International students discuss Canadian culture

Participants at a diversity forum discussed challenges in adapting to Canadian culture

International students at a diversity forum discussed challenges in adapting to Canadian culture. Photo: Sergio Gonzalez

International students told a forum on diversity Wednesday that the biggest cultural challenges they encounter include Canadians’ individualism and direct attitude.

About 20 students attended a diversity discussion event hosted by the Dalhousie International Centre as part of International Education Week.

They said that, other than local food (which they find to be exceptionally bland) international students find that Canadian culture is individualistic, as opposed to community and family-oriented cultures. International students also found addressing one’s elders challenging in Canada, where students often address professors and other authority figures by their first names (as opposed to Mr./Mrs.).A third challenge found across all cultures present at the event was the way opinions are communicated. In eastern cultures humbleness is appreciated over directness. “Canadians are too straightforward,” a student from China said.

Students also offered their opinions on the best use of the International Centre space. They requested more space, more recreational equipment and a greater number of events. But they also voiced a sense that they needed more outreach into Canadian society by networking with more international, exchange and local students.

Students were divided into small groups to ensure everyone’s participation. Photo: Sergio Gonzalez

Kewoba Carter, a former international student and current international student adviser at the International Centre, said many Canadian students seemed intimidated by the global skill set of international students. After talking to five North American students she felt like “they are scared of international students because we are better suited for the job market.” Most international students speak more than one language and have generally been exposed to more cultures and ideologies than local students.

“[North American students] are growing up without the urgency to grow up with a global mindset, while we are.” said Carter.

Amr ElKhashab, president of the Dalhousie International Student Association, said the discussion is far from over. International students account for 10 per cent of Dal’s student body and is expected to increase to 20 in the next years. “And that’s only in Dalhousie,” he said.

International Education Week will conclude on Nov. 28 with a gala dinner in the Dalhousie Student Union Building.