New Canadian

Today , December 5, 2014, is a milestone for me in my life. It is a big day for my son and me since from that day we are new Canadians.

I am not a kind of person who likes to review my history. In fact, I am a future person who likes looking forward to tomorrow. But at this moment, I would like to look at my life after I immigrated to Canada.

Five years ago, I was persuaded by my husband to leave the company I love and leave my husband, my son and my parents to go to Canada to establish a base so they could join me later.

In the summer of 2009, I left my beloved company – Cisco Systems -which was my first job where I worked for 10 years.

I had started my career with Cisco , so in my mind, Cisco is more like my parent company and I am a Cisco baby. I started my career as a receptionist and I worked as a receptionist for four months. Ten years later, I left Cisco as a Regional Marketing Manager . I grew from a new graduate rookie to a professional. Cisco played a very important role in nurturing and growing my career.

I am always very proud that I was so lucky to start my career with a Fortune 500 company, and Cisco is one of the best companies in the world. Even today after 15 years, when I think of Cisco, I feel that I miss it just like I would miss an old friend. Wherever I am, when I meet with someone who has worked for Cisco before, I feel we become closer immediately.

When I think about the summer of 2009, what I remember most is that although lots of my friends, family and colleagues did not understand why I would leave a great job and go to another unfamiliar country, I was still very determined and flew to Vancouver by myself . I had left my family, my parents, my best friends and my beloved company and my homeland, just because I have the belief that Canada was the right destination for my family and my kid. I believe that Canada is a country that is better for my kid’s education as well as for a more balanced family life.

However, before I came to Canada, I even did not know how to cook and I was very scared to stay alone. I always liked to have several lights on through the whole night when I stayed in those luxurious hotels when traveling. In fact, leaving my homeland and going to another country was a big adventure to me. I would say that I was a risk taker at that time as I did not know what was going to happen in the next step.

Later I recalled my life when I was a child. In fact, I have always been a risk taker even when I was young. My parents told me that I sometimes made some bold decisions to make a change in my life with confidence when I was a kid. There is an old saying in Chinese : You can see a person’s character when he or she is 3 years old. That was very true of me. My father tested both my younger brother and me when each of us was 2 years old. My father picked me up and put me on a high counter. Then he walked back and asked me to jump into his arms. Without thinking, I jumped into my father’s arms immediately. I never was scared or afraid of the jump. But my brother, on the other hand, when my father did the same experiment on him, he looked at the distance, then he asked my father to get closer to him. Then he asked my father to get even closer, he only jumped into my father’s arms when he felt safe. So from the jump story, you could tell how brave and confident I was since a child.

At any rate, my basic character was preparing to begin the biggest adventure so far. Over the past two years before I moved to Canada, we had made several trips to Vancouver and had purchased a town-house ,where I had some neighbors from China.

That summer, my husband’s uncle picked me up after I arrived at Vancouver airport. I remember clearly what he said: “what a hot day today. “ He told me that it was 28 degrees that day. I was amused by him since I came from Guangzhou , which was always 35-38 degrees in the summer. I was thinking that people in Vancouver should visit Guangzhou someday then they would know how hot the summer could be.

My husband’s uncle drove me to our home and then he left. With the only two pieces of large international luggage accompanying me, I felt the home was so empty and cold. I suddenly realized that from that day, I needed to live by myself and rely on myself since there were no others besides me. I had been too focused in working after I graduated and I even did not know how to cook a meal for myself.

After one month, I passed the driver’s written test and the road test. I got my car and then I drove it home. Lots of my friends were jealous of me since later I knew that lots of Chinese drivers needed to take at least two times written tests and four times or more road tests before they could pass. I was above the benchmark. In fact, I was a bit lucky on the road test day. I was too excited and I drove into the road from the “exit” sign when returning to ICBC. But the examier still has passed me in spite of my small mistake.

After I was welcomed by several friends in Vancouver and after a few nice dinners as receptions , I had to start cooking for myself as my life was back to normal one week later.

First, because I did not know how to cook. I felt that cooking was like a task to me. I bought several cases of instant noodles. There were so many different instant noodles with different flavors by different brands. I ate the instant noodle as my lunch and dinner every day for almost three months. I also went to the foodcourt a few times when I got bored of the instant noodle. One day, I made a decision that I should say goodbye to instant noodles immediately.

I started to learn how to cook Chinese food at home. One night, I happened to visit an online forum, on which people were sharing recipes and tasty dishes they made. After watching so many food pictures, I started to miss Sweet and Sour Fish very much. I called my mom and I got the recipe. The next day I went shopping at a Chinese supermarket and I bought a frozen yellow croaker,which was a typical fish for making Sweet and Sour Fish. After I went back home, I was going to cook it the way that my mom told me.

I also prepared rice for the dish. I was hoping that my first Sweet and Sour Fish could be a perfect match for a bowl of rice. However, after I finished cooking, I felt that there was something wrong with my fish. I could feel the fishy smell in my whole kitchen. I felt unconfident and I added lots of cooking wine. The fishy smell was still there. I remembered that after my mother finished cooking this dish, the whole kitchen was full of a sort of nice sweet and sour smell, not like mine. I tasted a bit of the fish and it tasted so bitter and strange. Sadly I had to throw the whole fish into the trash bin. That night, I had the instant noodle again for another meal.

The next day, I was told that I should clean the internal organs and scales before I cook. The frozen fish was a whole fish hadn’t been cleaned or scaled at all. It was not a surprise that the fish was so fishy and the dish was a failure.

Talking about my life. I was a person who replied on GPS very much. I had been using my GPS for more than half a year when I stayed in Richmond most of the time. Until I met with one of my best friends Janet, she laughed at me using GPS all the time. I became less dependent on GPS a bit because Janet took my GPS away and did not permit me to rely on that when driving in Richmond.

Talking about my life as an immigrant, I would like to mention my first best girl friend in Vancouver Janet. Because we were at similar age , were both new immigrants and both stayed in Vancouver by ourselves, we soon became very close friends. We started to learn cooking in our kitchens separately and then we shared with each other the food we learnt. At that time, she seemed to have a better cooking talent than me. One of the best dishes she made was Shanghai rice with vegetables and steam egg custard. I imitated her recipe lots of times but I still could not cook it well. Very soon ,she started to move on cooking more complicated dishes such as tiger shrimp. When I cooked for her, she seemed not attracted by the dishes I put in front of her . Later she told me that, every dish I made all tasted the same, so she was not quite excited by the dishes I made at that time. It was true, I was not confident in cooking at all. I worried that I could never cook well just like my mother-in-law or some other housewives- they had cooked for a lifetime but they still could not make one delicious meal for the family because of lacking talent. As a result, in the windy rainy winter nights, I always visited Janet’s home, which was so homey, warm and sweet to me. She made various dishes for me and she has been making progress each day.

Now, Janet lives about 45 minutes away from me in Burnaby. Both she and I were busy in taking care of our children and living a busy life. We could not gather as often as we did now. When thinking of her, I recalled my days as a new immigrant, we learnt to cook together, we learnt more about Canadian culture and we went travelling and shopping together. At that time, I was preparing for study at a graduate school, and I was preparing for GMAT and TOEFL tests. Lots of times, she invited me to her house to have dinner. We two young women happily shared together, had dinner, chatted and learnt the new life. When I think of these moments, I feel very warm and sweet. Janet is one of my friends who are a very true friend.

Talking about study, I was admitted by the graduate school of Simon Fraser University in 2010. After that, I started my learning life in Vancouver. At that time, I also started my first job in Vancouver and my life started to become super busy. I went to work at daytime and I went to school at night. I usually left home at 8 in the morning and returned home about 11 in the evening. Although I had a hectic life, I was lucky that Janet always prepared food for me. I did not need to worry about where my next meal was coming from. She was truly a friend in need, who helped me when I needed her help most.

After two weeks’ going to school, I started to realize that studying in another country in another language was not easy. The study in Canada was not the same as it was in China. It was quite hard for me in the beginning because of my English comprehension level was not advanced at that time. Firstly, the tons of pre-readings made me short of time. I was a slow English reader before. Since the classes were like snowballs, if one reading was not completed, I could not understand the professor’s lecture well. That was a lot of reading for me indeed at that time. I needed to spend three to four hours reading everyday so that I could finish reading before the next class. So I often stayed up late to 1-2am in the morning and then I got up at 8am for work. I always fell asleep on my way to work on the skytrain. Besides, since we had a few visiting professors, as English is my second language, I needed to pay careful attention to understand different professor’s accents. At that time,  I liked the Canadian English and American English more since they sound very standard English to my ears and they were easier to understand.

Talking about job searching, I had been brainwashed by trainings and workshops provided by governments and career centers in Canada. I was told about job searching tips and skills, interview skills and the skills to write a powerful cover letter. I immediately had taken several different career searching programs in a short time after I came to Vancouver in 2009. Till now, I have worked for three different companies, I started to have my own job searching skills and tips. I hope that I can work for a nice company and grow my career there starting from my 2015.

Here I would like to mention one book, named :”You are nobody after leaving your company.” (Arthur: Qiang Zhao, 2010) I cannot agree more with that. Lots of immigrants, no matter how strong your background was, how high your position was, how much your salary was and how outstanding your achievement has been, your spectacular history suddenly faded out after you moved to another country. When I came to Vancouver, I was very confident that I could find a nice job easily since I was a best employee with one of the best companies. But in fact, I would say that except you are super lucky, we have to be modest and put ourselves to a lower level first. We need to prove our capability in a new country and show it to others.

The higher the position we had in our previous country the harder to get a job in Canada. We will feel that we are in a very embarrassing situation to be rated as “over-qualified” in another country if we apply for a lower level position. On the other hand, if we apply for the same managerial position as we had in our home country, nobody is going to hire us since we are immigrants. How can new immigrants lead local professionals since people assumed that we do not know much of the culture as well as the local people. This phenomenon causes a huge talent waste. Especially those executives who were VP , CXO or executives in their home country, they would feel that the workplace in Canada is not that exciting.

Did you think your English is quite good before you came to an English-speaking country? You will soon realize what English level you should have in the professional workplace. Especially people who come from a country where English is a second or a third language. We will feel that not only the accents would hold us back, but also some idioms and native English we have never heard about before. The only English source we were exposed to after leaving school was from BBC or CNN news. After we made the move and started living in an English environment, we felt the big gap between reality and dream. In spite of the above information, which is a bit disappointing, I would encourage you that lots of immigrants are very hardworking people. We work hard to prove ourselves in another country and we are responsible and have a great attitude toward work. Once we are discovered by a talent scout, plus with a bit of luck, we can make our career dream come true one day. (if we have not met with a talent scout, do not give up and just keep working. Real gold will still be gold everywhere, although sometimes the value seems buried and it is temporarily invisible)

Now I would like to talk about transportation. In the second month after I came to Vancouver, I drove downtown to visit a professor. That was my first time of driving to downtown, so I used my GPS and went downtown with full confidence boldly. But soon I realized that my GPS was not smart enough to tell me which streets were one-way lane and which not. It also could not tell me which is a left-turn or right-term-forbidden lane, either. When I turned right according to the GPS instructions, I soon realized that something was wrong. Other cars were driving toward me! I was dumbfounded and I did not know what to do.  Luckily, there was an empty lane with no cars, I pulled over and I was trying to find what I could do next. One car drove by me and a man shouted at me -who looked like stunned and dreaming- “Lady, this is Canada.” At that time, I realized that “Yes, I am in Canada, not China. Lots of things are so different now…”

Next I am going to talk about making friends in a new country. I found that I could have multi-cultural friends from various countries and backgrounds soon after I came to Vancouver. Some immigrants always complained about life, some immigrants were like dreaming and not realizing where they were, some immigrants quickly merged themselves into the main stream and worked hard and some immigrants could still speak very limited English although they had been staying here for more than 5 years. No matter what kind of friend you have, do remember to make positive friends only. Do not make friends with  negative people. There are lots of challenges and adjustments you need to make as a new immigrant. If you have a friend who keeps complaining about everything you will feel desperate,too.. Most of the time I am very happy and satisfied because I am a very positive person ,but also make and maintain a lot of positive friends. This is part of my secret for a happy life as an immigrant.

Lastly, I would like to summarize the sweet, sour ,bitter and spicy memories as an immigrant. My cooking skills were greatly improved after my son came and started to live with me last summer. Since then, I found that love could change everything. I had had little confidence about cooking in years, but my skill has been improving after my son came. I was greatly motivated to improve my cooking when I started to fill a little mouth;

I also have participated in Toastmasters since two years ago. The first time I made my first project in English, I was very nervous, tongue-tied, sweaty; I felt that the 7 minute speech was like a century. Now I feel quite comfortable presenting on the stage and I am also a VP of PR and VP of Education for my Toastmasters club.

I would mention my dear mentor. She is like a talent scout, who believes in me that I am a go-better. She always told me that it will be the organization’s luck to have me if they find my true value. After knowing her, I have become more confident and positive. She always told me :”Keep smiling…” that helps a lot to me that I can always be very positive. To me, she is not only a mentor, she is more like a friend, a family member or a relative. She keeps empowering me with kind encouragements and recognition endlessly. I always appreciate that I am so lucky to have met her ; In terms of religious belief, I was a Athiest before coming to Canada. Now, I trust God and believe in Him. I found every time I went to church and listened to the Bible stories, I become peaceful. I enjoy the sharing from brothers and sisters in the church. God has empowered and become my spiritual support and strong power.

Is immigration worth it? When looking at the nice environment, the clear blue sky and white cloud, looking at my son’s happy face, he is so enjoying studying and living in this beautiful country. Living here, I will not worry about the food safety, the air quality and the water quality. Everything proves to me that I have made the right decision to become an immigrant. I also want to express that China is always my dear homeland. I love China, I also feel proud as a Chinese. I also now feel proud as a new Canadian. China is my homeland, that I was raised and grown up there. Now I have two homelands –China and Canada. I love both of them, forever.