Immigrating: Losing Your Lifestyle and Standard of Living
When a person decides to leave their country of origin and immigrate, there is often a period of adjustment and settlement. It takes time to get used to the culture, the language, the environment and basically how things are done. All of us arrive with different expectations about how life will turn out in Canada and, accordingly, some people adjust faster than others.
For example, people who leave behind a wealthy life style find it more difficult to start with bare necessities. Others look forward to the opportunities that will allow them to improve their lot in life. New immigrants who have had successful careers in the past with status, respect and a high standard of living seem to find it more difficult to adjust, because they were confident that employment would not be a problem and they would maintain their life style. However, they found that re-establishing a career in Canada is more difficult. They have to pass exams, be re-certified, re-qualified and as well they must show proof of Canadian work experience. Throughout this difficult process they also have to work and support their families, often at low-level, physically tiring jobs with little income.
Unable to deal with all the stress, some of these new Canadians seem to be in a mental daze. They are unable to decide if they should remain in Canada or return to their homeland. They feel ashamed and see themselves as failures. They are unable to shake off these depressing thoughts in order to look for work or study for their exams or qualification. In time, the stress has a negative impact on their health. A Report conducted by Statistics Canada states that “when new immigrants arrive in Canada, their health is better than that of the Canadian born population. However, after the first ten years their health becomes worse than that of the Canadian born population.” The greatest stress reported by new immigrants was due to employment related issues.
If you or someone you know is in this situation you must seek help from counsellors. Trained professionals can see your situation from different angles which are not visible to you due to your stressed mental state.
I worked with a couple who were stressed because their family was coming to visit. The couple felt that after four years in Canada their standard of living should have been much better than it was. After some discussion, they agreed that the root of their stress was ‘their need to impress their relatives.’ They decided that it was better to show their family how they really lived rather than try to impress them. They created a budget to help save money. They looked for deals and found that they were arguing less. This change of attitude allowed them to see the coming visit as a happy event. For many of us it is a matter of examining the root of the stress and adjusting our attitudes.
Negative thoughts produce negative feelings, that lead to negative attitudes which can be the root of stress. The starting point then is to examine your thoughts, feelings and attitudes. Think of a problem, write it down and check how many negative words you have used to explain the problem. Having a posh lifestyle and a healthy bank account is what most of us want, but even wealthy people can be miserable. Ultimately, it is our attitude that makes us happy.
MA, ADR, MEd. Counsellor/Therapist in Private Practice
As an immigrant Aruna took advantage of all the opportunities Canada offers.
She attended ESL classes, earned two Masters Degrees and founded 3 immigrant-helping agencies dealing with domestic violence. Now in private practice; she consults for governmental and non-profit agencies, conducts workshops and is a frequent keynote speaker.