Climate shock and not culture shock is what awaited me in Canada
It was the summer of 2011. Everyone was walking around in summer attire and basking in the sun. In their midst, I, a newcomer to Canada, was wearing a jacket and drinking a cup of hot chocolate. I no doubt stuck out like a sore thumb and I was painfully aware that I looked every inch a person “fresh off the boat”. Coming from a country where the weather was plus 35 almost all year round, anything below 20 degrees was freezing to me. Just how others probably thought I was insane to be all wrapped up, I equally thought everyone else was cold resistant.
One especially windy day, I remember walking all the way to my apartment, my hand tucked into my pockets. I popped my head into the property manager’s office.
“Why isn’t the heater working?” I asked timidly. “Heat is included with the rent, right?” My words trailed off.
The manager looked at me as though I was an alien. Who needed the heat in warmer weather? I didn’t blame her then and I still don’t blame her. She turned the heat back on in my apartment and I was as content as a cat with cream. Two weeks later brought another new experience: my first ever hail storm. By then, I was working.
“You don’t know what a hail storm is?” my supervisor asked incredulously. “No,” I answered, my eyes round as saucers. She shook her head and let me take a few minutes off. I looked in wonder as the hail fell. I ran out and picked up a few hail stones. People were staring at me and I did feel rather silly then, but I didn’t care. They didn’t know that I was experiencing something totally new and intended to cherish every moment.
It took yet another couple of weeks before I finally sauntered about sans jacket. But the learning curve continued. Once, I woke up to a beautiful sunny morning and proudly arrived at work wearing my favourite blouse and skirt. To my dismay, it started pouring cats and dogs by noon.
“Is it not supposed to be sunny today?” I asked around. “No, it’s supposed to rain by afternoon for the rest of the day,” my colleague replied. “Didn’t you check the forecast?”
The forecast? I came from a country where summer stayed hot all through the season unless the unexpected happened. Checking the forecast was unheard of. Another lesson learnt. As I walked home forlornly that evening, cold and wishing I wore a jacket, I resolved to read the forecast every single day. The days passed, one by one. Certain days were really warm—even to my standards. I had bought a bicycle by then and I did all I could to enjoy summer. I went on long walks, read books, and crocheted by the riverside. But at night, I still slept covered up and thought my roommate was insane to keep the windows open.
Years later, I would complain of stuffy hot nights, but it was my first summer in Canada.
The glorious jacket-free days lasted a few more weeks. Soon I noticed the evenings were getting chilly. I had to wear a jacket in the mornings and evenings. The days were slowly fading away into a different season with its own new experiences to a newcomer who was yet to experience fall, winter, and spring.
Featured Image: Adjusting to a new climate can sometimes be more challenging than anything else. | Nazreena Anwar-Travas