What can we learn from new immigrants

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By Pradip Rodrigues

I was at my local branch library in Mississauga last week when I heard the librarian patiently explaining features of the library system to a young couple with a 4-year-old. Each one of them were clutching a handful of books and it was clear that they were brand new immigrants. Usually I’d simply mind my own business and be on my way, but this time I made eye contact, smiled and struck a conversation with a family clearly in need of talking to someone friendly.

The family had made their entry into the country just 15 days earlier and spent a significant part of that time at the library devouring books, periodicals and other library material. After talking to this hopeful couple I realized just how much tenured immigrants like myself could gain by getting to know a new Canadian instead of feeling smug and superior to someone we derisively refer to as F.O.Bs (Fresh Off The Boat).

When it comes to immigrant success it is all about attitude. That seems to be one of the main predictor of success. The immigrant couple who spends more time each day in the library scouring for material on crafting resumes and writing cover letters besides researching companies than they do in bed should really be an inspiration to the rest of us.
Unlike many immigrants who came traditionally came to Canada with no exit strategy if things went badly, this particular couple had no qualms about cutting their losses and going back home after three years.

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This is a highly educated couple who left behind well-paying jobs and despite knowing the dismal job scene here in Canada came here for the exposure and the opportunities that would help their daughter down the road.
While this couple isn’t averse to picking up survival jobs for a while but are very clear that they weren’t willing to compromise their professional life.
The man told me that three years was the most he could afford to be doing something other than his core competency, after that the quality of his skills would suffer and he would then have no choice but to resign to a life of mediocrity. In which case he’d be better off going back to south India where he had great job prospects and a loving extended family who’d be happy to have him back.

Tale of another immigrant

Now in the park behind this library I have seen another family who could really be mistaken for tourists or visitors casually strolling around the park with little or no purpose. The husband and wife both push strollers while two older kids scamper about them. The man is certainly enjoying the great weather, his wife couldn’t care less as she stops every couple of minutes to respond to a message or to listen to forwarded videos from their country of origin. It is clear that these are new immigrants who don’t seem in any hurry to plunge into the job market. Life it seems is simply a walk in the park. Canada after all is a land of lakes and is known for its clean, fresh air.

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The south Indian immigrant has little time for the park and will only walk after he’s put in the work at the library. If he dallies while poring over some literature on his laptop, a garden screen saver pops up tantalizingly, the immigrant gets rid of it quickly. And here is what I learnt from watching two new immigrants, one who loves his strolls in the park and the other who can’t seem to get enough of the library.

While born and raised Canadians have only heard or read stories about the problems faced by new immigrants many tenured immigrants want to distance themselves from new immigrants who are a painful reminder of their own struggles they really want to forget or pretend it didn’t happen.

New Canadians like the one I met are resilient, positive and not ready to compromise. While they are more than willing to work hard and take courses, they aren’t about to give up on their professional goals, at the most they are prepared to put it on hold. They gave up secure jobs in India and took a calculated gamble to immigrate. What they were surprised to learn on coming to Canada was that most professional immigrants end up working in fields that have nothing to do with their core expertise. They met a middle-eastern engineer who worked for decades at a water treatment facility back in his country but is now owner of a dry-cleaning business. He met a mechanical engineer from Mumbai now a sales agent for air-condition units. A top marketing professional I know ended up working at Sears and now given the current situation could even find himself unemployed again.

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For now this new immigrant has vowed he won’t tolerate a similar fate, not when he could find professional satisfaction back home?
I thought to myself, he is right. While that one immigrant family spends a lot of time in the park, these immigrants would really love to live in Canada but not if the price demands they abandon their professions. They aren’t afraid to go back home and admit failure, what they don’t want to do is simply live here doing something mediocre while deep down knowing they are really failures.

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