How new Canadians can make friends in a new country!

Are Vancouverites not welcoming to immigrants?

A recent study commissioned by HSBC on new Canadians, found us to be the least welcoming city out of four metros and complements an earlier report from Vancouver Foundation that found a third of Metro residents find it difficult to make friends, most of us don’t know our neighbours or participate in community activities and over a third of us have no close friends outside our ethnic group!

According to the survey, Vancouver was found to be the least welcoming Canadian city with Toronto (79 per cent) a close third, Calgary and Edmonton (84 per cent) at second place and Montreal (89 per cent) being designated most friendly.

And one of the top three challenges immigrants face is making friends (34 per cent) with finding employment at the top (62 per cent). Having worked with immigrants for a long time, I understand the isolation that occurs in the migration process. And we are not alone in this, it happens with seniors as well as other groups. Speaking to thousands of immigrants across Canada I often get asked, “How do I make friends?”

To me, volunteering is the best way to tackle this problem.

When Anita (not her real name) first landed in Canada from India, the marketing professional didn’t know quite what to expect, but she never imagined finding a job in her field would be so difficult. She was repeatedly told she had “No Canadian experience.” To seek some advice, she approached a settlement counselor, who suggested Anita volunteer to get some Canadian experience.

Her initial reaction? “What? Work for free? That’s not why I came to Canada!”

But she decided to give it a chance, and began volunteering at the YMCA, working with new Canadians like her. Now, three years later, smiling at the memory of her original response, Anita tells me she is still an active volunteer with the YMCA, even though she now heads up a leading-edge social media company.

Today, she tells me of how her experiences in those initial days changed her life for the better: Through volunteering, she quickly started making new friends in her adopted country. She also discovered she enjoyed helping other newcomers and learned a great deal from the mentors who trained her.

Only three months later, through a mentor she met, she was offered a part-time job with a non-profit to help it submit a bid for funding a marketing plan. The part-time job turned into a full-time one when the bid was accepted! From then on, no one ever asked her about “Canadian experience!” Anita had arrived!

In case you think volunteering won’t be considered much by potential employers, think again. According to a LinkedIn survey, 46 per cent of Canadian professionals polled stated that they consider volunteer work equally as valuable as paid work experience.

Immigrants to Canada come from countries where volunteering is not as big as it is in Western countries, but, once here, volunteering is an important tool that can help immigrants settle in faster. In my 7 Success Secrets for Canadian Immigrants seminar, volunteering is a key step.

Here are nine benefits of volunteering for new Canadians:

1)     Gives you that elusive Canadian experience

2)     Often turns into your first job in Canada

3)     Creates a network and opportunities for mentorship

4)     Allows you to practice the official language

5)     Gives you a chance to learn Canadian idioms and phrases

6)     Gives you exposure to the Canadian work environment

7)     Helps you build a connection with Canada

8)     Allows you to meet people outside your own ethnic group

9)     Gives you Canadian references

Hopefully new immigrants out there can start on this path to success in Canada!

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Mind your language!

The past few days have seen such a flurry of articles on the front pages of dailies and other news media about English not being spoken in immigrant homes. Well duh! Seriously? Is this something new?

We did know at least a year ago that almost 20 per cent of the population was born outside Canada. We also knew for the last decade that immigrants are coming from countries where English is NOT the first language. Why then are we SO surprised that they would speak their own language or “mother tongue” (as it is appropriately called) at home? I am surprised people (or should I say the 80 per cent) are surprised!

I speak English fluently and it is my first language. I also speak Hindi (and broken Gujarati occasionally with my mother in law). My new granddaughter has people speaking English, Hindi, Gujarati and Fijian Hindi to her! By having more languages spoken, I believe my granddaughter will be well equipped for a rapidly evolving world.

According to an article in the Telegraph researchers at the University of San Diego revealed that those with higher levels of bilingualism are more resistant to Alzheimer’s and dementia.

A few weeks before the Census results were announced John Manley, the former finance minister who heads the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, said it is time for a national debate over how to encourage new language skills as part of the country’s trade efforts.

Manley goes on to say that the global opportunities for Canadians who speak Asian languages are huge and by not teaching these languages to our children we may deprive them of global opportunities. The are obvious advantages of a different kind of bilingualism and growing economies of China, India and many Latin American countries would offer much opportunities to Canadians in the next decade.

The article says that “in Brampton and Mississauga, the Peel District School Board has elementary-level courses available in more than a dozen languages, including Arabic, Bulgarian, Cantonese, Gujarati, Hindi, Mandarin, Punjabi, Sinhalese, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu and Vietnamese.”

Perhaps it is time for us to embrace Canada’s multilingualism and see it as something that is an asset rather than always feeling threatened by it. After all, having sushi, Kung pao chicken and butter chicken hasn’t weakened our culinary habits, why would our neighbor’s language make us feel threatened?

I have met Canadians in several parts of the world. Parts where English is not the first language. Think Korea, Japan and China.  And they speak English. Hmmm wonder if those countries have headlines reading ‘Canadians speak English in Korea!’ Insert big laugh smiley here!

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter