Hello, can you introduce yourself?Hello, I’m Arthur; I’m 27 years old and I come from Orléans in France. I did my first WHP in Australia when I was 20, before going back to uni to study marketing, and now I’ve been in Canada for a year with a new WHV.You did one WHV in Australia and one in Canada. Why did you choose these locations?I was very interested in the country itself. I was 20 years old and had never taken a plane in my life! I didn’t even know I was allowed to eat on a plane.
It was awful, and I didn’t speak a word of English! In the end, it turned out to be great, and 6 years later, I am still in contact with my Australian friends. Australia was really about the scenery, the culture, the adventure, improving my English and learning about others and myself.
Canada is the opposite. I came with my girlfriend who had no experience abroad. She wanted to go somewhere, but I was not so keen. I wanted an English speaking country so we chose Canada plus I love the winter season and nature! I’ve been in the heat and now I’m in the cold but I like both!
What did you do in Australia ?
When I arrived in Australia, I didn’t speak a word of English. I started working with a 75-year-old Irish man who realised I knew how to use tools. He negotiated my first pair of safety boots for me and then I worked as a roofer for another boss.
To start this second job, someone had to pick me up at 3 am. I had my entire life in my backpack, and we had a 4-hour drive from Brisbane. I was just with Australians. My English was a little bit better and it worked out very well. I was the Frenchy in the group. My boss lost his drivers license, so I drove him to court as a favour, and then he offered me to stay at his place so I could drive him to work. Hence, I lived with his wife and children for three and a half months. They discovered saucisson, I made crêpes for the kids, I could use their pick-up truck to get away for the weekend and so on. He knew I was going to turn 21, so he invited lots of people to his house to celebrate my birthday. He introduced me to his family and his friends. They took me everywhere!
I ended up quitting my job as a roofer and started working on a farm. Everyone was talking about the farms, so I wanted to give it a try. I made sure I had at least 88 days of work, the minimum amount to extend your permit, in case I wanted to renew it. I stayed on the farm for a month and saved money to buy a car to go on a road trip.
I posted on a Facebook group where I explained a little bit about myself, my lifestyle and my car setup, etc. I got on very well with a guy, I picked him up and we split the cost. He was German and spoke English with a UK accent and I was French with an Australian accent, so we complemented each other! We went to Cairns; we visited Fraser Island, one of the most beautiful islands in Australia and sailed around the Whitsundays for 3 days. I treated myself to a beach landing parachute jump for my birthday and I had my first surfing lesson on the beach where James Cook landed and discovered Australia, called 1770 Beach. I also saw a cassowary, which is an animal similar to an ostrich, of which there are only a few left in the wild. We went out every night and met people.
My travel partner eventually returned to Germany. I continued my road trip and re-posted it on Facebook. So, I travelled with two other individuals. We went to Melbourne, Canberra, etc.
Finally, after eight and a half months in Australia, I came home and surprised my family and friends. It was my first experience abroad so I was happy to come back. The WHP is great, but it is sometimes unstable and short-lived.
What did you like most and least about Australia?
What I liked most was how much trust was given and how many doors opened once you are integrated. I was even invited to spend Christmas with a family, and they gave me a present, which I thought was amazing. The father of a girlfriend whom I had only seen twice before invited me. That same person negotiated on my behalf the price of the vehicle I wanted to buy and paid for it himself in cash so I could drive it immediately. Of course, I reimbursed him over the next few days but it was insane!
What bothered me the most was that it was short-lived. I’m a very family-oriented person and over there, all the friends and everything I had was just temporary.
You are now in Québec, why did you choose this French-speaking part of Canada? And what do you do there?There is a French-speaking side and an English-speaking side so it’s quite reassuring. Someone in my family was living there. She arrived at the age of 20 and stayed her whole life.
To be able to enter the territory, you had to have a job offer (because of the restrictions during the pandemic). So, I started as a landscaper. It was quite tough because it was getting cold. I remember making concrete on November 26th while it was snowing.
After that, I worked as a broker and logistics coordinator. The interview went really well, but I had no experience in this area of work. Ultimately, he asked me more questions about my skills and about who I am. I had a second interview in English and started 4 days later. I was his first employee, so he really gave me an opportunity and showed me so many things! His mother made me bagels; he took me for smoked meat at Schwartz’s, etc. He knew I had no experience but he let me use my skills in another way. For example, I compensated for my shortcomings by developing a brokerage calculator which calculated the cost of transporting pallets from one destination to another.
At the same time, I started the interview process at Desjardins. The first group interview went well, and the second was great too. Then they asked me for a diploma equivalent (Marketing Masters Degree).
This requires a certified true copy and must be done in France. So think about it before leaving whenever possible. You need to go to the city hall and have someone certify the copy of the diploma. Once here in Canada, you pay 125 dollars, send in your certified copy plus other documents like your passport, and then it is reviewed by a commission. Afterwards, they send you their decision, but you cannot be 100% sure to get it. My family made my copies in France, a friend who was travelling back and forth brought them back to me and then I was able to continue my work here. I got my diploma equivalent but for my girlfriend who went to a business school for example they didn’t accept her master’s degree. They saw it as vocational training.
Desjardins hired me. Leaving my job as a transport broker was complicated because my boss was like a big brother to me. He offered me a $7,000 annual raise. That’s how fast we can move here when we trust each other! He wanted to keep me on but still advised me to go to Desjardins because of all the opportunities they could offer me.
I chose to go to Desjardins because I had always wanted to try banking. I had never worn a suit in my life and had to go to Canada to wear one for the first time. It’s going really well, I’ve already been promoted. They are discussing about promoting me again. In Canada, if you want to work, there is work. If you are kind and decent here, if you help others, etc., even if you make mistakes, it works. They tend to say that we are a bit hard on ourselves because we want to know how to do everything right away, but here they are more like “Take your time, you’ve just got here!”.
Wasn’t it too difficult to cope with the health crisis in Quebec?
With my girlfriend, we were supposed to arrive on the 1st of April, but in the end, we arrived on the 1st of October, during the lockdown. We couldn’t go out, but we were lucky to get an Airbnb with a garden. The owners lived downstairs, they were French. We got along really well. To get out, I would go and pick up the leaves for them amongst other tasks. The good thing is that we made some friends. We still see each other.
We couldn’t invite anyone, or we would be get a 1,500 dollars fine. Since the curfew began at 8 pm, by the time you started making friends, it was time to come back. You could only have drinks for an hour.
I was still able to do a lot of things, but socializing was hard. When we got here, it was difficult to meet people.
What has impressed you the most since your arrival in Canada?
In Quebec, I would say discipline, because here, everyone respects everything. If it’s red at the pedestrian crossing you don’t cross, you line up to get on the bus and you leave your seat for the elderly. People are more caring. There are also opportunities, regardless of your qualifications or experience. In terms of employment, it’s great.
Here, it’s truly a meritocracy; I’ve never been complimented as much as I have since I’ve arrived here. As a human it feels good to be recognized for what you do and who you are. You are no longer associated with a degree.
The downside is that the relationships are quite superficial. Everyone is friendly, but getting a colleague to invite you for a drink at their house or come to your place is more complicated. Quebec people stick together. I became friends with a Québécois, and for his girlfriend it was the first time she had met a colleague of his. To some extent, he is the exception that confirms the rule.
What I like most here is nature. I’m out all the time doing lots of different things! This summer, I stayed in a refuge without water or electricity. You can go on lots of hikes and see tons of animals. Of course, you may have to drive for several hours, but you can also find what you are looking for within one hour of Montreal. In winter you can ski, ice skate, play hockey, snowshoe and go ice fishing! The first time I went ice fishing it was -20 degree, feels like -24 degree with the wind chill, so as soon as you made a hole in the ice, it froze over again within 5 minutes!
What is your best travel memory?The best memory is the feeling of freedom. One morning, in Australia I woke up and I felt very happy! I was all alone on a hill at the end of a peninsula and I thought, in a good way, “What am I doing here ?!”.The worst?The worst thing was the feeling of being lonely, which I especially felt in Australia because I went by myself. You’re on your own. The feeling that everything is short-lived, never knowing where you’re going to sleep the next day, etc., at some point it becomes complicated. You also miss out on some important events in the lives of your loved ones like weddings, children, etc.Do you have any advice for future WHP holders or those who are not sure about leaving?
You must be prepared, you have to know what you are getting into. In my case for instance, I had attended a forum organised by Pvtistes.net in Paris. You must tie all loose ends whilst in France. If you collect unemployment benefits, you have to cancel it and sort out your pension and insurance. It does take time.
You also have to plan your arrival, where you’re going to go, etc. I’m a control freak, so when I’m not in control I find it hard, but you also need to be spontaneous.
Even if you mess up, it doesn’t matter. If you don’t try, you won’t know. The worst-case scenario is if it doesn’t go well you go home. You have to be daring. Sometimes there are bad experiences. In Australia, I met people who only stayed for a month but at least they can say they tried.
More than anything else, you must be open-minded. You shouldn’t arrive there and expect the same things you have in France, otherwise, you should stay at home. The Saturday evenings won’t be the same as back home and you won’t eat the same food, etc. You just have to learn and discover, whether it’s the people, local expressions or nature, etc.
And finally, what are your current projects?
I have some real-estate projects in France, buying and renovating properties. Originally, I thought I would only stay in Canada for a year. Ultimately, I’ve been there for a year already, and I want to stay another year because the job opportunities are tremendous. I would like to buy a SUV and go on a road trip, I would like to travel all over Canada. I want to find myself standing in front of a bear, work on a ranch and do lots of other things!
At the end of the WHP, the big question will be, do we stay here because we feel good and we want to get a closed permit or do we go back home? I had made some definite plans but things are changing now.