We arrived in Winnipeg with our entire life packed in just 6 balikbayan boxes. As I mentioned in my previous post, the grass on the other side is not always greener, life away from home can be really lonely too. New beginnings can really be exciting but it is also overwhelming. We are about to complete our 10th year in Canada, our life is not perfect but I can still say that we had a good journey.
Aside from the things that I discovered about being a Filipino immigrant, which you’ve probably read from my most recent post 10 Things that I Learned from Living Abroad, Canada also changed some of my life’s perspective. I found myself reflecting a few of the more serious lessons that I learned about the things we need to live life in a more positive way.
So here are more life important lessons that I learned over the last decade in this beautiful country I now call “home”.
APPRECIATING NATURE IS AN ANTI-DEPRESSANT. I read in the past that there were studies that prove that people appreciating everyday nature get many individual and social benefits, one of which is that the closer we are to nature, the happier we feel. I guess appreciating nature helped me overcome homesickness. Canada showcased how one country can almost have it all when it comes to nature, moving to Canada gave me a chance to step back and appreciate the nature that surrounds me on a daily basis. More than enjoying different seasons in a year, Canada made me fall in love with the beauty of nature because of the numerous breathtaking natural sights to see. They say nature is everywhere, but in Canada it felt that you are closer to nature. I particularly enjoy spring and summer seasons, I don’t need to hike up a mountain to spend more time with nature, as soon as I go out in the morning, I see flowers blooming from the backyard or blades of grass unexpectedly emerging from train tracks and even while cooking in the kitchen, I could see trees with birds perched on its branches from the window, whenever, I do my afternoon walk, I love how I can see pelicans quietly enjoying the calm lake and who would not notice the honking sound of the flock of Canada Geese flying in V formation. But the most magical thing for me is the changing colours of the leaves and the golden glow at dawn during autumn. These are just some of the best examples of “nature” that I realized were just right under my nose, these things truly bring unexplainable sense of tranquil awareness to me.
BEING NICE DOESN’T HURT. When we arrived in Manitoba, I’ve seen hundreds of license plates with “Friendly Manitoba” in it and this tag line will not be there for nothing. Manitobans are really friendly, I have personally experienced situations how people in my neighborhood showed importance of interacting with others and being nice to one another. I realized how it doesn’t hurt to say “hi” or “hello” even to people you don’t know in the grocery store or to the people in your neighborhood that you run into during your afternoon walk. Simple gesture that can brighten your day and someone’s day. Canadians, in general are known to be nice people. There is also a popular joke that Canadians apologize for almost everything, but personally speaking, it is something about Canadians that should not be taken negatively. According to Karina Schumann, a psychologist, it may be reflexive for Canadians to apologize, but it stems from a culture of being polite. The Canadian “sorry” is a totem of niceness with a sly undertone of superiority.
PAY IT FORWARD. The Pay-It-Forward effect, as described by Catherine Ryan Hyde, is a Dominoes-like phenomenon, where a single act of kindness creates a cascade, or chain reaction of kindness. In such a phenomenon, the person who receives the initial kindness pays it forward (as opposed to back to the original kindness doer) to a stranger, and the chain continues from there. There are a lot of stories shared online on how doing something nice touched someone’s life. And when I was still working at Tim Hortons, I personally witnessed Canadians’ generosity, paying it forward was not uncommon, almost every day there will be customers at the drive-through window who will pick up the cost of the order of the person behind him/her and the next person will be inspired to keep the chain going by also paying it forward to the person behind them. Such a simple act that made people feel connected to each other which brings huge effect – people become kinder, more patient and more supportive.
TIME IS GOLD. As I mentioned in my post Leaving a Place Called Home, one of the things that I learned to value more when I moved to Canada is “time.” It felt like time passes by way too fast, whatever life you left back home, you can no longer pick up – there are special events or occasions that you just missed, once it passed you by and its gone. Living in Canada taught me to value my time even more, whatever plans you make for the coming days you must be very strict in observing your time line. Even in simple daily activities I now knew how time is really of essence. Back in the Philippines, when I want to have a haircut, a massage or even to see a dermatologist, I can do it whenever. Since I moved to Canada, almost every single thing that I need to do has to be on schedule, sometimes, it even feels like 24 hours a day is not enough for me to do all the things that I need to do.
FAMILY ALWAYS COMES FIRST. I grew up in a place where we were taught to prioritize family first, both my husband and I have very tight relations with our respective family. When we moved to Canada, I felt the assurance that Canadians place big importance to families as well. In fact, Canada’s maternity and parental leave benefits is one of the best in the world, in 2017 the federal government changed the rules governing parental and maternity leave in Canada wherein new parents will be able to opt for either 12 months or 18 months of combined maternity and parental leave. Parents receive 55% of average weekly earnings, in addition to this, the policy also ensures that if the parents decide to go back to work, he/she will still have the same job to return to. Parents, particularly the mother are given enough time to spend with their newly-born child without worrying of losing her job or having no income at all. Another reason why I truly believe that the Canadians prioritize family is the statutory holiday observed every third Monday of February called Family Day. This holiday is observed in five provinces (Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan), while it is called Louis Riel Day in Manitoba and Islander Day in Prince Edward Island. But no matter how this holiday is called the purpose is the same in all provinces – to spend quality time with your family. Even on ordinary days at work, whenever, it comes to family concerns and you need time off from work, you will not find a hard time to get the vacation days that you need, employers are more considerate when it comes to their employees’ family. Not only you will see the government and your employer’s support, you will also appreciate your relationship with your family, especially with your partner, you don’t have anyone to rely on but each other. You will face the challenges and the difficulties together, which can either break or make your relationship. And once you overcome them, you will come out stronger.
IN FRIENDSHIP, IT’S QUALITY OVER QUANTITY. There’s this friendship quote that says, “as you get older, you realize it becomes less important to have a ton of friends and it’s more important to have real ones.” Not that I didn’t know these things before I moved to Canada, but this has more impact to me now than it does before. When you live abroad and you are a working mom of three children, you tend to have lesser time to spend time with your friends. I made a lot of new friends in the past 10 years and most of them were the people I worked with and I am working with. Because moving abroad means leaving the people we know, it is inevitable to feel the loss of immediate support and acceptance that we get when we’re still back home. As you start anew in your new home, we meet people who will fill these gaps. Not everyone will stay but those with whom you go through difficult situations like difficult pregnancies, illnesses, financial problems or homesickness and who also rejoice with you when there’s a new baby, we got promoted or we buy a new house are also the same faces that we share our dining table with during Christmas, Thanksgiving and all the other important occasions. Your bond with them is stronger, and these supportive and genuine friends that you gain in another country become the friends whom you start to consider as your family.
In this world where people become more connected with their followers behind their smart phone screen, friends can just pass you by. I will not lie that there was a period that I felt disconnected with my friends that I left from home. Even if, I see them in Facebook or Instagram or we greet each other during special occasions, I have accepted that distance has illuminated where our friendship stands. When my day is just about to begin here in Winnipeg, their day is about to end, which makes it impossible for us to catch up with each other. But then, there are those friends that I met again when I visited home who made me feel that it is possible to pick up where we left off. It felt that we’re in the same place again and our time differences will not be a reason to update each other about life’s events. I am truly grateful, to have people in my life who will put an effort to send me shirts, sweets, books or even note pads. Indeed, being miles away and having an opposite time zone truly put my friendships to test, but it is from this test that you will realize which one is worth keeping.
AGE DOESN’T MATTER. I know I said that time is gold. And as time moves forward, we also aged. But in Canada, I learned that your age should not hinder you from chasing your dreams. It is never too late for changes, being a bit older shouldn’t limit you from doing the things that you want and the learning that you need. Come to think of it, when you are older, you are more experienced, you know yourself better and what you want in life is more definite. Hence, if you want to change career go for it, sign up for the course that you want to take, learn to speak French if you need to or maybe open that business that you have been saving for. I should know how fulfilling it is because I was in those shoes. There was a time when I thought I can no longer take back those opportunities that I wasn’t able to grab because I felt that I was not prepared for them. But I decided to pursue what I want to do, I guess there are really the “best” time that we thought we can do things, but it is never too late to try it again if we missed it the first time. Regardless if you are young or older, today is always the right time to make your first step towards your goals.
THE MORE YOU LEARN, THE MORE YOU CHANGE. I guess every single person who experienced living abroad temporarily or permanently will not argue when I say that moving to another country will bring so much changes into your life. It is not possible to immerse yourself into a new environment with a different culture and remained unchanged, your day-to-day habits up to your goals will be influenced by the new life that you have adapted. When you live abroad, you also open yourself not just to new beginnings, you also expect to face challenges. And in each challenge of adapting into the new environment that you need to go through will leave you with a new learning experience, the more that you learn, the more that you change. No matter what prejudice you had about life before leaving your home country, one day will come that you just realize that living in a brand-new world has changed your perspective. Those words that we often hear from our family and friends when we bid our goodbye to them, “please don’t change, stay the way you are,” are no longer applicable. Because of everything that you have experienced and learned, you will not be the same person you were when you first left.
HOME IS WHERE YOUR HEART IS. I repeatedly mentioned in a number of my posts that I never regret moving to Canada, however, it doesn’t mean that I already forgot where I came from. Regardless of the number of years that I have been away, the fact remains that I was born and raised in the Philippines and Pasig (my hometown) will always be the most special place on earth for me. I may have learned the Canadian way of life and I may have gained new friends here but there are still times that I feel like an outsider. No matter how long you live in another country, there will always be something that separates you from the others, there will still be occasions when you’ll wish that you were home. When I came back from my first visit to the Philippines in 2017, I realized that I appreciate my home country more, as the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder and that’s exactly how I felt. My current home address maybe Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada… but the fact remains that there will always be mails, packages and footsteps that will always come home to Pasig City, Philippines, because I left a part of my heart in my homecountry.
ENSURE YOUR PRESENT & YOUR FUTURE. Two months after we landed to Canada and my husband got a job, one of the first things I did was to purchase a life insurance for myself and my husband. Aside from my cousin, I do not have any other relatives and I didn’t think that the money that we brought with us will be enough in case something happens to any of us. I made a few readings and research about life in Canada before even coming to Winnipeg, one of the tips that got stuck in my head is that life insurance is a fundamental part of having a sound financial plan, because life insurance is all about providing financial safety net that will ensure that your family (especially my children) will be well taken care of in case of life uncertainties. I do understand how other people think that life insurance is just an extra cost, but we are willing to pay for insurance for our vehicles, new appliances or even for our mobile phones. We always stress on how much money we need to pay upfront for our own insurance without realizing how it will protect and benefit us. When we have a family, who depends on our financial support, insurance will replace your income in case something happens to us.
Indeed, uprooting your life and moving elsewhere is one of the hardest things to do but it is also rewarding. I am fortunate that I am in a country where I am appreciated and respected. The new experiences that I had and will have, the new relationships that I built and will build and all the other opportunities that come with living in a new country are some of the things that will help me to become a better version of myself.