La Casa Gelato vegemite ice cream

Getting started as workers in Canada

Our first day back in Vancouver was very productive, armed with our new work permits we set out to get ourselves sorted so we could start applying for jobs.

Getting a SIN number
Similar to a NI number in the UK, the Social Insurance Number (SIN) is essential if you want to work in Canada and is fortunately very easy to get your hands on (provided you have a work permit). We set off to the Service Canada centre, waited in line for a bit, gave them a few details and shortly after we were handed our new numbers. Although the lady did try and give Stewart someone else’s number – fortunately he noticed his name wasn’t Daniel before we left!

The only mistake we made was getting there by walking along East Hastings Street, which Wikipedia kindly describes as the ‘skid row’ area of Vancouver. I’ll let you click here to find out their definition of skid row. Needless to say, it lived up to its reputation and we made a point of never walking down the road again! It’s not the kind of place you where you want to flash your camera or iPhone around so unsurprisingly we don’t have any pictures.

Hastings Street in 1954 courtesy of Wikipedia. A quick 'East Hastings Street' google image search will give you a feel of the area today
Hastings Street in 1954 courtesy of Wikipedia. A quick Google image search for ‘East Hastings Street’ will give you a good idea of what it looks like today.

Opening a bank account
After discovering that you have to pay for a bank account in Canada I spent a good few hours searching the internet for the best deal. Once again the Canada IEC 2014 Facebook group came in very handy and although we were pretty tempted by the offer of a free iPad mini from RBC we decided to go with CIBC as they were offering all newcomers an account with no monthly fees for the first year.

I wish opening a bank account in the UK was this easy, all we had to do was walk in with our passports and new SIN number, give them our temporary address and voila we were handed our new bank cards there and then. Sadly the ease of Canadian banking stops there. They charge for everything you can think of, call a current account a chequing account, a cheque a check and have weird names for everything else. We are still working our way through the minefield of terms and fees!

Setting up a Canadian phone number
Fortunately, I’d done a lot of research on this beforehand so was well prepared for the stupidly high costs of Canadian phone plans, sadly no giffgaff here. Bringing my unlocked phone from the UK meant I was entitled to 10% discount and able to get a month-to-month plan, avoiding the need for a long contract. We decided on Virgin, as it was as cheap as any of the other smaller companies and a brand we knew, although apparently the Canadian Virgin is no longer owned by Sir Richard (according to the guy in the shop anyway).

All this only took a matter of hours, so feeling very accomplished we headed home and treated ourselves to an ice cream from La Casa Gelato, a huge ice cream shop close to our AirBnB, which boasts 218 different flavours!

La Casa Gelato vegemite ice cream
You can sample as many different flavours as you like but neither of us were tempted by Vegemite! Instead we went for good old salted caramel.



2 thoughts on “Getting started as workers in Canada

  1. Hello!

    I have one question. I will come to Kanada at the end of April and I want to activate my WHV on airport in immigration office. But now I dont understand why people activate their visa on airport and then they do flagpole few days later. Do you maybe know what is the point of that?

    Thank you very much!



    1. Hi Kaja, if you activate your WHV at the airport then there’s no need to flagpole a few days later – I’m not sure why anyone would do that. We only flagpoled as we initially entered the country on tourist visas. Good luck on your Canadian adventure and let us know if you have any other questions. Emma


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