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How To Cope With Culture Shock in Canada

How often have you traveled to a foreign country and felt jitters in your stomach? Or that overwhelming sense of being a square peg in a round hole? If so, you have most likely experienced what is known as culture shock.

Some of us might be able to brush it off, but for many of us, it can affect how we manage our day-to-day life. It may affect our abilities to socialize, feel safe, develop trust in people, and more. This is particularly common with those who choose to relocate to a new country or travel for long periods of time.

There are various stages that we unknowingly experience when we’re overtaken by culture shock. But there are ways in which we can adapt more easily to our new life and go back to feeling right at home.

Today, we are going to explain the 4 stages of culture shock, and 8 ways in which you can overcome it. We hope that this guide will help you during your journey in Canada.

Understanding Culture Shock

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Culture shock is commonly known as the impression of restlessness that occurs after you are exposed to a foreign culture, lifestyle, or behavior. It can be challenging to overcome especially if you hold deeply rooted connections and cultural practices in your homeland.

Dealing with culture shock in Canada for immigrants means more than managing or adjusting to a new social setting, drinking, or eating practices. It may range from overcoming communication barriers or technological differences to embracing new habits and mannerisms (for example, did you know that in Canada it’s common courtesy to remove your hat or sunglasses when speaking to someone?).  

However, remember that any feelings of discomfort are temporary! Time and proper adjustment will run their course and you will be able to settle in completely.

The 4 Stages of Culture Shock in Canada

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You may or may not experience these 4 phases while adjusting to your new life in Canada. This may depend on whether you are from a country with a completely opposite culture and social setting, how often you travel, whether you’re relocating to Canada by yourself, and more.

Phase 1: Euphoria

As you finally land in Canada you might experience a strong sense of positivity and hopefulness for the life you’re about to embark on. At first, you may:

  • Feel infatuated with the language, people, food, and surroundings.

  • Feel stomach-turning excitement.

  • Feel a strong sense of confidence in your decision and future plans

Phase 2: Dissatisfaction

As your excitement settles, so does the understanding that you’re far away from your home and social circles. You may encounter challenges in effectively communicating with people, understanding how everything works (such as public transportation), and more. Within the first six months, you may experience:

  • Irritation and discouragement.

  • Feelings of unhappiness and longing.

  • Mood swings and shifts in energy levels.

  • Becoming more focused on the distinctions between yourself and Canadians.

  • Sense of guilt for leaving relatives behind.

Phase 3: Progressive Improvement – Restoration

This is when things start looking up. You are better adjusted to life in Canada and understand how facilities and systems work here. You may have already made some work and social connections, and living in Canada feels more natural. At this point, you’re starting to:

  • Regain your sense of control over your life and goals.

  • Regain a sense of comfort in your new social and cultural landscape.

  • Regain your confidence in communicating with people (whether because you understand the language better or developed more self-confidence).

  • Regain that sense of interest and excitement in different activities

Phase 4: Acceptance

The final and most aspiring stage of these 4 phases is the Acceptance stage. At this point, you should feel more at ease and perhaps, even start feeling at home. This is when you become accustomed to your daily routine and work, as well as become familiar with Canada’s many cities and streets. Throughout this period, you might:

  • Have a sense of establishment and stability

  • Feel comfortable and familiar with your surroundings (perhaps even to the point where you can help another immigrant find their way around!)

  • No longer overlook your decision to move or travel to Canada

  • Have found a way to embrace Canada’s culture and ideals while maintaining your own cultural practices

It’s important to keep in mind that everyone is different. Some of us may experience these stages all over again in the future. Some of us might never experience them at all and feel content right from the start. But whether you are already in Canada or about to go there, understanding that these are natural occurrences is important, because it will help you better adjust and make the best decisions for yourself.

Coping and Adjustment Measures

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Making a determined effort to adapt to the unfamiliar culture is probably the best method for dealing with the different effects of culture shock.

Here are a few ideas to help you feel more at ease when relocating to Canada:

  1. Accept that you’re dealing with culture shock

They say that the first step of coping with any situation is admitting that you are indeed dealing with one, instead of sweeping it under the rug. Acknowledge that you are having a hard time, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. You might even discover or unexpectedly create a strong circle of support around you.

  1. Learn Canada’s culture and customs

Learn about the people of Canada, their behavior, and customs. This will also happen naturally over time, but researching your social environment will greatly help you blend in. Try participating in local activities, explore Canada’s nightlife, or join a club. If you love art or sports, go become a student somewhere as a way to involve yourself.

  1. Spend some time studying the language

If English is not your first language (and French either), then living in an English-speaking country such as Canada can help you improve a lot. However, be sure to practice the language as much as you can. Even take time at home to study English, and don’t worry yourself about what people will think or feel about your speaking abilities. On the contrary! they will respect your willingness to connect with them in their language and help you in any way they can.

  1. Manage a good and healthy routine

Eat healthily, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. Having a healthy routine that involves activities that make you happy and physically strong will improve your mood, boost your energy, and help you cope better overall.

  1. Go see what Canada’s beauty is all about!

Canada is known for having incredible landscapes and unusual wildlife. Take time to hike the Canadian Rockies, visit Banff National Park, walk along Hudson Bay where there is less gravity (no kidding!) … There is so much to see and do in Canada that it can take your mind off of things and remind you of the beautiful things in life.

  1. Bring something which reminds you of home

If you haven’t left for Canada yet, be sure to pack something that will always remind you of home. If you are already in Canada, consider asking a relative to send something over.

  1. Share your feelings with your friends and family back home

Sharing how you feel about your new journey and experiences will help take off any emotional weight and clear your head. It will also allow your friends and family to provide you with support, advice, and remind you that you are not alone.

Another way of letting go of negative feelings is to keep a diary around.

  1. Keep an open mind

Remember that you made an incredible decision to do something different with your life. Perhaps even make something of yourself that you couldn’t do back home. While relocation or long-term traveling is challenging, it also provides an abundance of opportunities to grow and have fun.

Try to keep an open mind about the people surrounding you and the kind of future that awaits you. You might also find settlement organizations helpful to you. There are several organizations and municipal institutions that have systems in place to support immigrants in bridging the gap by delivering resources including spoken English courses.

They also provide workshops to make you feel welcome in your current home including seminars about how to get acquainted with the nature surrounding you.

Immigrant Services for Newcomers in Canada

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If you want to live or work in Canada, you’ll need to apply for a permanent or temporary visa. Our team at Great North Visa can assist you with finding the best visa for you and starting your new life in Canada!

Our services and programs aim to make the visa application process smooth and easy. Our goal is to make the immigration process as straightforward and accommodating as possible. We offer important, and easily accessible tools to assist you in making your Canadian dream a reality.

Do you have any questions you’d like answered? Start by scheduling a one-on-one appointment with an immigration professional from our team! Get in touch today. 

Jessica Thompson

Jessica Thompson is a professional content writer for Great North Visa. Jessica immigrated to Canada in 2012 from the UK with her husband Jack Thompson, and their two children. As someone who experienced first-hand what the Canadian immigration process is like, combined with extensive research, Jessica can share her knowledge about Canada immigration with her readers around the world. We hope that you find Jessica’s blog valuable to your journey to the Great White Noth.

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Jessica Thompson

Jessica Thompson is a professional content writer for Great North Visa. Jessica immigrated to Canada in 2012 from the UK with her husband Jack Thompson, and their two children. As someone who experienced first-hand what the Canadian immigration process is like, combined with extensive research, Jessica can share her knowledge about Canada immigration with her readers around the world. We hope that you find Jessica’s blog valuable to your journey to the Great White Noth.