Day 4: Learning to Live in a New Country

Upon my arrival in Canada, I had to learn the language of the land. Even though my maternal language is English, some of the vocabulary I used was typically South African – or even British. Very quickly I learned that some words I had used my whole life were not understood by the Torontonians. No longer could I use the words mielie (corn), boerewors (sausage) or lekker (nice). I had to remember to use the word sidewalk instead of pavement, sweater instead of jersey, gas instead of petrol.

We had to learn as well the way the Canadian bureaucracy works; and get to know all the rules that the society here follows. Patience was practiced as we went from one person to another, from one place to the next, in order to get things done. Often we discovered things through trial and error, at times we were helped by others.

The biggest thing I have learnt while adapting here is self-reliance. My parents and our siblings were not around to help us so my husband and I had to become self sufficient and learn to rely on one another. I have discovered that I have a strength within me that I never knew existed. And that patience and persistence can bring me things that I believe I should have.

photo (10)If you have missed any of my Migrating North posts, head on over here

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2014

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt is: learn)

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32 thoughts on “Day 4: Learning to Live in a New Country

  1. I know what you mean about self-reliance. My husband and I moved away from family from the beginning, to places where we didn’t know anyone, and it’s been quite a learning experience.

    I’m enjoying your series. 🙂

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  2. I’m finding the same thing with moving from SA to The USA, although, having visited many times, we’ve picked up a lot of the terminology. Our son who has been here for 14 years, now speaks fluent American English. 🙂

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  3. Living in a foreign country, making it home, is a huge challenge. My husband, our then 6 year old son and I moved to francophone Switzerland in 1997 — but we knew we would return home to the U.S. That helped with some of our good-byes.

    I’m enjoying getting to know you.

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  4. I remember when we went to Denmark to live, it was only a short time, but it is different, for us we also had language problems, we don’t speak Danish, but most Danes do speak English. The biggest problems we had were ordering pizza, took us about an hour the first time to do it, LOL. Long story. Or going to the supermarket and buying stewed apples instead of apple juice, that sort of thing. They also have so many different types of cream. It is a big thing to learn the customs and ways of another place.

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  5. Hi Colline, I have just read your three latest posts with interest. I too know what it is like to ‘up-sticks’ as we say here and migrate to a new land. Almost 25 years ago I left New Zealand and went to England where the cultural shock was immense – believe it or not! Theoretically we speak the same language and have the same customs. However I could not decipher the odd dialect of the south Kentish kids I had come to teach and they had just as much difficulty with my flat kiwi drawl and elongated vowels 🙂 And I found the class system oppressive and invasive even though my colleagues were completely oblivious to it being there. I worked with poverty and ignorance and angry ‘lower class’ people and In the end I couldn’t stay and returned home, worn out, a little sadder and a lot wiser. You have obviously had a different experience and with your husband by your side been able to ride out the newness and oddness of settling into a new culture. Kudos to you both! I look forward to reading more of your adventures.

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    1. I would have experienced a culture shock too had we gone to England – especially had I worked with the same group of children you did. Living with a person does ease the shift a little – you can rant to someone who understands 🙂

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  6. So good to have support from your husband and vice versa. My mother tongue = cross between dutch + Afrikaans. I sometimes can’t express myself and sometimes the eng here is also different from SA eng.

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      1. Getting there! Sometimes when I start using the Kiwi “slang” I can’t believe that it flows so easily. My “real” English friends don’t like it when I talk like a Kiwi, ha ha

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