Coping with homesickness as a newcomer
By: Elie Ngoy
Published on: April 17 2023
Missing home is a common side effect of individuals leaving their country for education, work, conflict, or a fresh start. Homesickness is a strong and persistent feeling of longing for one’s home during a period of absence from it.
For many newcomers to Canada, the new environment can come with a strong sense of grief and loss and a yearning for their motherland. The first few months in the new country can feel miserable, isolating, and daunting as they attempt to adjust to this new reality. Finding friends, finding work, and creating routines are all challenges that the newcomer faces upon arrival in Canada.
The Canadian culture is what makes Canada ideal for newcomers to settle. It is a place that has a history of welcoming those who need a new home, and Canadians are internationally known for their warmth, kindness, hospitality, and community building. Outside of those characteristics, Canada is one of the world’s most developed, industrialised, powerful, and wealthy countries. It is also known for its peaceful nature in world affairs, creating a stable environment for all Canadians and newcomers to live peacefully.
Despite these fantastic metrics, the new country is often very different from what many newcomers are accustomed to and what they’ve come to associate as home. Let’s examine the story of Issac, an Immigrant who left his home country of Zambia in 2005 for a new life in Canada. One of his favourite pastimes in Zambia was visiting the local marketplace, where his parents owned a small shop selling small goods. This informal market was often full of noises, different languages, and street traders selling what they could. Most people in Zambia live below the poverty line, and unemployment is very high—leaving most to work in the unregulated and informal sector as street traders and market sellers. The market was not only a place Issac came to help his parents run the family business; it was also a place where Issac could go and experience the beauty of his country and the culture and be around his friends. Many young Zambians have small hangout spots in the marketplace where they can have drinks, local food, and play games.
This life that Issac enjoyed in Zambia is a vast difference from the life in Canada, where most citizens work in formal employment and are less likely to interact with each other, creating a powerful feeling of homesickness for Issac’s arrival.
Canada is a great country; you will learn to love it the longer you live here! Here are some fantastic strategies to help you cope with the new transition:
- Meet and connect with people in your community! Many Canadian cities have implemented great community programs to assist newcomers with integrating into this new society. Libraries, community centres, language centres, and faith-based organisations such as churches, mosques, and viharas offer an excellent opportunity for newcomers to meet new friends. Educational institutions also provide a perfect opportunity for newcomers to meet others in the same boat as they are.
- Find environments with people of your ethnicity. Canada is full of many different cultures, and Canadian society is internationally recognised for being extremely welcoming and generous to newcomers. Finding environments with Canadians of your ethnicity can assist you with building resilience and confidence in this new country. Community organisations such as the Sudanese Community Association of Ontario, the Ukraine national congress, and the South Asian Women’s centre are all great examples of organisations you could join if you belong to those cultural groups!
- Enjoy the local culture! Canadian culture is fascinating, and there are many places where you may learn about rich and storied history. Many cities have local museums which feature incredible artefacts, pictures, and guided tours that assist you in understanding the history of that city. Suppose you are in Ottawa, or can visit Ottawa. In that case, you could visit historical sites such as Parliament Hill, the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Rideau Canal and take pictures of the beautiful architecture that makes up the halls of Canadian power. If you are unable to visit Ottawa, you could introduce yourself to great classic Canadian television, such as Jacob Two Two, Anne of Green Gables, Heartland, and Hudson & Rex!
- Maintain old routines and rituals from home. When you come to Canada, do not feel the need to throw away your culture! Embrace it, cook your ethnic food, and listen to cultural music. This will help you create a strong sense of connection, and you’ll be able to teach your new friends about your culture!
- Seek help. Many services in your new city will help you adjust to the new Canadian culture. There are workplace programs that will help you with applying for jobs, emotional support programs that will help you with the new feelings of grief and loss, and even programs to help you learn our two official languages, French and English!
- Stay educated. In many communities, many agencies will hold seminars, training sessions, and social inclusion training programs to assist you with your new transition into Canadian culture. Many educational institutions also have skills training workshops to assist you in obtaining jobs and short certification programs to assist you with career advancement.
Homesickness is not something you have to deal with alone. There is no shame in feeling how you may be at the moment. This new experience gets better over time. Canada is a land of great opportunities, and you will soon find your place in this great country. Your community has many supports to assist you with this new transition; please take advantage of them. Suppose you are unsure where to find these support services. In that case, you may contact your local Member of Parliament, a local faith-based institution, or a local community centre for more information.