Culture Crash

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Michael was born in Odessa, in the former Soviet Union and immigrated to Canada in 2001. He has two scientific degrees earned in Russia, including a doctor of science. He has more than 100 scientific publications and in 2006 his humor book “Odessa’s and Canadian Funny Stories” was published in Odessa.

Suppose that all your life you have lived in a country with a different way of life. And now you have immigrated to another developed country with a completely different system, such as Canada. Of course, your old norms and life conceptions confront new unknowns. You can react to this collision through a wide spectrum of emotions, from sadness to humor. This last path is my way.

Beginners in any human activity always make funny mistakes – newcomers in school, at work, in love – always make you laugh.

When you live in your own country, everything is normal. You can’t see the peculiarities that are immediately seen by foreigners. But as soon as you immigrate and start to live in other country, all those differences not only catch your eye, but also strike your head because of the obvious and sharp distinctions. So, if you would like to know more about your native country, you should stay a while in another one and compare them.

As an immigrant, you are beginning a completely new, unknown, unusual life. And you don’t even know what you don’t know. There are a lot of unexpected and unforeseen problems in your new life, so your reaction to your rare victory and frequent defeats is important. If you can see these problems with optimism and humor it is to your big advantage. And in the end, you can overcome all those difficulties and became a real Canadian citizen.

Many habits that Canadians have are “in their blood.” Most Canadians don’t cross the road on a red light – even if there’s no car in the street. They stay and wait until the light changes! You are expected to work hard and honestly, not waste time, pay your debts promptly, follow rules, and obey instructions from management.

So, that’s the way they live! And what do you want from them?


Transfer Ticket

The “transfer system” used by Canadian transit systems is completely new and unknown for many newcomers. Nowhere, in any of our former countries, did we have such a system. In Russia we paid each time we took the subway, bus, trolleybus or tram (street car).
In my Canadian ESL classes, the teacher carefully explained how to use public transport. She said that there are ‘special transfer tickets’ you can use to go from one transit vehicle to another. But she couldn’t predict how poorly I understood her explanation.

When I used a ‘transfer’ for the first time on a bus, I tried to put it in the glass collection box because I had seen other passengers putting their money and tickets in this box. But the driver told me, “No, no.” So I didn’t do it, but I didn’t understand why. The second time I made a more successful attempt! I quickly put my transfer in his box before he could protest. He just stared at me with a look on his face that said, “What can I do with this crazy man?” After this I understood that something went wrong so I asked my friends. They finally explained it to me. Now I use this ‘transfer tickets system’ almost every day. And every time I think, “How it would be if some Canadian – in Russia – asks a Russian bus driver for a transfer?” You don’t need a lot of imagination to see this picture.

My Name Is Michael

My real name is Michael but in Russia I was called Michael Osipovich or – when used with special respect – I was just Osipovich. It is a Russian habit to call respected people by their father’s name (I hope very much that I have earned this respect). In Canada nobody calls you using your father’s name so I was called simply Michael. In English it sounds very short, sportier than in Russian, like the sound of the crack of a whip. Such short names are usually given to dogs in Russia. So when at first I heard my friends on the street or in English school call out, “Michael, Michael,” I didn’t pay any attention because I thought they were calling a dog. Only later I understood that it was me – and not a dog – who they were calling, and I started to answer to this name.

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