Why living in Welland? Interview with Maya Mendes

Podcast Ontario Beyond Toronto (English transcript): In this episode, we spoke with Maya Mendes who, after living in Toronto for over 7 years, has decided to move with her husband and son to the city of Welland, in the Niagara region.

Audio in Portuguese. Read the English transcript below.

Audio in Portuguese. Read English transcript below.

A message from Frank Campion, Mayor of Welland

The city of Welland – location

Interview with Maya Mendes. Why living in Welland?
Transcripts (Automatic English translation – unedited)

Christian: Hello! Welcome to Ontario beyond Toronto, a podcast of Brazilian Wave Canada. I’m Christian Pedersen, editor of Wave, and this is our first episode. Statistically speaking, Ontario receives about 97,000 immigrants every year, and that’s over the last decade. For the most part, immigrants are looking for the big cities to live in, such as Toronto and Ottawa, and nationally, Montreal, Vancouver, and others. The goal of the Ontario Podcast series is to show Brazilians living in other cities and regions of the province of Ontario and, through their experiences, to show that it is possible to live, study, build a family, and much more, in other cities in the province, not just Toronto.

Christian: In this episode, I am talking to Maya Mendes, who immigrate to Canada in 2012. Now married and the mother of a newborn baby, she is about to move with her family from Toronto to Welland, a city of 50,000 people in the Niagara Falls region. In this episode, we explain why she came to Canada, what her experience in Toronto was like and why she decided to move with her family to Welland, which is an hour and a half from Toronto.

Christian: Maya, why did you choose to live in Canada?

Maya: I arrived here in May 2012. So a little over 8 years ago. At first it was just to improve my English, which at the time was like “minus 2”. I wanted to have better job opportunities in Brazil and then, for some reason, all the jobs required me to be fluent in English. So I thought, “How can I achieve a better level of English? And then I thought, “Well, I’m going to be immersed in a culture, in a place where people speak English”. And Canada, according to some research, has sort of fulfilled the conditions that I was looking for. I actually wanted to go to England, but because of the money, I chose Canada. And I chose Toronto, I don’t really know, so, sort of… but, it was a question of identification. I started to do some research on the subject and, you have to remember that 8 years ago, I didn’t have that access, it wasn’t as easy as it is today. I had very few blogs, very few talking media. So it was a bit like that, research. And I decided that Toronto would be my destiny.

Christian: What are the things you like most about Toronto?

Maya: Well, there are a lot of things that I really like about Toronto. One of the main ones is the security issue. You have the security of walking around with jewellery, walking around with a designer bag, with a mobile phone in your hand. In Brazil, I was afraid: “You hide the bag, you carry it everywhere, you know? I like the question you can predict: “Next year I want to go on a trip to Europe or something like that in two years”. You get together and you can make a plan. The question about the economy is very good. I like it all!

Christian: And is there anything you don’t like?

Maya: I don’t like it being far from Brazil. The question of envy is a very bad thing. That’s the main thing. I don’t really complain about winter. I think it’s even one of the things that made me come here. I think it’s good.

Christian: Why did you and your husband, now with a son, decide to leave Toronto? And why Welland?

Maya: People who are listening and have a baby may agree with me. I think it’s a bit of a cliché, but I agree with that: “There is a Maya who was born with Viktor. I was one before him. From May, because, also, it’s always May… which is a month, therefore, always very important, in my life: it’s the year I arrived here, the year Viktor was born, which is the baby. I’m another one after him, let’s put it this way. I love Toronto. I think I’m going to continue to love forever, because of this problem: this hustle and bustle, this lot of things to do. And I love this big city atmosphere. But we started to think… first of all, we started to need a bigger space. Our house is already too small for us with a baby. It has always worked for me and Daniel, my husband. But we needed a bigger space. So we started looking at options. And we saw that the real estate issue outside of Toronto is much smaller. Values then! The prices much lower. And then we were looking to buy a condo in Toronto: an X value. And we ended up buying a house there, much cheaper than the flat we were considering. So, of course, thanks to the flexibility of our work and everything else, it was possible, wasn’t it? Not everyone who listens to me can be attracted by the same reasons that attracted us there. But for us, it worked: the question of space, of a quieter city for him and, also, it’s close to several big cities and so on. So he is not going to be alienated from the world like that, let’s say.

Christian: Have you thought about moving to another part of Ontario?

Maya: Not really. The original idea was to stay in Toronto anyway. What really took us was the value of the real estate. So we wanted a city that had everything, that wasn’t too dependent on Toronto. The first area we really started looking outside of Toronto was Niagara (actually, I’ve always liked Niagara-on-the-Lake, which I think is a super charming little town. It has all the history of Canada, a very important city in history). And really, the first place we started looking for outside of Toronto, we already liked it and it worked.

Christian: Will raising a child in Welland be better than raising a child here in Toronto?

Maya: I come, for example, from a small town in Brazil. I already know what life is like in a small town. But I also think that small towns here in Canada and in Brazil are different. I love the peace and quiet of raising a baby, a child. I think it’s interesting. But I also want him to have access to the big cities. We’ll definitely continue to come to Toronto… that’s where we’ll have our home.

Christian: How is this process of change going? There is a lot of paperwork, is it too bureaucratic? How does it work?

Maya: Well, there is some bureaucracy, like everything else, right? As I am a broker myself… I could have hired someone else there, to represent me in town. But I told myself that I would represent myself. So I did all the paperwork as a broker. Because of this COVID problem and also because we had a baby, my husband and I chose to search houses first, only through the Internet. Without a prior physical visit, right? It’s funny that I even went back into the system and said, “Gee, let me see what’s going on in that house”, because there were so many that I was responsible for! I did a market study and we came up with the values and stuff and started trading. As soon as it was finished, on Friday, they replied that they accepted our proposal. On Saturday we went to see the house. I have already hired a housing inspector, who is the professional who analyses the structure of the house, the condition of the house. And so, on this point, we have already started the process. Right now our property in Toronto is rented, so of course you have to give sixty days’ notice, two months’ notice. Now we are finalizing everything.

Christian: Toronto has a good transportation system. I remember you used to use the bike a lot. How is it going to be in Welland? Because there is no underground. Do you have any idea what it would be like to get around? Do you have a car now?

Maya: Yes, I was very dependent on the motorbike. There is public transport. There is no metro, but there is a bus. I still don’t know about public transport to give my opinion, compared to Toronto. But I still see buses going through the city. We are planning to have another car as well.

Christian: And there are good schools there? Have you ever done any research on this?

Maya: Yes, there is one school. It’s good and it’s a bunch of houses away from where I live. I don’t really know how it works and I’ve never had children in Toronto. But it exists because it is in Ontario, which is a very good province in Canada. I don’t think it’s like that, very far from what it is in Toronto.

Christian: Have you done any research on Brazilian groups there, on associations or anything like that?

Maya: I even joined a group. I think they are the Brazilians from Niagara, something like that. A Facebook group. So, like that, there are Brazilians. I know there’s a university there, there’s Brock University and there’s Niagara College. So it’s a region that attracts Brazilians, also for that reason.

Christian: Do you think you will miss Toronto?

Maya: Look, I know. Toronto attracts me for many reasons. I like it. Now, thanks to COVID, those reasons no longer exist. For example, I’ve always liked ballet festivals, opera. And all that, for more important reasons, I no longer go to those places. And that’s one of the reasons I even thought about leaving Toronto. Because we’re close. We can come here. I think it’s going to be an experience like this, interesting.

Christian: In time it will be possible to use the Go-train, the commuter train, from there to here.

Maya: Yes, but there is also the bus. There are several stops. Even my sister went to Niagara Falls from Toronto at that time. Then there are several stops: in St. Catharines, which is one of the biggest cities in the area, and from there to Niagara Falls. At Niagara College, there is one stop on the Go-Bus. It’s not like that: “Ouch! The end of the world!”.

Christian: And for the Brazilian who is considering coming here or even, who lives in Toronto, for example, do you think there is an advantage to living in the country, more than living in the capital? Do you think that to get here, it’s better to start in the country than here?

Maya: I think it all depends on the person’s goals. From my professional experience, I think that one of the reasons why people come here, which weighs, let’s say, is the question of money. The living environment in a small town is much more restricted. There’s no way to compare, is there? It is certainly much smaller. But there are also people who come to Toronto, like me who came to live in a big city. So that person probably won’t like this place: a quieter pace and all. I think it’s all a question of priority, of what you’re waiting for at the moment. If you’re looking for a big city, it might not be the most ideal city, right? But if you are looking for a quieter city, to raise a family as they say here (which in this case is with my little boy and so on), then I think it might be more interesting. I think everything has a good and a bad side.

Christian: Do you think or hope that one day you will live in Toronto again?

Maya: Oh Chris, that’s so hard to answer! Because if you asked me the same question in January, for example, I would tell you something. You know what? I think, like I told you, COVID, except for the baby, they were all like that… very strong steps, you know, this year? If we were thinking about buying real estate in Toronto, a lot of things came up and we started thinking, “Well, we really have to stay in Toronto? As I told you, we love the city for many reasons. And those reasons are kind of extinguished now: “Is it worth paying the cost of living in Toronto”, “Is it catching up to us? Our way of life today is to get it out, isn’t it? We do everything on the Internet, for example. So my husband has this facility at work too. So, for us, it wouldn’t make any difference where: we’re in Toronto, we’re in Niagara Falls… it doesn’t really matter! So, in the name of flexibility, it wouldn’t make much difference.

Christian: Your husband is Canadian. How does he manage all this?

Maya: I actually like Toronto and I think a lot more than he does. I think I’m going to miss it a lot more than he does. Since he’s always behind the wheel, his job kind of demands it: he doesn’t like this issue of traffic in Toronto, which is getting more complicated every day. So for him, it’s also one of the reasons for the change. The traffic here is much better than it is here. That makes sense for us today. But maybe in six months’ time we’ll talk again and it won’t make sense, right? So I think that Brazilians who come here must ask themselves: “What do I want from my life?”, “I want to raise money? “Do I want to study?” “Do I want to get my papers?” “What’s the point of coming here?” So the Toronto plan, the Canada plan, let’s say, is based on those goals.

Christian: Welland is close to Niagara Falls, which is a very famous tourist area. Do you know what Welland lives on, what is the economic sector of the city?

Maya: Welland has many employment opportunities. It depends on the region you are in. Of course, there is the question of schools, the college that even my sister used to go to at the beginning. She even saw this question: that she had the college in Welland and she also has the extension of the college in Niagara-on-the-Lakes, that’s nearby. The tourism sector there is well heated, for obvious reasons. There are the vineyards, which I think are also one of the strengths of the area. But it is a city like that: it is not a big city, but it is a city with accessible things. Moreover, it is close to the United States.

Christian: When you live in Canada or plan to live or spend time here, it’s important to always keep the winter factor in mind. The City of Welland is located in the Niagara Falls region and nearby is the “snow belt”. These are areas close to the Great Lakes, here in the region of Canada and the United States. And here there is more snow, more wind; it’s generally more complicated than Toronto, for example, which is outside the belt. How do you prepare?

Maya: I’ve heard both stories: “We have a lot of snow”, and that’s because it’s in the snow belt, but also, I’ve heard people say that winter there is not as hard as here. I think that’s what it’s like to see and believe, isn’t it? This saying…

Christian: In a year’s time we will ask you…

Maya: Yes, and also, I think winters I don’t know, maybe it’s just my perception of the situation, but I think that when I came here eight years ago, the winter was much harsher than it is now. That last year we had almost no snow, right? So I guess that’s it: you come to Canada already sort of on hold. It’s not an “ouch, surprise!” or a “gee, I’m not going!”. It’s something you know is going to happen. You don’t know when and how much, but you’re sort of ready for it.

Christian: Why a house? Is it cheaper? Is there a building in Welland? I don’t think so, is there?

Maya: There are buildings. So, as we have seen, in fact, the budget… instead of buying a flat, which I have nothing against. In fact, I like buildings very much. My husband wanted to turn it into a house. Even so, he always said that he had always dreamed about it. Because he has never lived at home in Canada. He always lived in buildings and townhouses, but he never had a house at all. So a house in this area, in Niagara, is much more accessible to us than a house in Toronto.

Christian: What kind of advice would today’s Mayans give to the Mayans of 2012?

Maya: Keep learning English, because you will need it a lot. And don’t stray from your cultures, you know, your roots. I’ve always liked being Brazilian, I’ve never had a problem “Oh, I came here, I fled Brazil”. Because there are people who don’t even like that: “Oh…I’m Brazilian”. No, that was never my intention. In fact, I ended up staying because things were sort of happening. I’ve always loved Brazil. I don’t have any problem with Brazil and I think it’s part of your identity, that you must be happy anyway. And that’s all, be open to opportunities! I am a journalist in Brazil. I never thought I would fall into real estate. It just sort of happened and I think that’s it. You have to keep your head open like that and you’re going to do a harder job than in Brazil. I’ve already cleaned up here, I’m not going to lie, right? I think a lot of people start this way and it won’t be forever. I have nothing against it either. It’s decent work like everybody else and it’s just a question as I said: “don’t forget why you are here. I think it has to be something you think about when you wake up and sleep. Every morning when I wake up I have my list of things I’m thankful for – I know it’s a very fashionable word these days – kind of like, “was it worth it today?”. “did I add something to my life?” “to my existence on this planet? Of course, I’m not the best person in the world, but, I think you have to feel good about yourself and because it already makes a difference in the community you’re in. And nothing lasts forever, right? Not the good things, not the bad things.

Christian: On behalf of the Wave team, we thank Maya Mendes for participating in our episode and it is good to say that these are opinions, experiences reported by our guests. This does not mean that it will be the same for anyone else. What is important in these episodes is that people know a little bit about what it is like to live in these places. If you’ve come all this way, I appreciate the audience and even the next episode.

Podcast: Ontario Beyond Toronto

  • Direction and interviews: Christian Pedersen
  • Production: Christian Pedersen e Ana Carolina Botelho
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  • Project Management: Teresa Botelho e Regina Filippov

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The views expressed in this podcast are the views of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of the Province.

Wave Podcast Series: Ontario Beyond Toronto
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