Five years ago, I landed in Canada as an international student. In retrospect, I am very happy that I chose to come to Canada, not the US, not the UK, not anywhere else, but Canada.
Now that we are going to embark on a new adventure of travelling around the world for 2 years, we really have started to miss Canada even before we leave. Throughout my life, I have travelled and lived in many different places and I know that this, the feeling of missing a country, is something that does not happen too often.
Based on my personal experience living in Canada for 5 years so far, here are what why I love Canada.
Photo by Ali Tawfiq on Unsplash
In 2011, Canada had a foreign-born population of about 6,775,800 people. They represented 20.6% of the total population, the highest proportion among the G8 countries.
With this cultural dynamic, “respect” is what I breathe in every day here. You might be puzzled. I should not be surprised by this because, in the Chinese culture, people are supposed to respect the elderly and care for the less privileged, right? That is true. Unfortunately, that kind of “respect” we preach in the Chinese culture is really not the same “respect” that I am talking about here. In fact, the “respect” we emphasis on the Chinese culture might have just resulted in further inequality and disrespect.
That happens precisely because, in the Chinese culture, we are supposed to have blind respect for whoever is superior to us, either in age or experience, regardless of whether it is justified or not. I personally think that respect is earned. No one automatically deserves more respect just because they are older, or sit higher in the pyramid of social status. For every one of us, we were born equal, and if we want to be respected, we have to start with respecting ourselves and others first before we gain any respect in return. And that is one of the most important lessons that living Canada has taught me.
Safety is another thing we should feel lucky about. Canada is among the safest country in the world to live in. I admire our gun control policies, our strong emphasis on mental health advocacy, and the general attitude of not wasting time giving excuses or pointing figures when it comes to tragic events but to quickly find solutions and prevent further damage.
On the institutional and systemic level, Canada is very well aware of the power of combining governments, NGO’s, private entities, and individual influencers. So instead of just assisting one or the other, Canada is doing a lot to promote the collaboration among some or all of them. At the same time, Canada is always inviting or accepting collaboration across borders with other countries.
In terms of mindset, more and more people are inspired and encouraged to innovate, to take risks, to voice their opinions, and to take actions to push the progress for things they care about.
The sense of community is so much stronger here than anywhere I’ve been to. Don’t mistake it with the concept of protectionism. It is very different! Because of the strong sense of community, people believe that each individual’s success is ultimately contributing back to the total good of the whole community so they help each other to reach their full potential, they care for others’ well-being, and they collaborate more often than compete.
I find this sentiment unique and very much ingrained in the culture. I once asked a business consultant why he provides his service free of charge. He says “I just want to give back because if I help you to be successful, you will be able to grow and hire more people, and I want to see you boost our economy and benefit everyone. Also, I would have never made it if it was not for my mentor. Now it is my turn to guide others.” I believe people here can resonate with his answer. It explains this great trend of community engagement and sustainable development that I see every single day in my life here.
Immigration policies are ever-changing with different political parties and their different philosophies. But at least with our current Liberal Party leadership, Canada has one of the best immigration policies in developed countries at this moment. It is partially due to the gap in the labour market. Canada has a very small population compared to its massive land and resources.
The Canadian government and its people know very well that the best and fastest way to fill in the gap is to open doors to attract workers from outside of its territory, especially skilled workers. That’s why Canada has tightened the restrictions for direct foreign investments into industries such as real estate but instead is giving away more and more privileges to international students because it realized sometime ago that the best way for immigrants to be successful in its cultural environment and contribute sustainably back to its economy, Canada needs people who have gone through its own educational system, who have accepted as well as are being accepted into its mainstream culture, who are proven to be more adaptable after a relatively more gradual phase of integration. Instead of flipping houses and raising the housing market so that the locals are not able to afford their homes anymore, international students are much more likely to graduate and either fill in the gap in the job market or become an entrepreneur and provide job opportunities to others, which in turn really helps to boost the long-term growth of the country.
To Be Continued…