Making any major changes in my life has always been something scary but exciting. I have been dreaming about moving to Canada for years and when the opportunity finally arose, I was on the first flight over to this great country. Although I always dreamt of moving here, I was still scared, nervous, and a little sad to leave my old country, but I committed and it honestly was the best decision of my life. Here are the things I learnt from moving to a country like Canada.
1- Living with Diversity
Now, hearing about diversity and experiencing it are completely different concepts. When you hear about diversity from social media or tv you would think “it’s easy! They are just like me!”. But that is the thing, they are not just like you. As much as we like to believe that people’s differences are too small for us to notice and that looking at the bigger picture we are all similar, people are different. It is those little things that make a difference. For example, in my culture, people are a lot warmer and more welcoming. When you talk to an Arab, they tend to smile at you, touch you and compliment you. It is not meant to make anyone uncomfortable, instead it is meant to put the other person on a pedestal and make them feel better about themselves. When I moved to Canada, however; I found that Caucasian people tended to be more cold. They got straight to the point and did not fill their conversation with fluff or pleasantries. It was very hard for me to get used to that but time helps. Getting to talk to more and more people showed me that it’s just how it is. The best way to learn to live with diversity is to experience it. Also, meeting other arabs and sharing my emotions and experiences with them showed me that I’m not alone.
2- Learning and Adapting
Fun fact: It took me 3 years to realize that I can cut my commuting time from 1 hour to 30 minutes. Adapting and learning is important but it is hard. It takes a lot of time and trial and error. It also took me four years to buy a beanie for my head to wear in the ruthless winters and I just realized that covering my head actually keeps me comfortably warm. I could go on forever about how many things I learnt years into living in my new city, but that’s the thing! You live and you learn. Learning is something that I will continue to do for as long as I live in this new culture, since I did not grow up here. I had to learn how to dress, how to eat, and how to survive living here. Adapting to this type of atmosphere was also very hard but I just had to take it one day at a time. In my opinion; trial and error are the best option for learning.
I often talk about the importance of socializing, and I do that because I realized how much value I can get from talking to people. The first thing I found hard about moving somewhere new was how lonely I was. Socializing is such an innate, intense need that humans are programed to have. Having friends around me can really turn my day around from a low energy, boring day to an exciting one! Having people tell me about the little tips and tricks of the city was and still is very important and being in university makes it easy to get to know different people and have those kinds of conversations with them. Also, having friends in a new city is so much fun! I get to explore new cafes, restaurants, parks, museums, lakes, lounges, and the list goes on and who does not like exploring?
4- Opportunity is Everywhere
Some people might say “I am in a new city, I know no one, I have no one… how will I get any opportunities?” Think about it this way; I am in a NEW city, with NEW people, and NEW opportunities! You can build yourself from scratch! You can be whoever you want to be and create a whole new personality for yourself maybe even try living your dream of being a writer or an actor. It is all about what you choose to do for yourself and how you choose to present yourself. And again, with the whole ‘getting to know new people’ thing you can make new friends. More successful, more fun, more rich… whatever type of friends you want to surround yourself with, you can make it happen.
This one totally ties into the socializing point, but knowing how to communicate is important. Communicating is not just language based, but also how to communicate your emotions and thoughts. Some cultures are more direct with their emotions and thoughts, while others consider it rude to voice your honest opinion and would rather go about it in a more subtle way. Communicating also has to do with things like body language. For example, Europeans kiss each other on the cheeks when they meet their friends, however North Americans might give a hug to one another. It does not end there! In some cultures, like in North America, people are punctual. Most people have things to do and when you tell them to meet you at 5pm on a Tuesday they are going to be there at exactly 5:00pm on Tuesday. Tardiness is not tolerated. In Eastern cultures it is totally different! 5pm would mean 6pm or 7pm in their minds. It is not that people do not respect your time, but people are not as pressed to make it somewhere else at a specific time. Communication is key. No one wants to insult or offend people and so you need to learn how to become more intune with subtle hints of what is acceptable with others. And if you are not sure, then ask!