Adjusting to Canada

The Calgary agency supported Almaz’s settlement into Canada, but emotionally adapting to her new life was personally challenging. When confronting difficulties posed by environment, society, and her own identity, Almaz found she had much to learn about her new home.

Her first encounter with snow in Canada was alarming. Growing up in sunny, warm Ethiopia, Almaz associated vast whiteness and daytime darkness with ghost tales told among children to scare each other. When she landed in Calgary to find a world around her blanketed in cold white snow, Almaz felt like she had walked into one of those chilling stories. She was afraid to leave her apartment when facing her first winter in Canada.

In addition to Canadian winters, Almaz also had to cope with the strangeness of Canadian society. Almaz says that she was confused by Canadian institutions and customs, which often clashed with her personal and cultural values. From grocery stores to Christmas traditions, Canada was different from Ethiopia. In her early years of settlement and even afterwards, Almaz had one continuous thought: “Why did I come here?” As she navigated the unfamiliar customs of Canadian society, she longed to go back home, where she had left everything behind.

In time, as Canada started to feel more like home, Ethiopia began to feel strange to Almaz. She feels that she herself has changed since her arrival in Canada. The work Almaz has done for the Canadian settlement sector was guided by her own process of adjustment to the new culture.