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FRESH OFF THE PLANE: Walking in a newcomer’s shoes

My first friendships in Canada were formed with our neighbours and with a group of mothers who were also dropping their children off at kindergarten every morning.

As we stood watching our children run around the school yard, waiting for the teacher to shepherd them inside, we’d chat, talk about what the rest of the day held for us, discuss what had caught our attention in that morning’s newspaper, etc. One of them suggested we go out for a coffee once a week so we could really get to know each other. I joined eagerly, as I was fighting a feeling of isolation as a newcomer, having left our family and friends behind. As we got to know each other better and obviously enjoyed spending time together, another came up with the suggestion of a bowling group. The idea was to meet for lunch once a month and go bowling. Now that was something I hesitated about.

When they pressed me for a reason, I confessed I had never bowled before and didn’t want to make a fool of myself. “Oh, we’ll teach you!” said one. “There’s nothing to teach, it’s super easy!” said another. And so it was that I found myself at a bowling alley one afternoon.

We entered and I found another potential embarrassment waiting for me. We were lining up to get our bowling shoes and I heard the man there ask everyone for their shoe size. Believe it or not, I had no idea about mine! Strange as it may sound, that’s because I come from a place where I had only worn shoes as a schoolgirl, where my parents bought the shoes for me. The rest of the time, I wore leather slippers, made by cobblers those days, not at a factory. They came in a range of sizes, but nothing standardized and the process of picking a pair involved looking at samples strung up above the man selling them, usually at a pavement stall. Once your selection was made, he would duck inside and pull out a pair in what he correctly gauged to be your foot size.

But how was I to explain all this in the few seconds before it would be my turn? I was all worked up by the time my turn came, and when the man asked me for my shoe size, I was also overcome by a coughing fit. He waited somewhat patiently for me to divulge my shoe size, then said, “I think a size 7 for you, lady,” and handed me a pair. I managed a grateful nod and moved aside to let the next person in line ask for their shoes.

I sat down to try the shoes and voila! They fit perfectly. Canadians had the knack of judging shoe sizes, too, I thought, hugely relieved.

– Karuna Sharma


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 5, 2019

February 2020

Centennial College

Immigration Peel Canada

© CanadaBound Immigrant 2016