MICHAELA FENGSTAD

Writing about life as it happens, trends in career development and new inspiration

Tag: Vancouver

New Home, New Life, New Style – How to Approach Your New Life

There are times in life when  we are left baffled by events, actions or people. To make some sense out of these, our brain tries to match them with something in the past. People are more often left confused when they first meet individuals from outside of their community  (cultural, professional, geographical, etc.) or when they take themselves out of their comfort zone. Deciding to live abroad for example, provides an endless number of opportunities to feel just like this. The first week after I arrived in Vancouver, I felt confused and unsure of what to expect and also of what was expected from me.

It is a challenging and conflicting time for a newcomer: on one hand, the wish to start your new life and become independent is getting stronger every day but the normal reluctance in front of a foreign society and its yet unknown rules and regulations forces you to stick close to your community, the people you know and trust by association to your former life.  There was a certain protocol in my community: neighbours of the same nationality, friends and acquaintances would visit and give the advice they considered necessary to help you start making sense of the new land. Imagine every evening having anywhere between two to seven people coming over with drinks and a heart full of good intentions. Once the wine started flowing, the advice would begin on where to find certain foods, on how to find a good job or where to find a nice a park to relax. The problem was always towards the end when we were forced to take sides on who had the better choice. But this is a different story!  Although contradictory and most of the times subjective, one piece of advice seemed to be consistent: as a newcomer you have to renounce your former life,  give up everything you know and start from scratch. Change had happened, now you have to manage the transition from the  former life to the new, unknown future laying ahead.

In his book Transitions, William Bridges deals exactly with this: change and transition as two different concepts. Change is sudden and situational while the transition process is psychological and happens over time. All transitions, he says, are composed of an ending, a neutral zone and a new beginning. The problem I had experienced and I am sure most of you will agree is that it is easier said than done. Theoretically we all know that as a newcomer we need to let go of our old life in order to move on into the neutral zone of the transition. In a time when you have lost your trusted network of friends and relatives, and when even the way you see yourself  is changing, letting go or ending the connection with “life as you knew it” is the most difficult. “[…] ending is making us fearful. They break our connection with the setting in which we have come to know ourselves [..]” says Bridges. How can one overcome this fear?

I think that the most important thing is to reach out of your community. Get out of your community and ask the help of professionals. Most of the people within your community are  extremely nice and willing to share their settlement experience. But their opinions are biased and emotional based on their subjective, unique experiences. By reaching out to a newcomer settlement service you will be able to polish your language skills, learn reliable information about Canada and the specific area you live in, and most important of all, gain confidence and start understanding the Canadian way.

Experience and have fun with something new every day. Except for few basic things, nothing will ever be the same. From the way you used to drive back home to the way the bed sheet is designed, from the way people interact on the streets to the way people address each other, everything needs to be re-wired. Such a process of replacing habits and common knowledge with new habits and concepts can be overwhelming. In the classic action-reaction model, our minds will go into that resistance mode and will fight back as hard as possible to change. Trick your mind!  Be open and instead of criticizing or comparing with what you used to know start having fun with change. Begin with small steps: what about a new way of setting the table?  Find a new park or a new place to discover at the end of the week! Try to use the very Canadian “eh” at the end of a sentence and join into the smiles that will follow, eh? It is not necessarily about what you do but about the attitude that in time will change, and you will become more accepting of the new ways.

Develop a new habit: asking for help! Well, what do you do when you are lost in the middle of a new city and have no idea how to go back to your hotel? Ask for help! When you are new to Canada, or any other country, city, place, there will be more times when you have no clue how to do things or where to find things. From not being able to find the right word when you need it the most to not knowing how to change the colour at the pedestrian crossing, life in a new country will provide a huge number of opportunities to get upset and lost. Ask for help! Instead of wasting time trying to solve something or to find certain information by yourself, develop this very healthy habit of asking for help!

Stop talking and start listening more! We all have been there. There are times when we get frustrated in the process of settling. Maybe because we are lacking the understanding of how things are done and why things are done in a certain way. Or just because we got hit with a not so rare moment of nostalgia and instead of breaking down and crying, we go on the offensive and start explaining how things are done much better in the old country. Sometimes we remember similar situations that happened back in the old life and we feel compelled to tell the story out loud! Well, not only that it makes us sound very pretentious but for most Canadians is boring as there are usually cultural references and jokes specific to our mother language that are difficult to translate. When nostalgia hits, I have learnt to bite my tongue and start asking questions! Showing interest in the way things are done, in people I meet or  places I visit, not only engages them but also provides a very good way of learning new and interesting things about the Canadian way that otherwise would take time and effort to discover.

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Shorts, Sweat and Office Environment

Vancouver is a city consumed with fitness and being fit and healthy. Lululemon is our Goddess and Manolo Blahnik has nothing over the $90.00/pair Saucony Peregrine. No, it is not  a wine as I first thought but apparently a highly praised pair of running shoes. You go shopping and want to be cool, put on your yoga pants, lulu lemon jacket and the running shoes… I am always jelous of these gorgeous girls I pass by. They all look as if they are going or coming from the gym yet, they all look and smell heavenly! It must be something wrong with me: when I have to deal with the gym, I tend to sweat and stink… a bit!

I very much admire and envy people who go for a run or use the gym at lunch time. They must have perfected the art of showering in a very short time! It will sound like an excuse but for my 30 minutes of running, jogging, exercising I will need an additional 1 hour to have a shower, style my hair, apply make up and make myself presentable  and appropriate in an office, up to my standards. I am a bit of a prude, it is true, but in the office I prefer to keep things professional.

Walking around downtown at lunchtime I always wonder how many of these runners have a shower before resuming their work. Unfortunately I have experienced the contrary and it is quite disturbing. I guess it is a matter of personal preference but in the office I  don’t want to see anybody’s toothpicky legs coming out of a pair of too large shorts, I don’t want to have to touch a door knob, a desk, a pen or anything else after a sweaty hand and surely I really don’t want to smell your body odour after a 20 minutes run. It makes me sick. I think it is rude, it shows really poor manners and low class. Please keep your athletic self in the gym, or on the track field and bring your professional one at work.

Running is a fountain of youth and anybody who is healthy enough, no matter of age should take up running.It keeps the pounds off and rejuvenates the whole body.  Just don’t bring it in the office, that is all I ask!

What happened to respect? It is sad to see that we are loosing not only the common sense but self respect as well. Would you find it normal to walk around the office sweaty and wearing jogging shorts?

 

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