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FRESH OFF THE PLANE: Newcomer learns to talk shop

In India, working part-time while at high school or college was unheard of. Not only was it a concept we were not familiar with, for most middle class families, it would have been a cause for shame had their children worked to help pay for their expenses.

Parents covered the cost of tuition and all other expenses – that was a given.

So after we moved to Canada and found many young people working part-time, it was a bit of a culture shock for us. I have to confess to feeling even a little virtuous about not letting our kids do the same.

“We can look after our kids’ needs, thank you!” being the thinking. But our friends, also originally from India, talked to us about the advantages of part-time employment for young people.

It taught them skills for the real world, they said. How to perform in an interview, how to get along with other employees, how to manage their own money, and most important, employment experience was looked upon very positively by future employers when they were on the real job hunt, our friends said. After much discussion, we agreed to let our daughter, who was then in grade 11, apply for a position at a retail clothing store.

She may not even get it, we thought, but at least it would be a start. However, she was offered a position and was soon working 10 to 15 hours a week. Mostly on weekends, and sometimes in the evenings. We were very particular about the work and the lure of extra pocket money not getting in the way of her academic commitments.

Reena enjoyed the work and we could also see a spurt in her confidence levels as she gained new skills. One day, she was called in for a 5 am shift the following Saturday. Since we didn’t want her taking public transport at that hour, I said I’d drive her to work. “What do they need you there at that unearthly hour for?” I grumbled. “Who’s going to be shopping at 5 am on a Saturday?”

That was precisely the idea, Reena explained. “It gives us the time to fold down the shop without having to deal with customers.”

Now the only “fold-down” I knew of in connection with businesses was when a business folded, or went belly up. “They are shutting down the shop? And they want you to put in extra hours? How does that even make sense? And I thought they were doing well...”

I shot off several questions at my daughter.

“Shutting down? No, what made you think that?” she asked in return. “Fold down means just that. Literally, fold the clothes that come in the new shipment, get the shop ready for customers.”

Our daughter was not only gaining new experience, she was learning a new vocabulary, too. And so were her parents.

– Rishabh Sharma


What’s your story? Every newcomer, no matter how savvy or where he or she comes from, has a Fresh Off the Plane (FOP) story to share about their early days in Canada. Do you want to share your story? E-mail it to us at canadaboundimmigrant@rogers.com.

Posted: May 4, 2016

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