My name is Lucas Mendonca and I am a Digital Marketing Strategy and Analytics professional, currently interning with RBC Ventures as a Product Analyst. I’m from Brazil and I moved to Toronto in December 2017 as an international student. While I’ve now successfully adjusted to the Canadian way of life, my early days in Canada were tough.

This is my story.

Coming from Brazil, where the official language is Portuguese, I encountered some language barriers once I arrived in Canada. It was difficult for me to converse in English which made it challenging to accomplish essential tasks related to banking or renting an apartment. 

One unforgettable experience was when I had to open a bank account. 

Practical banking scenarios were different from what I’d imagined.

Before arriving in Canada, I was unaware of the banking system here and had no idea about credit scores and credit history, or even account fees. I sought out information shared on social media groups because: 

  1. I found a community of Brazilians who shared knowledge in my native language of Portuguese and 
  2. At the time, there were no other trustworthy or reliable sources to help me better understand the financial products and make an informed decision. 

However, once I arrived in Canada, I soon realized that the information I had was just preliminary and wasn’t very helpful in practical situations. 

Like many other newcomers, my first priority was to rent an apartment. It didn’t take me long to figure out that having a bank account was essential in order to be able to rent an apartment — something I came to realize whilst I was already mid-apartment search. Hard-pressed for time, the main factor for opening my first bank account was convenience and proximity to where I was living.  Being unaware of the various financial products, service charges, and fees led me to spend more money than I ever needed to in that first experience. In hindsight, I wish I had gathered more details around financial wellbeing before I moved, or knew where to seek out accurate information.

Based on the experiences I had, here are some tips for newcomers to Canada:

  • Research, research, research! 

Start your research as early as possible; don’t wait until there’s a month or a week left for you to move. Do your own research and don’t blindly trust content on social media. Reality and practical scenarios can be very different from what you read online. 

  • Verify your sources of information

Before you decide to follow advice from a blog, social media forums, or any person, verify their credibility. There are a few ways to do that:

  • Determine if they are a fellow immigrant providing advice or just influencers 
  • Understand the motive behind their content and analyze if their main objective is to sell a product or service
  • Check for the number of subscribers/followers to the blog, any reader comments or reviews that may have been posted
  • Have a plan!

Jot down all the activities that you need to accomplish upon landing and arrange them in order of priority. Have all your research and credible sources of information handy so that you utilize your time optimally once you land.  

While the main objective of all banks globally is similar—to help you manage your money, there might be some differences in the way banking and financial institutions operate in Canada as compared to your home country. Authentic research can help you bridge the gap and smoothly adapt to the local banking system in Canada. 

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