Reverse Culture Shock

I’m very excited as I’ll be leaving for Mexico next weekend. I’ve been lucky to be able to visit my home town every year so far. For those of you that moved to Canada and have gone back to visit your native country, you may have experienced what I’m about to describe: reverse culture shock. I never knew such a thing even existed but I now know that’s what I went through on my last trip to Mexico. This year I want to be prepared to avoid the uneasiness that reverse culture shock causes.

Reverse culture shock  is defined as “The shock suffered by expatriates returning home after lengthy overseas assignments. It is caused by the fact that the cultural norms of the ex-pat’s overseas assignment become natural to them, over their home country’s own traditions and customs.”

On my last visit to Mexico (last year) I remember feeling out of place when I first arrived. I felt that it took my mind a couple of days to register that I was back in my native country. I felt very confused and shocked by how much my city had changed. I also felt disconnected from people like my friends. It wasn’t a good feeling and I thought it was silly to feel that way in my own country. Now I know that I’m not the only one and it helps to know it’s natural to go through it when you have been away for some time. It took me only a couple of days to feel that I “belonged” again. It’s strange and may be hard to understand for people that have never experienced it. I always thought going back home meant going back to what I knew. The truth is, when you get used to a different way of life, language and culture, it takes some time to readjust.

Here are the stories of other people who experienced reverse culture shock upon going back to their countries both to stay and to visit:

Dealing with Reverse Culture Shock: A SSC’s perspective by Lindsay Simoncavage

Help, I’m suffering from reverse culture shock

Here is another story about reverse culture shock with great tips to overcome it:

Dealing with reverse culture shock

Have you ever experienced reverse culture shock? How did you deal with it? I’d love to hear about your experience.

Posted in Newcomers to Canada | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Tim Horton’s Commercial – Welcome to Canada

This is a heart-warming commercial that I really like. I’m sure a lot of newcomers have been in the shoes of the guy in the video, waiting at an airport to reunite with their families.

Enjoy!

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Toronto Storm

I thought that I had already had my share of weather-related new experiences in Canada; however, monday’s storm proved you never stop learning. Heavy rain caused severe flooding in the GTA during rush hour.  I live in Oakville and we didn’t have power for a few hours. Toronto Hydro said that at one point, approximately 300,000 people were without power in the city. In Mississauga the numbers were even higher as 80% of its 700,000 residents were without power.

Subway and train services were disrupted. The worst was a flooded train where over 1000 people had to be rescued. The passengers on the train were stranded for over 6 hours. There were also subway trains that were trapped in tunnels.

By Tuesday things were slowly going back to normal. There were still train delays and rotating power outages. It took me 1.5 hours (by train and bus) to get to the Hamilton Go Station from Appleby Station in Burlington, a ride that usually takes 40 minutes at the most.

In Campeche, Mexico we are used to heavy rain and flooding. People avoid going outside when it rains a lot. Monday made me feel like I was back in Mexico. Here are some pictures of the storm chaos.

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THE CANADIAN PRESS/Winston Neutel

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THE CANADIAN PRESS

 

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(Photograph by Jonathan Chevreau)

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Celebrating Canada Day

We are celebrating Canada Day this weekend. At work we are all wearing red shirts and will be having a barbecue to celebrate in real Canadian style. Although I can’t officially call myself “Canadian” yet, I can say my heart has adopted this wonderful country as my own. It’s been only three years since I arrived, but they have been thre great years. Canada has welcomed me and offered me so many great opportunities and experiences.

I will never forget the day that I landed as an immigrant in Canada. I had been here many times as a visitor before. This time was different, I was here to stay. I had mixed feelings: I was happy to be here to finally be with my husband (who was born and raised here) and I was sad to leave my family.

When I got off the plane and walked towards the customs and immigration area, I was tired and nervous.  I didn’t know what to expect and as it’s natural, I was afraid of the unknown.  I only had 2 luggage bags with me and I was holding all the paperwork. As I approached the customs booth (there was no line up), the smiling, friendly customs officer told me: “I see you’re holding your landing documents, welcome to Canada!” I could have cried right there and then as I felt overcome by emotion. I was in my new home, my new country. The immigration officer was just as friendly. I was handed an information package and then I was on my way to meet my husband.

To this day, I have only felt welcomed and I have had a lot of support from the Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s funded organizations that I have approached. I want to celebrate this Canada Day by being thankful for this wonderful country and the opportunities it offers its native born and adopted citizens.

I will also leave you this wonderful story of a Canadian that immigrated to this country 47 years ago. Hope you enjoy it!

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Courtesy of Sippakorn/freedigitalphotos.net

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Summer is finally here!

It is now officially summer. This is a season a lot of people in Canada patiently (or not so patiently in my case!) wait for. Having been raised in a country where it’s warm all year round, summer is a welcomed season for me. The funny thing is I was never an outdoors type of person in Mexico; I didn’t even go to the beach much. But living in Canada has changed me. Winter is far too long for me and I now crave the feeling of being outside enjoying the sun and warmth. I even look forward to going to the beach!

For newcomers who want to enjoy a nice beach day in Southern Ontario, I highly recommend going to Long Point Park. The reason I like Long Point so much is because it feels like a “real” beach. Now don’t take me wrong. I’m not saying other beaches are not nice; it all comes back to my origins and being from a coastal city in Mexico. I grew up in Campeche, by the Gulf of Mexico. I had the Mayan Riviera a few hours away from home. To me, going to the beach would mean swimming in the ocean. It was always warm, salty and blue with white sand. So my first experience with the beach here left me a bit disappointed. The water was not crystal clear, nor was it warm. Long Point came to change this.
Long point as described by the Ontario Parks Website is a “part of a 40-kilometer-long sand spit in Lake Erie which is recognized as a biosphere reserve by the United Nations. It is a world-renowned refuge and stopover for migrating birds in fall and spring.” What I love about Long Point is that the beach has beautiful sand and the water looks blue and clear on sunny days.

There are many activities that can be done at Long Point, from spending a day at the beach to camping. People bring their barbecues to cook and enjoy a fun day at the beach. In Mexico drinking alcoholic beverages is allowed at the beach so for people from other countries it’s important to remember this is not the case in Ontario beaches.

So it is now summer and it’s time to enjoy. Go out and explore as Ontario is a beautiful province with lots of attractions during this time of the year. If you know of any other beaches that are worth visiting, feel free to tell us about it in the comments section.

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Long Point Park (source: http://www.parkreports.com/gallery/gallery.php?park=Long%20Point)

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To buy or to rent?

This seems more of a question for a real estate blog; however, it is an issue that affects newcomers. Being new in the country means starting over and the place where you live plays a big part in this process.

The current state of the housing market makes things complicated enough. There is already a lot of debate on whether it is best to rent or to buy a home right now. For newcomers, the issue becomes a bit worse when taking culture into account.

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courtesy of phanlop88/freedigitalphotos.net

Coming from different countries, newcomers may have preconditioned ideas regarding owning vs. renting.  For example, in Mexico it is a given that people will buy a home as soon as they get married or after a few years of working. The system there is different. There is a government institution that facilitates getting a mortgage.  The houses people get through this system are simple but customizable. So it is expected that people will own rather than rent a home. Renting is seen like wasting resources on someone else’s home.

In the current housing market in Canada, homes are said to be overvalued; especially in areas like the GTA. This means a lot of people need to save more and for a longer period of time before buying a house. For newcomers, it is best to realize that the market conditions and the system itself may differ from that of their countries of origin. It makes sense to analyze what the best option is for them at the moment. Jumping to a decision based on preconceived notions about what is more socially acceptable may not be wise. Whether you decide to buy or to rent, remember to keep in mind your own personal circumstances. Make an informed decision; in the end, that may be the deciding factor to living a happy life.

As a newcomer, what is your opinion on buying vs. Renting? How is the Canadian housing market different from that of your native country?

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Canadian Citizenship – Making it official

I always said that I’d apply for Canadian Citizenship as soon as I became eligible. Now I have to admit that I’ve been procrastinating. Perhaps it’s thinking of all the forms I will have to fill out; or maybe it’s knowing the current wait time is 25 months which discourages me. Today I’ve decided to document my journey to Canadian Citizenship. I think this will help me stay motivated to apply sooner rather than later. 

Though I believe I’m eligible, I have to start by confirming that I can indeed apply already. Fortunately, the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website is very well-organized and easy to read.

I will keep you posted on my progress. On my next post I will explain in detail what makes you eligible; I will also determine whether I’m ready to start the process and what documents I will need to gather to support my application. 

Stay tuned for more information soon!

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Mind your manners: integrating into Canadian society

Canadians are known around the world for their politeness. As a newcomer in Canada, I have been exposed to this Canadian trait and I’ve found it to be welcoming. Being in Canada means people need to learn the customs and manners that are acceptable in this country. I find this is a very important aspect that helps newcomers integrate into Canadian society more easily. It helps in every aspect of your life: from simply going out to buy groceries to feeling comfortable at work around your colleagues.

I have to admit that there are certain behaviours which are considered normal in Mexico but in Canada they would be less than polite. That’s why I made it a point to learn manners that would help me better socialize with my Canadian peers.

Among the Mexican behaviours that wouldn’t be well-liked in Canada are: talking about your salary (we don’t think that’s a big deal), kissing someone’s cheek as you’re introduced to that person (weird, I know, but accepted), not saying “sorry” or “excuse me” when you mistakenly walk into someone on the street, among others.

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Minding your manners can help you go a long way

I have encountered several examples of newcomers not following some important gestures of politeness. Among the behaviours that I have commonly found are not saying “thank you” when someone opens a door for you, groups of people walking together and taking up the whole sidewalk and cutting in line. I understand that it takes time and exposure to learn Canadian customs and manners. I encourage all newcomers to make an extra effort to be polite as per Canadian standards. It will make a big difference in your life. It makes it easier for everyone to live together in this great multicultural country.

If you are a newcomer, what have been some of the changes you‘ve had to make in terms of manners in your new country?

If you are Canadian, what are some suggestions you would make to newcomers so they can be exposed to and adopt Canadian manners faster?

All comments are welcome and appreciated!

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Sun and warmth? Yes, please!

Campeche, Mexico, the town I’m from, is a nice city near the beach. Except for a couple of weeks in January, Campeche is warm and sunny all year round. People in Campeche try to avoid being outside in the afternoon as temperatures reach 35°C and higher. When I lived there and my husband (then boyfriend) was in Canada, he used to put a lot of emphasis on being outside whenever it was sunny. I just couldn’t understand it. Why do you need to be outside in the sun? Sometimes I would ask him to stay in to chat but he’d ask me to wait until the evening so he could go and enjoy the warmth. I assumed he was just an outdoors type of guy.

It took me moving to Canada and experiencing the change of seasons to finally understand what he meant. After having to bundle up for months just to walk to your car, it’s nice when spring finally arrives. Now whenever it’s a sunny day, I’m eager to be outside to feel the sun and absorb all the vitamin D I can take. I also look forward to hot days when you can wear a pair of shorts and a t-shirt without getting cold.

Being in Canada has changed my perspective on weather. In Campeche, people don’t reallycheck the weather. It’s either hot and sunny or hot and rainy. It’s nice to be able to experience the four seasons and enjoy the activities each one brings. This is one of the things I’ve adapted to in my new life in Canada and I love it.  As for this weekend (Victoria Day weekend), it looks like we will be getting some really nice temperatures. I plan to sit back, relax and just enjoy the sun

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Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day in Mexico. It’s a date that I keep close to my heart because it gives me an occasion to remember everything my mom has done for me. She has been an amazing friend and has always supported me in good and bad times. I don’t know about other newcomers, but to me, my native country’s major holidays (Mother’s Day is one of them) are the times that being far from friends and family hits me hardest. Although I enjoy my new life in Canada, there is a part of me that will always long to see more of the people I love. Holidays make me feel that I’m missing out on good times with them.

Mother’s day is a very big celebration in Mexico. Typically, people will serenade their moms on Mother’s Day’s Eve. The family will get together and either hire a group to play (Mariachi)  or they sing themselves. The day after (May 10th every year) the family gets together for dinner to celebrate Mother’s Day.

It is days like this that I get mixed feelings. I’m very happy in Canada and I’m grateful for my life here and everything I’ve experienced so far. But I’m also sad to miss some precious moments with my family and friends.

I don’t know if a day will come that I won’t get these mixed feelings. While I find out, I will embrace the best that my two countries have given me and patiently wait for the next  time I get to visit Mexico.

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