Adjusting to a new culture

Life in Canada may be very different than in your home country. Culture shock happens in stages and you may not realize when it's happening to you. You may arrive in Canada full of energy and excited about your upcoming studies, but after a few days or weeks, you may begin to feel lonely, disoriented, frustrated, homesick, or depressed. You may feel overwhelmed by the change in weather, language, culture, and the time zone. If you’re experiencing culture shock, try these strategies:


question mark icon1. Ask questions

If you are unsure or confused about something, don’t worry! Canadians are generally very willing to help. Asking questions about Canadian life will help you learn quicker, which will make your transition smoother.

knife and fork icon2. Eat a good meal

Staying nourished and hydrated will help you settle into Canadian life. There are many international food stores and restaurants within walking distance of campus and you may find some of the same foods from home. Experiment with new foods slowly as not to upset your stomach.

sleep icon3. Get enough rest at night

Get enough sleep, especially during your first days in Canada. You may need to recover from the “jet lag” (fatigue and disorientation) brought on by travelling. Try your best to wake up and rest during regular hours so that your body can adjust to your new environment.

thumbs up icon4. Try something new

Trying a new activity or pursuing a hobby you love in your new setting is a great way to adjust to a new culture. Join a club, play sports and music, or take recreational classes, which are all available on campus. Doing this will also help you meet new people and build your campus network.

handshake icon5. Meet other international students

The International Peer Community and International and Canadian Student Network (ICSN) are here for you — whether you're an undergraduate, graduate, or on academic exchange. These groups offer an opportunity to meet new people, build your support network, explore Ontario, and learn about Canadian culture. If your nervous about making friends, check out our Life Skills in University page for tips. 

smartphone icon6. Stay connected with home

Remember to keep in touch with people at home! If you call, video chat, email or write to your family and friends on a regular basis, you'll feel less homesick.

explore icon7. Explore the region

The more you get to know Kitchener-Waterloo and all it has to offer, the more at home you'll feel here. The Tri-Cities area has year-round events and activities for you to enjoy, and an array of restaurants to explore.

clock icon8. Give yourself time

Give yourself extra time to accomplish things and adjust to your new routine. Life will be less stressful if you do not try to complete too many tasks in one day. If you still feel overwhelmed after a few weeks, visit the Student Success Office. We're here to help!

person saying hello9. Talk to someone

Share how you feel with a close friend, your Residence Life don, academic advisor, or someone else you trust. You may also want to consider speaking to a professional. Counselling Services offers a variety of confidential services at no charge to University of Waterloo students, and there are many peer support and mentorship opportunities on campus.