January 23, 2020
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Canada: Culture Shock

'It takes longer to fit in and most often we have to start at the same level as someone just out of a Canadian college, but that's only in the beginning.'

Canada: Culture Shock

The Wadhwa family have settled in Toronto just a year and half ago and family head Sunil Kumar, a civil engineer, is already back in Delhi upgrading his computer skills for the prospect of a better job than the hotel construction and maintenance job he has managed to get.

At 46, Wadhwa made the huge change for his family so that his daughters, aged 18 and 11 years, could get a better education and future. "I know nothing works by merit in India and and you don't get any opportunities without connections here," he says. 

The other reasons for migrating include his search for better living standards, healthcare, safety, especially for women folk and the desire to break away from corrupt systems. While he is studying afresh in Delhi, his wife is working at Tim Horton's, a large Canadian coffee franchise, while the kids have made enough friends to keep themselves happy.

But the culture shock they experienced on arrival to Canada, was something no one warned them about. "There was no guidance and we wasted a lot of time just learning directions and routes in Toronto," says Wadhwa. "And re-learning skills at this age isn't something I expected either," he adds. However, what he really appreciates is what he's gained in terms of education opportunities and healthcare.

Satish Jha, now a financial services manager in Canada, left India two years ago and his job with Reliance Telecom Ltd. (now Reliance Infocom) "to study a more recognized MBA program with a broader appeal in the global market place". The 29-year-old and his wife Rachna (working at a fast food franchise), feel their expectations of a higher standard of living and more control of their own futures (read no nepotism) has been met in most cases, but they have been upset by the delays in getting immigration itself which they only applied for once they were already living in Ontario. But, Jha says that with dual citizenship imminent, "returning to India is a definite possibility too".

"We do miss India and Indians, our families and feel alien in a culture where we'll need 10-15 years to internalize the culture as we are first generation immigrants". For the benefit of would-be immigrants he adds: "Canada expects professionals to have Canadian credentials (not the equivalent), so be prepared to study again or join the labour pool which also has hundreds of Indian doctors and engineers driving taxis having been let down by their Canadian dreams".

And 36-year-old architectural model-maker Abdul Majid says quite bluntly he had to leave India "to realize any potential he had at all". Born into a Delhi business family he saw no opportunities outside of trading and first left for Dubai and then three years ago immigrated to Canada. "I found both opportunity and acceptance and the greatest part of immigrating for me has been that I feel that I'm a part of a civilized, law-abiding society and also that everyone, wherever they might be on the ladder, has a place in it. There is accountability all down the line".

Of course, being an immigrant has its downside in Canada, just like anywhere in the western world and Majid admits that "it takes longer to fit in and most often we have to start at the same level as someone just out of a Canadian college, but that's only in the beginning'.

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