Life in Canada

Arrival in Canada

People of German descent immigrated to Canada for a wide range of reasons. Although the largest wave of immigrants happened after WWII, many are still arriving today. For some of the participants in the oral history project, it was literally a honeymoon that never ended. For others, Canada simply sounded like an interesting place to live. Others yet had no idea about Canada and thought it was part of the United States.

Although many interviewees felt welcome here, many also felt homesick. Some became acutely aware of the differences between Canadians and Germans, right down to the kind of window dressings and doorknobs used in homes. This chapter covers many topics surrounding the immigrants’ arrival in Canada: living with or apart from a German immigrant community, accepting jobs with low pay rates just to make ends meet, experiencing prejudice, and more. You’ll also read about some important theories in immigration research and how it applies to the participants’ experiences.

Earning a Living in Canada

A house.

The participants who immigrated to Canada after World War II had vastly different job prospects than those who arrived in this century: The older generation emphasized accepting whatever work they could get, whereas those in the younger generation often had more options; some immigrants switched careers, whereas others maintained theirs throughout their lives here; and many made ends meet just by using their connections (nowadays called networking). Several German immigrants also started their own businesses that have since become strong contributors to the local community (and some even beyond). This chapter will introduce you to the many ways the immigrants made a living here in Canada.

Canadian, eh?

It’s often said that a person needs both roots and wings to grow. This can ring especially true for immigrants, who leave their roots at home and spread their wings to fly to a new country. Did the participants in our oral history project develop new roots in Canada? Do they even feel like they belong here? And what are their feelings about their home country?

You’ll find out how acclimatizing to the new country (a process called acculturation) isn’t just a straight, short, narrow path; rather, you’ll learn about the intricacies of how each immigrant finds a unique path to a new identity, namely that of someone whose life is composed of more than one country, more than one language, and more than one culture.