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From Thailand to Canada: A Filipino’s Immigration Story

Avatar photoPeople and Culture Team
On , In Culture

By Gerauld Rivera

My story begins in the Summer of 2021. My plane has just landed after nearly a full 24-hour journey from Thailand. The PA system goes off, and I hear the flight attendant say, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Vancouver.” These were the first words I heard on Canadian soil as I stare out into the sunset yonder in a dreamlike stupor (dramatic, I know, but this really happened. See my video.) Only a few months ago, 12,000 km away, I was a Filipino expat in Bangkok. It was half-past midnight and I was already in bed with my eyes shut, when my phone lit up. It was the email that would forever change the course of my life. 

Here is my story of meeting Groundswell all the way from Southeast Asia and starting a life here in Vancouver, BC.


The Interview

That email was from Groundswell Cloud Solution’s Hiring Manager inviting me to a quick video chat. My first reaction was, Is this for real?! The imposter syndrome in me thought, In what multiverse would they pick someone from Southeast Asia…in a time of pandemia? I thought the odds were never going to be in my favor, but I went with it anyway. 

I went through 4 rounds of interviews with Groundswell. The last interview was an assignment to conduct a live technical demo of Service Cloud for a fictional kitchenware company. My work experience is mostly in Marketing Cloud, so the odds were not in my favor (again). Be that as it may, I poured my blood and sweat (no tears left to cry) over the assignment, but I also had fun with it. In keeping with the Canadian theme, I branded my entire demo after Schitt’s Creek – the most popular Canadian show ever and one of my all-time favorites – from the names of the customer service agents down to the product brand names. Slice Slice Bébé Knife or a Fold-It-In Spatula, anyone?

It is hard to truly gauge what a company is like from the first conversation. During these interviews, however, each person I met spoke so eloquently about the Groundswell experience, culture, and values. That won me over easily and gave me the motivation and space to showcase what I can do as a consultant. And the rest, as they say, is history.

BC Stands for “Be Chillin”

I grew up watching Hollywood movies, so naturally, I had internalized stereotypes about the fabled west. My adventure in the True North, however, has been overwhelmingly positive and nothing short of cathartic. Here are my top five impressions of Vancouver as a newcomer:

  1. Vancouverites are very nice. Sorry, Sir Elton John, “sorry” does not seem to be the hardest word for Canadians. They are so nice, it’s almost like a reflex. No one will bat an eyelash when each person getting off the bus screams “thank you” to the driver like some magic spell that transports you safely to your bus stop.
  2. The knitted cap on your head is not a “beanie”, it’s called a “toque”. You have to keep th-hat on your mind. 
  3. Poutine makes soggy fries taste really good. I know, poutine gravy on fries can be off-poutine but it’s really satisfying.
  4. If malls in Asia are unabashedly extra, Vancouver malls have a vintage “we peaked in the 90s” aesthetic. So, a trip to the mall is now only ever out of necessity. After all, you don’t go to Vancouver to visit malls. By the way, everything closes very early, so I have formed a great appreciation for aimlessly walking around after 9 pm. It’s a chill, laid-back life we have here in Vancouver.
  5. The Canadian brunch is the socially acceptable way to start partying at noon.
Celebrating 1 year in Canada at Groundswell’s Summer Boat Cruise event. 
528,290 minutes in Canada (I actually sat down and did the math)

The Immigration Process 

The immigration process is an avalanche of complex procedures and paperwork, and I was going through it right in the middle of the third wave of the pandemic. Groundswell supported me throughout by providing me with services like an immigration consultant. During the advanced visa application stages, Groundswell’s People & Culture Team sent me useful information to prepare for my arrival, like neighborhoods to live in, websites to search for rental properties, food delivery apps, public transport tips, and more. Through all of it, Groundswell’s financial relocation support and work-from-home allowance helped get me on my feet. With Groundswell with me every step of the way, I received my visa and work permit incredibly fast (all of us were surprised), and I was off to Canada by July.

Finding a Home

One of the best decisions I made during the immigration process was hiring a relocation and housing service before I even landed in Vancouver. They specialize in searching for long-term private rental homes based on my needs and preferences. They took care of the entire rental process and paperwork on my behalf while I was overseas. 

Finding a place to rent in Vancouver is a dogfight. You’ll be asked for your financial and credit history when you submit a rental application. As a newcomer to Canada, you’ll simply not have this, so, having a relocation agent helped me get around this and gain credibility with potential landlords. Knowing that I already have a new home on Day 1 took out an enormous amount of stress.

Enjoying the view from my Vancouver apartment

Adjusting to the Climate 

Anyone who has shared a room with me knows I am best kept refrigerated, so the cold during fall or winter never bothers me (anyway). The difference is that it’s cold and wet. Vancouver is called Raincouver by locals for a reason. Waterproof clothing in Raincouver is essential (wash gently with waterproof water). 

Vancouver does not get as much snow as other Canadian cities, but when it does fall, it causes quite a pandemonium, impacting public transport and roads. This was especially true in December 2022 when Metro Vancouver saw unprecedented amounts of snow. The snow here tends to be wet, not fluffy and powdery. 

Left: Grouse Mountain, My first time touching snow.
Right: Whistler Mountain, My first time skiing.

Compared to the rest of Canada, we have a very mild climate, especially during summer. However, since 2021, heat waves seem to be becoming more frequent (my regards to climate change). If like me, you used to live in the tropics, you must know that the “real feel” of 30°C here doesn’t hit the same way as it would in Asia. Somehow, it feels worse. My body temperature regulation has adjusted to a cooler climate, so it is important to have a place with air conditioning and ventilation.

Making New Friends 

The hardest part about moving to a new country is forming social connections. It can be intimidating to socialize and make new friends, even as an adult! Thankfully, I have family here in Vancouver who was my support system as I was settling in. Groundswell also holds quarterly social events and frequent in-office hangouts, such as “Friday Retros”, which have helped me connect with others. Putting myself out there and mingling with fellow Groundswellers helped me find a sense of belonging and make new friends. I have built lifelong friendships here that are a large piece of why Vancouver now feels like home. Through these bonds, I have seen Canada in a new light. It’s like an adventure that writes itself on the empty pages of my life. Whether catching sunsets or sailing through the calm of English Bay, skiing (mostly falling) into the powder-white slopes of Whistler, or bonding over conversations and laughter with friends while enjoying a cold drink (or losing at Beer Pong) and marveling at the sublime view of BC from my living room, it has always always been the people you choose to be in your journey with that make it a story worth telling. 

A group of colleagues, who are also great friends

Here we are, 2023!

It has been a year and a half since I moved to Vancouver, and I’m happy to report that the odds were in my favor after all. With Groundswell’s continued support, I am receiving my permanent residency (PR), giving me more stability as a Canadian resident. This is how it is at Groundswell: People and passion go hand-in-hand. I feel welcome and seen for what I can bring to the table. At the same time, I am inspired and challenged by the talented people that make up this company. It is filled with passionate and capable human beings, and you can’t help but feed off that energy. Looking back, it was never truly about beating the odds. It was about doing what I know in my heart is what I am meant to do. Groundswell gave me the motivation and space to overcome things that I once thought I couldn’t do. 

Left: Day one in Vancouver, arriving at the airport
Right: Today, happily working at Groundswell Cloud Solutions

Immigrating to a new country is incredibly hard, but my relocation to Vancouver, Canada, and joining Groundswell has been 100% worth it. 

If you are interested in joining a diverse and inclusive team in Canada check out Groundswell’s open roles!

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