Maintaining the balance between two cultures when arriving in Canada 

By: Anson Wong 

Published on: April 04 2023

Photo: James Wheeler (Pexels) 

Travelling to a new country can present unexpected challenges. Aspects of a new culture can feel alien at times. When the difference is great enough, feelings of culture shock can develop. Culture shock is a feeling of shock when faced with unfamiliar aspects of a new culture. Continued isolation from your native country can fester these feelings if left unattended. 

For newcomers, the challenge becomes finding productive and healthy ways to address culture shock. Balancing aspects of both cultures can be possible, and neither culture needs to compromise.  

Identify what is keeping you isolated 

The first step in dealing with culture shock is figuring out what aspect of the new culture can be uncomfortable. It is important to know that negative feelings are not shameful. By accepting those feelings, you can find out what next steps to take in overcoming culture shock. 

One example is the variety of food available in Canada. If you are worried about leaving behind your diet when travelling to Canada then you can be at ease. Canada is home to many diverse ethnic groups with different foods available. This can be its own form of culture shock as new types of food can be found in these areas. Visit your local dim sum restaurant and you may be surprised to learn they sell crispy squid tentacles among other choices. 

Photo: Rajat Sarki (Unsplash) 

Connecting with both cultures 

Connecting both cultures is a gradual process. It’s figuring out what parts of Canadian culture you embrace while staying true to your native culture. 

Doing prior research helps adjust your expectations on what to expect. Another good way to balance both cultures is by engaging with the community. Attending community events, volunteering, or hanging with co-workers are all beneficial forms of engagement. Canada has a diverse population with many ethnic groups. Finding people of similar backgrounds and learning of their experiences immigrating to Canada can be a great source of help. 

Stay in touch with friends and family in your native country with social media applications. Apps like WeChat can be a great tool for communication as well as keeping up with the news in your native country. Immediate information can be a benefit, though users should take care to balance out social media and real-life interests. 

Cultural mosaic 

Canada’s support of multiculturalism has led to what can be described as a “cultural mosaic,” where various different ethnic groups and cultures coexist in a society. This is in contrast with the United States, where immigrants are expected to assimilate into the dominant culture in what is referred to as the “melting pot”. 

Former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, not to be confused with son and current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, passed the Canadian Multiculturalism Act which allowed races, languages, and cultures beyond English and French to be equal. Immigrants of course also work to keep both cultures alive. Urban enclaves like Chinatowns replicate the experience of native cultures into Canada. Newcomers can find comfort in the familiarity of these enclaves as they take in the rest of Canadian culture. 

So, while being a newcomer can be intimidating, do not let that stop you from experiencing Canada’s diverse culture. 

Photo: Niamat Ullah (Unsplash)  

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