Dear Dr. Faizal,
I am new to Canada and I love this country, but I’m struggling. It’s really hard to build a social network from the ground up. I think Canadians are so nice, but I feel very lost and miss my home country. I found a part-time job at a retail store and am starting school in September. Do you have any advice for making friends, and coping with the loneliness that I’m feeling?
– Lonely Immigrant
Welcome to Canada! It’s heartwarming to learn that you love this country. It’s because of immigrants just like you, who form a bond with and have affection for Canada, that this country has become the multicultural mecca that it is.
It’s true that relocating to a new country, and settling in it, is scary at times. This change in the environment creates anxiety in most people. To cope with such anxiety, we seek things that we are familiar with, and when familiarity is not found, we develop feelings of loneliness. This process is completely natural.
The first step in overcoming this loneliness is to recognize what it is that you miss about your country-of-origin. Do you miss your culture? Do you miss your favourite meals? Do you miss your religious festivities? Or do you miss speaking in your mother-tongue with the people from your race?
In respect to your situation, I am reminded of an old saying: “You can take a person out of his (or her) culture, but you can’t take the culture out of him (or her).” And there’s nothing wrong with this – unless, of course, if this person’s present cultural cravings are not being met.
One way to satisfy your cravings and meet people of similar interests is to join a local community centre. Most community centres have various classes and activities – everything from language and communication workshops to cooking classes and religious celebrations that cater to special demographics.
Another good way to meet people who already share your interests is by joining Meetup, which “brings people together to do, explore, teach, and learn the things that help them come alive” (meetup.com). I would recommend searching for activities in the “Language and Culture” section.
It’s wonderful that you have begun working and will be attending school soon. Through these channels, you will meet people from all different backgrounds and walks of life. Instead of shying away from the differences, embrace them. Learn about new cultures and the people within them – accept people and people will accept you. As you begin new friendships, your loneliness will be replaced by a sense of belongingness that comes with living in Canada – a place which celebrates cultural diversity!