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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Lethbridge, Canada

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?


Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?


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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

Although Western Canada is mainly English speaking, it is not 'Queens' English it's Canadian English, eg:

Lift - Elevator,

Trousers - Pants,

Flip-flops - Thongs,

Biscuit - Cookie,

Escalator - Moving staircase, The list goes on and on!

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

No, I did expect some differences.

How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

Culture is something you either accept or you don't, you learn to go with the flow. The way I see it is accept the culture of this country, I chose to move here after all!

I was once told (by my boss at the time) that Quote "when you talk you sound very abrupt", I then explained to her that I'm not being abrupt, it's probably my accent. So now I do explain to people that because of my English accent, I am aware that I may sound abrupt, but please don't take it that way and if I have a problem with you I will tell you, that has seemed to solve the problem.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

At first (the honeymoon phase) it's a world of wonders, new way of life, new people, new experiences, all very exciting. Then comes the anxiety phase of how and will I fit into this new way of life and culture of this country. I found that just being myself, being open minded and asking questions, goes a long way to fitting in. I learned that most people are just as curious about you and where you come from as you are about them.

Some words like "Retard" and "Handicapped" are frequently used openly/naturally to describe someone with physical or mental challenges here in Canada, this does make my blood boil every time I hear those words, so I re-educate when I can, as Retard and Handicapped is so degrading. With so many changes, in culture, events, life, languages, experiences, acception and rejection, homesickness, all in a short period of time, I went through what seemed like a never ending roller coaster of emotions, crying for unknown reasons and then laughing the next.

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

I was a social butterfly back in the UK and always on the go, until I moved to Canada. Homesick, after 9 months, missing family and old friends and familiar faces and places.

I did get frustrated once or twice, when one or two people heard my English accent and automatically took a dislike to me because I am an immigrant in their country. But, now I am more at peace and content with myself than before.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

The slower pace of life and the driving, how helpful people are and how much safer I feel!

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

The English language barrier, although we speak then same language, different words have different meanings, and usually require extra explanation until both parties understand each other, but this explanation of mean can be very funny at times.

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

I had just spoke to a friend on the phone back in the UK. Then, got in my car to go to the local shopping mall. As I turned into the road for the parking area, I tooted my horn and flashed my headlight at a driver who was coming towards me on the wrong side of the road...... then realised it was me, I was on the wrong side of the road, not him.......oooops momentary lapse!

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

Be open minded and learn from everyday experiences. As an immigrant you will face some discrimination no matter where you in the world, but for every one person who discriminates against you, there are hundreds that will accept you for who you are and where your from, they can learn from you as you can from them. Be prepared to give plenty of explanation and accept there will be differences from what you have known before.

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Comments about this Report

Jan 17, 2011 21:06

I want to put a disclaimer on generalizing your Lethbridge experience to be a "Canadian" experience. Canada is a huge country with many regional differences not only in geography but in cultural/social norms. For example, in my region of Canada using the word "retard" is politically incorrect. You're right about acceptance. However, if you had settled in a city like Toronto or Montreal or Vancouver or Calgary, you would find the experience differently. Toronto, for example, will have a 51% minority majority by 2025. Hence, there is no real way to summarize a Canadian experience. Just know that we do live up to the stereotype of being friendly and welcoming! I've lived here for close to 30 years now and have been in most of Canada. I hope you will love it in 10 years as much as your native home (if not, sincerely, life is too short; don't stay)

Jan 17, 2011 23:33

Thank you

Jan 18, 2011 01:16

Canada is a very large country, geographically, more than the U.S. Retard and handicapped are terms probably used in Lethbridge but not in Toronto, Ontario. Canadian English is influenced by the U.S. language .

Mar 16, 2015 10:54

I'm really surprised at your comment on "retard" and "handicapped". I have been living in Canada since 2004 and have never heard a Canadian use "retard". Most places I have been it would get you ostracized, certainly looked at unfavorably. But, my experience is mainly in big cities like Vancouver and Edmonton. "Handicapped" is of course used all the time especially as it says "handicapped" on the reserved parking signs, which there are far too many of. You cannot find a parking space anywhere close to the stores because there are so many spaces reserved for special people. Handicapped, parents, parents with small children, pregnant women, etc, etc. Aggravating, but understandable as the winter can kill you quick. I can only put the objection to "handicapped" down to YOUR culture. I suppose it will reach here eventually, and they will find some approved word to use for those "special people" parking spaces. Pretty soon after that, one or two people will decide they are offended by the new word and whine about it until it gets changed, and then that word will "wear out" too. Just how it works, if they are gonna have special parking spaces, you have to put something on the signs, it will offend someone for sure, and then it will get changed. Then, if you use the "old version" of whatever politically correct BS you are supposed to use now, people will act like you crapped on the dinner table. IE, Idiot, Moron, and Imbecile were at one time just medical classifications (by IQ) of "retarded" people, and these words were no more offensive than "brain tumor" or "embolism", simply a description of medical fact, then people associated with these people decided they were offensive, and now they are not used in medicine. I'm from the southern US and I have a heavy southern accent. Everyone understands me, everyone is friendly (that I have met), never any problems. Had far more trouble living in the UK. Huge, wonderful country full of really polite, friendly people (the original Canadians from Europe) and clueless immigrants. By clueless, a lot of the immigrants come from sub-saharan Africa and other non-northern places, their driving needs help even in the summer and in the winter it's unbelievably atrocious, and they don't understand (at first) that you really can freeze to death in just a few minutes when it's colder (-55C) at the Edmonton International Airport than some places on the planet MARS. I have spent 17 years total in the past living in the UK, and I'm from the US. Canada is a cross between the two, and culturally closer to the US. Huge. Vast. Cold. Coastline is over 150,000 miles. The US is a medium-sized country in comparison, only Russia is bigger and not by much. US/Canada border is more than 5500 MILES long.

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