• Carine Bado

A little bit about me...

Updated: Aug 10, 2018

As stated in the introduction, I was born and raised in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire (West Africa). I am the middle child of three beautiful sisters. My brother, the only boy, is our youngest. Well, I thought so. Until I found out later, in my early 20s that I have a couple more half siblings, I haven’t got the chance to meet yet. Don't judge, family affairs can sometimes be complicated éh! My sisters and I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada). As for my brother, he is continuing his post-grade studies in Lyon, France.

Abidjan is the economic capital of Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) also known as 'Babi', one of the biggest city in West Africa. I grew up in an upper-middle class family, both my parents being very successful entrepreneurs at that time. Against the cultural tendencies, they raised us girls to become leaders, to have an entrepreneurial spirit and most importantly, to depend on no one. Today, my older sister is a talented International Artist (1/4 finalist at La Voix Québec), my baby sister, a successful Multimedia Consultant and, I became an Accountant. What has happened? LOL.

On a more serious tone, I love my job. My point is, I used to be an extrovert, adventurous little girl, the one with a lot of friends, never afraid to speak up her mind. Sadly, after I came to Winnipeg, challenges after challenges, I've started to isolate myself. I became very unsecured, so I was embarrassed by my accent. During the same time, the political climate in Ivory Coast deteriorated, making things even worse! Over the years, I’ve started to lose a little bit of my spark each day...

Many immigrants can relate to having a difficult transition. Leaving everything behind is not an easy decision to make, whether voluntary or not. It feels like losing a little bit of yourself. Here are four things I wish, I would have done differently when I first arrived.

  • I wish... I'd known the culture before my arrival

One day, my parents decided that my sister and I would be leaving for Canada and, the next day, we were on our way to Winnipeg. I did not know anything about Canada, not to say Winnipeg. We came so we could be immersed in an Anglophone environment while studying in French. However the cultural gap was immense. I could hardly make friends, not because of the language barrier, we were in a French University. The issue was rather on how to approach people. In Ivory Coast, we are expressively welcoming to immigrants, the second line of our national anthem being ''Pays de l'hospitalité'' (country of hospitality). People will come up first, invite you over to meet their friends and family ... Here, it is about personal space. People are very reserved in respect for your privacy. An attitude, I interpreted as a rejection. If only I knew it was a cultural difference, I would have made more efforts to connect with others.

  • I wish... I'd made friends outside out my community

Obviously, because I could not make new friends, I only hang out within a restricted social circle. It does make sense, when you first arrive, to find support within your community. But as you're getting established, it would be beneficial to expand your social environment. Good connections are essentials when starting a life, somewhere new. As for the language barrier, the more you reach outside your community, the faster you will become fluent. It was a huge leap, when I decided to attend an anglophone church, where I didn't know anybody at first. Probably, one of the best decision I have ever made since I came.

  • I wish... I'd found activities to build up an exciting social life

Far away from the beautiful sun of Abidjan, I was spending most of my time at the malls and African cultural parties. There is nothing wrong with that, except I was missing out on so much. Winnipeg is well known for its vibrant cultural life. In winter as well as in summer, there's always something to do that you would enjoy, many resources (Tourism Winnipeg, Tourisme Riel, Manitoba Travel ...) where you can find information about parks, museums, events, festivals, happening all year around at a low cost or free. Plus, with the 'Meetup' app you get to meet people and build friendships. When I started to volunteer at The Winnipeg Jazz Fest, Festival du Voyageur, Folklorama ... I began to like this city even more. It started to feel like 'home'.

  • I wish... I'd followed my 'gut'

This is the most important point of all. Be aware, not everybody has good intentions toward you! As a newcomer, people will always pretend to help, but be careful who you surround yourself with. I come from a culture where we often say 'Yes' out of respect. Let me tell you, this attitude has caused me a lot of troubles ... I have since learned to politely decline offers and always keep a healthy distance, until I get to know the person well enough, before letting her or him closer.

Trying to tell my whole story in one article is 'mission impossible'. As you keep reading, a little bit of me will be revealed in each article. For now, all I can say is that, I am getting my spark back. Quite frankly, I think, I never lost it. It was somewhere deep inside, waiting for me to take control of my life. Maybe you have a similar or totally different integration story, please share or comment, it might help someone. Bye for now ...

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