Meet the expat – Mia

Mia is a South African singer, songwriter and entrepreneur who moved to Calgary with her family in 2019. You can read more about Mia on her websites, Mia Whitfield and Sing It Inc, or follow her on Facebook or Instagram.

When did you move to Canada and what made you choose Calgary?

We moved to Canada on 12 July 2019 after four years of trying to get in. We chose Calgary because my brother is here – they moved four years prior to us and are now citizens.

Where do you live in Calgary? What do you like best and least about your neighbourhood?

We live in Riverstone, Cranston SE Calgary, we LOVE this neighbourhood and have made wonderful friends just by being in a kid-friendly neighbourhood surrounded by families and other expat South Africans. We do, however, have our home on the market as we want to build my Singit headquarters in Okotoks. This has been a big decision but it’s the next step for us. However, anyone who moves to this neighbourhood would feel at home and loved.

If you could live anywhere in the city where would it be and why?

We are moving to Okotoks now only because of wanting to build my Singit stage and venue and needing the mix use to work where we live, but if the option was there for us to stay where we are and do what I do here I would wholeheartedly do that, but there are no mix use pieces of land this side of the world for us to do that.

What do you love most about Calgary?

The people, the friendliness, everything works and after just one year we already feel at home.

What do you like least about the city?

It’s not easy to get started in terms of banking and credit cards as a newcomer. There are specific banks that are better than others. We signed up to TD bank to start, but getting a credit card has been a nightmare, but Scotia bank has been more than willing to offer us what we need to build our business, so it’s really doing your research before buckling down and making a choice on the right bank for you.

What has been the most challenging part about moving to and living in Calgary/Canada?

Our container – we shipped through Stuttafords and our container had sea water mould as it leaked and, although they paid out a portion for what we lost, we would highly recommend selling everything and starting fresh here. We had lots of sentimental items that got damaged so we were unable to save most of the things we brought, and Stuttafords has fine print that doesn’t cover for water damage, which we somehow missed.

What do you miss most about your home country?

Our family and friends and our domestic worker.

We thought the weather would be a problem for us but we love the four distinct seasons and we are warmer here than we were in SA as our homes stay the same temperature throughout the year.

Have you found it easy to meet new people and make friends?

Yes, it’s been great.

What’s the general lifestyle like in the city?

I would say that Calgary is a good mix of everything.

What are entertainment options like in the city? Any great nightlife spots, restaurants, bars you like to go to? Any hidden gems you’ve come across?

Stampede is definitely something everyone looks forward to this side of the world. Although it didn’t happen this year it’s a big event and has something for everyone. We love Kananaskis as we have embraced the sports and go to the mountain lodge to ski and play in the hotel water park. We can take our dogs and its beautiful. Banff is lovely as are Lake Louise, Jasper and Canmore. I’ve heard Nelson and Penticton are wonderful too, although we haven’t gotten there yet.

Is Calgary a family-friendly city? Do you have any suggestions for great things to do with the kids?

It most certainly is. There are many places to take the kids. Indoor play areas and Kayben Farms in Okotoks.

How easy is it to get around in Calgary? Do you need a car or does the city have a good public transport system?

We have a car but a lot of our friends drive to the stations and take the train to the city and to games etc.

How have you found the cost of living in Calgary compared to your home country? What do you find expensive or cheap in particular?

It is quite something to get used to. We have found that everything from food to clothes is three to four times more expensive than South Africa. But when you earn in dollars it’s easier not to keep converting back to Rands.

What’s the economy and job market like in Calgary? Did you find it easy to find a job?

I would say before COVID it was easier to get work, but now employers are taking time deciding on who to hire. It’s definitely tougher now since COVID.

How have you found the corporate/work culture compared to back home?

The biggest thing is not having a hired help to help out with the house work and looking after the kids while trying to build a business or do your job. The laundry takes up a lot of time and just keeping the home neat and tidy, you do get into a routine and it does get easier, but we always joke that “when you are feeling alone and no one is around, laundry is there for you. Laundry is always there for you!”.

Do you have any other tips or insights you’d like to share with someone planning a move to Calgary?

I would say, rent for your first year and figure out which areas speak to you. There are so many lovely places here in Calgary and the SE. We wish we had taken the time to really look around before buying.

And then to sell up and buy what you need when you get here is better than spending all that money bringing your stuff over. Choose select items but buy the big things here.

Use a good lawyer. We used Cobus from Matrix Visa, after trying three different lawyers over four years. Matrix Visa was, in my opinion, the best because Cobus is straight up and just the most thorough lawyer we’ve worked with. We were a tricky case but he’s been doing this for 16 years since moving to BC from South Africa. He is very efficient.

If you’re an expat living in Calgary, or anywhere in Canada, we’d love to hear your story, so please contact us to learn more about sharing your insights on our blog.

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