Why Ancaster-Hamilton? Interview with Flavio Ferreira, a businessman

Podcast Ontario Beyond Toronto (English transcript): In this episode, we spoke with Flavio who has been in Canada for 15 years. From Mississauga, which is about 20 km from Toronto, he moved to Ancaster, a suburb of the city of Hamilton, about 60 km from Toronto.

Audio in Portuguese. Read the English transcript below.

Flavio Ferreira, Ancaster-Hamilton, Ontario.

The city of Ancaster (Hamilton) – Location

Why Ancaster (Hamilton)? Interview with Flavio, entrepreneur
Transcripts (mechanical English translation – unedited)

Hello. Welcome to another episode of the series Ontario beyond Toronto, a podcast of Brazilian Wave Canada. My name is Christian Pedersen and, in this edition, we want to know: why did Flavio move to Ancaster-Hamilton?

In this episode, we talked to Flavio Ferreira who, together with his wife, children, and grandchildren, has lived in Canada for 15 years. From Mississauga, which is about 20 km from Toronto, he moved to Ancaster, which is a suburb of the city of Hamilton, about 60 km from Toronto. Flavio is an entrepreneur in the sector of imports of Brazilian products. Share your experiences with us and make your satisfaction with your current life evident. 

An interesting piece of information for this episode, which also applies to the Sudbury episode and also the Kanata-Ottawa episode, is about amalgamation. Only provincial governments have the power to amalgamate cities. For example, in 1998 the Ontario government decided to bring together the cities of Toronto, Scarborough, Etobicoke, North York, York, and also the neighborhood of East York in one city, which became the city of Toronto. This is a controversial decision, not everyone likes this idea, but, according to the explanations, it is that joining these cities, which are already very close, or practically stuck together, facilitates their government and administration.

In 2001, the same thing happened in Ottawa. Eleven cities were joined or amalgamated and formed the unique city of Ottawa. One of these municipalities was Kanata, which was independent and became part of Ottawa. This also happened to Hamilton in 2001, when, until then, the region called Hamilton-Wentworth suffered amalgamation and the cities of Hamilton, Ontario, Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Glanbrook, and Stoney Creek joined to form Greater Hamilton.

Christian: Hi Flavio, how are you?

Flavio: Alright, how about you?

Christian: Everything’s great. Thank you for participating in our podcast .

Flavio: It’s my pleasure.

Christian: You have been here in Canada for 15 years. He’s already a veteran.

Flavio: We left Brazil on March 18 and arrived here on March 19, 2006.

Christian: Why Canada?

Flavio: I had already lived in England, in the United States, and had already visited Canada. I came to work a second time because I had to visit a supplier in Michigan [in the United States]. Then, a friend of mine who had relatives in Toronto told me: “look, are we staying at my sister’s house there? And from there we go to Michigan to visit your supplier ”. So I decided to come, and in that period (that was in 2001), I ended up meeting with several Brazilians. It was summertime, people doing barbecue and then we started talking and asking [to the people in the group]: “what are you doing here?” And the answers were: “I immigrated, I immigrated …”. So, that little seed was planted in my heart and then, in 2005, we applied it. It took 11 months, which was an eternity for us at the time, but which today is very short. You asked why Canada. I already had two places to compare, both England and the United States. After I saw Canada, I thought it was the best of both worlds, because it has a hint of UK [United Kingdom] and a hint of USA [United States].

Christian: And have you come with family?

Flavio: Yes. I came with a wife and two daughters. My eldest son was in Brazil at the time (he is already here with us, but at the time he was in Brazil). We had a company there and he preferred to stay to take care of the company. We came all four and arrived here in March. It was already cold (-7 ⁰C) and we came with a Brazilian’s cold suit…

Christian: It’s not much use, is it?

Flavio: I almost died on arrival! But we learn.

Christian: Did you come to live directly in Mississauga or did you pass through Toronto ? How was it?

Flavio: I did a research. I didn’t want to stay in a hotel. We found a Bed & Breakfast in Mississauga very good. It was a couple who rented rooms and their basement was a very large room, which would fit the four of us with good privacy, space, private bathroom, television, and such. I still hired from Brazil (at that time, the internet was still very basic, I didn’t have everything I have today). We closed and came to Mississauga straight away and enjoyed it a lot! So much so that we ended up renting first and then buying, a house very close to this Bed & Breakfast. We stayed in Mississauga until August last year when we came to Ancaster, which is a suburb of Hamilton. A year earlier, we looked for a house to buy and found a very good place. The construction company had only six plots and we were able to define the house as it would be because it was not a finished house. We closed a deal, the house was built and was ready last year. On August 28, 2019, we moved and it was a more than right decision! Because we had no idea, like you and everyone else, what the year 2020 would be like. So it was good because we came to a bigger house. Now, I’m here with my daughters, and my son is with his wife, too. My sister-in-law also came to college and the house can fit everyone. In Mississauga a house the size of the one we have today would be very expensive. The good thing about living outside of Greater Toronto (GTA) is that you live better and pay a lot less. That, speaking of the residence, but the cities are very interesting, too. They are much more Canadian cities, I think than the GTA cities, the cities closest to Toronto. We have been here for a year and three months and we are very happy! We have a lot of friends here, people who live here in Ancaster. But we have friends who live in Burlington, in Oakville. From here it is a leap to reach the United States (not that we are traveling now, because of the pandemic…). We’re really enjoying it here.

Christian: When you came, was it your own dream or did the family come in the same dream?

Flavio: It was initially with me … when I came back from this business trip, that I got to know people who had migrated to Canada … I went back to Brazil and told my wife what I had found (she was not with me). At first, she felt a little intimidated, but then, over time and talking, she became interested (she had already lived abroad, too, in the United States). There, we planned an exploratory trip and visited Toronto. We had a couple of friends who, at the time, lived near Markham / Unionville, which is a very good area too, and we took the opportunity to go for a walk. We visited several Brazilian couples. We came as everyone comes at the beginning, with many questions. We made a list of questions and asked the same questions for all these couples so that we could then tabulate and make comparisons. Based on this, we reinforce our desire to come. I cannot complain, because it was not a forced thing. My wife also came aware and very interested in immigration. My daughters, in the beginning, were very excited, but they were afraid because it is the fear of the unknown, right? At first, it was difficult for them. They spoke a little English, but adapting at school is part of adapting to Canada. En so, at first, make friends and such. But it was only six months, and today they are even more Canadian than my wife and I. They speak to each other in English, do not remember much of Brazil, and have difficulties understanding some things in Brazil because when we came, the youngest was 10 years old and the middle daughter was 15. Today, the middle daughter is 30 the youngest is 25 years old. So, the family adapted very well. My son came two or three years ago to go to business college and today he works with me at the company. I have a food import company from Brazil.

Christian: When you receive a visa to come here, when you arrive here, you turn around because there is no one waiting at the airport, you have to look for it …

Flavio: When we arrived, there was no one waiting for us at the airport. I only knew this couple who lived in Markham / Unionville. So, you have to start from scratch, grow in knowledge and search for options. The first six months to a year were very difficult, but with a lot of learning. I came here when I was 50 years old. It is already difficult for you to come here to start from scratch and, with 50 years old, even more! But I was fortunate enough to have contacts (in the first six months of searching for a job here in Canada) with a person who saw my background and offered me a job opportunity at Scotiabank. I spent 10 years at Scotiabank. Working in the area of ​​relationships with customers who had ATMs within their companies. Then, while I was still at Scotiabank and, together with four friends, I started the other company. In the beginning, it was very difficult, but like everyone else, you have to start, work hard and do your best. Hence, with each passing year, things start to get easier, because the adaptation to Canada grows. I return to Brazil to visit my father (who in this case is already 90 years old) and to visit my company’s suppliers. But personally, I have no desire to return to Brazil. I even have, if you allow me, a theory about it: couples who in Brazil have had the opportunity to live in different cities and regions are able to adapt better in Canada. Or, couples who have had international opportunities to live in other countries, to exchange and such, when they come to Canada, have an easier adaptation.

C hristian: I imagine. Because you already have a previous experience in the United States, then England …

Flavio: I worked in a bank, too, in Brazil. In one part of my career I lived in São Paulo and lived in Manaus twice (I stayed there for 12 years and that’s where I met my wife, we got married there and such). I lived in Londrina, Paraná, I lived in Porto Alegre, in the ‘ Grande do Sul … so, the thing about my adaptation, I already had a whole workout before (in addition to living abroad, in the United States and England). People who are very close to the family did not live abroad and did not have a distance from the family feel more difficulty, I think. Which is natural and there is nothing wrong with that! I went through, in Brazil, what a lot of people are starting to go through here in Canada… from having my family in São Paulo and living in Manaus, which is a six-hour flight. I have a friend who migrated right after us (a couple of friends who live in Burlington, very nice people) and she has a phrase that, sometimes when she speaks, even scares people: “ burn your bridges ” (forget Brazil). If you come to Canada and start comparing things with Brazil: “that in Brazil it was like that, that in Brazil it was roasted… ”, you will have a much more difficult adaptation. I think, really, she is right. It is not that you will stop liking Brazil, that you will forget things about Brazil, but you have to face Canada as Canada is. Canada is not Brazil and Brazil is not Canada.

Christian: And what was it like, suddenly, working in a bank here? What difference did you see from the banks here, from those there?

Flavio: Look, before I came here to Canada, I worked at Lloyds Bank. I started at Bank of London, an English bank that later became Lloyds Bank, and then I went to work at Citybank, which is an American bank. It was possible to experience two completely different cultures. And what I noticed at Scotiabank and Canadian banks is that, really, in Brazil, due to the economic situation that we went through for about 30 to 40 years, banks were forced to modernize. That inflation at the time of Sarney and Collor, which was 60 to 70% per month, I don’t know if you remember …, at the time, in Brazil, I worked at Lego Brinquedos, which is a Danish company. Crazy! I was in the financial area, I was the financial director and we had price lists in the morning and then in the afternoon. The experience with these difficulties meant that Brazilian banks had to adapt and modernize. An example is the billet bid, which is so popular in Brazil, and that you pay any account at any bank … something that here in Canada does not have! Now, it is a little more modern in the whole world, so not so much, but in Brazil now there is the PIX, which is revolutionizing again. But Brazil is, in terms of electronic payments, far ahead of Canada. Today you deposit a check, I don’t know if it has already happened to you, but I have a company, and if you don’t have an agreement with the bank for him to release it soon (a credit line, let’s say like this), you have five days without the money in hand, while in Brazil it is a single day. And now with this new technology that they are implementing, it is zero, you paid and the money comes out on the spot: it leaves one bank and it enters the other. This is important. But the banks here serve the needs of Canadians and are doing very well.

Christian: But it is much calmer to enter a bank branch here. It is even curious, because sometimes there is no one, the door open …

Flavio: Those revolving doors that you have in Brazil, with metal detectors, that doesn’t exist here. When I told these things to my Scotiabank colleagues here, they were scared, impressed, because for them it is a totally different reality. Canada is great. I love Canada! I am an unconditional fan and I only regret one thing: not having come before!

Christian: When you came, in addition to clothes, did you bring personal attachment things?

Flavio: We came in four people, two suitcases per person, so eight suitcases with clothes and some other personal items. We leave in Brazil some boxes with personal objects, mostly documents (that income tax business that you have to keep for eight years). The rest, we bought everything here.

Christian : And Mississauga, how was the good side, the bad side?

Flavio: I really liked Mississauga. It is close enough to Toronto that you can go to Toronto when needed, but it has everything you need and what Toronto has. The place where I lived was great with supermarkets, brand shops and the biggest Walmart of Ontario is there, too. So, a very good place and that had many things close by. It is also good because it is a very cosmopolitan city. To get to Canada and understand Canada, you have to understand that Canada is a country of migrants and that, therefore, you will meet people from all over the world. So Mississauga was good because there were people from all over the world. My youngest daughter had a group of ten friends who always came here at home, they really liked my wife’s food, cakes, and such. There were seven Chinese, one from Vietnam, one from India, and one Canadian. I thought it was great because they were integrated into this environment that is a multicultural environment in Canada, that this is our reality, you know.

Christian: And now in Ancaster, do you usually come to Toronto more often or not so much?

Flavio: As we moved in August (the company is in Mississauga, very close to the airport), my plan was to work from home two, three days a week and two, three days at the office and such … and with the pandemic ended, so, that I am going once a week. Today, for example, I went. Just arrived. And you can manage it! Of course it is more distant now … I ended up changing cars, buying a hybrid car to reduce gas costs too, but it is going well. Depending on how the situation is with regard to the pandemic, now in the year 2021 (which I think we will maintain the current situation), I, maybe, move the company here or not … or maybe I leave it there, because I need to of a place that has a warehouse.

Christian: I was reading about Ancaster, in 1823 it was the second most populated city in Upper Canada, here in Ontario . It was more than Toronto, more than Hamilton, and was second only to Kingston.

Flavio: It was a trade route here, right?

Christian: But it has a very interesting historical side. It was an independent city that was later annexed to Hamilton. How does Ancaster work with Hamilton?

Flavio: It’s kind of a pattern that I notice in some Canadian cities. Mississauga, too, was like that. Mississauga grew and absorbed Cooksville, absorbed Streetsville … and, in the case here, too. Hamilton grew until he leaned against Ancaster, which already existed. So Ancaster is now part of Greater Hamilton. I live exactly 100m from Hamilton’s border with Ancaster. There, we noticed that there is a very big difference in housing between Hamilton and Ancaster, at least in the area where I am now. In Hamilton, the houses are older (as it is also in Toronto, more in the center and such). Ancaster also grew up and came close to Hammonton. But then, the houses are newer, more recent. I really like it here. It’s a beautiful place. The Hamilton region has many waterfalls. Hamilton is a city that is located near Lake Ontario, where there is the port and such and the metallurgical industries. But there is a part that they call the Mountain that is there in the Niagara Escarpment. That is where Ancaster is also. So Ancaster is above the Burlington, Oakville region. We are in the Escarpment. Then to reach Ancaster you reach Hamilton and then the road that goes to Brandford made all the curves going up the mountain. We are on the mountain. So it’s colder here, it snows more… but it’s very beautiful. Our!

Christian: So you’re really enjoying it. It’s good!

Flavio: I highly recommend it. I have several friends who are interested in moving here. I have Brazilian friends who already live here.

Christian: So there’s a lot of support.

Flavio: We are also thinking about myself and other people who live here in the region…, the idea is to have a support group for Brazilians who arrive here in Hamilton to study at MacMaster University or Mohawk College or come to work in the region here… for us to support them. We are exchanging ideas, now, on how to set up this group. That business of having a statute, objectives. We already have a room in view, which may be available from the Hamilton City Hall. So, we are talking and analyzing the alternatives to have this group and, really, give support. Magda is a person who works with social work and has a lot of experience in the area, she has been here in Canada for a long time, too. So, our idea is also to give psychological support to these people who are here. Because these people arrive and sometimes feel the thud of being in a new country and there are difficulties in adapting. And we want to give that psychological support as well. And we are few Brazilians here in Canada. I heard a comment I don’t know whose it was, maybe someone from the consulate, that in the Boston region in the United States there are more Brazilians than in the whole of Canada. The consulate staff, I think, once said, that we’re like 30 to 35 thousand.

Christian: Let’s talk about transportation. I know you have a car, but if you didn’t have a car would you be able to move cool, then?

Flavio: The transportation system here in Hamilton, I think it’s good, but I don’t use it much. My sister-in-law uses more and my daughter-in-law, who lives with us here, too. But, it is not like Toronto that has a subway, because the population here is not as large as that of Toronto. But I think it is enough. Now, of course, if you have a car, you have easier mobility. But it is an extra expense and the person does not always have the possibility of having a car when they arrive, mainly. But the transportation system here is good. If the person comes to study, both MacMaster University and Mohawk College (which are the two largest schools here in the region) have several bus lines that stop at the door and such. Now, each family is a family that has its goals and needs. I know a lot of people who came to Canada and said: “I want to live in downtown Toronto and close to the subway”. It is a vision. I also know other families who said: “I prefer to have a car and live in the suburbs because I like space, and I want to live in a house”. Every family that comes here has a need that can be met.

Christian: And what was it like to transform, after working for so many years in banks and becoming an entrepreneur? How was that passage?

Flavio: It was an interesting adaptation because it was here in Canada, but I was already an entrepreneur in Brazil. After I worked at the banks, I worked at the Dona Benta flour group JMacedo, back in Brazil, I ended up setting up a company there in Brazil that still exists. So I already had… my father was an entrepreneur. I started my first professional job was with my father in the food industry. It was a path I already wanted to look for here. And then, when I was in the bank, a friend invited me to join the company that is mine today, along with two other Brazilians. So we were in four. And then we set up the company and we were all working on his, shall we say, normal jobs and taking care of the company on the outside. Until the company grew, some partners decided to leave and I ended up buying their share and, today, I am alone in the company. But it was very peaceful learning, in terms of the legal part. It is much easier for you to open and close a business here in Canada than in Brazil. But the retail food market here is very different from Brazil. My company has been in the market for 10 years, and I think now I have greater clarity of challenges and paths. I already have the right contacts, I already have a network of professional friends, so it’s easier now than it was five, six years ago. The company started as an exclusive distributor of Forno de Minas, of the cheese bread, which you should know, then we started looking for other products to complement our product line because it was easier to have more products to close a container than to depend on only from one supplier. So we started adding frozen products to our portfolio, then we also started bringing fruit pulp, açaí products, and now we have other products. Even dry products that are pre-cooked grains and vegetables: manioc, manioc, hominy that people like. We have an organic line which is the line that we are reaching the Canadian public of quinoa, seven grains, brown rice, and carioca beans, organic. The company is doing well. We entered the eleventh year of life. There’s room for everyone. The Canadian market, not that of Brazilians in Canada, but the Canadian market of all ethnicities, of all cultures, is very interesting. It’s not as big as the United States, but …

Flavio: And for the person who wants to move , live in Hamilton, what would you recommend for him?

Flavio: If the person is in Brazil it is important to make an exploratory visit, so as not to have any surprises. Difficult now with the pandemic, I understand, but you can count on us. There is this group on Facebook called “Brasileiros em Hamilton”, you can subscribe. The people in the group are very helpful, you can ask for support. There are a lot of people from Brazil that we are helping. For those here in Canada, it’s so easy! Those in GTA, get the car and come, get the Go-Train and come. And search! Housing here is cheaper and the cost of living is a little cheaper than in Toronto. I think the quality of life here is very good. I have no intention of leaving.

Christian: What about security? Because Hamilton sometimes has a reputation for having more violence. Sometimes, there are rumors here, right … for Brazil it ‘s nothing, but here …

Flavio: As in Toronto, Hamilton has, in some areas, this gang business and such. Here in Ancaster it is zero, Ancaster is very safe! And some neighborhoods in Hamilton, too, are very safe. But, like any big city, they have these drug problems and such. So, before the person comes, it is important for the person to research, talk, interact and visit the place so as not to end up living in a place that is not so safe.

Christian: And also be aware that there is no perfect place.

Flavio: Exactly. Every place has its price, so “Oh, I want to live in Hamilton”. Hamilton is great! But it is far from Toronto. If you want to be in Toronto all the time at shows and theaters you will have to go by Go-Train. It is part of it. But if you want to be close to nature, see the waterfalls, have a place to go hiking, hiking, this is much better. It depends on what the person wants. If the person wants to party, as they say in Brazil, to go to the nightclub every day, then live in Toronto on the subway side.

Christian: And how was the first winter there, compared to Mississauga ?

Flavio: Look, I was expecting more snow, but even though it wasn’t such a strong winter, my car got stuck here at the entrance to the area where I live, due to the snow. But, it counts a lot more than 10 of Canada that I already have experience. I’ve already caught many winters here. So, it was not so strong with us, because we already had experience.

Christian : It was a lot worse in the past, right? I remember 2007 and 2008 …

Flavio: Yeah. In 2008 I lived in Mississauga and there was a day when we got home (we had gone to the home of some Brazilian friends ) and when we got home, my garage door, it was a townhouse, a small garage and such, and it was in the middle of snow! My wife and I had to shovel it. We spent an hour there more or less shoveling snow to be able to stop the driveway car, or to enter the garage! For the time being, a winter just here in the Hamilton region was not so serious.

Christian: And, in closing, what would Flavio today say to that Flavio who arrived here the first time, when he was moving in with his family? What advice would you give him?

Flavio: Look, this is a great question! What would I say? I prepared myself so much before coming that I can’t say: prepare yourself more. Because, for us, it was two, three years of preparation, not only me but my wife. The daughters we put in an English school. So, what I would say: look, you have to have a lot of patience and a lot of resilience (I think that is the word in Portuguese), because, in the beginning, it will be very difficult, but then things will get right. So, this advice that I would give to myself 15 years ago, I would now give to the Brazilians who are in Brazil listening to us: be patient, prepare yourself a lot and improve your English (I’m sure you agree with me on that). Do not think that your English studied in Brazil (“oh, I’m at the last level…”), no matter the school, it’s not enough!

Christian: It is horrible to come here and see: “oh I don’t say anything” …

Flavio: I didn’t really spend that much, because I went through this situation in the United States when I went to Michigan, I did an internship there (in this situation of saying “ah! I’m at the last level of the English course, I know how to speak… ”). I got there and I didn’t understand what they were saying at the company I went to work for. I didn’t understand what they were saying and they didn’t understand what I was saying. And then I spent the first three months of a lot of suffering. So, my suggestion is: prepare yourself as much as possible. Make contact with Brazilians here and ask for help because the Brazilians here are willing to help. But don’t ask the Brazilians who tried hard to come here, within the legal framework, to point out illegal ways. If you come to Canada, come to respect the country’s laws. Canada is a great, wonderful country! And it is what it is today, because all the people who live here, from different cultures and different ethnicities, are here because they respect the laws here in Canada and the way Canada is and Canadian culture. I feel very sad when I see Brazilians guiding others to come here illegally. I don’t think that is correct. I think that everyone can have their dreams, they have every right. But you have to do things according to the law, in Brazil, here in Canada, in the United States, wherever you go.

Podcast: Ontario Beyond Toronto

  • Direction and interviews: Christian Pedersen
  • Production: Christian Pedersen e Ana Carolina Botelho
  • Vignettes: Robson DJ Estudio – Participações de Robson DJ and Eric Major
  • Coordenação: Teresa Botelho
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  • Project Management: Teresa Botelho e Regina Filippov

A realization of BRZ Group Inc., Canada


Wave Podcast Series: Ontario Beyond Toronto
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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.