You don't have to tolerate people when you understand them
Author: Mohammed Nazari
I left Iran for Dubai, UAE, in 1993. It was one of the best days of my life. I felt I was free, something that we take for granted in Canada. Most of the population in Dubai are foreign workers. It was very easy for me to find multiple Iranian friends as well as friends of any other nationality. Due to Dubai's multinational state most people were aware of other customs and habits.
I arrived in Toronto June 19/1997. At the beginning of the summer, everywhere was green and beautiful weather. I was quite surprised since due to the movies I had seen, the image of Canada I had in mind, was cold winters, covered in snow.
After one and a half month of being in Toronto I managed to find a job as a physical therapist in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I felt really good about this since normally it takes months and years for professionals to be able to get the license and practice in their profession, if any. While I could pull this off in just one a half month. I took the first train possible and moved to Saskatoon, with no hesitation in mind.
My boss at the time was nice enough to come and pick me up at sometime around 2 in the morning when the train arrived in Saskatoon. She let me stay with her and her family for two days before she helped me to find a temporary residence with another co worker and 3 weeks later found my first rental place. I was very surprised as to how nice people were. This was far from my expectations.
Unfortunately this was just a honeymoon that did not last long. Soon after starting to work I faced multiple challenges. Although most of my colleagues were really nice people it seemed that they didn't understand me and vice versa. Those days not too many immigrants lived in Saskatoon.
More than the language barrier, the cultural difference was the source of most of the misunderstandings. Few are below:
- A colleague of mine called my son, one year old at the time "little monkey". I found this very offensive, since in my culture monkey is considered as a resemblance to Ugly.
- When colleagues gave me a ride home, I invited them to come in and insisted, this is rather a polite and friendly thing to do in my culture, not knowing that these friends, male or female, found this a bit creepy. They waited for me to get in the house, a polite Canadian way, while I waited for them to leave before I got in, a polite Iranian way. As you can imagine this difference in culture caused a bit of time to be wasted.
- When walking by strangers, out of politeness, they normally gave me a smile or said hi, when this was done by females I took this as if they found me attractive and were giving me a hint that they are interested. This was another reason for me to love Canada:) I was quite disappointed later on when I realized that it is just a Canadian version of politeness and being friendly. In Iran if a girl that you don't know gives you a smile, normally it means that they like you.
- I was rather straight forward and due to my poor English at the time, I said what was in mind easily. They found this a bit rude while I thought of Canadians to be too polite to be honest. They expected me to get the hint and be able to “read between the lines”, while I had a hard time understanding what they meant nevertheless reading between the line. This caused that they thought of me as arrogant and at times talked rudely which caused me to be rude back, and.... A lot of frustration.
- Due to my poor English, I repeated myself a few times to make sure I was understood while they expressed themselves in a subtle way that I never understood
Due to this lack of understanding one another, I had to tolerate them and vice versa, The only challenge was that they outnumbered me, so in the eyes of majority I was wrong and they were right. This made me think of them as discriminating and racist, although discrimination and racism had very little to nothing to do with all this.
Please read my other blog: What is the Penicillin for the social diseases? “I don’t know”