Adjusting to living and working in a foreign culture can be tough. Your adjustment can also vary according to your own circumstances – whether your family accompanies you, whether you are already familiar with the host country, whether you already know people living in the host country, and so on. Successfully adjusting to a new culture does not mean abandoning your own. It means integrating to the host country by understanding the new culture. (As opposed to criticizing it)
Gertrude was a Senior I.T specialist in France, before immigrating to Canada in 2011. She was married with 2 young children in elementary school. The challenges she faced when she immigrated in Canada, were: adjusting to the winter season, driving long distances and, learning how to look for a job in Canada.
I met Gertrude at l”Alliance Française de Toronto. Her feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and frustration were palpable. Once I introduced myself and what I do, Gertrude recognized I can be the conduit to her integration to the Canadian culture and help her prepare to look for a job in Canada.
Let me share with you how I helped Gertrude:
1. Observe and absorb. I taught Gertrude how to turn every single experience in Canada to a learning opportunity. I taught her to make note of whatever seems different and intriguing…how people order coffee, how they wait for the bus, the food, architecture, fashion, etc…I taught her to ask why people do things differently? What does it mean? How does it work?
The more Gertrude was learning, the more she felt empowered, the more she felt a sense of BELONGING.
2. Find bridges into the culture. Although it`s human nature to stick with what we know, when you are in a new country, it is advisable to get to know native from the country and people who have been living in this country for many years.
Instead to hanging out with other newcomers from France, Gertrude learned how to make friend with her children`s parents, teachers, neighbours. She learned to network outside her realm in order to meet with other people in the communication field. As a result, she started getting invited at parties and was referred to an employer who was sourcing for a communication specialist for his company.
3. Get organized and settled. The quicker Gertrude organized her new home, the quicker she felt at home and started enjoying her new life in Canada with her children. Gertrude home became her retreat from being too overwhelmed by culture shock and just feel home.
4. Let go of your expectations. I taught Gertrude not to focus on what she misses but on all the great new things she now have. Having fewer expectations meant fewer disappointments. With that goes a lot of flexibility and self-reliance.
5. Start now. Once Gertrude settled and got familiarized with the Canadian culture, we started the work of getting her ready to find a job in Canada. We worked on preparing her resume, developing her brand, outlining a list of potential employers, etc…
Gertrude was able to find an employment as a Communication specialist for a manufacturing company and is now enjoying her new life in Canada.