Summarizing my new life as an immigrant in Canada.
On December 8 2006, I arrived in Toronto and began my MBA studies at one of the most prestigious business schools in North America. Everything was new – people, food, student life, language, snow etc. and everything familiar was left far away – people, food, work life, language, heat etc.
Last three years have been remarkable. I learnt many new things. Taking a cue from my China-loving-French-immigrant blogger friend Zhu’s post, I made a list of things that will eventually lead to an identity crisis:
9 clues I am becoming Canadian:
- I have a number of seasonal clothing and other supplies. There’s winter jacket, fall jacket, summer jacket, fall hoodie, winter hoodie, winter toque, summer hat, winter socks, summer socks, snow boots, winter boots, (you know the difference, eh?) running shoes, sneakers, formal shoes, flipflops. I also have a humidifier (for winter) and de-humidifier (for summer).
- Holidays that are conveniently placed on certain days of week (as opposed to fixed dates) no longer surprise me. For e.g. Labour day is first Monday of September, Thanksgiving is second Monday in October, Family Day (ON) is third Monday of February, etc. I love talking about looking forward to the long weekend, planning trips for the long weekend, etc.
- I bitch about rush hour ‘crowd’ in Toronto subway. Rush hour means that each passenger gets only one seat (as opposed to four or five during non rush hours). Being an avid cyclist, I sign petitions asking for separate bike lanes in the city. In India, we usually have a common road for everyone – pedestrians, cyclists, stray dogs, and motorists (yet the per-capita injury rate is lower).
- I can comfortably shit in public washrooms which have flimsy partitions that barely offer any privacy.
- My sense of “personal space” has changed drastically. Now I get uncomfortable if strangers come within a radius of 1m around me. I also use terms like “personal time off”, “personal property”, “personal blah..” – terms that are unheard of in collectivist cultures like India.
- I get into unnecessary discussions due to my argument that the Liberals’ initiative of harmonised sales tax (HST) is actually a good idea but the Conservatives just want to oppose anything McGuinty does.
- If someone apologises to me for accidentally brushing their bag against my elbow in rush hour traffic, I apologise to them for making them apologise to me in the first place.
- I often say “hey! howz it goin’?” and walk away. Note to newcomers: This is a polite way of saying “hello”. When someone asks you “How are you?”, just say “Good, thanks, how are you?” instead of telling them how you actually are. This is just how we greet each other.
- I can identify Americans (I mean people from USA).
9 clues I am still an Indian:
- I don’t enjoy the “Indian” food served in fancy “Indian” restaurants at all. That’s because that food is so heavily customised for local tastes that it loses its Indian-ness. If you can eat your food with forks, spoons and knives, assume that it’s not genuine.
- I always address my teachers as “professors” rather than their first name. I have an incredibly tough time calling them Rick, Steven, Mary or Mark.
- I brush my teeth first thing in the morning and wont step out of the house without taking a shower.
- When I see an empty seat in the train, I run to grab it. Then I notice ten other empty seats and smile at myself.
- When I hear white people say that they eat “very spicy” food, I secretly giggle. I must say that there are notable exceptions to this rule.
- I mix up V’s and W’s, and forget which of the 4 T’s (त, थ, ट, ठ) or 4 D’s (द, ध, ड, ढ) I should use while speaking. I’m also known to speak (and write) “Indian English” (which, I hate to tell you, is much superior to American English). I ask people if they are standing in a “queue” or whether they “endavour” to plan something, etc. I am sometimes caught using awkward translated expressions like “today morning”, “I like this too much”, “many many colours”, etc.
- I am kinda shy of using public shower facilities, especially locker rooms where people walk naked.
- When people tell me that Toronto is a “fast-paced city”, I secretly giggle again. Ditto when they refer to their hometowns with population of 100,000 as “cities”. Oh please! The only real cities in Canada are Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton (in that order). It might be useful to mention here that my little suburban hometown Dombivli would be the fourth or fifth largest city in Canada. Among the suburbs of Mumbai alone, Dombivli ranks fourth.
- I carry an Indian passport and I’m kinda hesitant to give it up. Unless the Indian government stops eying all non-residents with suspicion, it won’t allow dual citizenship. And that sucks.
So you see, I am kinda all over the place, but I am happy with the balancing act of defining my identity. Only few thousand years ago we were all black and and living in Somalia. And in another few thousand years we might be on Titan or who knows if we’ll even exist! In any case, I am happy to learn and experience something new every day in a country that has so warmly welcomed me.