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FRESH OF THE PLANE: Newcomer leaves a paper trail

When we were still very new in Canada, a neighbour in our apartment complex invited us to his place for dinner. It would be an opportunity to meet other neighbours as they would invite a few others as well to the balcony BBQ, he said. 

I told my friend at work about this, excited at the prospect of meeting others and quite struck by how friendly everyone was in Canada. 

He agreed it was a welcoming society and told me that I should not forget to take a “hostess” gift. 

The concept was new to me and needed some explaining. 

A hostess gift, he said, was something small but nice that one took to thank the host for the invitation. 

He suggested a bottle of wine or flowers as possible hostess gifts.

My wife, however, had another idea. 

Everyone must be taking things like that, she pointed out. 

We should take something from our culture. Maybe a box of Indian sweets?

She made rawa laddoos and placed them in a plastic bottle that had contained roasted peanuts – after we peeled the label off. 

The next day, a little before we were expected at our neighbours’ for dinner, we realized we had nothing to wrap the bottle in. 

No gift bag, no wrapping paper. It didn’t look nice enough to give someone, my wife decreed, and sent me off on an errand to find wrapping paper. I rushed to the grocery store around the corner and asked one of the cashiers where I might find wrapping paper. 

Busy with another customer, she pointed me in the direction of a giant roll of paper in a corner. 

“We have some there, you  can take that, if you like,” she said.

“Oh, wow! They even give free wrapping paper in Canada! Anyone can walk and in take some!” I thought. “Wait until Mira hears this.”

I took a large piece. The bottle was an awkward shape to wrap, and we ended with something that looked like a funnel. 

A pretty funnel, though, as the paper had a nice pattern, and pleased with our efforts, we rang the bell at our neighbours.

The neighbour’s wife received us at the door, received our bottle of sweets with a smile and said, “Let me put these in water”.

Mira and I looked at each other, confused. She wanted to throw the laddoos even before tasting them? 

Meanwhile, the lady of the house was confused, too, as she unwrapped the paper to discover, not the flowers she thought we’d brought, but a plastic bottle filled with strange round balls! 

We explained what those were and she was too polite to tell us we’d used free wrapping paper meant for flower bouquets!

It was left to my friend to educate us, after he had finished laughing so hard that he almost choked on one of the rawa laddoos I took for him.                                                                                                                            

– NITIN KAMATH

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: Jul 1, 2017

September 2017



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