In my first week in Canada in August 2015, I said the one thing that you should never say in Canada: “ice hockey.” Three people turned to glare at me and one guy said “It’s HOCKEY.” I’m obviously exaggerating the expressions, but man, was I shocked. To me, hockey has always been field hockey, and ice hockey is, well, ice hockey.
It’s been over a year and I still sometimes say “ice hockey.” I’m sincerely sorry for anyone’s sentiments that are hurt by this. I know it hurts me more when people say “chai tea” or “naan bread” than when they say “So do you use elephants as a form of transportation?” so I understand your pain.
What I have the biggest problem with here is eating out. Not because of the spice — I’m fine with that — but because of certain etiquette. Each person orders their own food, eats it themselves, and pays for their own bill. I wish I could get across how bizarre that is to me, but since I can’t think of any way to do so I’m just going to place a bunch of question marks here (???????????????????).
Food is always shared, like if someone’s mom sends them Matar Chicken in the dorm, everyone on the floor gets a bite. Isn’t that crazy?!
When we order back home, everyone discusses what they want to order, the order is made collectively by one person, and when the food arrives, everyone takes a little bit of everything. There is only one bill that arrives at the table, and everyone throws in a certain amount of cash, or the person who invited everyone there pays. If it’s your birthday meal, you pay. Always. This applies to any kind of food, so if there’s any of you imagining a table splitting one naan bread or something, that definitely doesn’t happen.
Also, food is always shared, like if someone’s mom sends them Matar Chicken in the dorm, everyone on the floor gets a bite, or if you make a huge batch of pickles you must make a package for all your neighbours. Isn’t that crazy?!
Professional life is also so different — everyone expects you to sell yourself explicitly. But if you were to do that back home, it would be showing off. You have to make prolonged eye contact — to me, that’s confrontational. After over a year in Canada, it still makes me so uncomfortable. But, in the words of Mr. Chaka Zinyemba, an international student from the University of Alberta who now has a successful career with the Government of Alberta, “You have to learn to tell your story.” I had the chance to speak with him during a panel about international students at the ArtsWORKS conference in October, and he explained how international experience can be a huge asset, and how you should learn to express yourself in way that is most appealing to whoever is listening.
As an international student, most of us have already stepped a couple hundred miles out of our comfort zone, arrived in a foreign country (most times alone), and learnt to fend for ourselves straight out of high school while learning the ins and outs of a new culture. Culture shock can throw you off balance, especially if you don’t have the support that you usually do at home. Most of us have been through different levels of culture shock, whether you’re an international student or not. So, if you’re ever going through a tough time with a new culture, just remember that once I went around asking everyone for earbuds until my Singaporean friend explained to me that the reason no one understood what I was saying was because they’re called Q-tips.
Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and viewpoints of current Arts students. Through their posts, you’ll experience the creativity and passion of our students as they present glimpses into student life. The views and opinions expressed within these posts are solely those of the authors.