This is your first time as a resident, in a foreign country. Now that you have settled down, you are eager to get out and meet people. It is natural to have butterflies in your stomach. You are apprehensive about who you are going to meet, how they will react to you, how do you open a conversation, there are so many questions. It is natural. When you lived in your native city, you knew the people, the culture, the places and on top of all that you had a group of friends from who you drew strength when you were in a strange place. Now that you are alone in a different country, it is natural to have some apprehensions about meeting and conversing with people.
Once you get out and meet people, you will be surprised how unfounded your fear was. That’s because Canadians are very polite, friendly and helpful. They have a ready smile for passersby, including you. Many cultures do not have the practice of smiling at strangers or greeting them. But in Canada, you will find that it is common to see people giving you a smile and saying ‘hi, ’ or ‘good morning.’
But then that is not enough. You need to become comfortable talking with people around you. That is the first step in integrating. How do you strike up a conversation? More importantly, what is appropriate to talk with others?
Here are some tips:
- Be aware that Canadians value their personal space. They do not like to talk about their private matters with you. In your conversations, avoid talking about politics, corruption, conflicts and religions. Don’t be self-critical of yourself or your country. Avoid talking about money, salary, anything personal such as marriage and children.
- Canada is home to people from over 250 ethnic backgrounds and 100s of countries. Living amongst this multicultural population has given Canadians a window to different cultures of the world. So they may be interested in your country, language and about the interesting places in your native country. They may also ask about your education back home, how it relates to what you are studying in Canada. These are all normal, polite questions. Answer them to the point, don’t try to go deep into anything, unless and until you know the person.
- When someone introduces himself to you or when you are introduced by someone, say a polite, “ Hello, nice to meet you.” Expect the same from Canadians. Normally Canadians would extend their hands, and when they do, give a firm handshake, pumping it once or twice. All the while being gentle. While talking, look up and make eye contact. In some cultures, people are treated differently depending on age, gender and even hierarchy at work. But in Canada, everyone is treated the same. Give the same handshake and look right into their eyes while talking.
- If you have to continue talking, what can you talk about? Good topics would be work, studies, the weather, sports – Just be careful not to offend a Blue Jays fan, travel, vacations and other leisure activities. Use the opportunity to understand what the other person is interested in. Here, as everywhere, being a good listener matter. It teaches you many things. Take the cue from the other person and ease into a conversation that he or she is comfortable with
- When someone compliments you on something, they are being courteous. They are not looking to get the whole history of your dress or the story behind your hair cut. It is best to answer to the point and move on unless you know the person well. If it is just an acquaintance, play it safe by not talking too much.
- Canada is a very large country and is very sparsely populated. Canadians are not used to see crowds or too loud noises. Perhaps it is because of this or it is just that Canadians like to keep a physical distance of about 3-4 ft from each other. Whether they are waiting in line for a bus or for a take-away, they leave a gap of about 3-4 feet between them and the person in front. They expect the person behind them in line, to maintain the same distance.
- Canadians speak softly. They do not engage in loud conversations and do not display any emotions in public. Talking loud even to their own children is frowned upon. You rarely witness ay violent behaviours in public. Also, it is against law to hit or threaten another person.
- Be a stickler for time. Canadians are very disciplined and expect the same from others. Be on time for class, meetings, get-togethers, appointments. If you are running late, make sure that you inform the host.
- As I said Canadians are disciplined. They automatically line up to buy tickets or pay bills. Be it be in a bank, a grocery store, at a bus stop. If there is no lineup and if are more than two people, Canadians will automatically fall in line behind the person who came in before them. They do not like to be pushed around, expect you to maintain a physical space with them and do not appreciate if people try to cut into the line.
Follow these steps to enjoy your first few days.
Featured Image courtesy: vladislav-klapin-SymZoeE8quA on unsplash