There’s more to experience in Canada than the freezing weather and the spectacular Niagara Falls
Cara Lam, a highly rated UX Content instructor as well as a UX content strategist at Capco, knows what it’s like to leave your country and all that you are familiar with and immigrate to a new country.
Cara shared 7 important things new immigrants should do to make their transition as smooth as possible and live happily ever after. Most of it has to do with attitude.
7 key lessons for new immigrants
- Put your ego aside
“Part of the charm of living abroad is that you have so little control of your surroundings. Especially if you’re moving to a country that doesn’t speak your mother tongue, you’re going to get lost, feel alienated, and perhaps start to doubt yourself for wanting to move abroad.
To truly get out of your comfort zone, you have to put yourself in an unfamiliar environment. Forget who you are and where you come from for a second, because those things don’t matter anymore when you’re a newbie to a different country.
When I first moved to Japan, I remember having to learn a lot of unwritten social rules and not liking to conform. I’d complain all the time.
Then I finally understood. Whatever expectations and social norms I carried with me from America didn’t and wouldn’t apply in Japan. To fully immerse into the Japanese way of life, I first had to put that American part of me in the past. It’s still part of me, but it’s in the past. To move on, I must adapt.
When you immigrate to Canada or any other country, the first thing you must learn to put aside is your ego.
- Discover the you you never knew
Not only do we sound like different people when we speak a different language, but we are also different people when we live in a different country.
Believe it or not, when I lived in Hong Kong (age 3-15), I was a very irritated kid. I would get angry super easily and had trouble controlling my temper — I had no chill. But when I started going to high school in a new foreign county, where everyone seemed to be happy and stress-free, I learned to think differently and see things from a different perspective.
- Adapt quickly to the culture and language
It was also in Australia that I found a passion for cultural exchange. Staying at a boarding house where half of the students were from Hong Kong and the other half from the outskirts of Sydney, it’s only natural that cliques came into existence.
I was initially in the HK group, but after a few months, I realized that my English wasn’t getting any better, and I felt SO not integrated into my new life. It was then that I started hanging out with my Aussie roomies, asking them to correct my English pronunciation and teach me slang, and watching English programs and TV shows like Gossip Girl to brush up on my English speaking.
You can still stay strongly connected to your culture, but you must also quickly embrace the culture. Your local language and accent are great but remember to thrive in your new environment, you have to communicate more effectively.
- Restart your life from zero
Moving to a new country without friends and family is scary. Imagine standing on a small island and watching people (who look nothing like you) pass you by, chatting away with their friends in a language you don’t understand. It’s like watching a movie but somehow you have a role in the movie.
Fresh off the boat, you don’t know any unwritten social rules, you don’t get to eat the food you grew up eating, and you don’t have a support system that you can lean on in real-time (video calls just aren’t the same).
Every friend you make is an asset. At the beginning of every overseas journey, I did whatever I could to make friends — go to meetups, join student clubs, ask my coworkers out for lunch, etc. Once I got the contact info of one person, I make sure to stay in touch. Then once I have one friend, I ask them to introduce their friends to me — there I have a circle. This soon expanded into a network.
It takes weeks and months to build bonds with people, but my journeys across continents wouldn’t have been the same without the friends I made. Even when I could barely express myself, being there for me meant the world to me.
- Push your boundaries, physically and mentally
Ask anyone who’s lived abroad and they’ll likely admit they’ve cried out of homesickness — probably in the shower. It gets especially hard during the holiday season. Back in college, all my friends would go home for Thanksgiving and I’m left all alone.
I would ask myself, what’s Thanksgiving… why is everyone going home… where do I go? Where can I go?
And then your family is celebrating birthdays/graduations/weddings and taking family photos without you. You want to be there so bad because your parents and grandparents are getting old. But you also know that moving home isn’t something you want to do. Then you’re left in this limbo state where part of you is in one place and part of you is in another.
Moving to a new place means adapting to a new climate. I spent the first 22 years of my life living in warm places (Hong Kong, Sydney, LA) — so the new cold weather hit me hard.
I didn’t know that moving to a cold, snowy prefecture meant I’d be freezing to sleep almost every night, and also have to deal with frozen pipes, snowed-up driveways and on top of that loneliness, and homesickness.
- The world is so much bigger than you and your little bubble
One thing that continues to make me roll my eyes in New York City is that a lot of locals like to call this city “the greatest city of the world.” While I don’t completely disagree, I am genuinely surprised by the number of locals I’ve met who don’t see value in traveling or moving abroad. Mind you, New York City is arguably THE MOST culturally diverse city in THE WORLD and yet few people have actually lived overseas.
How can you say something is the “greatest” when you haven’t experienced something else? In fact, what does “greatest” even mean? I’ve lived in six cities across four countries now and even though I have a favorite, I wouldn’t call anywhere “perfect” or “greatest” because every place has its charms and flaws.
- Believe you can make it
The more places I’ve lived in, the smaller I feel. When you’ve been exposed to different cultures, you’ll realize that yours is only a small part of the world’s cultural fabric. There is so much more to see, learn, and experience. “
You can succeed wherever you are. Just believe and do it.