Posted by : VANITY Blog Saturday, 13 December 2014

Photo courtesy of: Children at Risk Foundation


The Newcomer’s Dilemma

What is your group of friends like? Do you share the same culture and race? Is it your own home country’s culture, more of the Canadian culture, or a bit of both? Are they also immigrants?

The newcomer’s dilemma is this:

Who would your first friends be for your first time in a Canadian school? Fellow immigrants, from the same origin country? Most likely.

Those who share your interests, like video games or art, but are from a different culture? Maybe, but it’s rare because of a culture/language barrier.

Or perhaps, you are a culture vulture who hangs out with different kinds of people, regardless of their backgrounds.

The actual question is: would you join a group of immigrants, or do the opposite, immerse yourself immediately with normal English speakers?

At my school, I usually notice new immigrant teens banding with other immigrants from their home country, myself included, I was sent forced by the school to befriend a group of racially-like immigrants on my first days of Canadian high school. I disliked the school’s decision to do that, it left little room for possibilities, but it paved the way for my adaptation to multicultural Canada. It went like this, I was introduced to friendly newcomers, I felt safe and comfortable, I spoke my language with them, then I slowly, but successfully, pushed myself to adapt to Canadian culture.

Actually, I lied to get your sympathy.  That did not happen to me (because I’m just weird) but it usually does to most newcomers (who aren’t weird at all). The forced, and societally imposed grouping reinforces stereotypes, usually negative ones. It’s also extremely pointless if the goal is to achieve a multi-cultural, inclusive society in schools. Placing immigrants to their own distinct racial groups can weaken cultural adaptation, which even at the cost of extra convenience and comfort become counterproductive. This is because people will want to be with other people they can relate with, and this paired with forced grouping, is what makes casual intercultural relationships difficult. Different groups are going to have different expectations from other groups, because their large sizes make stereotypes visible.

Going back to the question, we can say that you either have friends from your home culture, or you have friends who you share specific interests with (video gamers, artists, academics, and all of the other cliques). If you belong to the latter, the second answer, or even if you belong to both at the same time, then you have successfully adapted in some way. However, if you only belong to the first, let’s say an exclusive Asian-Korean culture group as an example, then it means that you need to absorb various cultures around you. It’s effective since it makes the definitions of “stereotypes” and “racism” obsolete, they just stopped getting used, and multiculturalism prevails if kept that way. 
             
So to simplify this, either you belong to a group of friends who share the same ethnicity and still keeps their home culture out of the house, or you have a mixed culture group of friends who you hang out with. Anyway, even if you mostly have country-culture immigrant friends, it won’t give you disadvantages if you become bicultural, having both your home culture and Canadian culture at the same time, proving that multiculturalism is possible.

Finally, some advice I heard from a Croatian friend, “…just accept different cultures, but you also have to observe and understand the differences.”

“Keep your language. Love its sounds, its modulation, its rhythm. But try to march together with men of different languages, remote from your own, who wish like you for a more just and human world.”


- Hélder Câmara, author of Spiral Of Violence



- Angelo

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Vancouver Immigrant Youth (VANITY) Blog is an online space made for youth, by youth. Here, you will find stories and experiences written by youth immigrants who once felt how challenging it was to be a newcomer in Vancouver. If you are a newcomer in Vancouver (or anywhere in Canada), we hope to give you all the resources you need to feel comfortable in this country. We hope to give you tips and advices on how we adjusted to our lives here as youth immigrants. Through this site, we want to empower you to bring out your full potential.

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