Adapting to a New Culture

You may experience many emotions during your first years in Canada. Every individual adapts in his or her own way. However, many newcomers pass through three emotional phases as they adjust to their new life. It is important to understand that these are NORMAL feelings. Phase One: Many newcomers have high hopes and expectations when they first come to Canada. They usually say it is an exciting time of new experiences. They feel confident and able to cope with problems and stresses. In some cases, they are joining other family members they have not seen for a long time. Phase Two: Newcomers have many good and some difficult experiences during the first six months. They may feel very happy about the challenges they have overcome. However, they may also be disappointed by some things. They may find that it takes a long time to understand the language and customs. They may have trouble finding a job. As a result, they might be frustrated, confused, sad, anxious or depressed. It is normal to have mixed emotions; very positive one day and very negative the next. They may have physical symptoms, such as loss of appetite or trouble sleeping. Phase Three: Most people eventually become more comfortable and confident. They are less frustrated and anxious. This may take several years for older people, who have strong traditional habits and customs. Others, especially young people, may adjust easily. Sooner or later most newcomers will adapt and begin to feel at home. Here is some advice from immigrants and refugees who have successfully adapted to a new culture:

  • • Remember that your negative feelings are only a phase that will pass.
    • Keep busy with school, sports or other activities.
    • Surround yourself with friends or family members.
    • Write or phone your friends or family.
    • Seek professional help from a doctor or counselor. Asking for help or a referral to a doctor or counselor may be very helpful. It shows that you are looking after yourself and looking for ways to cope with the situation.

Adapted from A Newcomer’s Introduction to Canada.