Ben Alagnam - MeMovingToCanada

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Thursday, August 23, 2018

New in Singapore? Here's What You Need to Know!

When you're a newcomer in a country, such as Singapore, you must know more on the culture, environment, and especially the law.

Let's talk about the three areas that we need to be aware of before going to Singapore.

1.  Culture

Multiracial and multicultural is what Singapore is known for.  You can see different races of different origins roaming around the streets.  They are tourists, workers, residents, or locals. 

Majority of the races are Chinese people which consist of about 75% of Singapore's population.  The rest are the mix of other races like Malays, Indians, Bangladeshis, Filipinos, Ang Mo's (Singaporean racial descriptor of white people), and others.

During my first months in Singapore, I can't distinguish between a Mandarin and Cantonese speaker. For me, they speak the same language, which is Chinese language. 

As I work with them and getting to know their tone and the way they speak, even though I can't understand the language, I was able to hear words and was able to differentiate between the two.

Every year, I'm excited to list down the holidays, which each race and religion are celebrating.  There are lots of dates to list down and one of my favorite is the Chinese New Year. 

During the Chinese New Year celebration, Chinese people will greet you "Gong Xi Fa Cai" in Mandarin and "Gong Hei Fat Choy" in Cantonese. 

During this celebration, our company will give us money, as a gift "ang pao", in a small red envelope.  Sometimes, I receive a SGD 50 bill or SGD 20. It depends on the mood of my boss. :D

If you're a newly landed worker, go and have network of friends. Go with them and have a little bit of entertainment to get rid of the work-related stress. They are also your support in times of crisis. Help the group and enjoy their company.

Try different things that interests you, specially the food! The food that I like to eat, if I'm craving for a spicy meal, is the Indian and Malay food.   They put lots of chilis and other hot spices in it...Warning! It burns your mouth.

2. Environment

Weather in Singapore is not much to worry about. All you need is a piece of umbrella that fits to your bag or ladies' shoulder bag. It has only two seasons, Rainy and Sunny. 

Weather newscaster be like, "Today is sunny and sometimes rainy, again!". LOL.

I always have an umbrella in my bag, just in case.  Sometimes, it rains the whole day and sunny at the same time. 

Pollution in Singapore is minimal as compared to Philippines in most of the year. But, there are times when there is a haze coming from Indonesia forest fires and is sometimes caused by slash-and-burn "kaingin" by farmers or companies who clears the land for replanting.  As far as I remember, there were haze incidents on 2013, 2014 and 2015

Grass and trees are always green, all year round.  There are lots of park that you can visit to and enjoy the beauty of nature.

Humidity in around 60 to 75%, meaning there's a lot of moisture in the air.  If combined with the warm breeze of summer, it creates a sweat-sticky feeling.

Though it feels this way, visitors from temperate countries love this weather. It's a paradise!

3. Law

I can't talk more about the law for the reason that I'm not a lawyer.  But, I can show you why Singapore is called the Fine City because of the hefty fines and punishment if you break the rules.

1. If you smoke inside the MRT or elevators, you'll be fined SGD1,000.
2. Eating and drinking inside the MRT, the fine is SGD500.
3. Even though same sex marriage is legal in Canada and some other countries, Singapore is not.  There will be a jail term of 2 years.
4. An on-the-spot SGD20 fine if you cross the street 50 meters away from the crossing zone.
5. Don't throw your trash on the streets, you'll end up cashing out SGD1,000 fine.
6. Swallow your saliva and phlegm when you're in public places because you can be fined if you spit it out on the streets and public places with SGD1,000.
7. Penalties for selling gums can be as high as SGD100,000 or prison term of up to 2 years.  There is an exemption on medical gums.
8. ...and many more.

Before going to Singapore, know the rules, culture, environment. 

It's a beautiful country that's why it deserves to have the best treatment from foreigners.  Make it a habit of following the rules strictly, not just Singapore, but for other countries as well.

If you have questions regarding this post, send me a message to benalagnam @ yahoo . com

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Monday, May 14, 2018

From OFW in Singapore to a Permanent Resident in Canada

Moving to Canada as a permanent resident is my long-time dream.  The thought of being in Canada with my family and become a citizen was always in my mind.

Working in the Philippines 
It was 15 years ago, when I was single and working in a manufacturing company in Laguna, Philippines.  Me and my colleague Mike, were busy printing the forms for Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (MPNP) back then. We were eager to get out of the country to have a better place where there are greater options to grow.

I love my country, Philippines, but the opportunity for me to have a good life was not served on the table.  Lucky for those people who were given such luck that they don't need to move to another country just to find more financial freedom.

I started to fill up the application forms then I realized that MPNP is different from the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program.  The latter is more flexible because having that type of permanent resident visa has more options than MPNP.  In the FSW program, if provided by the type of visa, I can live anywhere in Canada except in the province of Quebec.  For the MPNP, I'm only allowed to stay in Manitoba for a certain period of years and not on other provinces.

I started exploring and gathering information about the FSW program and eventually found an agency to help me with the application.  While waiting for the agency to process my documents, I worked in a technical services company where we install and refurbish machines inside the factory.

The return was good but the stress level was so high that I consistently had headaches almost once a week and not feeling well throughout the day.

I began creating blogs, just to detach myself from the engineering type of work and ventured in the realm of blogging.  It is not difficult for me, learning the ins and outs of the new and different space.

Consistently thinking of my application to Canada, boredom hits me.  I decided to go and find a job in Abu Dhabi, where I was exposed in a different environment with a great story to tell.

Experiencing the Sand, Hot Weather, and a Different Culture
Convinced by my brother, I started applying the visa for Abu Dhabi. It was my first time to visit a place where the weather and culture are different from the Philippines.  Unlike Philippines, where Catholicism is the majority of population, Abu Dhabi is a Muslim country.

Growing up in the southern place in Mindanao, it was not difficult for me blending with people who practice Islam. I study and played with my Muslim friends and acquaintances too. I was more surprised on the way they dress in Abu Dhabi.  Most of the men wear Kandura and Abaya for women.  It's totally different in the place where I grew up because my Muslim friends wear a shirt and pair of pants as we used to.

The weather is hot and the air is dry, which is a total surprise for me wearing a long-sleeve shirt without even a drop of sweat in my armpits. I was, at that time, walking alone from a job interview on a long and wide road with sand covering the pavements.

That's me goofing around Corniche Bike Park, Abu Dhabi, UAE in spite of me having no job.
My motivation in finding a job was still high and I'm still hopeful to get one in due time. A call from an employer, one day, gave me hope that I will soon be working with them.  They requested  the necessary documents and informed me to wait for the approval.

Many days have passed, still bringing my hopes and faith, I was told to exit at the Kish Island to renew my tourist visa. I thought of not doing that and preferred to return to Philippines while waiting for the working visa.  So I did!

One day, while browsing my email, I received a message from the company's secretary and learned that my visa was not further processed.  That's one of the saddest day of my life.

The Venture in the Lion City
I stopped thinking about going out of my country for a year and just continued my life in Philippines until Singapore came.

While chatting with an old colleague of mine, who is now working in Singapore, he introduced me to the Employment Pass Eligibility Certificate (EPEC).  The certificate will allow me to find a job in Singapore for a period of one year.  That gave me an idea to travel, again, to Singapore and gambling my money and time to get a job that can boost my experience.

I started packing, gathering the documents, and continuously chatting online, building networks in Singapore.

Then it was time for me to get out of the Philippines, leaving my son and wife behind for the second time. That's when I posted a story of  my experience with the Philippine Immigration Officer.  So, off I go to the Lion City, Singapore, where everything I did built a big part of the puzzle. 

Realization Point
On the third year working in Singapore, I realized that having a work permit in the country is temporary. Every year, I worry about the renewal of my permit. Like any other Overseas Foreign workers, I'm not sure if my work permit will be renewed either by the government or the company.  It's a guessing game for all of us. 
Again, goofing around in Singapore. This time with a job.
I tried applying for a Singapore Permanent Resident status but I was denied with no reasons, which is a normal response to most applicants.  I have to stop this kind of annual feeling, that's what I said to my thirty--plus-year-old self.

Then, I started following up the Canadian permanent visa application, this time I did it myself.  I started researching after work and gathering information from forums.  There was no Me Moving To Canada blog back then, and that's I started my timeline.

The Achievable Dream
Working in Singapore as a work-pass holder came to an end when the great news came to me one day.  I received the much awaited visa to move to Canada as a permanent resident. That means, there's no need to worry about my work permit annually.  I can stay in Canada as long as my health can achieve and eventually apply for citizenship.

Happy and excited, I came back to Philippines to get my wife with my two sons, this time.  It was the ultimate way for us to be together in one roof. Being separate for almost 5 years, it finally came to an end.

We prepared all that we could, from documents to the things to bring. Then we packed everything and boarded the airliner bound to my dream country, Canada.

We landed at night in Toronto Pearson Airport, Ontario Canada and was met by the falling flurries, a small flakes of snow.  Looking back at my past experiences brought me a smile to my face.

Working in Philippines, finding a job in Abu Dhabi, and working in Singapore were parts of the pieces that built the huge puzzle, to be in CANADA with my love ones and give them the opportunity to have more options in life.

My Canada Story: Me Moving to Canada by Ben Alagnam

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