WHEN I DECIDED to come to Canada, I heard many types of comments. Most of the comments were based on stereotypes about Canada or the West in general. Now that I’ve lived in Canada for five years, were any of these stereotypes correct? No.
Not only do Western countries vary significantly, but differences occur inside one country. People come from different backgrounds, go through different experiences, have different beliefs; it is almost impossible to find two people who are exactly the same. When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “Diversity is Canada’s Strength,” that also meant any stereotype besides diversity will simply be inaccurate.
This week, many people were surprised when I told them that I am going back home, since I just graduated. I heard similar types of comments, stereotypes about my homeland, Saudi, or about the Middle East in general — stereotypes that I don’t believe are valid any more. Stereotypes that I thought people never think of anymore, especially with the power of social media.
One of my friends, who is an international student as well, said, “People who come from that part of the world usually don’t want to go back!” I thought he either meant another part of the world, or he meant people I haven’t met yet. Not because his statement was totally wrong, but because the word ‘usually’ was.
Another person asked me the first time he met me: “How did your family allow you to study journalism?”! I didn’t find an answer to that question, because there wasn’t one. My major was never a topic to discuss with my family. All I received from them was support from the day I chose my major to the day I graduated from it. But I really wondered, why did he ask that question? How did he make such an assumption? And what was it based on?
Canada is a multicultural country, and by living in it, we all encounter people from different places around the world. And living here is a great opportunity for us to know more about other cultures, and more importantly, about every individual.
Every single person I met in Canada has proven to me that she/he is an individual who’s different than any stereotypes related to their countries. Even those who came from my country, they differ. And they proved to me that no matter how much I know about my culture, I can never place judgments on Arabs, Saudis, Muslims…etc. And every time I did so, they proved me wrong.
Members of the same family differ one from the other. Even within my family, every one of us is different, everyone has different beliefs and has different perceptions. If coming from the same background, living in the same house, receiving the same school education wasn’t enough for us to be the same, how about those who are entirely different and the only thing they share is living in the same country?
Generalizing is one of those things that we all know is not true, but we still do it, unconsciously. The only accurate generalization about people, I believe, is that they are different!
Nada Alsalahi is a Saudi Arabian student enrolled in the Journalism program at Thompson Rivers University. She has contributed her ViewPoint column on cultural observations for the past several months and is now preparing to return home.