This is an excuse to resume my blog, which I have badly neglected for over a year. The last few weeks, three new immigrants contacted me for help look for work having just arrived here in Canada. The major area of concern as expected is the work life. How do I get a job right away? What’s the work culture like? How is it different from back home? Sensing the anxiety, I debate on how to present what I know. Do I tell the good news first or the bad? Wanting neither to discourage nor give false hope, I think of the best way to put it based on their background and assumed “pain” threshold.
The reality is, what happens to one need not happen to another. All things being equal, fate is influenced by the individual’s level of motivation, capacity to deal with change, ability to overcome personal challenges. However, there are baseline factors that one needs to be aware of to kind of level off expectations:
1. Culture Gap – This is not only about the language barrier. Even if you have a great mastery of the English language, the content of the conversation and nuance of expression such as the choice of words, tone, and inflection could be something else. I remember having just arrived in Canada and sitting at lunch break at work, listening in and supposedly making a conversation with my co-workers, I find myself not understanding what they were talking about at all. It was absolutely horrendous.
2. Social Distance – People normally group together based on economic standing, social interest, and sometimes even personal looks. Rich people go together, extroverts attract each other, and good-looking people hang out. Naturally, immigrants get drawn to people coming from the same ethnic group and this has been proven and called as ethnic silos of new immigrants in Toronto. Personally, I intentionally did not mix too much with my own believing that I would thwart my own ability to adapt to the new environment if I did so. I was proven right. Recently, I get to interview applicants who have been to Canada for over five years and not able to communicate in English because they only mingled with people from their own country day in day out, at home and at work, to their own detriment.
3. Discrimination – When I speak of discrimination, I am referring to a social phenomenon rather than a legal contravention. Not only do birds of the same feather flock together, they also leave the “different” ones out as a social control mechanism. Discrimination occurs in any country, much more in some and somewhat less in others. Even the labour laws that prohibit this could only at best minimize but could not totally eliminate it. That is because it is a natural and permeating social inclination that is as primordial as survival instinct. People in the workplace want to work with people who talk like them, who walk like them, and who look like them. After all, organizational development requires blending in to the work group.