Culture Shock


Anyone going to live in a new country will experience a degree of «culture shock» within a certain period of time after arrival in the new country. «Culture shock» may be defined as the feeling of being helpless and frustrated in a country where one neither speaks the language nor understands the culture.

Furthermore, «culture shock» results from a new and totally different way of life and also from the inability to live as independently as one did in the native country.

It may also be the inability to communicate to friends and relatives one’s feelings and reactions to living in a new country. If someone has no family or friends in Canada, cultural adjustment may be especially difficult.

Although culture shock can become overwhelming at times, knowing how to cope can make the difference between happiness and depression.


• to recognize the feelings associated with its different phases. • to become aware of ways to deal effectively with the emotional effects of «culture shock». 2 .Culture Shock Objectives The participants will be able: • to define «culture shock» in general terms.

. This is known as Culture shock. You may need more education or training. they are often surprised at the differences that exist between their own culture and the culture in the other country. . You will likely have to take a first job or home that is less than you expected. frightened. You will have to learn English/French or improve your language skills. It is normal for people moving to a new country to experience cross-cultural stress during their first few months in Canada.Culture Shock REFERENCE NOTES FOR THE FACILITATOR (This information is for your reference only) As immigrants to Canada attempt to «settle in» in their new community and their new country. will experience it. or even insecure. By being aware of the fact that it is normal and common to experience a variety of emotions related to the adjustment to a new society – sometimes over the course of years – immigrants can be better able to cope with those emotional «ups and downs». You will also face many challenges. These cultural differences do sometimes make people feel uncomfortable. There will be many things to learn. The most common way of comparing two cultures is in terms of their differences – not their similarities. Some of these experiences may be exciting. they meet a variety of circumstances that are untried and different for them. upsetting or frightening. to various degrees and lengths. 3 . Culture shock is a process and everybody. Your first twelve months in Canada will be emotional and full of change. . . Main points: . The differences between your old life and your new one will be great. Others may be confusing. When people visit or live in another country for the first time.

A considerable amount of stress is experienced by everyone in the family. The urgent need to learn English/French. The loss of family. loneliness. 4 . The realization that one needs some English/French to find a job. as a professional. Many immigrants say they did not expect Canada to be SO multicultural. Some feel at a loss. .Culture Shock REFERENCE NOTES FOR THE FACILITATOR (This information is for your reference only) Other issues that relate to «culture shock»: . Family dynamics are affected and family members experience turmoil. . . Some feel that having come from a country where there is/was civil strife or having coped in a war situation will somehow make them adapt more easily in Canada. The unawareness that learning a second language is a process that may take a long time (from 4 to 10 years). . Some employers require that employees understand rules and regulations and be able to express themselves. Example: It is required that janitors working in schools be able to communicate with staff and students and also be able to call 911 and adequately explain an emergency situation. Some immigrants view Canada as a wealthy country and therefore do not anticipate cultural differences. . Gender roles tend to change as women often enter the job market before men do. Research tends to prove otherwise. . It often takes 2 to 5 years to fully adapt to life in Canada and sometimes up to 10 years to reach the financial stability that one. . may have had in her/his country of origin. . . The fact that one no longer lives among one’s own cultural group. It often comes with a loss of pride and status. a loss of the living standard enjoyed at home and the general feeling that the process of adaptation may be too long to bear and/or that coming to Canada was the wrong decision. .

the focus may turn from similarities to differences. disenchanted and depressed about the difficulties you are facing. You understand better the process you have to take to adapt to life in Canada. During this period. During this period. the work ethic. 5 . complex and stressful. develop with your partner and children. Stage 4: Acceptance (adjustment or acculturation) You feel more comfortable in your new culture. Canadians. confused. Your sense of humour returns. loss of appetite and general tiredness (or difficulty in sleeping). irritability. a feeling of indifference and a desire to withdraw from normal activities. as a result. planning to return to school or working at better jobs. some people feel very confident and can deal easily with problems and stress.Culture Shock REFERENCE NOTES FOR THE FACILITATOR (This information is for your reference only) The 4 stages of culture shock Stage 1: Euphoria period (fascination period) Just before or shortly after arriving in Canada you may have high hopes and expectations. During this period. It is not uncommon to feel very positive one day and very negative the next. Stage 3: Gradual adjustment (or recovery) As you acquire better language skills. a feeling of loneliness for your country and loved ones. You miss your family and feel rootless in Canada. Perhaps you have made some friends. the values and as you gradually get involved in the community and in your own particular community. Perhaps you are studying. and a feeling of anger. You have a better sense of direction. Canadians do not seem as friendly as you originally thought. Everything is so new and intriguing. You get more involved. You suddenly look at everything with different eyes. This is an exciting time. You may feel very happy about the challenges you have overcome or feel very frustrated. immigrants also tend to focus on similarities with their own culture and country. It is hard to get up in the morning and go to work or look for work. This time can be very emotional and family problems may. Symptoms experienced during this period are frustration. a feeling of guilt about leaving family members behind. a better understanding of Canada. Stage 2: Disenchantment (frustration or irritation and hostility) During the first six months you will have some good experiences and some less enjoyable ones as well. You understand the new system better and no longer regret having come to Canada. There are so many rules and regulations. you start feeling in better control of your life. You generally feel content. Life is so fast.

Frustration -----.Depression/ Destructive behaviour ____________________________________________________________________ Hand-out 6 .Adjustment ------Integration ______________________________________________________________________ B.Frustration -----. Successful adaptation: Fascination -----.Culture Shock REFERENCE NOTES FOR THE FACILITATOR (This information is for your reference only) What culture shock may look like: A. Unsuccessful adaptation: Fascination -----.

Remember that adjusting to a new culture takes time. . Don’t think of your cultural habits as «right» and other people’s as «wrong». Involve yourself in the community as a volunteer – this is a good way to meet people and to practice your English/French. Think about your own culture and how it also influences your attitudes and actions. . try to think of them as challenges (which can be positive and fun). . . and feel more comfortable. learning a language. . Instead of thinking of things as problems (which can be negative and depressing). and why. Culture shock is a real process that is normal for every person living in a new culture (regardless of age. dance. . gender. Become more aware of what goes on around you. try to understand people in another culture from their own point of view. . . Exercising regularly and getting enough sleep help to keep your energy levels high. Avoid quick judgments. etc.). . . Stay in touch with friends and family to avoid feeling isolated. art. Explore a subject that interests you (music. Understand that experiencing «culture shock» means that you are aware of cultural differences and that you are beginning the process of adjusting to your new cultural environment. Enroll in an English or French language class. . develop friendships more easily. Understanding and appreciating cultural differences can help people avoid misunderstandings. .Culture Shock REFERENCE NOTES FOR THE FACILITATOR (This information is for your reference only) Learning how to adapt/adjust to a new culture . Don’t be too hard on yourself. . Be willing to try new things and to have new experiences. 7 . . or race).

Recognize the need to grieve losses.Culture Shock Hand-out (cont’d) . Note: This list can be adapted to suit the specific needs of your participants. 8 . . Assess the help that can be provided by Canadian settlement agencies. (This may provide reassurance to those who are experiencing emotional distress).

Why so? Why not? . . Facilitator explains what is «culture shock» in general terms. . It is so natural that one could do it with her/his eyes closed. . Facilitator asks how they feel about doing this? Some will say that it is easy.Culture Shock Definition of «culture shock»: Culture shock can be defined as the feeling of being helpless and frustrated in a country where one. Facilitator asks participants whether they think they will experience such feelings. Facilitator then explains that together they are going to do a little experiment to try to «feel» and experience «culture shock». Suggested activity # 1: group discussion Understanding the feelings associated with culture shock . to various degrees. does not speak the language nor understand the culture. Facilitator mentions that everyone in this group. Some may wonder why you are asking them to do this. to various degrees. Facilitator asks participants to write their full name on a piece of paper. concentrate or put any effort into it. Culture shock results from a new and different way of life and also the inability to live as independently as one did in the native country. 9 . will experience «culture shock». So easy that one does not have to think. Writing one’s name is one of the first things we learn at home and at school.

Some may say that they feel silly and awkward. climate. that it looks as if it has been written by a person without education. in adjusting to the evolving and changing roles assumed by family members in the new country. Some may say that it takes too long to write with the other hand. The political and economic situation in Canada (which is always evolving as a result of provincial and federal election outcomes. The awkwardness in doing simple tasks that require more effort. Some will say that they are not used to writing with their other hand.) 10 . How one’s pride may be affected: the difficulty. using public transportation. . Facilitator explains how this task relates to «culture shock»: . Some will say it is difficult or too difficult. «culture shock» is a process. Most will say that it is not a habit to write with the other hand. but this time with their other hand. for instance. general social climate. Some may be reluctant to do it. using public telephones. It is a feeling that will evolve according to different factors inherent to Canadian society in general: . job-creation programs or the reduction of existing services. . etc.. The feeling of having to re-learn certain things that one may take for granted in his/her culture such as shopping. Some will say that they never used their other hand before. Facilitator asks how they feel about doing this? Some may be laughing. . The degree of difference with their own culture. without pride. etc. that just like writing with the left hand. in a figurative sense. are below one’s ability and the status that one had in his/her country. etc. or understanding public signs. It is a temporary feeling of inadequacy and frustration. Some may say that the writing does not reflect the image they have of themselves.Culture Shock Facilitator then asks participants to write their full names over again. . . . Facilitator explains. rate of unemployment. How simple tasks may take longer to accomplish. How one may feel «like a child» having to learn basic things.

their migration history. the facilitator needs to consider the individual experiences of the participants. University of Warwick (U. Most would rather live in their homeland. 11 . the length of time refugees have spent in a camp or in a country of asylum. In planning this presentation. religious or political characteristics. their relationship to the structure of conflict in the society of origin. «The process of settlement involves many elements which relate to the refugees themselves. Most arrive having already experienced some kind of «culture shock» through civil strife and various individual traumas. These include: their family situation. their level of education. be absent or reduced to a minimum. Suggested activity # 2: interactive presentation Refugees may or may not experience «culture shock» in the same way as other categories of immigrants. for instance. participants need to take the attitude that it is a process. their socio-economic background. Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations. If participants practice writing with their other hand every day. something one can work at so as to reach a degree where one feels comfortable. chances are that they will slowly feel more comfortable using it.» An Agenda for Reception and Settlement (June 1996) by Danièle Joly. Most do not have any established networks of friends and relatives in Canada. Most do not come to Canada by choice.K. the degree of differences and similarities this country has with Canada.). their ethnic. the families they left behind. The «euphoria» period or «fascination» stage may. their image and expectations of the reception society. their age and gender. and whether they are accompanied by other family members.Culture Shock Similar to writing with their other hand.

Facilitator asks participants how they helped themselves feel better? . . Have a few participants share their time lines with the entire class. What might cause you to feel happy? Sad? Scared? Frustrated? . . What might you be able to do to help yourself feel better? Variation: . create a story line. . explaining why they felt the way they did at each point and how they handled their situations. Do you think that you might have emotional ups and downs in Canada? . . Draw a box with a horizontal line through it (a time line). Creating a time line: . on the time line. When they have completed their graphs. Facilitator instructs everyone to draw an individual time line and label it with their own events and emotions since leaving their homeland. In a follow-up activity. Questions: . . participants discuss emotions attached to these events and experiences. Variation: 12 . Facilitator explains that it is normal to have a range of emotions. . Identify the time span and the subject. Participants identify experiences or events as being negative or positive and record them. wherever a person is. both positive and negative. . Along with the participants. with dates.Culture Shock Variation: . . Facilitator distributes a blank piece of paper to the refugees attending the orientation. Put a plus + above the line and a minus – below it. Participants compare and contrast their history with others. ask them to share their «stories» with another participant.

This is a time-line. experience good days and bad well as in Canada. a husband. 5 years or more? . affect your experience in Canada. How long has it been since you first applied to emigrate to Canada? 1. one culture to another. 4. 3. at the beginning of the line is you. as a result. How do you feel about seeing them again? 13 . Psychologists however explain that this process changes once one goes from one country to another. We usually call them «ups and downs». Do you have a sponsor? Is someone waiting for you in Canada? Perhaps a fiancé. 2. It is one where feelings and expectations may sometimes be greater than reality and. How did you feel when you received notice that you were accepted as an immigrant to Canada? Happy? Very happy? A little sad at the thought that you were about to leave everything and everyone behind? Worried? . or other family members you haven’t seen for several years. Draw information from participants: .Culture Shock Understanding «culture shock» through a time-line as you discuss the general process with participants. People in _______________.

During the first six months in Canada. . The pace of life is different to the one in your native country. the phone. the way people dress. This is the euphoria or fascination period. Everything is so different. you start looking and noting differences between Canada and your country of origin. Perhaps you are a refugee and have experienced many losses already. You are going to Canada with your immediate family and there is nobody waiting for you on the other side. It is like the whole world in one country. a better future. etc. . you will have some good experiences and others not so enjoyable. a better chance to succeed in life. A good education for my children. intriguing and exciting. Canadians are all so different from each other. the variety of channels and programs on television. How do you feel? What is ahead for you in Canada? Some may say: A new life. . Perhaps you are an «Independent» immigrant. You have been told that there are many opportunities for success in Canada. the shopping malls and grocery stores. A peaceful life. Now you have reached Canada. the way apartments/houses are designed and furnished. The climate is different. After a few weeks. . A car. the transportation system. the electrical appliances people use on a daily basis. A good job. a new future. It is time to leave for Canada. Perhaps your sponsor is not the way you remembered him/her. It is difficult to get used to the climate and the fact that Canadians spend so much time indoors. Everything around you is so different.Culture Shock . You didn’t expect the city you live in to have so many different people. a second chance. Others may say: A better life. Perhaps your sponsor wants you to get a job right away and 14 . The thought of going to a peaceful country like Canada is a reassuring thought.

. You know that the national level of unemployment in Canada is around 10%. Perhaps you have come to Canada on your own and never expected that it would be so difficult to find a decent job in your field of work. relatives living in Canada or by immigration consultants in your native country.Culture Shock not be dependent on his/her own family. . This is what psychologists refer to as the disenchantment phase. Adapting to Canada is simply not as easy as you first thought or as you had been told by friends. Perhaps I would have come anyway but I would have prepared myself better. how could one prepare better? 15 . If so. Some are Canadians who were born here and speak English and/or French. You understand that there are many people looking for work just like you. How could you? You have just arrived here! You may not have brought with you letters of reference and proof of past employment in your native country. You have seen beggars on the streets and you know now that the streets in Canada are not paved with gold. How do you feel? Frustrated? Irritated? The feeling that you have perhaps made a mistake in coming to Canada? Some say «I wish I had been told before I came to Canada». Perhaps your sponsor wants you to find your own place to live. You have met some employers but too often they require Canadian experience and a level of English/French that you don’t have yet. Finding a job is not so easy. You may not have translated your certificates and diplomas into English/French. Now you are considering getting «any» job.

a war situation . going for military service . they settle into a new routine and a new pace. and gradually more tired. the financial stability they enjoyed at home. people feel depressed. Some feel guilty and responsible for bringing this turmoil into their families. loss of sleep or only wanting to sleep . the family they left behind. Then. the status they had before. for newcomers whose languages may not have a word for «stress» and for newcomers who cannot bring themselves to open up and talk about their feelings to specialists or even to people from the same cultural background).Culture Shock How can one tell when a person is depressed? (especially for immigrants coming from cultures where mental illness is considered taboo or an illness that does not require treatment. Possible answers from participants: . 16 . not wanting to go out/ isolation from other people Do you remember ever experiencing such feelings? Possible answers from participants: . feeling homesick . a divorce . at this «disenchantment» stage. Some feel that there is too much to learn to feel comfortable in the new culture. a separation. feeling tired all the time . They start getting to know their way around and slowly feel more comfortable in Canada. . longing for their «old» life . gradually. Some start to feel homesick for the life they had before. Sometimes. the departure of a friend. the death of someone dear . going away from parents What would you suggest to a friend who was depressed? How do you yourself deal with stress? . moving from one place to another . loss of appetite .

The children are settled into school and are getting better and better in English/French.Culture Shock This is the gradual adjustment period. Everyday life is experienced in a meaningful way. Everything is still a struggle but they have an increasing feeling of control over their own lives. They have a better sense of direction. They know that they are here to stay. They are continuing their language studies at night as they understand better the urgency to learn English/French. . This is the acceptance period. With better skills in English/French. 17 . the acceptance of a new culture and environment. . They start enjoying the present more. they understand Canada a bit better. Perhaps they had to lower their initial expectations of Canada. They are starting to develop friendships outside their ethnic group. They now work in something «related» or «vaguely related» to what they used to do in their native country. . . They still do not work in their field of experience but have since reassessed their skills.

Do you think that having realistic expectations will ease the «culture shock» you will experience in Canada? 4.Culture Shock Suggested activity # 3: small-group activity Participants write down. . in point form: 1. Suggest ways to overcome the difficulties relating to «culture shock». 18 . What are realistic expectations? 2. Suggested ways are listed on the board and discussed with the group. Which ones should immigrants to Canada have? 3.

Culture Shock Suggested activity # 4: case studies Explain that the two case studies relate the experiences of two immigrants to Canada. Case study # 1: ____________________ is an older man who went to Canada with his family. Facilitator introduces a graph where the fictional characters’ feelings will be charted as the story of each of them is presented to the participants. They settled in Toronto. Case study # 2: ____________________ is a young woman who went to Canada to join her family in Montréal. Life in your country Just before leaving Arrival in Canada Life in Canada of origin 19 . and how each of them dealt with «culture shock».

he was sure that it would be bigger and nicer than his sponsor’s house. Canada was going to be his home. But he had some trouble with the immigration officials. Pearson International airport in Toronto is huge. They even looked him in the eye. . new job. His job search continued. __________ and his wife __________ decided to begin looking for a job. This was not only because of his unfulfilled expectations. After some time. new friends. Note to the facilitator: Ask participants to write the following sentence with their left hand (if they are right handed): « I feel frustrated when I have to learn new ways of doing things» Ask participants how they felt. __________ wanted desperately to start a new life for himself and his family. He thought that streets there were paved with gold. but also because of having to cope with all of the changes in his life. newcomers experience «culture shock». When these things accumulate. He couldn’t understand them and felt they were rude. . they were taken to their home. . They didn’t speak English/French and the weather was very cold. Before going. etc. They didn’t dare go outside. When he and his family moved into their own place. all he could think about was how wonderful his future was going to be. How could his expectations of Canada be so different from this reality? Hand-out 20 . He thought that Canada was a rich country that could provide him with endless employment and financial opportunities. You can imagine how excited he was when he arrived at the airport. . The sponsor suggested a place with Metro Housing. different climate. stomach aches and difficulty sleeping. The family started having financial problems. The first few days were hard. but __________ didn’t have much luck. shiny and beautiful. __________ and his family found a small apartment in a run down and poor neighbourhood. __________ started to feel depressed and also began having headaches. __________’s sponsor also asked him to move out because it was too crowded in the house. his sponsor was at work all day and he and his family were left at home to wait for his return. When he and his family met their sponsor. Point out that resettling in a new country is like learning to do many things again: new language. but to no avail. his wife found one as a dishwasher. new culture. He started getting frustrated. . which was much smaller and less luxurious than the one he had imagined.Culture Shock Hand-out Case Study # 1 .

and how frustrating it was to try to do anything independently. She decided to get to know new people by attending a COFI course (a language and cultural orientation course for newcomers to the province of Québec) at the community centre near where she lived. She therefore attended COFI classes where she met new people. like every other Canadian. . Though she sometimes terribly missed her home. She also met a young woman who had attended the same pre-departure orientation session that she had attended. . She was going to join her husband in Montréal. she was happy but also sad. . family and friends and was at times frustrated by all of the new things she had to adapt to. she attended a pre-departure orientation session. Unlike in her native country. she was beginning to feel happier. There she learned many things about Canada and came to the realization that although Canada was a good country. She then went to her new home: a simple but nice apartment near downtown. While she waited for her visa. She gradually learned more French and understood more and more of the culture. Her husband didn’t see the point in this at first.Culture Shock Case study # 2 . In her native country. She did as he suggested but she gradually started feeling bored and lonely. The loneliness was unbearable. She learned that there were art classes being offered in the same centre where she was taking her French class. it wasn’t paradise and that she would have many challenges ahead of her. She could see that she would eventually feel at home in Canada. Her husband told her that she didn’t need to worry about anything and that he would take care of things. she had loved drawing and she felt that this was the perfect opportunity to continue her hobby. Before leaving. and the streets were mostly always deserted. . __________ had also been waiting a long time for her departure to Canada. 21 . . living in her culture and all that she was so familiar with. She also felt that she couldn’t understand her new country if she couldn’t speak the language. In fact. She registered in a class offered twice a week. She arrived at Dorval airport in Montréal and her husband was there to meet her. She knew that she was leaving many good things behind in her native country: her family. people didn’t just drop in to say hello and have some tea. including women from her native country. She became aware of centres and services offered in her community. but she explained how lonely she felt. She only had to take care of things at home. Language was a problem too as she only spoke a few words of French. very few people in her building greeted each other. her friends. She could see a future for herself in Canada.

• «Culture shock» can be overcome. • The length of «culture shock» will vary from person to person. • It may last from 6 months to up to 6 years. Ways of dealing with difficulties (case # 2 dealt with difficulties more productively and in a more positive way) What participants need to remember is that: • It is natural to feel «culture shock» when going to a new country. Which story would you rather have? . 22 .Culture Shock The presentation of the two case studies can be followed with an open-ended discussion: . • «Culture shock» happens because of the sense of loss at what has been left behind compounded with the difficulties in adapting to a new environment. Expectations (case # 2 had more realistic expectations of Canada) . • Some elderly immigrants never learn to feel comfortable in the new society. What do you think were the differences between the two cases? Possible answers: .

learn from others. Age in Canada doesn’t limit people to a certain level. read labels. With such an attitude. be a member of a community. find work. etc. Knowledge is power: . there is great potential for personal growth. . . Participants should be encouraged to pursue or further their education. participants make a list of ways to deal with «culture shock». It is important that they encourage others to respect their ways in the same way that they respect those of others. make friends. judgment and discrimination do not contribute to immigrants’ general well-being as they want to fit into the new society. Immigrants must learn English and/or French in order to be able to communicate with others. It is important for them to respect others and be open to new ways of doing. 1. it will certainly improve their chances. In a multicultural society such as Canada. Openness to what is new and different: . continue their studies. Participants may wish to add to this list. . Although a better education may not guarantee that they will find work. At the same time. Education is a life-long activity in Canada. understand. Facilitator completes the list. seeing and thinking. 2.Culture Shock Suggested activity # 5: feedback from case studies Tips for successfully dealing with «culture shock»: Based on the two case studies as well as their own experiences. 23 . immigrants need also to have pride and confidence in their own cultural background. At the other end of the spectrum. become independent. one finds that fear. it is important that immigrants have an open mind about all of the new and different things they will encounter and experience in Canada.

healthy and strong: . Despite the losses and disappointments they will experience. when in fact. sports. religion. immigrants need to feel confident about themselves and the future. involvement in the community. Other areas where people may derive good health and happiness are: doing regular physical exercise. Perhaps some of their original dreams may never come true. Suggested activity # 6: video presentation This is a presentation produced by NEWSWORLD – Dayside program. concerns and feelings about the presentation. . Length: 6:40 minutes . Facilitator follows the presentation with a discussion on the participants’ impressions. 24 . it is not.Culture Shock 3. close relationships with family and friends can bring people happiness. For instance. Immigrants to Canada will face many challenges. For example. Self-esteem. music. This great disappointment needs to be balanced by other areas in their lives where immigrants do gain a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. 4. optimism and hope: . volunteer work. art. comments. Immigrants need confidence that they do have a place in Canada and that they have something to contribute to their new society. maintaining good. This is an interview with settlement workers and immigrants discussing «culture shock». Topic: «culture shock». etc. many think of Canada as a land of endless financial and employment opportunities. All three are of equal value. Do what makes you happy.

Underline the different phases this newcomer has gone through. It is suggested that participants from each site be encouraged to write back to let you know how they are doing in Canada and how they (and their families) experienced «culture shock». 25 . Here is one. Participants identify the four phases of «culture shock». Circle the symptoms of «culture shock» described in the letter. You may wish to distribute it to participants before or after the lesson on «culture shock». . The letter will require translation to the participants’ target language. .Culture Shock Suggested activity # 7: Letter Facilitator reads the letter written by someone who knows a person who has gone through «culture shock». Variation: small-group activity Participants receive a copy of the letter and complete the following tasks: . This would eventually become a valuable information base from which to make the «culture shock experience» more country-specific. Letters from people who have themselves experienced culture shock Different letters relating immigrants’ experience in Canada may be useful to have on hand. . Discuss how this person overcame «culture shock».

1993. During her first six months in Canada. Canadians didn’t seem to care about each other. In her mind. She often had headaches. Canada was not the paradise that she had imagined. She never thought that she could someday call this country «Home». Like other countries. She used to be one of the most outstanding students at the university.Culture Shock Hand-out REFERENCE NOTES TO THE FACILITATOR (This letter may be read aloud. especially after many hours of hard work at a job she didn’t like. Poor her! She could have been a good dentist and have a successful life in Vietnam. customs. a lower job. Everything was new and strange to her. She never thought that she would herself feel so lost in this new society. Traffic was heavy. In addition. cried a lot. Once she worked in a restaurant but only lasted one day. she kept recalling her past life. Getting a lower position. even though they were neighbours. She was grieving her past life in Vietnam and was feeling very unsettled. When my friend stepped out of the airport in Calgary. She got lost all the time. Food was awful. Everything was so strange and she didn’t want to have any part of it. I think that she was going through culture shock. Canada has different laws. May 17th. What a big disillusion she got! Sometimes she didn’t understand what was happening around her. Five years ago I received a letter from my best friend who had emigrated to Canada to join her family. Everyone was always in a hurry and busy. translated and distributed as a hand-out to the participants) Letter from a woman who will soon emigrate to Canada Monday. she could only speak bad English. frustrated and depressed. she really had a tough time adjusting to Canada. She was too naïve to understand all that was going on around her. Her happiness and her activities disappeared in Canada’s cold air. and ways of life as well as discrimination problems. photocopied. 26 . Talking on the phone was the hardest thing. She said that Canadians spoke and walked too quickly. The work was too hard and she had to stand washing dishes for ten hours a day. life in Canada is really a struggle. under its tons of snow and its masses of people. She felt as if she had been born yesterday. In order to get money to support her own life. Not everything she had hoped for came true. my friend had to work at many jobs.

Now I am sure that every refugee and immigrant that comes to Canada gets culture shock even though they are well educated. I will improve my English/French. Now life is interesting. my parents had to sacrifice a lot in leaving our Motherland to hope for a new life and a bright future for our family in Canada. Day by day. With her experience. Learning to feel at home in Canada or in another country takes time. the anxiety and fear will cease and I will feel more in control of my life. My friend had to spend no less than three years on it. no matter how difficult it is for me. To make friends with Canadians. I got a surprise letter from her. I must try to understand this country. Feel free to make friends with Canadians. But three years later. I must make an attempt to change my viewpoint towards this country and its people. «Let the past be past. In brief. Now I am thinking about a brighter future: becoming a dentist in a few years. the more self-confident I become. This is one of the English sayings I enjoy best. step by step. the indispensable condition is speaking English or French.Culture Shock Time passed by and I received fewer and fewer letters from my best friend.» Thanks for all of her letters and her honesty. as Canada becomes more familiar to me. It seemed that she had changed to another person. How can I let them down? I must be prepared to face and to overcome all challenges in order to succeed in life in Canada. I no longer feel lonely. I hope it will take me a shorter time to overcome culture shock in Canada. «I rarely remember or grieve about my past life. Nguyen Kim Phuong LINC Program/ Class III-D4 (1993) 27 . They will help me understand what it means to live in Canada. But the important thing is knowing how to overcome such a shock. Soon. I felt at home in Canada before I knew it». she wrote. And the more Canadians I communicate with. Get involved in the community as soon as possible. I could hardly recognize her through it. «Self-confidence is the first aim on the road to success». Without her experience I would not be able to know what «culture shock» is and how many obstacles I will myself have to face when I put my feet on Canadian land. I must try to speak English/French everywhere.