Arrival to Canada


Culture Shock


1. What is culture shock?
Canadian society is a unique mixture of people of different ethnicities, cultures, languages and religions from 150 countries. The basic principle of peaceful co-existence in Canada means the recognition that all Canadians are equal and that discrimination should not be tolerated. However, after coming to Canada, many immigrants feel helpless and even shocked when they meet with an unfamiliar culture, language, and way of life, manners and traditions. It is quite a well known and well-studied phenomenon which psychologists call "culture shock”, when it is impossible to keep the same lifestyle you had before immigration. It is especially difficult for those who do not have relatives or friends in Canada, those who come without family and those who have limited ability in English.
How can you adjust to your new environment? Here are some tips from psychologists:
•Get acquainted with the history and geography of Canada; find out as much as possible about the customs and traditions of Canadians; participate in national holidays and festivals.
•Avoid hasty actions when dealing with people from unfamiliar cultures.
•Do not consider that your behavior and culture is "right" and others are "wrong".
•Remember that adjusting to new conditions takes time. One person needs six months and another, even six years! It depends on gender, age, character, education and other factors.
•Try to understand others; communicate with people of other cultures; participate in community life.
•Maintain a healthy lifestyle; reserve time for relaxation and entertainment. Improve your English, which is the language of interethnic communication in Canada.

2. Where can I find settlement workers who speak my native language?
Many immigrants after arriving to Canada would like to get advice and assistance in their native language. They can find such opportunities in many cities in Canada. For example, an organization which has employees who speak your language can be found in the city guide "The Directory of Community Services." Ask for this book in any library and then open the section that lists the languages in which some organizations offer their services. You'd be surprised how many organizations can assist you in your language. Also, organizations serving immigrants in their native language can be found on the Internet using numbers 211, 311, 411 with the name of the province.

3. Where can I find my ethnic community?
Most immigrants, after their arrival in Canada, begin to look immediately for opportunities to meet people from their countries because they want to talk in their native language, do not want to feel alone, and need get good advice. When you find your ethnic community, you will know where you can meet people from your country, what newspapers and magazines are available in your native language, where the shops, restaurants and cafes which prepare your national food are, and what the addresses of doctors who speak your language are. You will also be able to make new friends and acquaintances.
Statistics show that in Canada there are more then 180 ethnic communities. Using the Internet, you can find your ethnic community in many cities of Canada. One of the world's most ethnically diverse cities is Toronto. It is home to more than 80 ethnic groups from Africa, Asia, and Europe. The top non-official home languages are: Chinese, Tamil, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese.

4. Can I connect with a Canadian family?
Usually, newly arrived immigrants are in desperate need of support and advice from people who have lived in Canada for a long time. If you do not have relatives or friends in Canada and you want to quickly get acquainted and establish friendships with Canadians, you can refer to some of the newcomer's programs which will help you to get acquainted with individuals or with a Canadian family.
These programs have different names such as the Host Program, Immigrant Settlement and Adaptation Program, Mentorship program, etc. With your new friends, you can speak in English, go for lunch, to the theatre, to a concert or a sports club, visit the shops or simply take a walk in the park. They will introduce you to Canadian customs and traditions and involve you in the social life of your area. However, you must remember that your new friends cannot be a substitute for the employees of organizations serving immigrants; still, they can help you feel less lonely in a new country and give you moral support and advice. It is not acceptable to borrow money from them. Ask a settlement worker about such programs, which are free.

5. What does being Canadian mean?
Who is the average Canadian? What are his/her distinguishing features?
Individualism
The average Canadian is sure that he/she must strive for complete self-sufficiency and independence, and many Canadians primarily consider themselves persons and individuals, and not representatives of a family, company, or social group. Many immigrants call it smugness or arrogance but from a different point of view, it can be considered as a healthy manifestation of independence and freedom.
Emancipation
Canadians believe that all people are created equal and firmly adhere to the idea of universal equality. For example, they try to treat people equally, regardless of their sex, age, or position. In Canada there is no priority for males over females, and sometimes women are more successful in life than men. According to people of some other cultures, such an attitude indicates a lack of respect for the traditional roles of women and revered status of the elderly but Canadians think that this is emancipation from social inequality and prejudice.
Restrained friendliness
Friendly relations between Canadians are not so pronounced as in other cultures. As Canadians consider themselves very mobile, they often change their place of living because of a good job, as well as for several other reasons. Therefore, they do not tend to have as many close friendships with other people. More often, friends, in the understanding of Canadians, are co-workers, fellow students or sports members (e.g., a "tennis friend"), as well as neighbours. Such a "rational" choice of friends does not lead to acceptance of many visitors but on the other hand, this is probably the result of finding and maintaining happiness in terms of a mobile and constantly changing environment.
Sense of time
Canadians highly value their time, and tend to be punctual and to organize themselves through a variety of plans and schedules. As a result, they are usually busy, always in a hurry to move from one urgent thing to another, and unable to stop and look around. Visitors perceive this as excessive organization and unconditional subordination to the tyranny of timekeeping, but on consideration, is it not best to be in the "right place at the right time"?
Materialism
Success for Canadians means a great salary, their own house, a prestigious car, and other material resources. For this they are ready to work overtime, and to orient their minds toward money and power. Many immigrants perceive this as a lack of spirituality; however, one must admit that only through hard work have Canadians achieved a high standard of living and made Canada a centre of attraction to the world. Also, an important aspect of Canadian life is volunteering for or donating to good causes that benefit the community. So even if personal material success is prioritized, Canadians have a tradition of sharing their success with others.
Communications
At a brief meeting (making small talk), Canadians usually exchange impressions about the weather, sports, work and mutual friends. Friends ask about family and children. Canadians avoid the discussion of political issues or religious issues, especially with unknown people, because these topics are risky. Canadians do not consider it necessary to adhere to a strict form of etiquette and do not consider casual conversation as a manifestation of incivility. During the conversation, Canadians prefer dialogue rather than monologue and consider the interruption of the other person impolite. That is why they stop after saying a few sentences, giving the opportunity to speak to the other party.
Quarrels
Canadians tend to avoid quarrels. Even if they disagree with each other, they prefer to talk in a relaxed manner, without raising their voices. Visitors involved in quarrels may get excited and raise their voices. This makes Canadians uncomfortable. Noisy disputes with nervous gestures are unacceptable. They believe that this method of dispute leads to a deterioration of relations and interferes with normal work. Immigrants take the avoidance of emotional quarrels by Canadians as a sign that they are wrong or that there is no rebuttal, but this is not the case. Canadians just prefer to discuss business without emotional outbursts and are ready to state their arguments, but in a relaxed manner.
Casual Meetings
Canadians do not expect that there will be long conversations during a casual meeting. A short message is enough, although many immigrants perceive this as lack of attention. Many newcomers, when they meet, like to speak about their families, asking their partner about his/her health and life, and going into medical details. Canadians are more reserved and reticent with strangers. They rarely use gestures or a vigorous way of conversation, for example, when one takes their companion by the arm, pats him/her on the shoulder or touches him/her otherwise. Restraint should not be taken as a sign that a Canadian is cold or unwilling to deal with you - this is just the Canadian communication style.
Handshakes
Men usually shake hands when they meet. When meeting a woman, a man expects that she will give him her hand first and closely monitors her hand at the time of the meeting. Women also sometimes shake hands, especially if they are introduced. If someone gives you a hand, you should shake it. A good, firm handshake involves moving your partner’s hand up and down three or four times.
Names
Unlike in many other countries, the first name in Canada is used more often than the second (family) name. Even when barely acquainted, Canadians call each other by name, which does not mean familiarity, but just goes to show a friendly disposition. Therefore, if a Canadian says, "Just call me Joe," then you should call him by that name. If you do not know what to call him, just ask him, "What name do you prefer to be called?" From the Canadian viewpoint, many immigrants have long and difficult-to-remember second names, so the use of first names is much easier. Canadians sometimes use nicknames or humorous names, but normally only among close friends.
Greetings
During a chance meeting between Canadians, the following dialogue usually occurs, "How are you?" The answer is, "Fine, thank you" or in short, "Fine, thanks". For friends, you have two optional greetings. There is a more formal greeting, "Good morning" or "Good Afternoon" and a less formal one, "Hello" or "Hi". After this brief greeting, you may ask, "How are you?", and usually the other party answers "Fine", regardless of whether he/she feels good or bad. This greeting does not reflect your actual state of mind. The same goes for the form of farewell, "See you (later)" which simply means "Bye" and does not mean that your partner is going to need to meet you again.
Gifts
In Canada, who get presents? Typically, relatives or close friends. Sometimes, if you are just coming to visit, you can bring a gift, but this is not the rule. Do not give presents to people in official positions and especially your superiors, as in this case the gift may be viewed as a bribe. When are gifts presented in Canada? As in other countries, at a birthday, wedding and other special occasions, gifts are given. What gifts are presented? Think over what your friend likes and buy something inexpensive. Expensive gifts are accepted only between very close friends, relatives and partners.
Smoking
In Canada, in most public places smoking is prohibited. Many Canadians do not smoke at home or in their cars and do not allow others to smoke. Smokers usually smoke outdoors even in winter. Do not smoke next to people who are eating, and when you are a guest, before going to light a cigarette ask the host or hostess, "Do you mind if I smoke?"

6. How can I overcome cultural shock?
The Canadian government and society are making great efforts to help immigrants overcome psychological problems in the first period of their lives in Canada. When necessary, you can get assistance from agencies that serve immigrants in your area. Their addresses can be found on the site: https://www.cic.gc.ca/english/newcomers/services/index.asp. The staff of these agencies includes psychologists who will assist you in your native language. Many immigrants can participate in the mentorship program, which connects them to Canadian families. There are clubs and centres of interest for students and youth. Also, religious people can attend their respective religious institutions.
You can meet a lot of wealthy and happy immigrant citizens who will tell you that they, just as you, experienced culture shock in the first months after arrival and that it can be overcome.
Here also are some tips from psychologists:
•Get acquainted with the history and geography of Canada; find out as much as possible about the customs and traditions of Canadians; participate in national holidays and festivals.
•Avoid hasty actions when dealing with people of unfamiliar cultures.
•Do not consider that one person’s behavior and culture is "right" and others are "wrong".
•Remember that adjusting to new conditions of life takes time. One person needs six months and another, even six years! It depends on gender, age, character, education and other factors.
•Try to understand others; communicate with people of other cultures; participate in community life.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle; reserve time for relaxation and entertainment.
Improve your English, which is the language of interethnic communication in Canada.

7. Are there any Canadian sources in other languages?
Avoid isolation. If you arrive in Canada alone, look over the site: "Alone in Canada: 21 Ways to Make it Better - A Self-Help Guide for Single Newcomers” in 21 languages. https://settlement.org/ontario/health/mental-health-and-addiction/stress/alone-in-canada-21-ways-to-make-it-better-a-self-help-guide-for-single-newcomers/