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Canadian Cultures

Information for New Students


About Canada
To learn more about Canada and the many different people who make up this country, take the opportunity to visit a local museum or you may even wish to take a class on Canadian history or culture while studying at The University of Winnipeg. You can also read more about Canada online.


Canadian Cultures
Canadian society is often described as a “mosaic” or as multicultural. You will find that if you ask a Canadian about their ethnicity or nationality, they will often respond by telling you about the ethnicity or nationalities of her ancestors (“I’m part Scottish, part Mexican, and part Métis”). This is not because Canadians are not proud to be Canadian, but because Canadians hold their ethnic backgrounds very closely. Even a second, third, or fourth-generation Canadian may have a very strong ethnic or national identity—with a set of unique customs and traditions that come from his immigrant ancestors. For these reasons, it is often difficult to identify “Canadian” foods, customs, or cultures.

Aboriginal Cultures in Canada
Winnipeg is home to the largest urban Aboriginal population in Canada. There are many Aboriginal cultures and communities throughout Canada. In Winnipeg and Manitoba, the main Aboriginal groups are Cree, Ojibwe, Dakota, Oji-Cree, Métis, and Inuit.
 
“Aboriginal” and “First Peoples” are the most acceptable terms to describe Aboriginal peoples of Canada. The words “Indian”, “Native”, and “Eskimo” are not usually appropriate terms to use. Specific communities or Aboriginal groups are called Nations. For more information on Aboriginal organizations in Manitoba and on the history of Aboriginal people in Canada, visit the following websites:

For additional information, please feel free to visit the Aboriginal Student Services Centre on the second floor of Lockhart Hall (2L01).


Canadianisms
According to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, a Canadianism is “a word or expression originating in Canada.”* The most noticeable Canadianisms are those that are peculiar to Canadian English. Here are a few examples:

  • Eh? is a habitually-used term similar to “hey?” or “huh?”
  • A Francophone is a person whose first language is French.
  • Loonies and toonies (or twoonies) are one-dollar and two-dollar coins
  • A toque is a warm hat worn in the winter.
  • A washroom (or bathroom) is a room with a toilet

Generally speaking, Canadians will understand the English words you use, even if they are not commonly used in Canada.
*“Canadianism,” The Canadian Oxford Dictionary (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2001) 206.

Social Customs
Canada is a large and diverse country, and you will encounter a wide variety of (sometimes contradictory) cultures and social customs. For more information on social customs, please see this information sheet on Social Customs (Word Version, PDF Version).

Culture Shock
The first emotion most of us feel when arriving in a new place is excitement, but we also often experience other emotions like fear, apprehension, and homesickness as part of the adjustment process. Being an international student at The University of Winnipeg is exciting and fun, but you may go through a few low points as you get used to life in Winnipeg and Canada.

Culture shock—a feeling of discomfort, depression, loneliness, and/or frustration that comes from engaging with another culture—affects each of us in different ways. Here are some of the ways that culture shock may impact you:

  • You become tired of trying to communicate with people who don’t understand your language, customs, or mannerisms
  • You begin to miss friends and family at home
  • You are finding it hard to get used to new food, climate, transportation systems, etc.
  • You feel disappointed that your experiences in the new culture are not what we expected.
  • You withdraw from others.
  • You feel bored or tired all of the time.
  • You are overeating/under-eating or drinking too much.
  • You are becoming physically ill or homesick.

Especially if this is your first time being away from home, adjusting to a new culture can be very challenging. You may worry that you will never adjust to living in Winnipeg, but you will. Just hang in there for a while and try to follow these suggestions:

  • To get to know the campus and other students. Be sure to attend the orientation and other events planned by International Student Services and the University. Join student groups and study groups, and participate in events on and off-campus.
  • Take good care of yourself—eat healthy food, get regular exercise, and get enough sleep.
  • Get paired up with a mentor (an experienced University of Winnipeg student) through International Student Services.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak to your professor if you have concerns about a course, assignment, or test. ISS also offers the International Tutor Program for students who would like extra assistance with a course.
  • Be sure to keep in touch with family and friends from home, and to hold on to practices or traditions from your culture that are meaningful to you. You may wish to get involved with one of the many cultural associations in Manitoba. Please see this information sheet on Cultural Associations and Groups in Manitoba (Word version, PDF Version).
  • If you are feeling depressed or lonely, or if you just need to talk with someone, make an appointment with one of the counselors at the Counseling Services.
  • Come and talk to ISS Staff and ask questions about social customs, culture, university policies, or anything else that is bothering you.