My Experience with Culture Shock

By Toronto Metropolitan University Modified on November 04, 2023
Tags : Campus Life | Student POV

Discover how a Toronto Metropolitan University student overcame her culture shock when studying in Canada.

 My Experience With Culture Shock

This article was written by Dumebi Osadebe, a Toronto Metropolitan University student.

As an international student coming from Nigeria, Canada was a world of difference for me. I’d travelled across seas and seemingly across worlds to start my higher education. It didn’t help that prior to my departure, the only thing I had learnt about the Canadian way of life was that phone bills were paid monthly — and I had the leisure of hearing this from my mum. Needless to say, I was the embodiment of being clueless about Canadian culture.

How culture shock affected me

In Nigeria, a highly regarded part of our culture and day-to-day norms is greeting older people known to you with the respective formal title of “miss” or “mister” following a formal greeting. Imagine my shock when I had an English teacher tell me I didn’t have to greet her and, to further my shock, call her by her first name whenever I did!

That was just the tip of the iceberg of many aspects of Canadian culture I would come to discover. For instance, I encountered several conversational “norms” during small talk and many other engagements that would be deemed as oversharing in my culture. Observing and learning these conversational and social norms has been a very eye-opening experience that’s helped me navigate culture shock.

Advice on navigating culture shock

My advice on navigating culture shock? Dive right into it. It will initially be surprising to learn all the ways of a Canadian, but it has been fun experiencing Canadian culture. Practicing my observations of social norms has helped me feel more comfortable and understand people better. Some aspects have even been more pleasant than expected — not having to greet every older person I pass by? Sign me up! But on a more serious note, this helped me feel like I belong and has been an interesting personal and societal discovery.

Addressing myths about Canadians

In my journey of discovery, there are some notable myths about Canadians that I’ve found to be an absolute bust and of course, some of them are more factual than not.

  • Canadians say “Eh” at the end of every sentence: More factual than not, and a habit that has grown on me the more I have conversations with Canadians.
  • Canadians are very polite all the time: This has been a bust. I would admit the average Canadian is more diplomatic and polite in speech but, like all humans, they're just like people anywhere else in the world with good days and bad days.
  • Canadians and their obsession with Tim Hortons: The most factual statement around town. You haven't been to Canada if you haven’t purchased a food item from this extremely popular café. And once you start referring to Tim Hortons as “Timmies”, Canadian culture is a part of you!

Culture shock whether in Canada or anywhere else in the world can be a huge learning curve. My ultimate advice would be to embrace it because it’s entirely normal and is one of many unique experiences that comes with being an international student. Overcoming this mini hurdle can greatly help you understand other societies and subcommunities even in smaller groups such as at work. When you experience culture shock, observe it, and embrace it!

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