On June 27th, Canada celebrated Multiculturalism Day, honouring the many cultural communities that help build a strong and vibrant Canadian Society. Recognizing the diverse cultural backgrounds people come from is important for having respectful relations with others, and our environment at Queen’s University is no exception to this. Especially amongst Graduate Studies, there are many students from diverse cultures, which makes it even more important that we recognize that Queen’s University itself is a multicultural society.
Yet, being a student from a different cultural background is not always easy. For myself, an international student from the Netherlands – another Western culture – there was not the same culture shock that others may experience, but that does not mean that there are no differences between the Dutch and Canadian culture. For example, and this may sound weird, when someone asks you “hey, how are you?”, Dutch people would respond in full honesty, telling you how they are whether it is good or bad. Having learned this the hard way – the guy at the poutine place on my first night in Toronto did not want to know that I was feeling alone and tired – Canadians do not actually care how you are doing. Friends and family are the exception to this, but most of the time it is Canada’s long version of saying “hi”.
The multicultural background of Queen’s graduate students offers a wonderful environment for learning new things – discovering amazing food, new meanings for words, ways of thinking you never knew before, and many more – and we should cherish what accepting cultural backgrounds has to offer. This acceptance is more than welcoming others into the university environment, it is to engage with them in conversation, and to be open to difference. Not to take it over, but to appreciate that everyone in Queen’s has something unique to offer. To increase awareness of how culture can frame our experiences, QUIC offers the Intercultural Training program, and for anyone who would like to explore more on the topic of being mindful of multiculturalism at Queen’s, I would recommend taking this five-part workshop. Although I still sometimes tell people too much about how I am feeling, it has taught me to embrace my cultural background, not to apologize for it (so non-Canadian of me!) and to accept that others may experience things differently too. Each in their own beautiful way.
By: Daphne Brouwer