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Newcomer learns that appearance can be deceiving

Our family, though originally from India, came to Canada from the Caribbean, as both my grandfather and my husband’s grandfather had gone there as indentured labourers and both sets of our parents were born and raised there.

Our appearance, accent and food, therefore, though similar to that of those from the subcontinent is different enough in subtle ways to take some by surprise. Our kids, on the other hand, were born and raised in Canada. Our son married a sweet girl whose family is originally from England and our daughter, a wonderful young man whose family is originally from Japan. My husband likes to say we are the original multicutural family. Used as we are to our multiracial, multicultural family, we sometimes forget how different we are in appearance and how that might give rise to some confusion.

One day my son couldn’t make it back in time to pick up their son from school and asked if we could do so. When I confirmed I was available, he called the school ahead to tell them grandma would be there to pick him up. 

So there I was, waiting for the little one as the teacher walked them all out one by one, and handed them over to their parents/guardians. I caught her eye and said I was waiting for Ryan. 

“You can’t be the grandma,” she said with a smile.

I thought she was referring to the obvious ethnic disparity and had mistaken me for the nanny. Or worse, for some random woman who was there to pick up someone else’s child. 

“We may not look alike, but yes, I am,” I replied, somewhat stiffly.

The poor woman got all flustered. “Oh, I didn’t mean it like that – I meant you can’t be the grandma, you look too young to be a grandma!”

And there I was, apologizing in turn for having taken what I would normally see as a compliment the wrong way.


What’s your story? Every newcomer, no matter how savvy or where he or she comes from, has a Fresh Off the Plane (FOP) story to share about their early days in Canada. Do you want to share your story? E-mail it to us at canadaboundimmigrant@rogers.com.

Posted: Jan 3, 2018

June 2019

Centennial College

Immigration Peel Canada

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