This is a flashback piece written in October 2013….I won’t post the entire document.
This personal narrative assignment will reveal the cultural lessons I learned in the Canadian workplace.
Immigrating to Canada came prematurely based on the plans for my life. Therefore, integrating needed to be done as soon as I landed. Life isn’t much without an income and thus, this was my premier focus. My education had to be pushed back, as I learned pretty quickly that that was another beast to be tamed. Canada was so much more than my little country and absorbing it all is something I’m still trying to do 5 years later.
One foot before the other, I did all that was necessary to apply for a job. I wasn’t given the chance to even finish University before being uprooted, so I had no marketable education. I had worked every summer since I was 16 and had decided to draw on those experiences and apply them to what felt like a hundred interviews. My work experiences were tossed aside and my demeanor and ability to speak was all I had to land me a job. Adamant and sure, I gave it all I had and got my first job. This job was as a telemarketer, something I had no experience with. It required talking to Canadians all across the different Provinces; some of which I still couldn’t pronounce properly. I was so grateful I felt like every bit of me was on fire. Most immigrant horror stories are about the effects of not finding work for months and 4 weeks later, here I was hired and ready. So ready, I prepared work clothes for the whole month the same afternoon I got hired.
The workplace environment was a whole other ball game. I wore suits and my co-workers dressed down; sometimes in pajamas. I spoke in the most eloquent way and over enunciated everything I said; my peers were terribly rambunctious. I often times prepared what I would say to my supervisor before approaching him, ensuring that I was most respectful and clear, he related to me in such an overly friendly manner, I was appalled and disgusted with how normal it seemed. I obeyed every single rule and worked diligently and silently; my environment resembled a party bus on some days. I was a fish out of water. I stood out so badly there was a lull every time I walked by or approached my co-workers. I felt sick and refused; I had no friends and am almost sure I was made fun of.
I eventually assimilated to the Canadian work world. The working environment in my country is so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Work attire is taken so seriously, most professional organizations have uniforms and stipulations punishable if not closely followed. Supervisors are to be respected and whatever they say is never to be questioned. Hard work is key and anything mediocre is purged. As puffed up as this environment was, what it lacked in Human Resources laws and protections, it certainly made up for in building character.
The relaxed working environment did however make me a better worker. I could be me. My ideas and suggestions are valued and utilized and there is less pressure on the less important things and more focus applied to the goals of the company….
….Our cultural identities have to change, with age, with our lifestyle choices, with uncontrolled events that we have to adapt to and with socialization. In changing the way I carried myself in the workplace and being one with my co-workers, there was a plethora of knowledge that came my way.
A change came about partly because of how well I interact, is patient, understanding and respectful of people and their own culture. The older I got, the more I did for myself, the more I had to manage as an adult woman and change is inevitable. I laugh at my past now because of how crazy I must have seemed or looked and feel sad for how standoffish I must have seemed. That humility gained from my past experiences continues to build me up for the future.