I am excited to share what I have learned about this delicate topic that has personally influenced my wife and I as well as other immigrants.
My Uncle Sam, my Aunt Maria, and their kids are nothing short of being the best family members that one could hope to find on the other side of the border. They were ready to help us face the numerous challenges and hardships that many new immigrants encounter upon arrival in a new country. They were great for letting us stay in their home for ten months, while they provided us with the warmth and compassion that was needed during those intense, challenging times.
Just to give you an idea of how convenient the situation was for me, I will state that besides Uncle Sam and his wife, I had the precious support of three other Uncles with their lovely wives and nine first cousins in my own age bracket who all live only thirty minutes away from me.
With all these people that cared for us, Daniela and I had enough logistic support to manage a professional hockey team.
I must confess; it was very considerate of everyone to visit us the same day we arrived, making sure that we would look to them if we needed any kind of help. I felt very lucky! Most immigrants don’t have any kind of support, and are suddenly catapulted into dealing with numerous challenges, with no friends or family to count on. They are forced to rely on the help of volunteer organizations, government agencies or simply on the kindness of strangers.
If you have done as I did, made a decision to immigrate to improve every aspect of your life, to become the best you possible, and not merely to get a better job or better health care, then, believe me, any situation that seems close to the one I have just described could drastically slow down or compromise your growth in the initial phase of your immigration experience.
I know, this is a radical and strange statement, but I feel that whoever is in, or could be in, a similar situation needs to see it from a different angle to avoid falling into a dangerous state of mind based on entitlement and expectations.
I still don’t understand how it happened. I have always had an independent personality, always wanting to do things on my own, with pride that wouldn’t allow me to ask for anyone´s help.
One day, approximately six months after arriving in Canada, I found myself frustrated because I could not find a ride to work on the following day. Everyone was busy in the household where we were living, so I started calling around asking if any of my other cousins were available; after 5 or 6 calls, no solution was found. The frustration quickly turned into loud, judgmental muttering. Fortunately, no one was with me to hear the rubbish that was coming out of my mouth. To summarize the content, I could not accept the fact that within such a big family I could not find anyone to give me a ride: I was disappointed in them!
When I snapped out of that state of rage, I quickly felt ashamed; it seemed that my attitude had sneakily changed from gratitude to entitlement, and at the time, I could not understand what the reason was.
I realized later, while conversing with other immigrants, that I could list two reasons:
• fear of not being up to the challenge and quickly relying on our family members help to solve our little problems, and slowly we started to rely on their help to deal with more important stuff.
• belief that they were so lucky to be born in this country that it was almost a moral duty for them to help immigrants, especially family members!
I am not sure where I got that idea, but there it was, in my head.
I decided at this point to make a major shift. My wife and I changed our thinking and our lifestyle, and within four months we obtained our driver´s license, got a better job, bought a car, and managed to be approved to get a mortgage that allowed us to get into our first little home.
I believe your family or friends on the other side of the border can make your life easier, but I am not sure “easier” is the way to go!
Instinctively, most of us prefer shortcuts in our lives, and in this contest, family or friends are the best sources of them.
I am sure that we would have got the driver´s licenses and car much earlier if we had had to pay for the bus or taxi, or had to walk to our destinations.
One last note; you are the immigrant! They are not responsible for you, it was your decision to become an immigrant, and you can´t blame the flaws of their country for the difficulties that arise.
Please make sure they see you as an inspiring, independent and courageous family member and not as a “charity case”! They are watching you, you are in the spotlight!