By Vicki Brookes
Part II-Last month I started a list of the top 10 problems faced by immigrants based on my conversations with clients through over 20 years of teaching. This month, I will finish up with the last five. This is by no means an exhaustive list. I’m sure if I interviewed 10 more immigrants, they would come up with 10 more additional problems. If you’re reading this, you may disagree with my choices. Try to remember that no country is flawless; they all have their pros and cons. The best way to overcome the problems is to be as resourceful as possible and seek out solutions. Negativity only prolongs unhappiness! Research and ask for assistance. It will be found at your fingertips.
6.Kids and culture. Everyone knows that kids assimilate much more quickly than adults. They start school, and immediately make friends, embrace not just the culture but the language. In no time, they have picked up slang, idioms, jargon, and well, I hate to say it, some bad habits. Canadian culture is much freer and less restrictive than other cultures and what may seem as disrespectful to immigrant parents, comes off as a “rite of passage” to Canadian parents. In any culture, when our kids become teenagers, they are aliens, regardless of where they come from. You must try to find a balance, pick your battles wisely, and ask yourself, “Is this a hill I want to die on?” My father, who was a WWII army veteran, also used to try to reason with me even when I was at my most unreasonable. I remember now his patience, tolerance, and kindness not to mention his mind-blowing ability to look the other way. When I ask my clients why they came to Canada, most of them say it was to give their kids a better life. In order to achieve this, you will most certainly have to adopt an air of tolerance and meet your kids half way. Don’t die on a hill in a battle that is not worth it. Learn the ways of the home culture and come to an agreement with your kids and meet them half way. They will appreciate it and you will not lose communication with them.
Something else you will have to contend with during parenting will be dealing with the schools and the curriculum. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard parents complain about the health curriculum in Ontario. Speak to your teacher to make sure you understand exactly what your child is being taught. Don’t listen to advice from others who are in the same boat as you. Strength comes in numbers but you have to do what is in the best interest of your child and your family. Do what works best but make sure you research and your best source of information comes from your school with respect to what is being taught, not another newcomer.
7.Prejudice and Racism. Well, sadly, I can’t say anything about this that is positive. Unfortunately, it exists even in Canada. Our laws are changing, thankfully. We have the Ontario Human Rights Code in place and there are multiple support services available to explain what is right and what is wrong. We have great police forces in place that hire a very diverse and strong representation of different cultures and ethnicities. We have anti-racism policies in place and there are local, provincial and national groups that work to make Canada the best possible place it can be; accepting everyone from everywhere. Please read the Ontario Human Rights Code and also familiarize yourself with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
8. Isolation.I can’t even imagine the isolation some of you feel after your arrival here. You miss the support of your co-workers, family, friends and social circles. Those who come from cultures with traditional support structures really struggle the most. People tend to feel like a “fish out of water” after the honeymoon phase of settlement. Culture in Canada is so different: we support individualism and family but mostly individualism. It takes a long time to get used to this. New immigrants can feel lost, alienated and disoriented after moving here. My advice would be to join an English class, a community group, an athletic sports team, or a club. There is so much here but people don’t want to venture out of their shells. Push yourself! Come out of your cultural cocoon and test the waters with your big toe. You might be surprised at how many new friends you’ll make so the next time Thanksgiving rolls around, you’ll be invited to dinner or, why not host a dinner yourself offering your most prized cultural dishes and ask everyone to bring something to the party. What better way to give thanks than to share it with new friends?
9.The weather.Well you’re looking at the right person if you want to complain about Canadian weather. I hate the winters. I hate the cold. I hate the snow. I hate the wind. See how it sounds? Wa, wa, wa, wa, wa! That means I’m crying, more like whining. I doesn’t do any good to complain about it because in life, the weather is the only thing we can’t control. We can, however, work around it. Have you ever thought about learning to ski or skate? If you don’t want to do it, please, please, please make sure your children do it! You can buy second hand skates at a skate exchange and register them for skating lessons at any community centre. You can’t be Canadian unless you skate! The winter is long; you can’t spend it inside so you might as well work with it and try to enjoy it. Travel to Ottawa in the winter and skate down the largest frozen rink, the Rideau Canal. There are stations where you can stop and enjoy a delicious dessert of Beaver Tails and a nice hot chocolate. It is so wonderful and nothing makes you feel more Canadian than coming in out of the cold and feeling exhilarated. There’s also the Quebec Winter Carnival which is loads of fun. In short, work with it, not against it. You’ll never win if you keep fighting it.
You know? I’ve run out! So I guess there’s only nine issues…I am absolutely positive that most of you reading this will have dozens of other ideas. I’m sure I would be bombarded if I gave you my phone number! Let’s just say that these are probably the main issues and leave it at that! My advice is simple: make things work for you. You’ve made huge sacrifices to get here. Please make your time here as enjoyable as possible. There will be a time when you will be thankful for the many blessings this country offers. Try some of my suggestions and see how quickly things will turn around for you.