8 ways to surviving the cultural shock in Montreal:
We all know that immigration is a true separation: we leave our parents, our brothers, our sisters, our relatives and friends; however, it’s an integration in a very new world that has nothing to do with our beloved or disliked nations of origin. It’s one of the greatest alterations in one’s lifestyle (well, I think that marriage is even greater), as it may generate an inexorable desperation if integration strays on the wrong way. Generally, cultural shock lasts between 2 and 6 years; thus, it should be accompanied with a touch of toleration and a taste of maturation.
Canada, a new country. Quebec, a new province. Greater Montreal, a new region. Montreal, a new home. It will be one year soon since I left my Lebanon. I left it “clean” and “green”, and I spread pieces of my heart in every piece of earth I used to visit there. Immigration gave me a huge inspiration to talk about my very first experience on the French-Canadian territories.
According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, cultural shock is “a feeling of confusion, doubt, or nervousness caused by being in a place (such as a foreign country) that is very different from what you are used to”. In fact, being in Montreal is very different from being in Beirut and from what we are used to in Lebanon. It was a very difficult step to take at the time, and I was on the verge of depression, just like all those who came before and will come after; however, there are 8 things that helped me overcome bad feelings like loneliness, boredom, desperation, low self-esteem, etc.
- MY HUSBAND.
Joseph was the key reason for immigration. When I met him for the very first time, he told me that, after some time, he will be moving to Canada. I was both happy and excited but sad and confused. Two years later, we got married and I had to prepare myself, my family, and my friends to the moving idea. It was not easy at all. Detachment is the hardest thing that people whose heart is full of love may encounter. That first step done, I set foot in Montreal lands. One year has passed, and more will pass. Many times, I burst into tears because I miss my whole world in Lebanon. Many times I grasped at straws to accept the new context I am living in, but it was all in vain. I couldn’t find any remedy to heal the wounds of detachment unless being in the arms of my husband. He always supports me, and he is always present to calm me down and to embrace me with love and security. To that man who is seeking day and night to empower me and change my life for better, I say clearly and loudly: I LOVE YOU! May you always stay by my side.
- My decision to adapt.
I can say that, finally, after a year, I decided to adapt. Why not? Canada’s a great country after all. One can experience a very exceptional cold weather in winter and a very hot one in summer. But, what I really enjoy in Montreal, with its severe weather, is the dynamism of its people and the festivals organized even when it’s -45! Nothing can stop them from enjoying their weekends or walking their dogs or making the tail for a sushi boat! I decided to adapt, because after all, it was my choice and I am responsible for it. Now, it’s time to build a new home and have new interests in a strange land that can offer me loads of opportunities!
- Groupe de Famille.
There’s a sentence I always hear out there that I want to share: “To live in Canada as part of the church is not the same as living in Canada without being part of it” (كندا مع كنيسة مش متل كندا بلا كنيسة). And yes, that’s 100% true! When I arrived in Montreal, I wanted to see every corner of it; therefore, Joseph tried as much as possible to be my tourist guide. We were going that day to “the land of Saint Charbel” at Sainte Julienne, and there, we met the Groupe de Famille of Saint-Antoine le Grand. We got involved with them and we are happy we did that. Not only we became more religious, but we also had new friends who share with us the same problems and concerns. This group helped me a lot to survive my isolation, my loneliness, and my bad-temperament. In fact, I wait for the mass of Sunday the whole week long, because we see each other and I can feel at home with them. We celebrate Christmas, Easter, and all the other occasions together, as a big loving and caring family. They really compensate the detachment of my proper family. To that great company, I say: Thank you for being part of my life and for sweetening my stay in Canada.
- The province itself.
Quebec is a very beautiful and huge province. One can always discover new charming places and corners. From Montreal, where one will fall in love with the Old Port and Notre Dame, to Sainte Catherine’s street that is the equivalent of Hamra Street in Lebanon (in my opinion), to the Carrefour Laval where one can spend all his/her money without noticing, to Québec City that is the perfect blend for a romantic getaway, to Saint Joseph’s Oratory where one can pray and ask for the intercession of Frère André, to many other places I did not have the opportunity to visit yet, Montreal swept me off my feet, literally, with its landscapes, architecture, cuisine, intercultural environment, lakes, and green scenes.
If one seriously wants to be a real citizen of a country, he/she has to be more integrated into its society. That’s why I decided to improve and discover the mentality of people here. I followed a number of training sessions that correspond to my field of work and I met new contacts who helped me in a way or another and gave me advice and information I didn’t know.
Well, I thought I was good in the French language until I came here. The French in Quebec is everything but the French we used to study in Lebanon. They talked in front of me and I felt upset as if they were speaking Japanese! Thanks to God, someone who knows French can easily capture their dialect and one will come to understand (more or less) 90% of their discussion. But it is important to mention that speaking their language can alleviate the burden of immigration, and one can easily share his/her thoughts with the others from the first day!
- The mini-Lebanon.
Before moving to Montreal, I had a small idea on the number of Lebanese there. I knew that there are many of us there. But I was deeply surprised when I came here! I used to talk in Lebanese Arabic more than in French! In addition, I was very satisfied with a famous market called Adonis, where I can buy all the Lebanese products I need and even the Lebanese brands I was using in Lebanon! There are many Lebanese restaurants and bakeries, and you can eat Kebbeh Nayyeh, Knefe, Mankousheh… whatever you want whenever you want! That helped me a lot as well!
- The facilities.
There is nothing more satisfying than taking a hot shower whenever I want, three times a day if I want! Hot water, electricity, security, recycling, fresh air, green landscapes, blue lakes, public transport network, retirement plans, education, etc. Everything may seem relaxing; however, many speed bumps will slow one’s enthusiasm, as long as he/she counts the years in Canada.
As I have said, immigration is not the best thing one may do, but the best option one may take. Canada is not heaven on earth as Lebanon is not hell on earth. Lebanon is our mother country, and Canada is our sister country. They are both dear to our hearts. I will end my article with a very beautiful quote by Carlos Fuentes who said: “Recognize yourself in he and she who are not like you and me”: Tolerance and Acceptance are the keys!