© Nick Moase Photo
From left are Mika, Monique, Miguel and Luna Hassink Tan. The family opened the Blueberry Bay Seaside Inn earlier this year, after immigrating from Holland.
QUEENS COUNTY – Picking up your roots is never easy, but it makes it easier when you get a warm welcome to your new home. That's exactly what the Hassink Tan family found when they moved to Queens County last year, and opened the Blueberry Bay Seaside Inn
Monique and Miguel Hassink Tan, with their children Luna and Mika, moved to Queens County last September.
Though they both had jobs in Holland, Miguel in IT and Monique as a purser for an airline, they were looking for a change of pace in their lives.
It was the friendliness of Canadians, especially in the Maritimes, that led them to wanting to move to Canada.
The family has travelled all over the world, including most of Canada, but first came to Nova Scotia in 2007. In the back of their minds they had always wanted to open a bed and breakfast, but had yet to find a place they wanted to move.
"Nova Scotia is so much more beautiful than (between) Toronto to here," though Monique adds it is all very beautiful.
It was the combination of ocean and vast forestland that particularly attracted them. They knew this province was where they wanted to call home.
They came back in 2008, exploring the province in depth and spending time in Queens County as well. It was when they were out beach hunting that they found the place they now call home.
One of the beaches suggested was the Eagle Head beach. Though they weren't looking at houses at this point, Monique spotted a house for sale just off the bay that peaked her interest. While Miguel and the children were on the beach she went to have a look. Nobody was home at the time, so she went to the neighbour to ask a few questions.
The neighbour was very friendly, says Monique, and invited her in to chat. He also knew where the key to the house was, and showed them around.
The house appealed to them immediately, and gave them an anchor to come back to the community and explore it more. It would also give them a chance to see if they really liked the area as much as they thought, and it wasn't just a "vacation feeling" that attracted them.
It turned out there wasn't much to worry about.
"It's a whole different way of life," says Monique. "If you come here you are free to do whatever you like. You have so much energy left to spend on these things," says Monique.
"We really loved it. It's just so peaceful," says Miguel, adding it is a much better experience compared to big cities.
That Maritime friendliness shone through when they first moved to Queens County in the fall of last year. The container they shipped all their belongings in on was held up in customs. When it was finally cleared, they got a call the night before that they had to move their belongings out of there first thing in the morning.
With all their worldly possessions in a 40-feet container, it was going to be quite a job moving it in the house. However, they spoke with their neighbour, who originally showed them the house, and he rounded up about dozen people to help move their belongings into their home.
Several of the wives of those that were helping out baked things to feed people as well.
"That for us was such a great experience. To feel so welcome from people that don't even know you," says Monique.
Now settled in their new home, they worked on setting up their business. Over the winter months they worked at renovating the house for the bed and breakfast, with two rooms initially. Plans are in the works to open two more.
They have also been getting involved in the community as well. Miguel is coaching soccer this summer, and volunteering with the Port Medway Fire Department.
"You try to give something to the community as well," he says.
That sense of wanting to give back also led to a business idea. They offer packaged deals, where people staying for a few nights can combine it with a local experience as well.
For example they approached the local museums to see if they would be interested in being part of their cultural package. Now for that package, guests get an entrance pass to local museums, the Queens County Museum, the Rossignol Cultural Centre and Fort Point Lighthouse Park.
For their health package, they are working with two massage therapists in the area. Guests also get healthy foods and maps to walking and hiking trails.
Now they are working on an artistic package, where guests can learn from local artisans while they stay.
The sky is really the limit when it comes to ideas, and they are exploring other opportunities that could be out there as well. However the overall goal is doing more for tourism in the area.
"We really need to work on tourism, and show people what we already have," says Monique.
The website for the inn can be found here
The long road
The immigration process can certainly prove frustrating to those looking to move to Canada.
The system is based on points, which cover a variety of criteria such as age, income, language proficiency and job skills. There are different streams people can take, from skilled worker to business investor, which each has different criteria.
A new government can also cause problems to those looking to immigrate to Canada, which happened to them in 2008. When an election happens governments make announcements on how they would change the immigration policies if elected. Because of that, immigration officials wait until after the election to see which party gets in and what changes are made.
Luckily for the Hassink Tas family, it did not change the process enough to start from the beginning again, but it did cause delays. Those delays can be discouraging, they say, especially since you still need to earn a living while you wait.
"I think the criteria is not too bad," says Miguel. "I think the speed of the whole process takes too long."
When immigrating, you also have to choose which province you would like to move to as well. They chose Nova Scotia, but not a lot of people do. It would be motivating, they say, if Nova Scotia could find a way to speed up the process over the other provinces.