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The other side of the new arrival story

I’ve followed the experiences of newly-landed immigrants in CanadaBound Immigrant with interest, and thought of writing about the other side of the picture – some of the misconceptions that people carry about new immigrants.

Though I am originally from India, I came to Canada after working and living in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for several years.

As such, I had seen malls that were bigger and glitzier than the biggest malls here. I knew all the big brand names, and guess what, I even knew “double-double” as there is a Tim Horton’s close to where we lived in Dubai!

Soon after landing, I was fortunate to find a sales job. As I was yet to get a car, a colleague kindly offered to drive me to and from work. During our first few rides together, she pointed out landmarks.

“That’s a mall,” she said, helpfully, as we passed Eaton Centre.

“I gathered that,” I said, a little surprised, but I don’t think she even heard what I said.

“It’s a large building, a very large building with tons of shops,” she went on.

“You’ll find all kinds of stuff here, there are food courts, things for kids to do...”

It felt rude at this point to insist that I knew what a mall was, but I felt I had to say so.

“There are malls in Dubai, you know,” I said.

“Oh, yes,” she exclaimed. “That’s right! I read about the tallest building in the world, Burj something or the other. It’s there in Ghost Protocol, the Tom Cruise movie!”

Mentally thanking Tom Cruise for making that part of the world familiar to global viewers, I told my new friend there were malls in India, too.

She looked very doubtful.

“Really? It didn’t look like that in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel...

India was not all crowded and dirty and noisy and exotic, there weren’t camels and elephants on every street – well, barring Rajasthan!

But even there, in Jaipur, where the movie was set, there was a very modern call centre, didn’t she see that, I asked.

And so it went over the next few days.

As she educated me on Canadian things and ways of doing things, I told her a little about the parts of the world where we come from.

“Believe it or not, I know what that is!” I told her one evening, as she stopped at a drive-through ABM.

“Okay, okay, Ms-know-it-all!” she laughed.

It’s a learning experience both ways, we acknowledged.

– Usha Natarajan

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: Sep 4, 2012

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