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FRESH OFF THE PLANE: Newcomer is welcomed to the table...in a manner of speaking

There are as many ways of welcoming visitors to one’s home, of making them feel at home, as there are cultures around the world. I remember being surprised to learn, for instance, that in some parts of India, traditionally, water was the first thing served to visitors. Makes a ton of sense, though, if you think about it, for what would someone want the most after coming in from the blistering heat? Water!

There are also different approaches to hospitality. In South Asian culture, it is customary to force food upon a guest, to pile his plate with dishes against strenuous protests – both being roles guests and hosts play. Not protesting implies a certain crassness, marking you as a greedy person and not forcing food upon the guest is seen as a dereliction of one’s duty as a host. In western culture, however, a more casual approach is in practice as I discovered the hard way.

As a newcomer to Canada, I was invited to my colleague’s house for a BBQ. I arrived bright and early and helped set up the table and chairs in their backyard as they were expecting a large group of friends and neighbours. I helped stock the cooler with drinks, helped cut the vegetables for the salad, stacked the buns for the burgers with the condiments and husked the corn, working up a good appetite.

My colleague donned his apron and started making the burgers. People lined up to fill their plates, laughing and chatting. I took a small amount of salad, hoping someone would ask me to take more, would offer me a burger. I moved away slowly, hoping someone would notice how little I had on my plate. My colleague’s wife walked by me as I was nibbling on a lettuce leaf, feeling extremely self-conscious, trying to make it last. “You doing okay, Akash?” she asked with a friendly smile. “I’m good!” I responded with enthusiasm I didn’t feel, in what I had learnt was the Canadian way to respond to such queries.

And with that, she was gone. No dragging me to the table, no getting the kids to bring me something to eat, not even a second helping of that salad.

I came home and had a bowl of cereal for dinner and grumbled about how I had been treated to my brother-in-law who lived in the same city.

“We should have warned you!” he burst out laughing. “Canadians are warm and friendly

people, but they don’t force you to eat. They assume that you are an adult and know how much and what you want. So if you say you are okay, they think you are. The next time you are invited out, eat well, or come here later for a home-cooked meal – your sister will force you to eat!”                                                          

– Akash Suri


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: Aug 31, 2018

May 2019

Centennial College

Immigration Peel Canada

© CanadaBound Immigrant 2016