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Starting a new life here in Canada

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July 2, 2013

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In this monthly column, DiDi LeMay shares adventures from her busy life in the exciting multicultural city of Toronto.

It is thought that Canada has yellow brick roads. People from all over the world come here in the hope to build a rich and prosperous life here for themselves and for their families.

We Canadians are always curious as to why our newcomers come to Canada. “I came here for a better life!” “I came here for my family!” “I wanted a better opportunity for a career.”

Those are some of the comments I hear from our newcomers. It does my heart good to hear how people from all over the world feel about living in Canada. And, of course, being as nosy as I am, I started to ask more.

I asked: “What is the difference between your country and Canada? What are some of the things that were difficult to adjust to?” Little did I know these questions would lead to whole new conversations; the flood gates opened!

One girl from mainland China told me that she found it quite difficult to call the manager at work by her first name. “It is so disrespectful!” she said. “In China, we say ‘manager’ and also indicate if the manager is senior to the office worker or not.”

Another girl from Barbados agreed with her and told us that she called her manager ‘Mr. Johnston.’ When I asked her how long she had worked with her manager, she told us six years. I gasped. When I was interviewed for a job I was hired for, the manager introduced himself with his first name. I think he would have thought me to be crazy if I ever had called him Mr. Baker.

A young man from Qatar told us that when he arrived in the summer, he was so surprised that it was so hot in Canada. He was told that people in Canada lived in igloos and that it was always winter and very cold and that there was lots of snow! He had made sure that he had appropriate clothing to wear when living in an igloo. He had a parka, heavy hiking boots and big woolly sweaters when he arrived mid-August with a temperature of 32°C.

Another young man from Bolivia came to live right smack in downtown Toronto. Coming from a little village, he was very overwhelmed with the speed at which the people of Toronto live. “I felt that I had to run to keep up with everyone!”

Then there was a young girl from Brazil.  She admitted that she had been pampered by her parents her whole life never had to worry about money. When she started to work and make her own money, she did not understand that money needed to be in the bank to cover the amount. “I wrote cheques all the time. It took a while to learn about the banking system and my credit rating tanked!”

And, then we have the others who have struggled to get the opportunities that they are looking for.

I met a taxi driver who was an optometrist from Saudi Arabia. When he came here, he was told he needed to upgrade his qualifications if he wanted to work in his field. He has been driving a taxi for eight years, saving up money to go back to school.

I met a woman who worked at a donut shop. After speaking with her, I found out that she was a dentist from Croatia. She needed to go to school to upgrade so that she could be a dentist here. She understood this but was frustrated that the school had told her that she needed to upgrade her English before doing the course.  She had worked in the donut shop for three years, saving up her money.

And my own naturopath is a medical doctor from Bulgaria. As a medical doctor she moved here in the hopes of setting up her own practice. She found out she had to re-study practically everything to be a doctor in Canada. She chose to study natural medicine. With the combination of traditional and naturopathic medicine, she is a very knowledgeable person.

As I thought back to how these newcomers took on the challenges to become productive and contributing citizens of our Canadian society, I felt humbled by the drive and determination that they had to achieve their goals. I wondered if I would have that same drive if I went to another country to start a new life.

About the Author(s)

DiDi LeMay

DiDi LeMay is a professional children’s book author (www.didilemay.com) who approaches life as if it were one big adventure after another

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