basement apartment is around $1000-$1800 depending on location and quality. A townhouse unit may cost from $1200-$1600. Apartments are usually $1400-$2600. However, there's no end to how expensive it can get, but this is just a general idea from my searching research.

6. Get a job:

Probably the most important factor, because the money you bring from your country will drain out like crazy especially in the first couple of months. All your savings would seem dust in the wind even if no badluck strike you like the one - Fido did to us. Whereas, even the minimum wage in Toronto might be sufficient to recover the living cost. Toronto is expensive! Minimum wage here would be $14 here. Monthly minimum income would be somewhere around $1900 after tax. More than half of which would be engulfed by house rent. So, getting a job for both the husband and wife is important. In most of the times, people starts with minimum wage survival jobs after being unemployed for a few months- availibility of which are plenty. One can start with factory, call center or retail shops. This is the unfortunate truth for many people but without proper connection and prior Canadian job experience or education, it's difficult to get a job in Canada straightaway. There may be a lucky few but they're quite rare. Once again, BCCB group was a huge help for my wife to get her first job after trying for a month. Since I'm a student, I yet to start working outside, as I'm hopeful of getting on-campus job from the next semester and if lucky, some scholarships too (in sha Allah!). There are some organizations like Access Employment, who helps with free training and placement services.

Best wishes on getting your first job in Canada.

Other suggestions:

  • Keep your spending as little as possible initially unless you're a richie rich
  • If you feel down, go to a nearby park or visit zoo or go to Dundas square, you'll feel alive.
  • Difficulties might be there, but try to enjoy yourself to the fullest. There are plenty of options for that.
  • Meet new people, beyond your desi community, explore and learn new cultures, you'll find all kinds of people in Toronto
  • Never say NO to a desi dawat (invitation), you can refill your stomach enough for the next few days.
  • Try subway over buses, waiting time for a bus is way too high than subway trains.
  • If you're hungry, don't try new food, stick to what you tasted already
  • Be careful about ham, bacon or saucages if you're a religious Muslim
  • Don't worry too much about HALAL chicken (you can buy them from many places though)
  • Make friends whenever possible, Canadians are generally very nice
  • Always keep your Presto card with you when you go out, keep some cash and credit card and even coins (for transport if you run out of Presto balance). They help at the time of need because not every shops accepts everything.

More tips will be updated as I get to recall them :)

Best wishes and feel free to contact me if you ever need help. I hope this guide will help you. I'd like to thank those who helped us initially to get along.

Thanks for reading.

Shopnil Mahmud

Shopnil Mahmud

A software engineer with avid interest on any form of arts and philosophy. Likes to write codes for a living and poetry for the soul. Currently residing in Toronto, originally from Bangladesh.

Read More