IMMIGRATION: ‘Invisible’ minorities do not have to stay that way

Published: November 26, 2012

NICK NOORANI
VANCOUVER DESI

I see them everywhere. The huddled masses. Staying close to their own ethnic groups. Speaking in their own languages and staying away from “others.” They hover outside schools twisting their fingers, nervous that someone might talk to them! I hear so many stories of Canadians who reach out to these immigrants, inviting their children over for a party or a play date and their friendliness is looked on with such suspicion that could almost be considered rude!

I understand that many newcomers feel some uncertainty and fear when it comes to connecting with people outside their culture. But I truly believe that there is no way you are going to achieve your dreams if you stay in an ethnic silo. Desis have their own form of provincial segregation. You are Punjabi, Bengali, Tamilian, Maharashtrian etc. And then we have religion-based segregation: Hindu, Brahmin, Sikh, Christian, Muslim etc.

A dear friend was telling me his own experience over lunch. He lives in an upscale neighborhood in Vancouver and an Asian family lived opposite his house. For several years, they never spoke avoiding eye contact until his daughter, who was studying Mandarin in school started a conversation with the girl opposite as the two families headed out. And suddenly, it was like a switch had been flipped! Smiles and gestures with broken English and Mandarin. Barriers broken, bridges made! As immigrants, we share so much irrespective of where we come from. Why limit ourselves from learning so much about other cultures?  I don’t make friends based on where you come from – I make friends based on where you are going!

I meet immigrants with medical degrees, engineering degrees, PhDs, the works. Most of them are in jobs far below their qualifications. Stories of dreams that came crashing down abound. How they cannot get the job of their dreams. I empathize with them, but I am frustrated at how they have given up. Why have you allowed your dreams to die? I know you have challenges, but almost every immigrant has them! You are not alone!

I also meet many immigrants who have been here for a couple of months or years and am amazed at how they have adopted a “victim” mentality. That will not help you! Recognize that you came here of your own free will and you alone are responsible for what you can make of yourself! Your negativity will only drag you down deeper into the pit of self-pity and unhappiness, from where you will find it hard to extract yourself.

Look at the immigrants who have succeeded and learn from them. They have made a conscious effort to work and mingle with people from all cultures including native-born Canadians. The fact is that your qualifications can only take you so far. You need to develop skills far beyond just what’s listed on a piece of paper!

For instance, so many immigrants do not recognize that their language skills are far below Canadian standards. Understand this — if there are two candidates with identical qualifications, but one has poor language skills, he will not get the job! There is no point moaning about racism — you have to look at yourself critically in order to improve your chances of employment.

The fact is that an “invisible” attitude will prevent you from succeeding and making your dreams a reality. Start making the change now!

Nick Noorani is an immigration expert, social entrepreneur and Managing Partner of Prepare for Canada, an online magazine for immigrants pre-arrival and post. He can be reached at nick@nicknoorani.com




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