If only settling in Canada was as easy as trading a soccer ball for skates, muses Orlean Garcia, whose eldest son happily learned to skate at a Montreal rink soon after his family moved from Havana, Cuba.
Although Orlean and his wife, Mayelin - both chemical engineers who had lived in Europe - were accustomed to foreign travel, their move to Canada through Quebec’s Skilled Worker Program presented challenges. Mastering French, upgrading work credentials, and managing their finances all became immediate priorities for the couple upon their arrival in Canada.
“We knew it was a process that we had to take slowly,” recalls Orlean, who is studying French, prepping for engineering exams, and registering his boys in neighbourhood soccer and skating programs. “But we have a plan, and people here are very open and ready to help.”
Helpful contacts were critical when the family began sorting their financial affairs, especially since bank accounts, credit cards and home ownership were not popular concepts in Cuba’s cash-based economy. Thanks to a friend’s suggestion, the Garcia family went to Scotiabank, where they were introduced to Spanish-speaking Gabriela Caparroz.
Gabriela, a Personal Banking Officer who hails from Uruguay, pointed the family to the Scotiabank StartRight® Program1 for Landed Immigrants, which includes a day-to-day bank account, a wide range of credit card2 options and a number of other customized services and benefits.
“I helped them understand how things work here, since the system is totally different,” says Gabriela, a 20-year Scotiabanker who still remembers her own immigrant experience. “I told them you need a bank account – you can’t just carry cash – and you must build a good credit history.”
“At first we were anxious about using a credit card, since we didn’t want credit problems,” admits Orleans. “We came to Canada with just six suitcases, and we needed everything, but we didn’t want to spend, spend, spend.”
Fortunately Gabriela explained the value of a good credit history, since it can help with unexpected or large purchases. “It’s important to use credit, but do everything responsibly while you establish yourself. Later, you could buy a home or seek other dreams. It is possible, but you have to take your time and do it right.”
The Garcia family followed Gabriela’s advice, and they’ve even set up Registered Education Savings Plans (RESP) to save for their children’s future education. They’ve also embraced her step-by-step approach. “Of course you want things to go faster, but you have to take your time and not get too stressed,” observes Orlean. “At the same time, you have to stay focused on your goals so you don’t stray from them.”
With a positive attitude, new friends and a banker who speaks their language, the Garcia family is well on their way, and Orlean and Mayelin might even join their boys on skates next winter.
With advice from Scotiabank, the Garcia family is savouring life in Canada.