5 Life Lessons I Learnt After Relocating to Canada

5 Life Lessons I Learnt After Relocating to Canada

I am an Indian (the curry eating type, not the buffalo hunting, warrior type) by origin and nationality. I completed my grad degree in engineering in India and then thanks to the recession in 2008, I randomly ended up becoming a data analyst at a bank (talk about career shifts). One thing led to another and I was given an opportunity to work as an analyst with the bank’s Canadian arm. I grabbed the opportunity and then on 27th November, 2010, an Air India flight brought me from the balmy, 25 degrees of Bangalore to a never-before-experienced, -2 degrees in Toronto.


New to Canada – The Initial Months

Now for an Indian who is “fresh off the boat” (Yes, I get to be racist about myself), the beginning of a Canadian winter is like looking into a grizzly bear’s mouth, in the middle of winter, wearing nothing but your undies: daunting, to say the least.

To compound that situation, I did not come to Toronto to study and hence I did not have a chance to mingle with folks of my age. I was 24 years old, living in downtown Toronto and my team at work was mostly the married, middle aged, living in the burbs, taking the GO train to commute type.

It was December, I had literally no one to hang out with, I was starting to get depressed, I had no plans for New Year’s Eve, it was cold and it got so bloody dark and depressing by 4:30 pm!

I knew that I had to go out on a limb to do something about my social life, adapt to the new conditions, settle down and try to have fun before I needed pills for my depression

I knew that I had to go out on a limb to do something about my social life, adapt to the new conditions, settle down and try to have fun before I needed pills for my depression.


Things did change for the better.


Toronto became my playground, my empty slate of self-expression, my cocoon of metamorphosis and a city that I love.


In the process, I learnt some valuable lessons after relocating to Canada, which I would like to share with you –

  1. Home is where the heart is  Home is Where You Want It to Be

I had left my family, friends and my girlfriend (now the ex) in India and that is where my heart lay. But that also made it difficult for me to call Toronto my home. I had to learn how to BE in Toronto and be at peace with the place and still love the people whom I left behind. It took some time and it was something that I had to actively work on but finally it really helped me to settle in


  1. Adaptation – New Living Conditions Demand New Mindsets

Yes, I had never experienced snow before coming to Canada, nor temperatures below 5 degrees. But I couldn’t let the winter win over me. I respected the weather but I wouldn’t let it intimidate me. Even on my first day in Toronto, just after arriving at my temporary residence, I decided to bundle up my jet lagged self into layers and take a walk around the block. I had to adapt and I could either do it with a smile or by complaining and cribbing about everything. I ended up putting an arm around Mr. Frost and made him my friend


  1. I Had Nothing to Lose But My Loneliness

I was lonely and beggars are not choosers. I started heading out to meetups and started meeting people. I met all kinds of people initially even though I was a lot more judgmental and introverted back then. But I had to really shake off that side of me and I had nothing to lose but my loneliness. I remember in my second week in Toronto, I went all alone to a karaoke pub and sang a couple of songs on stage. It went well and the crowds cheered. But oh my God, was it daunting to go out there alone! I forgot what a comfort zone felt like for a few months


  1. I am a Guy AND it’s OK to Ask for Help

When you are new to a country or a city, even the most basic things that we take for granted can be confusing or intimidating. For a few weeks initially, I did not use the subway trains. 

Guys don’t be an idiot like me. Ask for help, please

I wanted to go with someone who could show me the ropes. I was too afraid and embarrassed to ask for help at the station. To look like an uncool “tourist”, really hurt my ego and gave me feelings of inferiority. But I had to do it sometime and I decided to give, asking for help, a try. Guys don’t be an idiot like me. Ask for help, please

  1. Self Sufficiency – How Youtube Became my Best Friend

Back in India, I used to live and work from home. Everything was taken care of. Also due to the availability of cheap labour in India, even middle class families have a maid who comes to clean their house. We also had a cook.

Relocating to Canada
My first spring in Toronto – April 2011

So I was pretty useless at home, not out of desire but out of habit. I didn’t learn how to cook (among other essential, urban, survival skills) until I arrived in Toronto. I could fry omelettes, but that was about it. That’s when I discovered the beauty of Youtube. From how to use the washing machine to how to make fettucine in a rose sauce with a red wine reduction; I learnt it all. Youtube made a man out of me


Things are great now. I have my close friends, bunch of acquaintances, hobbies, psychotherapy school and a good job in Toronto. I can now cook, clean my place, do groceries and take care of myself and make it look easy. Now I would really like to hear your story of how it was for you, when you first moved to a new place. So start sharing, chop chop…


3 Responses to 5 Life Lessons I Learnt After Relocating to Canada

  1. Awesome post Aayan. A lot of it resonates with what I am going through
    now albeit the initial years in haloed “foren land”. Yes have to stop short of
    the anti depressants, but it’s just been a year for me at Sydney and your post
    could’nt have been better timed. Like you I arrived a year back at the peak of winter in the southern hemisphere, although I must agree that winter in Sydney is not as daunting as compared to Canada. But still my petit self got a jolt and was
    shaken out of the forever moderate Bangalore weather syndrome.!! As I write
    this, sitting in my office, am snugly wrapped up in my muffler and socks but
    luckily the iconic bong “monkey cap” is missing ;-).

    After all my meticulous planning and endless excel sheets what I had missed to foresee was how will I cope without my closest friends, confidants and family and off course MOST IMPORTANTLY my cook, cleaners and driver!!! There are still bouts that I get where in I want to go back running to India. The
    hellish traffic and ceaseless honking sometime appear as music in my dreams. The meetup groups do offer some succor and the opportunity to see the local perspective, however I am still at a phase where in I am in-between the two worlds and am guessing it will be so for some time. Few things I am thankful for are– Skype, facetime, almost free ISD calls and the internet. Without these
    inventions life in a different country would have been near impossible. Hopefully
    with the passage of time I might get to the comfort zone that you have reached
    in four years? Until then its “keep calm and keep going” for me !!

    • thanks for writing such a heartfelt and vulnerable commentary on your own situation, as reflected by my article. I think the biggest change happens when we accept that yes, everything is not fine just because we are now in “phoren”. That we do feel depressed and lonely and that it is a difficult adjustment regardless of the country or situation. You have your husband. That is a 2 way thing as well. You are not so alone and its easier to cope but then it might prevent you from changing and adapting quickly, as you dont feel that great pressure to go out there and hang out with the firangs. In my case, there was no one to fall back on and maybe thats why I settled down so quickly and even found my own (different) path in life. But once you go through something like this, you become really sure of who you are and what you are capable of. Its a great sense of confidence. Best of luck.

  2. Thanks Judy! Yes, I can totally relate to you here and moving with family is harder because you dont get that much time to go out there and mix with others or put in a lot of effort to go out of your comfort zone. Thanks for sharing your experience here 🙂

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