© Austin M. Davis
Patricia Davies from the Moose Jaw Multicultural Council demonstrated that a hand signal that means "OK" in Canada, means something negative in other cultures.
Being a newcomer to Canada isn’t easy — even in the Friendly City.
“Moose Jaw’s really changed,” said Sgt. Cliff Froehlich of the Moose Jaw Police Service (MJPS).
A room full of people at Hillcrest Church listened to Patricia Davies speak about cultural adaptation and cross-cultural communication at a luncheon on Thursday.
Froehlich said he wanted to learn about the diversity of Moose Jaw and how to improve at handling situations where a person from another culture is involved.
“We deal with multi cultures on a regular basis, and (we want) to have a little bit better of an understanding of where they’re coming from and what’s important to them,” Froehlich said. “We can all continue to learn and evolve, all the time.”
Froehlich said there’s diversity in adults, youths and post-secondary students. It’s increasingly important for the MJPS to understand the changing demographics and to be patient communicators.
“As educated as we think we might be, or knowledgeable as we think we might be, there’s always something to learn from immigrant-type people that we deal with in the city,” Froehlich said.
Davies told the group that cultural adaptation has three stages: the honeymoon stage, the challenge and crisis stage, and the recovery stage.
There are ways for members of the community to help newcomers through these three phases, mostly by offering orientation, referrals and information. It’s also important for established members of the city to be patient, affirm the role the newcomer has in the fabric of his or her new community and get them involved.
“I work for a program called KidsFirst and it’s not unusual for us to have a family of newcomers,” said Vicky McGrath.
McGrath said patience is crucial in her job.
KidsFirst is a voluntary program through Five Hills Health Region that assists eligible families with preschool children by building family strengths and providing supports and services based on needs.
McGrath said the luncheon was informative, enjoyable and contained information good for the community to be aware of.
She said she gained “a more comprehensive understanding of what newcomers are experiencing when they come here” which will help her “be more sensitive and understanding.”
Patience, combined with knowledge of different cultures, can make newcomers’ transition into the community a smoother process.
“We cannot learn every cultural profile that is out there. There’s always going to be differences,” Davies told the group. “But we can have an understanding that there are cultural differences and it will effect the way that we see things and the way that people from other cultures see things. I think if we’re aware of that, it may help us in doing our jobs and providing services for our newcomer clients.”
Follow Austin M. Davis on Twitter @theaustinx.