Updated: May 31, 2019
Culture shock is real - and we have all experienced it!
We have all moved about throughout our lives, whether it was moving to a new neighbourhood, new school, or new city. If you are now moving to a new country it is an even greater change that can seem exciting and intimidating at the same time.
Culture shock is a feeling that many newcomers experience when moving to Canada for the first time, or even when returning to Canada from travel to their home country.
It is usually defined as
a feeling of disorientation experience by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.
Let's look at which areas newcomers most often experience culture shock and how the shock can be lessened:
1) Language Barrier.
Canada’s two official languages are English and French. Within Canadian society, the majority of Canadians speak English (75%) and 23.2% speak French. Although Canadians are very welcoming and are often found helping newcomers out when they are struggling to express themselves, not knowing the language can make it difficult to communicate at first.
Tip: By taking English or French classes in your home country before arriving to Canada could greatly prepare you to be able to communicate effectively as soon as you arrive. Another great idea is to watch Canadian or American TV shows or movies.
Even if you have a very high level of English, idiomatic expressions are sometimes the most difficult to grasp and to understand an English speaker's true meaning when they're speaking to you or asking you a question. As much as business and workplace English or French is very important in your next job or in formal settings, knowing common expressions and how to use ‘small talk’ will make you feel much more comfortable and go a long way when trying to fit in to Canadian culture.
*Stay tuned to our Blog post on 'Soft Skills' and what Canadian employers look for*
2) The Weather.
If you are coming to Canada from a country that does not experience 4 seasons throughout the year, then the weather may be a shock to you.
Canada experiences all 4 seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall, and all of these seasons are very different.
Canada is a very big country that experiences many fluctuations in temperatures. However, Spring and Fall have similar weather with mild temperatures anywhere between an average of 5 Degrees Celsius to 20 Degrees Celsius.
Summer is quite warm across the country. The minimum average in most populated areas is anywhere from 15 Degrees Celsius to + 30 Degrees Celsius. The Winter months are of course the coldest and perhaps the most difficult to deal with as some parts of Canada get large amounts of snowfall and ice. The maximum average temperatures in the Winter range from -3 Degrees Celsius to -20 Degrees Celsius or colder.
Tip: Be aware of which month and season of the year you will be arriving in #Canada. We often suggest those landing in Canada for the first time to land in the Spring or Summer. This way, it will give you a chance to slowly adjust to the colder weather that is to come. If you are arriving during the colder months, be prepared with the right type of clothing. If someone is picking you up from the airport, ask them to bring you a winter coat for you to wear once you arrive. But also embrace the cold and try out new winter activities. Snow may be something you have never seen before! Take a walk on a nice calm evening when the snow is falling, try tobogganing or skiing, or make snow angels in the snow. Whether you enjoy the cold or not, you should make the best of it by trying something new!
3) Social Behaviour and Fitting In.
Depending on where you grew up, the social norms and behaviour of people in Canada may seem very different than what you are used to. People don't dress the same, you don't understand why a stranger smiled at you when you passed them on the street, you felt uncomfortable when someone approached you this morning to shake your hand, and you may have found that you have very different family values or beliefs than the people around you. It is ok to feel like this and it is very normal. Not only is Canada a country that is comprised of people with many ethnic backgrounds, it is also a very liberal country in the sense that people are given much more freedom and rights to express themselves in ways that they choose, as long as it is not harmful to those around them. You will also come to see over time that some things that are ok in your country may not be ok in Canada.
Adjusting to new social norms is definitely a process and you will adjust over time!
Tip: Again, read about Canadian #culture and cultural norms - what is acceptable and what is not acceptable - before arriving. It is easy to become frustrated if you feel like you do not belong, but this is true for any new place we visit for the first time. You have to give yourself time and have an open mind. Keep in mind that this is not the same country you grew up in, so there may be some differences that you may have to adapt to. Instead of becoming frustrated, think of ways you can more easily adjust. Make a list of things you can do that, in the long run, will help you adjust that much quicker and easier, such as making 2 or 3 Canadian friends, try watching baseball or hockey and if you enjoy it, talk to other Canadians about it. Canadians LOVE to talk about sports. You could also try celebrating a Canadian holiday and join in on the activities around the city or with friends, like Canada Day (July 1) or Thanksgiving (in November). Any efforts made on your part, no matter what they are, will go a long way in making you feel more comfortable in the new place you chose to call home!
4) Technology Gap.
This may or may not be an issue for you, but we have experienced that many newcomers are not used to using technology for everything. For example, these days, Canadians are much more likely to text between each other than to talk on the phone. This may be the opposite in your country. Also, when looking for a job, your computer skills, software skills, familiarity in using the internet, and now also being active on social media outlets such as #LinkedIn are almost a must for the majority of jobs. Tip: Become familiar with any technological skills you may lack before your arrival (i.e. typing, using the internet, texting). Set up a #LinkedIn page if you will be searching for a job or working in Canada. Become familiar with basic #Microsoft (Word, Excel) software and know how to use it.
Above all, have an open mind and do not lose hope. Will there be some difficult days? Probably. But, like anything new or any change you experience, there is always a learning curve and a period of adjustment. Know this and always be open to learn and try new things. Stay positive 90% of the time and your adjustment to your new life in Canada will be that much easier!
*Stay tuned for additional blog posts related to adapting to cultural norms in Canada*