Growing up bicultural in Canada is a unique and enriching experience. It can also be challenging at first when you have to navigate different cultures, forms of expression and ways of life.
The beauty of growing up in Canada is being exposed to different cultures. You learn different customs, traditions, and languages.
You get to see the world in a way that is very different from growing up in a local culture where everyone is very similar.
Toronto, where I lived much of my childhood, is always described as a melting pot. The families of most of my classmates in elementary school had arrived from many different parts of the world, including Poland, Japan, China, Ukraine, Malta, Jamaica, and Russia.
I would often visit my friends in their homes, and I would get to taste delicious food from Hungary or eat Japanese food with chopsticks or try new delicious recipes from Jamaica. We had an International Fair Day where families would cook and share their favorite dishes and recipes that would go into a cookbook and get dressed up in the traditional clothing from their land of origin.
I thought it was wonderful to explore the world through my friends’ families. I would even go in the evenings to their afternoon classes. Some of my Ukrainian and Polish friends would have to go to language school and so I one day I found myself participating in a traditional Polish dance class with them and another day I was learning a few Ukrainian words, here or there. Usually these classes took place in the same public school that we went to during the day. It was all in the neighborhood.
Growing up in a bicultural family, you may not realize it but you are code switching a lot as you move between languages in a single conversation and sometimes even over the course of a single sentence. For example, we would move between English and Spanish when my abuela, my Mexican grandmother, would come to visit us from Mexico. She spoke to us only in Spanish and we spoke in English mixed with a bit of Spanish.
My friends loved to come to our house when my grandmother was in town because she made her classic sopa de fideo, a Mexican noodle soup. I enjoyed seeing all my friends around the kitchen table and felt a sense of pride in our Mexican cuisine, as I’m sure my friends’ families did when I visited their home.
Sometimes, there is a little bit of confusion growing up as a bicultural child. You’re back and forth between countries, perhaps, visiting relatives, or they visit you, and sometimes you may feel like you’re not from here or there. You maybe sometimes feel a little bit like an outsider, especially if you are new.
And yet, in Toronto that was not such a bad thing because everybody was in the same boat! I think I felt more of an outsider when I grew up, moving back and forth as a teenager and then as an adult. That’s when you start to realize that you miss a little bit of both countries or both cultures when you’re not in that other culture.
Overall, growing up bicultural in Canada is very rewarding. It gives you such a great perspective, respect for cultures, for differences, and ways of life.
I really hope that if you have the opportunity to experience the multicultural lifestyle in Canada and that you enjoy it as much as I did.
Words and expressions:
Melting pot: a place where different people from different origins come together and live together and create a new culture
In the same boat: an expression that means we are all experiencing the same challenges.