An average Canadian, you meet anywhere is likely to greet you and so would most salespersons you meet in shops. He/she will hold a door open for you. Canada, resembles the Western world in the respect shown to pedestrians on the road, who invariably are given priority in crossing. The country does exude warmth, despite the cold weather. I stayed in Delta, which is very near to Surrey and it was more convenient to converse with people in Punjabi than English.
I attended my life’s first marriage reception party on a cruise boat and ran for the first time on a tartan track.
Fruits, Vegetables, Groceries and Sweets
A large number of fruits, vegetables and grocery stores are operated by the US companies and get most of their stuff from the US in large trucks. Salient observations:
- Almonds and peanuts are practically the same rate at below $ 4 per pound.
- Onions, potatoes and cucumbers are much bigger than we get in India. You will find three varieties of onions-red, golden and white.
- The inventory of stuff available is vast, cut and uncut fruits/vegetables, pre-cooked meals, not just pizzas but plenty of options in ‘dosas’, ‘idlis; ‘parathas’ with different fillings, ‘goal gappas’ and so on. Mangoes come from Mexico and Canada exports plenty of pulses as well as Canola oil to India.
- Of course, Canada cannot match Meerut in the varieties of Mangoes available in summers and also these guys, including the Indian run shops cannot make sweets and ‘rewri-gazak’ like Meerut.
Power Supply & Traffic
For over 5 months that I spent in Canada, I never saw non availability of power supply for even a second, anywhere. There was never a cut in the internet service either and there was a total absence of blowing of horns, sudden lane changing and wrong side overtaking by vehicles on the road.
Please Don’t Convert Dollars to Rs!
To grasp as to what I am paying for a good/service it is an instinctive tendency to convert dollars into Rs. We should not do that, or else we will end up keeping one’s own puncture repair kit and cutting each-other’s hair, just imagine paying $ 40 to fix a car puncture in Canada and paying less than a dollar for it in India!
There are big, well-stocked public libraries. Visiting libraries along with eatables and a can of coffee by complete families is quite a normal feature (Canadians drink coffee in large cans: it is very strong with very little milk; the coffee is drunk at practically room temperature and not hot like in India). AC libraries are a good place to relax in the winters as well as summers. People are well-read but most Indian origin Canadian kids or others I met knew very little about either Indian or Canadian history. It was news for them that Nehru was India’s first PM and that Canada had contributed to the World Wars.
High quality public sports facilities with lighting are impressive. They are well utilized too. Plenty of gyms are available, generally within walking distance of wherever one resides. Often these are open 24×7 to cater to the lifestyles of people. Meeting people in their 70s spending up to 2 hours per day in the gym is quite normal. In India, not many people live above 70 and at 63 I generally am the oldest guy training in a gym. In the ‘Fit for Less’ Surrey gym that I used from May to Sep 2023, the group of friends I made, used to call me ‘junior.’
Public Healthcare, Schooling and Higher Education
Healthcare is totally public and schooling is predominantly public. I found most people not too pleased with the public healthcare system and desired that a capitalist society should offer private medical facilities for those willing to pay for it; the primary grievance was the long waiting period in obtaining medical treatment. People were generally happy with public schooling.
Higher education is popular and expensive. Canada attracts a large number of foreign students, including from India. This is adequate evidence that higher education and employment opportunities in Canada are good.
Distribution of Wealth & Social Disparity
I found social disparity very low vis-à-vis India. A waiter/waitress in a restaurant would talk with you as your social equal, just like a taxi or bus driver or the young lady who cleaned the common areas in the apartment where I stayed in Delta. The kids from families of the not so well off have as good a chance to make a mark in their lives as anyone else. My son works in Maynards, an auctioning firm. The owner had invited my wife and I for lunch during our stay. He informed that his grandfather had been the ‘batman’ of an officer during the First World War and hence not much exposed to danger. Laws about minimum wages, good public education and democratic norms have made the society fairly good and happy. The bimonthly receipt of pay and the culture of social security has reduced the Canadian citizens propensity to save for ‘a rainy day’ rather low. People were appreciative of what the government did for them during the Covid pandemic. They felt that what they had got was what they had deserved and there were no feelings of “Dhanyawad Tradeau,” like Indians were forced to say through posters for Covid vaccines in India, “Dhanyavaad Modiji.”
I enjoyed playing Tennis on public as well as private club courts as also the 3-4 tournaments I played in Canada. The salient memories I have are the following:
- The Surrey Open is organized predominantly by the Sikh community and it was the best conducted tournament that I played with the typical Sikh ‘langar’ culture of free food and drinks.
- In one singles match against a Japanese origin Canadian, I had asked my visibly younger opponent his age and he promised to tell me after the match. I won the match after a long battle and my opponent did not fulfill the promise he had made.
- In one singles match which I lost to a Chinese origin guy, who had just begun work and was accompanied by his mother, my sporting and friendly opponent got my water bottle filled during a break because I was too tired to do so because of the amount of running he made me do!
- In a doubles’ final which my son and I lost to two Canadian brothers in their 20s, the opponents found it easier to handle my son’s fast serves, but difficult to return my serves, because they were not used to handling such slow pace.
Water bodies in Canada are plenty. People do not work on weekends. Popular weekend pursuits are family boating trips and for some Harley Davidson bike rides. Families own small boats, which are loaded atop their big cars and go on boating trips. Bike riders would drive 200-300 km on weekends just like that.
29-year-old, bachelor, Jabarjang with roots in Amritsar was a manager in the gym I frequented. He had been in Canada for 8-9 years. He earned good money through three pursuits: working in the gym, a library and modeling. As per him Canada was a good place to earn but not to stay permanently. Through his earnings he was planning to establish a stud farm in Amritsar one day. For him Amritsar was far better than Canada.
Glimpse of USA and Comparison with Canada
The USA is quite close to Delta. We started in the morning by road, did the immigration formalities, visited a few places, had lunch and returned by evening. People in the USA appeared less warm than the Canadians. The state of roads was inferior to Canada. Fuel prices are lower in the USA. Immigrants are attracted more to the USA as per anecdotal evidence because of better salaries and lower taxes. Canada offers a more laid-back lifestyle, with matching infrastructure. I advised my son to continue in Canada. I liked the place, the lifestyle as well as the work culture, where people are respected and taken care of. As regards my wife and I, we are too well entrenched with family and friends at Meerut and also quite old. If we were younger then maybe we could have thought of Canada as a place to relocate to. There was plenty of news of diplomatic tension between India-Canada ties. This is just superficial stuff. Life does not change for the average immigrant-the employer behaves in the same way and so do the people you meet.