Image by Rielle Pajarito

Culture shock can really hit you hard when you go to a new place for the first time. Or even if you’ve been here a while, sometimes little things come up that’ll have you bamboozled. A lot of the time it can have a negative effect on you or make you feel like you’re overwhelmed. However, for this article, I wanted to focus on the funnier side of it for international students at UBCO as we’re already in this stressful period of exams. 

I’m a fourth-year international student, but I still seem to have those experiences every now and then. One of the craziest things that had me rethinking everything was the concept of Groundhog Day- something that my Canadian friends didn’t even understand. Apparently once a year, people look to a groundhog, a moderately sized brown mammal (rodent?), to determine whether winter will continue, or if spring will come early. This had me stumped for days. Why did I see a video of a bunch of white men in suits placing scrolls in front of a Groundhog named Phil so that he can choose? 

Another experience I had on one of my first days in Canada is the fact that no one said good morning to random passers-by. I was still in Jumpstart, but I saw a parent walking down the stairs from upper campus housing and as customary at home (Trinidad and Tobago), I said good morning to him. The guy looked at me like I was crazy. This happened when I greeted an elderly lady too, and from that day I never did it again.

I asked my roommate from India the same question about culture shock. She said she got very confused and got lost in buildings because here, there is no ground floor, just floor 1. My friend said the most shocking adjustment he had to make was calling professors by their first name. Back home for him, they’d be called by some title, so the fact that the professors here discarded the titles of “dr.” or “professor” was such a wild concept. And honestly, that was a big adjustment for me too.

The Phoenix reached out via our Instagram to ask you, “What are some funny instances of you coming to Canada and being confused by a custom/concept?” You did not disappoint. Here are some of the responses:

“A “customer service voice” and how nice some customer service people are in general.”

“‘Ope sorry lemme just squeeze past ya.’”

“Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.”

“Snow in April. What the heck, man.”

“My British roomie always gets thrown off at how we say cookies and not biscuits.”

“Dinner here is the main meal of the day but back home it’s lunch. Took me a while to get it.”

“Having to press the button on the bus to make it stop instead of screaming.”

“The ‘love that for you’’s. It’s nice I guess, thank you for being so excited for me, kind stranger.”

“Strangers smiling/nodding at you. It’s nice but makes me think we’ve met, and I forgot you.”

“People holding doors for you even when you’re a mile away from the door.”

I think we all deserve a little laugh, if even at ourselves during this stressful time at the end of the school year. Also, if you see an international student lingering somewhere looking dishevelled, or looking discombobulated after an interaction, maybe give them a helping hand or at least an explanation.