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FRESH OFF THE PLANE: Newcomer shows neighbour how to think inside the box

It’s true that newcomers learn a lot of things in their early days in Canada. But it can also be a two-way learning process, as my experience shows.

The doorbell rang a short while ago. It was my friend Karen with a box of freshly-baked cookies.

Cookies she had baked, in a container I had given her earlier.

It all began several years ago, when we were new in Canada.

I met Karen at the drop-in centre for kids and parents where I used to go with my three-year-old. Karen used to come there with her three-year-old and we became friends while exchanging notes about kids’ eating and sleeping habits, etc.

We arranged a play date at our house and when Karen came to drop off her daughter, she brought a coffee cake she had baked.

A few days later, I met her at the drop-in centre with pakoras in the plastic box she had given me the cake in.

Karen was very interested in the fritters and tried one on the spot, but said I needn’t have returned the plastic container as it was a disposable one and she didn’t need it back.

I initiated her into a common South Asian custom, one of never returning a container empty.

“Oh, that’s so lovely!” she exclaimed. “But then also a lot of pressure, no?

“What if someone can’t make new things to fill the box with each time?”

I told her that it wasn’t meant to be a test of one’s culinary prowess, just a courtesy, where I came from.

That someone hard-pressed for time could even return containers with store-bought fruits – of course, they might never hear the last of it, later, but that’s a another story!

“Okay, so tupperware, I get,” said Karen.

“I mean I might want mine back, but what if I were to give you stuff in foil containers, or reuse old ice-cream tubs? Would you fill even those?”

I assured her that as old habits die hard, I would.

Over time, Karen adopted the custom, too.

Now we have a revolving set of containers in each other’s homes, ones that we fill with something we want to share with each other.

And then we sit back and wait for the return gift of goodies!

– Pratima Bhatnagar

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: Nov 1, 2016

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