Settling in a new country is an exciting and life-changing event filled with new experiences, discoveries, and challenges. Even if we are eager to adapt to our new environment, it’s only natural to miss certain aspects of our home country.
South Asia and Canada are not only at opposite ends of the planet, but they are also very different culturally. What are some things that South Asians miss from home? As newcomers, how can we use these to make our new life richer and more fulfilling?
India has been called the Land of Colours and for good reason: everywhere you look is a scene bursting with endless vivid colours arranged in as many bold patterns as you can imagine: houses painted turquoise, orange, and pink (sometimes all at once!), women in multi-coloured sarees, enormous wedding tents adorned with sparkling lights.
For those coming from this constant feast for the eyes that is South Asia, the understated minimalistic trend favoured in the West can sometimes seem to lack a certain… spice.
Newcomers: Don’t be afraid to show your style! By infusing some of your colourful culture into your own blend of fashion, you are contributing to Canada’s diversity.
Marketers: Infuse vivid colours in your advertising whenever and wherever possible, of course within your brand parameters.
Whether from a small town or a bustling city, we all remember that trusty sabziwala loudly announcing his vegetables while canvassing the neighbourhood, wheeling his wooden cart up to each gate so customers could come out and pick what they need for the day.
Meals cooked from fresh ingredients every day is one of the main reasons why home cooked South Asian food is so memorable, and is usually a highlight of anyone’s trip to that region.
Even though leftovers and ready-made meals can be convenient time savers, nothing beats hot roti right off the fire, fresh fennel after a meal, or a delicious mango in the season.
Newcomers: With a wide variety of South Asian restaurants available in many cities, you are sure to find a taste of home at your local “Little India”, whether you live close to downtown Toronto, Brampton, Mississauga or Surrey and discover what many Canadians already know: many great South Asian cooks live here!
Marketers: If you work for a big box grocery store, you mustn’t forget to showcase some of these fresh produce in your weekly flyers in the South Asian neighbourhoods.
The making (and drinking!) of Indian chai, with its simple mix of tea, milk, and spices, is an almost sacred tradition. It is both a symbol of hospitality and a cherished time during which people get together to take a much needed break from the heat.
Chai is as varied as the people who make it, each version the result of years of practice and family tradition. What is the undeniable appeal of chai that so many in the West have unsuccessfully tried to duplicate? Its ingredients are deceptively simple, yet no coffee shop “chai latte” even comes close to the flavour of a simple cup from any Indian chaiwala.
Newcomers: Show your neighbours what real chai should taste like by sharing your unique take on it – Canadians will thank you for warming up the cold winters with a kick of masala chai!
Marketers: CPGs and larger retailers can look into either introducing Indian flavoured masala chai or even importing them from South Asian to include in the assortment of their beverage products. Others can at least bring in the warmth (of a cup of hot tea!) in their communications to the South Asian segment.
Don’t you love the feeling of having bargained for a good deal? From buying clothes to riding in an auto-rickshaw, the first price given is only the beginning of the negotiation in South Asia. A successful bargain ends with both merchant and shopper equally satisfied at having put up a good fight in this good-natured exchange.
Sure, getting an item already marked “50% off” is still a good deal, but where’s the fun in that?
Newcomers: Even though most Canadian shops operate on a fixed price basis, there are still ways to keep those bargaining skills sharp in the many local bazaars such as Toronto’s Gerrard India Bazaar or Vancouver’s Punjabi Market. At the same time, don’t forget to look out for great deals around Canada Day celebrations, back to school timeframe in August-September, Black Friday, Christmas, and Boxing Day.
Marketers: Of course, bargaining is not a norm in North American culture, but shopping can be more fun when you have offers like buy one get one free, price match guarantee or even scratch cards. And who doesn’t love those big seasonal discounts?
Tourists traveling to South Asia often fall in love with its people’s generous spirit, which shines brightest in the way guests are treated. Even a brief visit to an Indian home will fill you up with chai, biscuits and namkeen (salty snacks). On the happy event of a birth, marriage or promotion, families traditionally distribute sweets to friends and neighbours to share in their joy.
Many shops also reflect this hospitable spirit by inviting customers to sit down comfortably and have some chai while the salesperson fetches the desired items and even models them. Rather than having to go through racks of products and garments, don’t we love being treated like royalty?
Newcomers: Don’t be afraid to bring that box of laddoos to share with coworkers or neighbours next time you want to celebrate a happy event! Your contribution to creating a sense of community will be very much appreciated.
Marketers: In South Asian neighbourhoods, try to hire someone who speaks a South Asian language or at least understands the cultural nuances to make your South Asian customers feel welcomed and comfortable. Most of South Asians like to do business with people they like.
South Asian culture is all about festivals, celebrations, and togetherness. Diwali (festival of lights), Holi (festival of colours), Eid (largest Islamic festival), Christmas (Christianity is the third largest religion in India), Vaisakhi (a Sikh harvest festival), and many other festivals are celebrated together by all South Asians, particularly in India.
With Canada’s South Asian community growing every year, newcomers have brought with them the warmth and richness of cultural festivities.
Newcomers: If you’re missing the bustling sounds, colours and flavours of Diwali, Dusshera and Holi, or the art exhibits of Kala Pola, join the plethora of community events happening in your city this year! Still feeling homesick? You are warmly invited to get a taste of home this October during “DEEWA, The Festival of Lights” which is a Mississauga-based Diwali event held for the South Asian community by Maple Diversity Foundation. Visit us at http://www.thefestivaloflights.ca and join the local festivities!
Marketers: While it’s advisable to speak your South Asian audience round the year (depending on your marketing budget), don’t miss the opportunities that come with these festivals. To know more about festival-based marketing strategy – https://maplediversity.ca/5-important-facts-you-should-know-about-festival-based-marketing/
Are you a newcomer to Canada? The Maple Diversity Foundation wants to help you make the transition to your new country and share in the rich cultural diversity that Canada is built on. Visit our websites www.gettingyoustarted.ca and www.mdfoundation.ca to learn more about our Newcomer Programs.