Pangarap: So, Our Journey Begins
Asking help will be your first lesson in humility.
It might astound you, but in these global times, you will realize that you are not really, really alone. That is because wherever you look or you go, there will surely be one or two, or maybe more, people that have come from the same country as you.
That should give you a nice feeling, don’t you think? There are those who look like you, who talk like you and who crave for the same food as you. What is even more astonishing is to discover that you will hardly have the chance to miss some things or food from back home because they are all in the country you have moved to or can be authentically prepared there.
You will be tempted to want to smile, talk or catch up on stories with these fellow immigrants. However, the reality is, meeting them in a random place only means being able to throw in a half smile and, at most, say hello. While the encounter may be so brief or out of context that there will be no valid reason to hold up the other person, you can ask them for some brief information like directions.
One of the places which could allow more engaging conversations is when you meet them at your kids’ school, in a job search workshop, in a class you are attending yourself, in a local or ethnic store. Only then, will you somehow find that they are not strangers after all, but have names and faces, and calling cards, too.
Whether they come from the same country as yours, or share any other commonality, do not hesitate to ask and approach. Only then will you start knowing and learning. For example, because Canada has become so multicultural and full of non-stop migration, everyone is used to being asked for directions on the street, the bus, or the train. The asking could even extend to tips on how to do things, how to find a job, how to segregate waste, how to read your electric bill, how to find the best cable or phone provider or a myriad of other information.
If you do not know something, it is because either you have not asked or have not read at all. I am amazed at how flyers fly everywhere in most points of contact among people. There is your bus schedule, church activities, school calendar, ongoing sale events, employment listings, store directories, course syllabi—just about everything and anything. And we are only talking of paper documents. The information can be even more overwhelming on individual websites.
So whether you choose to deliberately seek out help from people, country-mates or not, you will realize that it will not be difficult to know or catch the needed information. You need only to go out and seek, and ye shall find.
It’s sad to say, but it can also happen that some country-mates disappoint you. It is probably not so bad if you are ignored and refused the correct information. But you can also be misled. Yes, there is a snake in every forest, and there will always be bad people.
Sometimes, getting misled or getting the wrong or inaccurate information may not arise out of malice or a bad intention. It’s possible that the people you are talking to are no longer in tune with the times. They know only so much and not any better. If it is any consolation, good people still outnumber the bad ones.
There is always a high probability that you will find kababayans who can help you. The key is not hesitating to ask and to know what to ask. Good people still outnumber the bad ones, and that is true anywhere in the world.
From People of Other Cultures
The English language, food and music are the great mediators in easily adapting to other cultures. With that, you will come to realize that the world is your whole support system.
Upon arriving here, chances are, for some of your needs, it is not a fellow countryman who has the best answer or who can help you.
Most countries who accept many immigrants have become such a mixture of cultures that even the most basic of your needs can be dependent on the ability or willingness of some other nationals to help you.
I rented my first apartment from a meticulously clean Chinese couple. A patient Korean oriented one of my sons on school admission. My daughter’s first best friend in school is half-Dutch. I buy my wet market stuffs from a store run by an enterprising Indian. My first resume coach was an American from Hawaii who I mistook for a Filipina. It turned out that she was Japanese-American raised in Hawaii who then moved to Canada.
Although the school environment normally teaches us to respect other cultures and help build a harmonious universe, living abroad actually allows you to come face to face with those lessons. With that, there are so many things to learn, some habits to undo, and new ways to accept.
Living in a multicultural country throws you into this situation. You cannot discriminate and cannot be discriminated upon. The highest respect is given even to the most minority of the visible origins. Speaking in your native tongue in public (meaning if there are other cultures present) can seem impolite as it might be misconstrued as using your language in order to say something derogatory or insulting.
But it is also true that because of a minority status, some people may be so defensive about their cultures that they have the tendency to protect themselves. This could go either way. Some may tend to be arrogant, others too withdrawn. Others will feel superior, others inferior.
In time, you will come to better understand other cultures and they will come to understand yours. All along, each one only desires to be of help to one another, to support one another in an environment that could new and intimidating. Sometimes the facility of adapting to a new spoken language can be a hindering factor to start understanding.
I feel we need to thank the British about the universality of the English language. At the outset, the English language is the balancing factor. Perhaps, the only visible, or rather audible, common factor through which the process of uniting can start. Communications is that important.
The second redeeming factor is food. The best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. The taste bud can be discriminating, but it is trainable. The taste bud also allows you to be familiar faster without the difficulty of adjustment. I am sure even in our respective native countries, we always try other cuisines. That becomes our shortcut to learning and embracing other cultures.
And of course, there’s music. Music transcends boundaries. Music is actually the original universal language. More than the meeting of the minds, it touches on the meeting of the hearts. What could be more powerful than that? We know that the act of helping begins when the need speaks to one’s heart.
In reality, if you allow it, the world is your support system. Everyone in it is capable of easing your process of adjustment and adaptability. Again, you only need to ask and you shall find.
In largely multicultural communities, like in Canada, adapting to the many different customs present is a process. Other cultures may be different, but we all share the same intention to help.The key to getting help is to ask. Asking will be your first lesson in humility.
Nobody ever said that our journey, will be easy. But as I write and as you read, we share our strengths and we can hold to the promise that “Where two or three are gathered in My name, there I am in the midst of them,” Matthew 18:20.
Bolet is a marketing communications practitioner and dabbles in writing as a personal passion. She is author-publisher of the book: The Most Practical Immigrating and Job Hunting Survival Guide, proven simple steps to success without the fears and the doubts. The book is available in Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Chapters/Indigo, the Reading Room and other online bookshops worldwide, and in National Book Store and Power Books in the Philippines. Please check out https://www.amazon.com/author/boletarevalo.