Fitting into Canada
How you can integrate
Please note that all of these suggestions about integration are AS relevant, if not even MORE relevant, if you move BACK to the UK as they are when you move to a new country.
Open and accepting attitude
- Your transition will be smoother if you have an open mind and accept that day to day things are done differently in Canada.
- As anthropologist Wade Davis said, “The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you; they are unique manifestations of the human spirit."
You're an anthropologist
- Actually the reference to an anthropologist is a useful one.
- You can make things more fun if you view yourself as an anthropologist studying the customs of the native tribe.
- Then every request for a double double and a box of timbits can, instead of being a boring nuisance, be an interesting field observation.
Take an interest in people
- Notice that you have two ears and one mouth. Use that as a communication guideline. Listen at least twice as much as you speak.
- One member of the BE forum, who lives at the edge of a rural area, put it this way:
- Once you get here, demonstrate a willingness to discuss subjects which may not be what you are used to or what you are initially interested in.
- For example: when I arrived I really didn't like talking about horses - no interest at all. But so many people I met lived and breathed their horses that if I didn't find some interest in this subject, I would be struggling to start a conversation and would have to give up on getting to know these people better. As soon as I showed an interest, people opened up to me, introduced my son to riding, and I discovered that we did have other things in common after all. Some of my best friends are horse freaks!
- Second example: my FIL recently visited. He is used to sitting in the pub discussing the woes of the world (namely politics, history (of Europe) etc) with any one who will listen - and in [City Name] he can find many people to talk to about this. After his visit here he was very derogatory about the lack of interest people showed in the bars to discuss this stuff and generally accused them of having a very insular view. I pointed out that he had not asked them about the things that concerned them ie crops, livestock, land, real estate, hockey etc or about their views of history etc from their own location. If he'd started off talking to people about what concerned them in their daily lives - maybe the conversation could have evolved to other things over time. He also might have been surprised and gained an actual interest in some of these subjects he was so derogatory about.
Ask lots of questions
- This has at least a couple of benefits.
- Most people love to answer questions. If they can give you advice that will help you to find your way around the community, the local shops, etc., they’ll feel useful . They enjoy that.
- Besides that, it’s a good way for you to find out where the bargains are, which stores have the best [fill in the blank], and so on.
Get involved in the community
- Volunteer at your kids’ school or coach soccer.
- Shovel your elderly neighbour’s front path.
- Participate in local events and festivals.
Invite people over for a meal
- Be aware that you have to make more effort than other people.
- They have established networkers of friendships.
- If you want to break into those networks, you have to “earn” your place.
- Besides that, it's really not that much trouble to invite people over for a barbecue and a beer.
Politics and criticism
- Yes, you can get involved in politics and share your opinions about controversial issues of the day, but it’s better to do that type of thing when you’ve been in Canada for a little while, when you’ve “paid your dues,” and when you’ve earned some credibility.
- It’s difficult to say at which point you will have “done your time” and will have earned the “right” to speak out.
- It’s not a hard and fast rule.
- Factors that earn you “credits” include:
- surviving a couple of winters (when you can reminisce with someone about the blizzard of 2006, it gives you a common bond),
- being generally positive about Canada (if you do criticise something about Canada, it should be against a background of liberal praise for Canada),
- demonstrating that you’re a contributing member of the community, and
- becoming a Canadian citizen.
- Although it’s certainly a good idea to make an effort to fit in, in the ways that already have been mentioned, you don’t have to give up your identity either.
- It’s nice for your children to know about the country that you came from.
- Canada has an official policy of multi-culturalism.
- New Canadians from China, India, Russia, Mexico and Nigeria are encouraged to retain their identity, so why shouldn’t British-Canadians do the same thing?
- But also remember that you are an immigrant, just like all those other immigrants. If you arrive in Canada thinking that you are something special because you are British, good luck to you.
Expect the odd hiccup
- It's going to take a while to get up and running.
- It is hard when so many things are new, when you don't know your way around, and you cannot do things on automatic pilot.
- Just take it one day at a time, and do first things first.
- And remember, you had good and bad days back in the UK too.
- Do some of the activities that attracted you to Canada in the first place (skiing or whatever). Even a walk in a nice park can be a pick-me-up.
- If you can afford to do so, spoil yourself. If you feel that Canadians have been discounting you, go to a place -- like an expensive restaurant -- where you know you'll be treated with respect.
- If you cannot afford an expensive treat, give yourself a cheap treat. Have a bubble bath, or ask your spouse to give you a nice back rub.
There are related articles in the Canada Challenges section of the BE Wiki.