Some newcomer thoughts and experiences

Depending on who you are and where you come from, you might find some situations in your new culture in Canada very stressful. Other newcomers to Whistler have told these stories….

  • When I first came I didn’t know what to say when greeting people at work, or when clients came in to the office. I didn’t know that when they ask ‘how are you?’ Canadians didn’t really want to know. You should always say ‘I’m fine’ and then ask them how they are. It feels very casual but then you see there is a right way to do it.
  • I never know what to say when people start speaking to me at a bus stop or in a store. People talk to you like they have known you for a long time, but Canadians just want to be friendly.
  • There are lots of rules in Canada but most people ignore them (e.g. crossing the street anywhere, bikes that are not using the bike trails, etc.). It’s really confusing.
  • “I’ll be back in a minute” means that it could take much longer than that, possibly as long as an hour or longer. At first I got really angry about it, but now I know what can happen.
  • “You have to come to my house”, “let’s have dinner together”, “we should get together soon”, etc. does not literally mean what it says. Canadians want to be nice and that’s their way of being friendly.
  • Don’t be surprised or shocked if Canadians point at things with their feet. It doesn’t have any meaning in this culture. You may also see some Canadians turn on the TV with their toes, and putting your feet up on the dashboard in a car is common in Canada.
  • Kids need to go outside in their lunch break at school and classrooms will be closed. The right clothing is essential especially in winter time.
  • Canadians won’t tell you what to do but try to express their opinion in an indirect way. They may say ‘It’s up to you’ but then expect that you do it, or think that you have agreed to do it.
  • Canadians don’t worry about how they wave at you. They may signal you to “come here” with their fingers up but it’s not rude.
  • It might be weird to bring your own food if you are invited to dinner by someone. This usually only happens with if it is a Potluck, where everyone brings a dish of food and everyone shares, but is usually not common with ‘normal’ dinner invitations.
  • Most Canadian parents do not leave their kids at home alone until they’re at least 11 years old.  People can call the authorities if small children are left alone and they feel they are not safe or being looked after properly.
  • Alcohol can only be purchased in liquor stores and you cannot drink alcohol in public.
  • Teachers can go on strike even though kids are affected by not being able to go to school.
  • Some Canadians start to eat immediately when getting their food instead of waiting until everyone on the same table has got their food. There’s no phrase that wishes everyone a good lunch or dinner either. Some religious families say a small prayer called “Grace” before meals.
  • Communication and socialization are important in Canada. Usually when you enter a store employees ask personal questions like “how has your day been so far?” or “what are your plans for tonight?” That’s their way of being polite and social even though we might feel uncomfortable.