This month, we had the privilege of interviewing Cindy, one of our members of the Immigrant Advisory Table, originally from China. We discussed her experiences as a newcomer in Vancouver and gained valuable insights into her journey.

Cindy, could you share how you made your way to Vancouver?

Cindy: I arrived in Vancouver as an international student nearly 30 years ago. I completed my grade 12 education here before moving to Halifax for university. I spent around three to four years in Canada before returning to my home in Hong Kong, where I built a fulfilling career.

However, as a family, we desired a place that embraced diversity and inclusion for our children. Vancouver, Canada was the obvious choice for us, given my educational background and the city's reputation for inclusivity.

It's wonderful to hear that your son has thrived in his secondary school experience. Could you elaborate on that?

Cindy: My son has truly embraced his time in secondary school here. I have witnessed a remarkable transformation in him. Prior to our move, he was not fond of school due to the heavy emphasis on exams and academic performance. Teachers often focused on results, such as distinctions. However, in Vancouver, they celebrate all achievements and embrace failures. The teachers are incredibly kind and flexible, tailoring the curriculum to suit students' individual needs. I find this approach to education truly amazing. When I was here, I was already in grade 12, primarily focused on provincial exams. But my son has had the privilege of experiencing the wonderful educational opportunities firsthand.

How long have you been in Canada?

Cindy: We have been in Canada for two years now.

Are there any family traditions that hold special importance for you?

Cindy: One tradition that holds great significance for me is our family values. With numerous relatives, uncles, and aunties residing here, we come together to celebrate during festive seasons. As a Chinese family, we have a strong tradition of celebrating special occasions together, preparing elaborate meals with a variety of dishes, soups, and desserts. For instance, we make Chinese dumplings during the Mid-Autumn Festival and Chinese New Year. This sense of togetherness and shared joy warms my heart. Since I don't have many friends here, my family members inquire about my well-being, challenges, and whether I require assistance. This deep-rooted value of family support and celebration is truly a blessing for me.

What aspects of your culture and heritage bring you joy?

Cindy: The sense of unity, modesty, and humility in my culture brings me immense joy. There is a unique beauty in being humble. In Western culture, appreciation is often expressed overtly, while in Chinese culture, we tend to demonstrate it more subtly. I find beauty in quietly being a part of something larger, like small stars that shine together. It resonates with me deeply.

As an immigrant of Asian heritage in Vancouver, what challenges have you encountered?

Cindy: As a newcomer, finding employment has been a significant struggle. The lack of Canadian work experience poses a barrier, as employers often prioritize candidates with local experience. It's a catch-22 situation. Skilled immigrants are often advised to start with junior positions to gain Canadian experience, but I personally feel somewhat uncomfortable with this approach. Canada attracts many skilled immigrants, including doctors and lawyers, who later discover that their qualifications are not recognized here. They either need to develop new skills for different professions or undergo retraining which can take years to obtain accreditation.

What does Asian Heritage Month mean to you?

Cindy: In Canada, there are numerous Heritage Months celebrating various cultures. This diversity and respect for one another's cultures make it a truly inclusive city. Asian Heritage Month provides an opportunity to raise awareness, foster learning, and appreciate the beauty of our origins.

What message would you like to convey to newcomer Asians?

From my perspective, I take a proactive approach in seeking opportunities, participating in informational interviews, and engaging in training programs and volunteer work. I had the privilege of sharing my experiences and professional network to support Svetlana Landysheva, a newcomer who recently arrived in Vancouver, in her journey to find work.

Through our collaboration, she successfully secured a professional job last week. However, I understand that individuals from my culture, as I described earlier, tend to be more subtle and modest, requiring more time to reach out. My advice is to find a way that feels comfortable for you and gradually step outside your comfort zone. Not everyone may feel at ease approaching strangers for informational interviews on platforms like LinkedIn, but through personal networks, one can achieve the same results. It may be a slower process, but you will eventually reach your goals.

Svetlana and Cindy along a seawall.

Photo caption: Svetlana (left) and Cindy (right) having their weekly career conversation at David Lee Park on 19 May 2023
Here are a few additional points to consider:
  1. Be patient and allow yourself time, particularly for practice. Western culture is more open, with sales associates initiating conversations and small talk. If you're an introvert, it may be uncomfortable to engage in small talk with every shop you visit. Start by chatting with individuals at smaller shops in your neighborhood that you visit frequently and gradually expand your comfort zone. 
  2. Don't feel compelled to follow every piece of advice given to you and avoid putting excessive pressure on yourself. As newcomers, we already face numerous challenges during the transition. Taking care of yourself and prioritizing your mental health are crucial aspects that deserve attention. 
  3. Take the time to understand the history of the lands you now inhabit and learn about the relationship between Canada and Indigenous people. 
Thank you, Cindy, for sharing your story with us. Your knowledge and experiences contribute to our collective growth and partnership.


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