When I first realized that I moved to a country with a real government in place, real laws, and real consequences… I felt a little more than overwhelmed. The keyword here is real. Canada… You’re a little too real for me!
Moving to a new Country in general is scary, but making the move to Canada from St. Maarten, where there are such “relaxed laws”, adjusting to the rules has proven to be difficult. And by relaxed laws, I mean that even though there are laws in place, nobody really enforces or follows them. Three things that I had the most trouble adjusting to include:
I’m going to let you in on a few tips and tricks that I’ve learned through the experiences I’ve had over the past two years in hopes of somehow helping you out should you ever be in similar situations
Where do I even start?! I’ve learned that the Canadian immigration officers at The Lester B. Pearson Airport can be really nice and talkative, or very rude and straight to the point. There’s barely ever an in between. To me, I think the way they talk to you all depends on how you approach their desk, the day they’ve had and the time you’re arriving.
Normally it’s best not to take anything they say to you personally, but the night I arrived in Canada, Greg changed everything.
I’m going to assume that Greg was probably having a shitty night when I arrived in Canada because he was a complete asshole. He acted as if I wasn’t already approved for a study visa, and was trying to sneak into the country. We ended up waiting for 4 hours, which isn’t a long time to wait, especially if you’re an immigrant being accepted into another country like I was, but what made this 4-hour wait seem so much longer was Greg and his negative, sassy attitude. If you’re coming to Canada from the Caribbean, and somehow end up with an immigration officer like Greg, here are some tips on how to try to speed up your wait time, and ease the tension too.
Be your friendliest self
- This step is probably the hardest one, especially if you’ve been travelling all day and just want a warm bath and a bed, but it’s definitely the most important step. If you’re able to keep your cool while being interrogated unnecessarily, sometimes the immigration officers will feel guilty for being rude, and lighten up. Your positive attitude will more than likely rub off on them.
Don’t get angry
- When you’re being detained while waiting to be let into a country, the last thing you want to do is show that you’re angry. Getting angry at an immigration officer, especially one that’s already in a bad mood, will get you nowhere. If you do happen to be upset at the situation, try to take deep breaths and think about how many rude people the officer has had to deal with that day.
Agree with everything they say
- When you do as they ask, not only does it make them happy, it makes their jobs a lot easier too. If you combine this step with step 1, and act like everything they’re saying is normal, even if it’s not, you’ll save yourself a headache and lots of time wasted trying to argue with them.
If you’re an experienced traveller like I am, then you know that these tips will work at least 65% of the time. Of course there will be officers like Greg whose attitude won’t budge, but it doesn’t hurt to try.
All the laws here that involve drinking… are silly.
I say silly because on St. Maarten there aren’t really any laws around drinking. If you’re used to being able to walk around without your I.D on you and stop at a bar for a beer… I have some bad news for you. In Ontario you can’t have any alcohol within arms reach of the driver if you’re in a car… You have to bring your ID with you when you want to buy any kind of alcohol… You have to go to the LCBO or Beer store for alcohol… and you can’t drink in public. In St. Maarten you can have alcohol wherever you want while in a car, including in your system… Nobody gets their ID’s checked; in fact nobody even walks around with their ID’s…Anyone can buy alcohol… and you can buy alcohol at the grocery stores. Back home, if a cop saw you with a beer in your hand while you were driving, they’d just wave or smile at you… they sure as hell wouldn’t arrest you! It’s crazy different when you think about it, but there are many ways around it.
- If you’re going to an event that’s in public, and you want to have a drink but don’t really feel like getting arrested for drinking in public, make a mixed drink before you leave the house and put it in a plastic bottle. Water bottles work best for clear colored drinks, coke or iced tea bottles work well for drinks that are light or dark brown, and fruit juice bottles work for pretty much any other drink you may have. This way, when you’re sippin’ on your drink, it just looks like you’re having some water, soda, or juice.
- If you’re anything like me, walking around with your I.D. or passport at all times is not something you’re used to. A good way to remember to bring it is to add it to your “daily checklist”. What I mean by daily checklist is that last minute “Phone, Wallet, Keys” list you say in your head as you’re about to leave. Start training yourself to make your I.D. a part of this list, and if you don’t do this, then you should probably start because it’s a great way to ensure you don’t forget anything.
Getting away with not being asked for I.D.
- This tip doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s great. If you’re with a group of people who have their I.D’s stick yourself somewhere in the middle. Most of the time, after the second or third person in the group gets I.D’d the bouncer only look at yours if you have it in your hand. If you try to walk by, there’s a pretty good chance that they’ll let you, and if they don’t just try rummaging through your pockets or purse and they might tell you to go ahead.
This section basically comes down to the drinking and clubbing age here in Ontario. Back home there is a drinking age… but nobody enforces it. I myself don’t even know what the age is! Like I said, the laws around drinking are pretty relaxed. I have personally seen an 8-ish-year old boy walk into a grocery store and buy a beer. No questions asked. For us it’s not that big of a deal because we know that he’s probably buying it for his dad who’s too lazy to get out of the car… orrr he’s going to drink it himself, but that’s none of our business though.
The point is, he was still able to buy it. No way he was older than 10, and here you can’t even buy yourself a beer until you’re 19. Pardon me? It’s weird to me that the drinking and clubbing age isn’t 18, or 21 years old, but 19 years old. Here are the best, most safe ways, for you to survive being 18 and still being able to drink.
A fake I.D.
- Do NOT get a fake ID. I know that’s probably not what you were expecting me to say, but I’m going to tell you that getting a fake ID will probably be a big waste of money. Being an international student, getting in trouble with the law comes with much bigger risks…like being kicked out of the country. Following step 2 will be a lot easier, trust me.
Find friends that are 19 or older
- The most obvious tip, but also the most important, would be to find a friend that is 19 or older and get them to buy your alcohol for you. This is not legal, but it’s also harmless as long as you don’t get caught. Also, make sure you reward your friends for committing a crime for you by giving them a few extra bucks to put towards their own purchases.
Show up to the LCBO smelling like alcohol
- If you show up smelling like alcohol, that means that you must have been able to buy it from somewhere right? Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but I’m speaking from experience with this one, because it worked for me the first time I tried it. Of course, it depends on your appearance a little bit too, because if you look younger there’s a pretty good chance they’ll still ask for ID.
I hope that these tips help you in some way, either in similar situations to mine, or completely different ones. Let me know in the comment section below if you’ve had any experiences where you felt these tips would have been helpful to know, or if you have any other good tips!