to Your New Life In Canada and the USA
Special hints for international students, foreign
travellers, and new residents
Foreign students and immigrants from places like
India, many from middle-class or wealthy backgrounds, are often
shocked by the lack of help available in North America.
Whereas live-in servants took care of their
day-to-day needs at home, once living in Canada or the U.S., they
are on their own.
Even the wealthiest North American students
living on campus have no servants, and in recent years few Canadians
or Americans of any age have had any domestic help at all.
Oh, a well-to-do family may have someone
come and mow the lawn. A service may arrive periodically to clean
and adjust the chemicals in the pool, a cleaning person may show
up once a month or once a week, and a teenage neighbour may watch
the kids while the parents are on a special evening out. Rarely,
a catering firm may be hired to help with a large function, such
as a wedding reception.
Otherwise, the family will buy and prepare
its own food, perform minor auto maintenance, tend its garden,
do most of its cleaning and laundry, polish its own shoes, and
transport its younger children to various functions. Just an extremely
small minority has live in housekeepers, cooks, drivers, gardeners,
and the other help found more frequently in many other countries.
In fact, the sole difference between wealthy
students on campus and the not so wealthy in this area may be
that the richer students drop off their dirty laundry at a dry
cleaner most (but not all) of the time instead of doing it themselves.
In stores, also, Americans and Canadians serve themselves.
In fact, finding any employee in some discount stores, such as Target, other than
at the check out counters may be difficult. You are left on your
own to fill your basket or cart yourself.
Paddling your own canoe
The above situation exists for a number
of reasons, one being the large percentage of people in the middle
class who are not available to serve.
The equalitarian nature of both American
and Canadian societies also plays a crucial role. As we saw in
the Interacting with Americans and Canadians
lesson, people from these two countries never like to be made
to feel inferior to others.
Moreover, there is huge respect for
the person who is self-sufficient. Persons from places like Manhattan, where
few people own cars or know much at all about them, are considered
Nearly all males and a large percentage
of women in North America can change a tire, check the oil and
water levels, and perform other simple tasks on their automobiles.
The Bill Gates of the U.S. drive their kids
to a Wal-Mart on a Saturday morning to pick up gardening tools—not
for gardeners they may or may not have but for themselves and their children
And no president of the U.S. dares to show that he or
she is not made of "the common stock." Hence, you experience
all those photo opportunities of them on horses or in pickup trucks.
(Canadians have a much higher tolerance
for the exotic in their first ministers, as seen in the late Pierre
Trudeau, a good humoured man, who nevertheless was never shy about
demonstrating that he, at least in his mind, was smarter and more
knowledgeable and more urbane than others. And, all too often, he was.)
Learning to be self sufficient
So grin and bear it, you're about to learn the drudgeries of North American life. From this you'll gain independence and better fit into your new culture.
We'll start with how to do
your laundry and then move on to car purchase and maintenance
For more tips on adjusting to life in the USA and
Go to >> Doing
Go to >> Buying
Go to >> Maintaining
Go to >> Changing
For more discussion about interacting with Americans
Go to >> Interacting
with Americans and Canadians
Go to >> Making friends
Go to >> Handling
Go to >> Dealing with
Go to >> Avoiding sexism
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