Alone in Canada


by Thelma O’Connor
Moving to Canada means leaving behind family, friends, familiar food, routines and your place in the community.

In Canada, you have to start all over again, build a new life, make new friends and find your place in a new community. This is a challenge all newcomers face, but if you come here alone – with no close family or friends to help and support you – then this challenge may seem even more daunting for you.

However, there are a number of steps you can take to help yourself through this ‘settling-in’ period. Here are our ten tips for survival to get you started.

  • Before you leave for Canada, try to find out some details about the community you will be living in, if possible. By knowing about the available resources ahead of time you will be able to make progress immediately upon your arrival and plan activities.
  • Once you arrive in your new city/town, go out and explore the local community immediately. Your local library, community centre or place of worship is a good place to ask about what services are available for newcomers. In most Canadian cities there are ethno-cultural organizations that represent a wide range of cultures. You can probably find one or more that will be right for you.
  • Develop a new routine. Plan things to do each day. Go to the library and read the newspaper for free, take a walk, find a favourite cafĂ© to spend time in, write a blog about your new life in Canada, go to a half-priced movie in the afternoon. Having a routine will keep you active and help you to feel involved in the world around you.
  • Ask yourself “How did I make friends back home?” If you enjoy sports, theatre, dancing, photography, acting, hiking, it’s a good idea to join a local group that offers these activities. By joining a couple of groups you will meet new people with similar interests and this in turn will help you to feel less isolated.
  • Food – you will probably miss the familiar smells and tastes of food from home. Eating food that is unfamiliar or that you don’t enjoy often adds to the stress you feel. Canada is a multi-cultural society and in most larger cities and towns you can find food from all over the world. Plan some familiar home-cooked meals you know you will enjoy.
  • Invite your new friends or neighbours to a ‘pot luck’ meal. In Canada, ‘pot luck’ meals are very popular because everyone who attends brings a dish of food to share with everybody. Sometimes pot lucks have a theme, such as an ‘international pot luck’, where everyone brings a dish that is popular in their home country. It’s a fun way to spend time with people and is inexpensive.
  • If you need assistance to improve your language skills, it is worthwhile taking an English or French class for second language learners. Many communities across Canada offer free basic language classes to newcomers, so make sure to avail of those as soon as you arrive.
  • Volunteer your time doing something you enjoy! Many organisations are only too delighted to have a new volunteer join them. If you enjoy reading for instance, you could volunteer to read to the blind or aged. You will make new friends while doing something really worthwhile that you can also mention on your resumĂ©!
  • Set goals for yourself, these will keep you on track and help you stay motivated. A list of goals is a good way to remind yourself what you hope to achieve in the first few weeks and months in Canada. Make a list of short, medium and long term goals. Don’t forget to reward yourself when you have achieved your goals!
  • If you arrive in Canada in winter you may find this difficult to cope with due to the extremely cold weather. You will need to get used to wearing layers of winter clothes and you may be reluctant to go outdoors in the snow and ice! Dress in layers and venture out! Try a winter activity such as skating. Many recreation centres have programmes to teach adults how to skate. Take some classes at a local college or university as an indoor alternative. Having a class to attend regularly for eight or ten weeks may make the winter seem shorter!

As a newcomer to Canada your first few weeks and months will feel like the most exciting and difficult time of your life. Adapting to a new country and creating a new life for yourself can be very stressful. You can’t avoid this stress but you can learn how to manage it. Go to a funny movie and enjoy some laughter. Go for a walk and talk to the people in your neighbourhood – laughter, exercise and connecting with others will all help to reduce your stress levels and build your confidence.

We hope the tips listed will be helpful to you as you build your new life in Canada.