21 April 2017

Juliette Giannesini - Expat in Ottawa, Canada

Juliette Giannesini - Expat in Ottawa, Canada

We’ve had the chance to talk to Juliette Giannesini, 34, a French-Canadian expat who has moved to Ottawa, Canada with her husband. Mrs. Giannesini who has been living there for 15 years, now works as a freelance translator, editor, and copywriter. 

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: I was born and raised in Nantes, in the North-West of France.


Q: What made you move out of France?

A: I travelled to China when I was 16 to attend summer classes at a university and I picked up the wanderlust bug. At the end of the summer, I left China in tears. I wanted to travel the world. Inconveniently, I had yet to graduate from high school and I had no money. My plans would have to wait for another two years.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: I live in Ottawa, Canada. I had never planned to move to Canada, I sort of ended up here after meeting a Canadian guy, who is now my husband.


Q: How long have you been living in Canada?

A: I came to Canada in 2002, got permanent residence status in 2005 and became a Canadian citizen in 2009.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I live with my husband, who is Chinese-Canadian, and we have a son born in Canada in 2012.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I’m 34 and I left France at 18, so I’ve spent almost half of my life abroad. My ties with France are looser than most immigrants I know. 

Of course, I miss my family ever now and then. It was hard to cope with motherhood after my son was born, I felt isolated and for the first time in years, I did miss France, the convenience of having relatives around, of being in a familiar culture. It comes and goes. Like most immigrants, I’m stuck in the middle, perfectly aware that no matter where I go or where I live, there is always a piece of me somewhere else.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: The cliché is true: Canadian is welcoming, friendly and easy-going. I love how diverse and accepting our society is.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Canada? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: I met most of my existing social circle at work before I opted for a freelancing career. 

I live in the English part of Canada and most French move to Montreal. There isn’t a huge French community in Ontario. I never really looked for other expats… I don’t consider myself an expat, I’m an immigrant and I have zero interest in chatting about the “good old days in France.” 

That said, most of my friends have an international background and I do know quite a few francophones (from France or other French-speaking countries) through my job as a translator.


Q: How does the cost of living in Canada compared to your home?

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: A medium cup of coffee at Tim Hortons, the beloved national chain, is $1.79.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: Ethnic food is probably the cheapest (and most delicious!) meal you can get at around $15.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: I’d say from $50 and up, up, up…

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: This really depends on the province, but about $10-15 for wine in Ontario and around the same for a pack of cigarettes.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Canada?

A: Five large banks dominate the industry: the Bank of Montreal (BMO), the Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank), the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), and Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD). 

Overall, the banking system is efficient, reliable and accessible to newcomers—most banks even have bilingual employees (English/French + Punjabi, Spanish, Mandarin, etc.) who make it easier for immigrants to get service in their mother tongue. 

You may not be able to get a credit card right away if you don’t have a credit history (start building it as soon as you can!) but opening a simple checking account should be easy.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: I find dealing with the Government of Canada is easy and straightforward. Processes are fairly transparent and t heinformation is almost always available online. 

The immigration process is longer and harder than when I applied, almost 15 years ago. However, if you do meet the requirements and provide a complete application, you will be treated fairly—although it may take months or even years to get permanent residence status.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Canada is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: I have a love-and-hate relationship with the Canadian healthcare system. 

On one hand, I’m grateful for the single-payer healthcare system where most of my needs are covered by OHIP, the provincial insurance plan. For instance, I didn’t pay a cent out of pocket for pre- and post-natal care when I had my son. Generally speaking, I trust the system and the quality of care are good. 

However, we don’t have enough general practitioners and the walk-in-clinic system is awful. It’s hard to get a prescription for antibiotics (sometimes, you do need them!) and it’s hard to be listened to as a patient. 

I wrote a short guide about walk-in clinics: http://correresmidestino.com/walk-in-clinic-how-to/


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in France or Canada?  What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: I bought health insurance coverage for a year when I had a temporary work visa, before becoming a landed immigrant. I used the STA Travel insurance, which was great.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Canada? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: I came with a backpack that’s it! Unlike many expats, I never officially moved to Canada. I just came… and stayed!


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: Oh boy, where do I start… I didn’t speak much English, I didn’t know Canadian culture at all and I was taking my first steps into adulthood—did anyone say, “recipe for disaster”? 

Some months, years, were frustrating but overall, my experience has been positive.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Canada?

A: Negative? Winter! Even if you enjoy cold weather, be prepared for months of cold, snow, slush and various “special weather statement in effect.” 

The positive sides of Canada will depend on your expectations. Overall, I find Canada is an easy country to live in. People are nice, it’s a very steady place, pretty safe by world standards, and we are a good mix of American and European cultures.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: I have no idea. I don’t think I’ll try to get a third citizenship, though, two passports are enough for me!


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Don’t forget that your mother tongue (if it’s not English/French!) is a skill an employer may be interested in. Don’t hide your international background—it’s an asset!


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Canada?

A: I’ll offer mine, a window on life in Canada: http://correresmidestino.com