How do I deal with culture shock?

Adjusting to a new country can be a difficult experience. It is normal to be stressed or overwhelmed when you move to a place that is different from the one you came from.

Culture shock is a term used to describe these feelings you may have when you move to a place that is unfamiliar to you:

  • Being fearful or scared of your new surroundings;

  • Feeling isolated from the people around you;

  • Feeling withdrawn or avoiding interactions with others;

  • Feeling confused by local rules or customs; 

  • Feeling helpless;

  • Feeling angry or frustrated; and

  • Feeling regret about your move. 

How can I manage my culture shock?

There are programs that can help you adjust to your new home and connect you to professionals that can help. Culture shock can be difficult to deal with alone, and these services help:

  • YMCA/YWCA - Many local YMCA/YWCAs offer programs for newcomers, such as information sessions on life in Canada. You may also be able to get one-on-one advice and referrals for housing, language courses, education and training, employment, and other issues.

  • Settlement Services - Settlement services can help newcomers with the everyday aspects of setting up your new life in Canada. A settlement worker can answer your questions about life in Ontario, including questions about how to enrol in school, find a job, or obtain a driver’s license. 

  • Community Health Centres (CHCs) - CHCs provide primary health (for example, doctors or counsellors) and health promotion programs for individuals, families and communities. You may want to speak to a counsellor at a CHC about your experiences of culture shock.

  • Ontario Public Libraries - Libraries in Ontario offer free access to media such as books, videos, and music. Many local library branches also provide programs such as computer training, storytime for parents and their children, and language classes. You can use the library to read more about Canada and Ontario, or to join classes that will help you meet people and learn new skills. 

Some places in Ontario also have local community organizations that cater to specific ethnic or national groups. You can ask a settlement worker for more information about what groups are in your area. These organizations can be a great way to make friends and find support. You can also ask about where to find local ethnic media. Ethnic newspapers are often available in languages other than French or English. 

How do I help my kids with culture shock?

Your children may experience culture shock as well. They may have left their friends behind. They may be adjusting to a new school where they do not know anyone. They may be learning a new language for the first time.

In Ontario, there are services that are specifically for children and youth that are new to Canada. For example:

  • Settlement Workers in Schools (SWIS) - Some school boards have settlement workers that work with elementary and high school students and their families. These settlement workers can provide support to young people to help them integrate into the school and community. If you are unsure whether your child’s school board has settlement workers, you can ask their teacher or principal. 

  • School Counsellors - Even if your child’s school does not have settlement workers, a school counsellor will be available to help your child with adjusting to their new environment. 

  • NewYouth - NewYouth is a website that provides easy-to-understand information about issues important to young newcomers. The topics covered by NewYouth include daily life, education, work, and health.

You may want to talk to your kids about their experiences, so they can feel that they have an adult they can turn to when they are struggling. If you need help with how to talk with your kids about culture shock, you can ask for help from a settlement worker or counsellor.

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Last updated: July 18, 2019 4006395