John McGraw, a seasoned intercultural expert, shares invaluable insights on navigating the challenges faced by newcomers to Canada and how cultural biases can impact our journeys.

Episode Highlights:

  • Cultural Compass: Discover the importance of embracing diverse perspectives, understanding cultural biases, and becoming a bridge between cultures.
  • Speed Up Your Journey: Get tips on how to avoid common cultural misunderstandings and become more culturally aware. Find out how to make your journey smoother and quicker.
  • Growing Your Cultural Muscles: Discover the power of diving into Canadian culture. Learn how connecting with different people and communities can open up exciting opportunities.
  • Bridging Cultures: John shares insights on building connections and using your unique background to your advantage in Canada. Be the bridge between cultures and thrive.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Celebrate Diversity: Embrace and learn from the cultures around you. Avoid judging and stay curious about why people do things differently.
  2. Fast-Track Your Journey: Immerse yourself in Canadian culture and connect with people from various backgrounds. LinkedIn can be a great tool for networking.
  3. Cultural Skills: Develop your cultural awareness as a skill. Use cultural differences to your benefit, whether in work or daily life.
  4. Connect and Learn: Seek out informational interviews, have conversations, and find mentors to expand your cultural knowledge and create opportunities.
  5. Conclusion: Understanding different cultures is a valuable skill as a newcomer. By respecting diversity, staying curious, and immersing yourself in Canadian culture, you can light up your path to success. Don’t forget to connect with John McGraw and explore his resources for further cultural growth.

Where to find John

Where to find Miguel

In this episode, we cover:

00:00 – Introduction

02:45 – John’s Background

07:15 – The Importance of Cultural Awareness

11:30 – Cultural Biases

15:00 – John’s Work

20:30 – Challenges Faced by Newcomers

24:00 – Cultural Awareness for Canadians

28:21 – Advice for Newcomers

36:15 – Flexing Your Cultural Competence

39:29 – Becoming a Bridge Between Cultures

46:00 – Billboard Message

47:29 – Connect with John

AI-generated Transcript (Click here)

Miguel Abascal
Welcome back to another episode of Newcomers ON FIRE!. Today we have John with a very unique story. He went to Japan to teach English, and in this episode, we talk about his journey as a newcomer, his learnings regarding cultural differences, and how he was so transformed by all this that when he came back to Canada, he decided to become an intercultural coach. He’s on a mission to help people like you. You adapt faster while still being true to who you are and with less pain.


Welcome to the Newcomers ON FIRE! show with your host, Miguel Abascal. Listen to people like you sharing their journeys, struggles, and their breakthroughs. Be ready to be inspired to take control of your time, career, finances, and future. Fulfill your potential, become the person you’re meant to be and make your dreams a reality.


Miguel Abascal
Welcome, welcome. Thank you so much, John, for being with us today. Welcome to Newcomers ON FIRE!. Super excited to have you because the story that John has is quite unique. He went to Japan as a newcomer and then learned a lot of things and then came back to Canada and became a newcomer ally. So before stealing your thunder jump, just tell us more about yourself and a little bit about that story about going to Japan.


John McGraw
Sure, absolutely. And thanks for having me on here. I’m very excited to talk with you and share a little bit about my own experiences, and hopefully that’s helpful to all of the newcomers and the rest of the audience that are tuning in. So basically, my journey to Japan really didn’t necessarily come out of any particular great ideas that I had of wanting to change the world. I essentially was in a place where I felt like I was kind of stuck here in Canada. I had been doing a number of different jobs, and actually, for some time I had been doing a number of OD jobs because I was pursuing an acting career in Toronto, believe it or not, at the time. And I’d come to the realization that it was something, although it was something I enjoyed, I didn’t have enough of a passion for it to go through all of the starvation and rejections that company acting jobs.


John McGraw
And I kind of looked around and figured, well, what is it that I want to do with myself? And I saw, well, there was an opportunity to teach English in Japan. There were a couple of other countries, but ultimately ended up deciding to go with Japan because at the time, it seemed like the most stable option. And I was also under the belief that, well, okay, teaching English is my mother tongue. That should be pretty easy to do. Which, of course, showed how naive I was because there’s a lot to teaching languages, especially when it’s your mother tongue and you haven’t really gone through the experience of really learning it in depth. But that came later on as I got some proper training through that. And it was really a pivotal time in my life. It just changed my viewpoint. This was my first time living outside of Canada.


John McGraw
I had grown up here. I’d worked here. Aside from vacations here and there, I had never been outside of Canada for an extended period of time. And it was my experiences in Japan that really made me aware of what Canadian culture was and the fact that there was a Canadian culture. I think that many of us, particularly Anglophones, who are born and raised in Canada, if you ask us about someone asks us about Canadian culture, it’s very difficult for us to answer. We say, Well, I don’t know. Canadian culture. We have hockey. We have Tim Hortons. What else is there, right? This idea.


Miguel Abascal
Maple syrup.


John McGraw
Yeah, maple syrup. Of course. Yes. Maple syrup as well. Thank you for having that in, Miguel. And I think it came to the realization that, okay, those are visible parts of the culture along with language and some other things. But I was much more aware of the invisible parts of culture. And I think even while I was in Japan, I didn’t really have the knowledge or the language to really articulate that. But I could sense certain things were very different, and I started to realize that certain behaviors were different. Not to say that it was completely alien because of, you know, humans and people. There was a lot of similarities, but there’s certainly more of a focus on differences when you get into a new culture, as I’m sure Miguel, you’re probably aware from your own experiences, too. So one of the things that I encountered, that encountered at the beginning, that really brought that home for me, was an early experience I had teaching English in the classroom.


John McGraw
This was about within the first six months. And I was teaching a class which was focusing on preparing for an English test because there was a particular English test called TOEIC that was very popular in Japan because if you got good scores, then at your workplace, you had opportunities for promotion and maybe overseas assignments and so on. So the school that I was working at had a test preparation class for that, and I was teaching. It was basically multiple choice, right? It was just the idea of how to be effective in a multiple choice, doing a multiple choice test, which ultimately the focus of the lesson was very simple. If you don’t know, just pick something. And this was something that was actually being emphasized in the lesson because at the time, at least in Japanese culture, there is a bit of a tendency to be risk averse.


John McGraw
So depending on the person, they might be more likely to just not mark anything because they didn’t want to get it wrong. And it was just focus on don’t worry about getting it wrong. Just pick something because you’ll at least have a 25% chance of getting it right, whereas if you leave it empty, then it’s zero. So were going through this lesson and were doing these different exercises, going through the explanations. And there was one particular student I was focusing on, Kenji, and he was a middle aged businessman. He seemed to be paying a lot of attention to what I was saying, so I kind of focused a bit of my talk to him. And then were preparing for the final activity, which was a practice, just a short section of multiple choice tests to go ahead and just pick answer. And I asked the class, and I focused on genji in particular, and I asked him, do you understand?


John McGraw
And he said, yes. And so I thought, okay, this is fantastic. Six months in and I’m an excellent teacher. These students know what they’re going to have to do, and it’s going to be great. And as it turns out, well, Kenji in particular didn’t do any of that stuff. He still left a lot of the answers empty, didn’t pick anything. And this was the focus for 40 minutes, was the whole purpose of this lesson was to just go ahead and choose answer. And I was shocked. I thought, Well, Kenji, I mean, that was the whole point of the lesson. You said you understood, but it was clear that he didn’t understand. And it was like, if you didn’t understand, why didn’t you say anything? I actually got a little bit upset about it because I just thought, well, was he just too embarrassed to say anything or so on?


John McGraw
And as a result of that situation, and because I got a little bit upset about it and I was not particularly a bit unprofessional, he never came back to any of the classes again after that. So it wasn’t until sometime later that I realized, as I taught other classes, talked to students, and I talked to other teachers, that whenever I’d asked that question, do you understand? The answer was about 99% of the time. It was yes. Even when it was clear that students did not understand my instructions. So I wanted to figure out, okay, well, why is that? What is it? They can’t all be embarrassed or it can’t be all just down to misunderstanding that they think that they believe they understand, but they don’t. And as I talked, as I mentioned to some of my colleagues and did some research, I found out that a part of this could be explained by kind of a collective understanding, right, a collective approach to groups and thinking about the group.


John McGraw
Now, I want to explain, of course, I’m not trying to say that this is something that all Japanese are alike. There are, of course, individuals, and I’ve met Japanese who are quite individualistic and focus on themselves. But I’m just talking more about the tendency based on the culture developed over centuries, and the focus is on group harmony. So the idea that if one student doesn’t understand, there’s a real discomfort in mentioning that, because if they do, that causes more trouble for the teacher, that causes more trouble for the other students who understand, and it upsets things. So it’s better to just say yes and just go along and hope for the best was the understanding there. And as you can imagine for me, being a Canadian raised in culture where, hey, if you don’t understand something as a student, you’re supposed to speak up and speak your mind.


John McGraw
Ask for clarification because you want to get the job done, right? So that was kind of one of my first realizations and one that really stands out to me. And as a result, I had to adapt how I was doing things and how I taught. And I think that was one of the experiences that really led me to ultimately going on to what I’m doing now with my business, with Hiaku coaching, to help newcomers and expats and businesses connect across cultures to succeed in less time and pain.


Miguel Abascal
Wow, there’s a lot of there. And you know what? What I love about that, John, is that I do love Japanese culture a lot. In my previous life, I was the CEO of a coffee company, and I had the privilege and pleasure to travel to the Specialty Coffee Association of Japan. And I do understand exactly what you’re saying when it’s like, the respect, the way that they approach things, how you introduce and present your business cards with the two hands and looking into the eyes, bowing down. I even took Japanese in my university degrees as well. Just six months. I just know how to say my name is, and that’s all. But what I love about your story is that opened your eyes to say, like, wow, something is different here. Something is happening. And that’s my understanding too. A lot of the questions that I ask, they always say yes because no is not allowed or not permitted, or in a way, not well received.


Miguel Abascal
So you need to also focus on how you’re asking the question and why you are saying. Tell me more about that experience and how does that have to do something with a cultural bias? Does that have to do something with something that is different with you? Like, from your perspective, what are your thoughts?


John McGraw
Yeah, well, that’s a very good question. Speaking specifically about cultural bias, I think my first approach, as you said, I had a job to do. Once I had that realization, I still had to make sure that I could do my job. I had to make sure that the students did what I asked them to do when I was giving them activities. So how I can explain basically how my cultural bias came in was first trying to get them to adapt to my approach. Right? So I would emphasize the idea that, hey, it’s okay to ask questions. That’s quite normal in the culture. Please feel free. If you don’t understand something, just ask. It’s no problem. You don’t need to feel embarrassed about it. And I think it’s good to sort of bring in a different perspective, bring in a different way and let them know, hey, in Canadian culture, it’s this way.


John McGraw
So I don’t think that in and of itself was necessarily a bad thing to do, but I think it does show a bit of a cultural bias because initially I was trying to get them to adapt to me. And in the context, you have to understand, of course, I was in Japan the only time that these and these were not students that were in school all the time, most of them were working adults. So about the only time they were really having exposure to someone from a different culture was often when they were in 40 minutes, maybe once a week with me. And the rest of the time they were in Japanese culture with the Japanese language. And as you mentioned, that avoidance of saying no and group harmony and so on. So it wasn’t really realistic for me to expect them to adapt to me, so I had to ultimately adapt what I was doing to fit the circumstances of it better.


John McGraw
So what I ended up doing was changing how I was confirming instructions. So rather than saying asking a question like, do you understand? I would ask them, okay, so please explain to me and I would say this to the class, not to one individual student, but I would say to the class, please explain to me what you’re going to do, or if their English ability was not high enough to communicate that. And of course, I should explain that this school, like a lot of English schools, the emphasis was English only. You couldn’t use Japanese at all. So they had to speak in English all the time. So if they didn’t necessarily have the ability to communicate the instructions back to me in English, then I would ask them a series of questions. For example, if you have a multiple choice question, are you going to leave it blank?


John McGraw
Yes or no?


Miguel Abascal


John McGraw
Are you going to choose answer yes or no? So I would confirm their understanding based off of that, and if necessary, then I would give more examples or explain a bit more. And that, I think, was easier because then in that case, it wasn’t any of them having to speak up individually asking for clarification. It was me as the teacher, seen as kind of the respected person in the room, asking them as a group to explain to me. So no one was singled out. They could answer as a group, and I could adjust it so no one was kind of put on the spot. And that worked much more effectively in the short term, certainly. And I think as time went on and they started to get more comfortable with me, then there was a little bit of adaptation where they started to feel more comfortable asking questions.


John McGraw
But to expect them to do that right away wouldn’t have been realistic. And I think the initial part was my example of my cultural bias and realizing oh well, I have to adjust and there’s more than one way to do something.


Miguel Abascal
I love that, John, because now that I look back into my journey, when I came to Canada, my first five years were not that great. Actually they were terrible. I was constantly doubting myself. My confidence was completely crushed because from being an executive in Mexico, I’m in Canada working in survival jobs and survival jobs. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s just I was not expecting that and it was a huge impact on my identity. One of the things I remember from the way you are telling your story is that you are so right. Everybody has cultural bias and we might not be even aware that we have them. For example, very simple example. I have a friend that he worked like crazy to get a promotion. And time over time, this person was not considered for the promotion until one day he asked the boss.


Miguel Abascal
It’s like, hey, I’ve been doing three times, four times more than X or that person and I’m better than the person that was promoted why was not promoted? And the boss answered it’s like, well, you never told me you wanted to be promoted. As simple as that. Like that communication. Another example I have is that I remember a manager telling me why you never told me that there was a mistake on this report. And it’s like, well, because you are the boss. And then this person was like, what are you talking about? It’s like, I cannot say that you are wrong in front of everybody. I cannot say that you have a mistake. I can just try to show you, but if you don’t see it, well, because then I get in trouble. Well, I got in trouble because I didn’t told them. And then for me was a significant cultural shift in my mindset because from Mexico, which is also similar culture to Japan, where you do not challenge authority, you do not say you’re having high esteem, respect and respect for authority.


Miguel Abascal
And being vulnerable is kind of like a weakness. So you don’t want to show that because that will be something shameful. So changing all of that to be more vocal and to talk about, hey, this is what I believe, these are my thoughts, these are my comments. Raising the hand.


John McGraw
Oh boy.


Miguel Abascal
There is a lot that happened. I remember even some quotes that apply to Japanese culture and mind because there is one that says like the nail that sticks out gets hammered. So pretty much everybody should have like a low profile. Same in Mexico. The closer you are to the sun, the more you get burned. So it’s, you know, do not do or change things too much. But then in the Canadian culture, it’s completely different. It’s like this quickie wheel gets the grease. And that for me was like, oh, wow, now I understand what’s happening. Because people were saying to me, it’s like, you are boycotting your career. It’s like, what are you talking about? I’m working five times harder than anyone in this floor, and I’m not even moving ahead. And it was because of that. It’s the communication, it’s the personal branding and so on.


Miguel Abascal
So what blows my mind, John, with your story is that from being this amazing instructor in Japan, discovering these differences in culture, you say, you know what, there is something here, and now you became an intercultural coach. Tell me more about that. What is that how you help people to navigate these in a faster way? Yeah, that would be awesome to understand.


John McGraw
Yeah, well, those examples that you had from your own experience are great. Well, great that you were able to learn from them as well. And those exactly what you mentioned are the kinds of things that I think more people need to be aware of, which is the purpose of what I’m doing. Because you can be an accomplished, very accomplished in your field, be an excellent worker, have all the skills, but having that understanding of how to communicate in a different culture makes such a huge difference, as it did for your career and opportunities to advance. And I think that what I take as an English teacher, I understand, okay, sure. English and English and other language skills are very useful, very important. They open so many opportunities, but it’s not the only thing. And we can all speak the same language, but there’s still differences in communication that come up.


John McGraw
And so that’s what I do, is I highlight what some of those differences are when it comes to Canada, such as your example there of speaking up, highlighting yourself, letting your managers know what exactly it is that you’re accomplishing and what you’re doing, letting them know when you’re interested in getting a promotion and communicating it. Because there is that expectation that you have a bit of a sense, a bit of control over your career and that it’s okay to disagree with someone in authority, with your manager and let them know when things but also considered in a somewhat polite, respectful way, which also depends on the culture as well because there are some other cultures compared to Canada which are much more direct and kind of on the opposite end. And can sometimes get yourself, if you take that approach can maybe have a negative effect on your career because you’re considered someone who’s very blunt and isn’t concerned about empathy.


John McGraw
So it all depends on the perspectives of the cultures that you’re coming from, whether it’s your national culture, even the industry that you’ve been working in, your socioeconomic background, your generation. There’s so many different things, factors that come into play with culture. So what I do is ranging from I’ve done workshops for nonprofit organizations such as JVs that work with newcomers, helping them to find work. Also with organizations such as the Toronto Business Development Center that has a startup visa program, helping entrepreneurs who have been successful in their home countries to expand their businesses in Canada. And I’ve done that to help them be aware of business culture when they’re trying to make those first time connections, whether it’s to find work or it’s to find partners or other stakeholders to work with. And I also do coaching one to one and in groups for those people who feel that they need to take a look more in depth in terms of their own cultural biases.


John McGraw
And this can be and I do mention in my tagline, I work with newcomers, but I’ve also worked with people who have been in Canada for 20 years and still feel that in some way there might be something that might be getting in the way of their goals. I should also say that this is not something that only applies to people who have immigrated to Canada. There is also a need for Canadians in our own countries to be aware of these cultural biases that we have. And I think that it’s something that’s harder for us, simply harder for anyone when you’re in your home country. Because at the very least, when you’re an immigrant, you may not know exactly what’s going on, but you know that there’s something that’s getting in the way. But as a Canadian, you wouldn’t necessarily think of that. You might just think, oh, if there’s a communication difference, oh, that person’s rude.


John McGraw
Or they don’t speak up. That’s because they’re not confident, right? They attribute it to something else. So that awareness is something that, in the long term, is essential for businesses in Canada, for Canada to succeed. Since we’re so reliant on immigration and bringing in all of these talented, internationally trained professionals, we need to find ways to understand them and understand us and for all of us to be able to work more effectively together, because that diversity can be a strength as long as we are open and understanding of each other.


Miguel Abascal
I love that. And you know what I’m thinking to myself? Where were you when I was a newcomer, when I just landed in Canada? Because there are two ways to learn. You either do trial and error, which usually is like you learn by stepping on someone’s toes and a bump or something happening because you just did something wrong without knowing. I have an example. Or you learn through going to training or paying for coaching, which is going to accelerate that process. The reason I believe that it took me five years to land that job in my profession is because I did everything by myself. Like trial and error and know, experimenting things out. Well, I should have just go with like, where is John? Let me ask you some questions and tell me what’s happening. Because I remember too, like for example, in Mexico, it’s quite normal that we hug people.


Miguel Abascal
We’re very affectionate and very physical. So we hug, we dance, we do a lot of stuff. When I came to Canada, I started hugging people. And some people were like, oh, this is weird, this is nice. But other people just pushed me away and says like, what are you doing? You’re not allowed me touch me. And I was like, I’m not touching you, I’m just hugging you. I don’t know. My mind was completely different. It’s like I’m not doing anything wrong, but it was wrong. And then somebody explained me, well, there are some cultures that you cannot touch that person. Only the partner can touch that person. And it was like, oh wow. Completely. I was not even expecting something like that. So I did a lot of that. Probably we can do an episode about all the mistakes and all the things that I did in terms of culturally.


Miguel Abascal
But another thing that I wanted to talk with you is so for somebody that just arrived to Canada, like me back in the day, what would be your advice? Because adapting to a new culture, I know that you mentioned that it’s good for the newcomers, but it’s also good for the Canadians because they need to understand where we are coming from and what could be like those. We need to build those bridges to understand each other better. So as a newcomer, we need to communicate better. We need to understand what to say, how to say it, the approach, the value proposition that we do and everything. But from your perspective, what would be your advice to newcomers to hit the ground and run to accelerate this process? Do you have maybe some steps around that?


John McGraw
Yeah, that’s a very good question. I would say first of all, above anything else, is to have an open mind, develop an open mind. And I mean in the sense of get used to developing the skill of avoiding judging something. And it’s a bit difficult to do because it is something that we naturally, as humans, tend to do. Right. If something doesn’t fit our expectations of how we think things should be, then it’s a natural emotional reaction. It’s something we don’t like or we think that’s different. But when you come to any new culture, there are going to be some differences and you need to be open and aware and observe. Okay, well, what’s going on here? Maybe okay, this person. Okay, you mentioned the hugging. Oh, Canadians don’t seem to like that. The initial reaction, I imagine, could be, well, these people are really cold and really unfriendly, right?


John McGraw
If that’s what you’re used to, I’m sure it could get that kind of feeling. Right. It’s quite natural, but just to observe, okay, well, what’s going on here? What’s the explanation? And be curious in asking questions and doing it in a non judgmental way and just asking, oh, people don’t notice that. People do this or they don’t like that, so what’s the reason for that? And see if you can get a bit of an explanation for that. Depending on the circumstances, the person may or may not really be able to explain it that well because they may have never thought about it. But you can do that. I would say doing a bit of research, but ultimately taking things in and using it as a learning opportunity, right? And that takes some time to develop. But I think that’s one of the core skills to develop in being able to take things in without judgment.


John McGraw
That’s going to be the foundation of any kind of learning you’re going to do. Aside from that, as you’re doing that, also take the time to develop connections outside of your own cultural group. Now, this is not to say that you shouldn’t spend time with people from your cultural group because you want to be true to your identity and stay connected with that part of who you are because it is part of your identity. I’m Canadian. When I was in Japan, there were times that I wanted to just spend some time with Canadian culture and maybe even watch a hockey game every once in a while or something like that. But it’s easy to fall into a trap of getting stuck in that because it’s comfortable. And as we all know, if there’s no discomfort, there’s no growth, right? So you risk getting kind of stuck into that community where you never go outside and you only speak to people maybe in your own language or going to stores that only offer the things that come from your home country.


John McGraw
And it’s like your body is in one country, but your mind is back in your home country and it’s like you never actually left. And that, of course, limits your opportunities. So take that time to connect with other people so you can learn from them and create a broader network to learn from, to create opportunities to find opportunities for work or whatever projects it is that you’re doing. And I would say those two things in particular and also learn a bit more about culture, the invisible culture, about the beliefs. Now, depending on how deep you want to get into it, you might not be as necessarily as passionate about it as I am in terms of getting very academic about it, but just getting an understanding of some of the principles. Again, understanding not just that Canadians don’t like to hug or something like that, but what’s the reason.


John McGraw
Behind that? What’s the thinking behind that? And then I think through that thinking about yourself, okay, so why is it that we as Mexicans like to hug people, for example? What is that? And I think that’s an opportunity that you probably wouldn’t necessarily have in your home country to think more about that. And then I think that analysis of yourself and of other cultures helps you to realize that it’s not that one way is better than the other. It’s not that this is better, this is worse. So it’s not either putting your own culture above others or sometimes putting the other culture above yours because that’s also sometimes another reaction that people have, oh, they’re so much better than ours, but just that there are differences and there are similarities and taking that gives you another set of tools. So it’s like, okay, well, when I’m in this situation, I can work on the handshake, for example.


John McGraw
And there are these other situations where I can hug and you can start to develop that ability where sometimes you might introduce something from your own culture or something from a Canadian culture and be able to use that to actually make a bit of a difference. So you don’t have to necessarily completely hide sometimes that side from your own culture in a Canadian context can give you an edge. I thinking about my own going back to my experiences in Japan. Sometimes I would see other people and sometimes feel a bit of a pressure myself to want to really adapt and try to do things in a very Japanese way. And I think that there is certainly value in that. But there is the sense that this was an expression I’d heard. You can’t out Japanese the Japanese, right? They’re always going to have that edge because they’re part of that culture.


John McGraw
So in other words, yes, do adjust, but you can play the foreigner card to your advantage because you can actually get away with things that someone who’s Japanese couldn’t do, like speaking in a little more of a direct manner. Now, Canada is a bit different because I think compared to Japan, we’re a bit more open and inclusive to other cultures. And in theory, anyone, of course, can become a Canadian. But there is still, I think, a little bit of that opportunity to bring in something that’s a bit different, that can make an impact that someone who is in Canada, born and raised here, just might not occur. Whether it’s an approach to a particular problem in a corporate environment or just being warmer and friendly and knowing when to what degree, getting a sense to what degree you can be a little warmer in the approach to make more of an impression.


John McGraw
So I think that ultimately is the goal to kind of not just to completely change to one thing, but to have another set of tools. And then you have more options, more skills.


Miguel Abascal
I like that a lot because I do remember that when you’re settling in a new country and you’re trying to figure out things and your success formula from back home is not working here, you’re applying to jobs. No reply. Rejections, nothing happened. Confidence crash. You might be working in survival jobs. Of course, your identity, you get a huge hit on your identity in terms of like, maybe there is something wrong with me, maybe I’m broken. And then you start having all of these ideas of like, oh wow, something is happening. And then on top of all of that, of course, it’s adapting to this new culture and trying to understand and navigate. And I do believe that a lot of people saying that some Newcomers don’t have Canadian experiences because it’s not the Canadian experience. I think it’s the Canadian cultural awareness yet. And I think they’re using that interchangeably just because sometimes to your point, it’s like I do remember an interview with somebody asked me, it’s like, oh, that was interesting way of answering.


Miguel Abascal
Tell me about yourself. How long have you been in Canada? And I was like, two days. And this person told me, I think you need to go to an Assetment agency because they are going to help you there. And it was interesting because definitely that part as well. I have so many stories too. The other one, I remember in Mexico, when you are sick, you go to work because there is nothing more important than work. And unless you are dying, you are allowed to not go to work. That was kind of like the mentality. So I remember here in Canada being very sick, going to work, and my manager telling me, what are you doing? Why are you so not considerate? And I was like, I’m here because I’m responsible. It’s like, no, you’re here being unconcerned. Because if you’re here sick, you’re going to get everybody sick.


Miguel Abascal
And now everybody’s going to need to go and take a sick day. It’s like, just take a sick day, come back tomorrow. And I was like, I’m allowed to have sick days. It was blown away as well. So with all of these examples, there are thousands of ways of just trying to figure out ways of connecting, accelerating. I think what you do, John, is amazing because you read through accelerate and help us accelerate our journey in terms of what should we avoid? Where are the mind bumps that we need to avoid as well? What are the things that we can communicate better? And also, how can we become more cross culturally competent? And I think that’s another skill set that Newcomers and Canadians we also need to work on. From your perspective, how can we flex that muscle of being more competent in a cross culturally way?


Miguel Abascal
Besides of non judging, besides all of this, is there anything else maybe more that applies also to Canadians and Newcomers?


John McGraw
Yeah, I would say, well, it’s interesting because you said flexing that skill. And it’s like any skill or any muscle that you’re developing, it gets stronger through repetition, through practice. And as you said, the lack of judgment is a mindset that’s developed. And I think a big part of that really comes to actively exposing yourself to other cultures. And if you’re focusing specifically on Canada, certainly exposing yourself to Canadian culture, okay, so what’s going on in the news? What’s in the popular entertainment, picking out specifically Canadian forms of entertainment to get a better understanding of what values are? Now, you may like it, you may not like it, and that’s perfectly fine. Not saying that you necessarily have to start liking hockey or things like that if it doesn’t appeal to you, but at least that exposure gives a bit of an understanding of, okay, what’s important to Canadians, what’s important to the society.


John McGraw
And I think that once you’re able to start to connect, that’s important. And I would also say, though, don’t just limit yourself to what’s considered Canadian culture, sort of white European Canadian culture that can also apply to the indigenous peoples, First Nations. Become aware of that, because that’s certainly something that’s a very important part of the culture. It’s still quite a dark part of our history, but it’s something important to be aware of as well. And of course, fellow newcomers, people who have come here not just from your own culture, but as you know, if you’re in many of the larger cities, particularly Toronto, for example, there’s such a mixture of cultures here and so many different things to learn about. And I think exposing yourself to them, taking opportunities, going to festivals, connecting with people from different cultures, that gives an opportunity to really exercise that cultural awareness.


John McGraw
And this can be, of course, in a social settings, but also in a professional settings. LinkedIn LinkedIn is a fantastic way to connect with people in Canada, and they can be, of course, from whatever culture here. And that’s an opportunity to find mentors, to connect with people who are if you’re looking for work, connect with people who are in the field. And as you mentioned, one thing about Canadian culture, you can communicate with your boss when something is wrong. That means you can also approach anyone. And it’s not considered kind of a horrible thing to do. If if someone is, for example, maybe a director in a company of some kind or even higher than that, and you’re considered, oh, well, I’m just a student. Or I’m just a newcomer who’s looking for work. As long as you’re approaching them in a way that shows that you have an interest in them and you want to learn from them.


John McGraw
Hey, if you have time for an informational interview, I’d like to know about things. And you’re approaching them with the sense that you’re interested in them as a person. And it’s not, hey, can you help me find a job? Then that’s a great opportunity to connect with people and the worst that they’re going to do is they’re not going to respond. And that may have nothing to do with you. It may be just that they’re busy. Right. But there are people who will take the time to connect with you. And LinkedIn gives such an opportunity to connect with people that you would never connect with. So I would encourage you to do that. And those are opportunities to learn more not just about Canadian culture, but also the work culture in different corporations, different businesses, and getting a sense of what’s out there. And I think that’s another opportunity to kind of flex your cultural awareness and build up your skills and then learning how getting a sense of how people communicate through email, through LinkedIn messaging.


John McGraw
And then of course, taking opportunities to connect with people in person and have some conversations, whether it’s virtually or in person, really, it’s getting yourself out there to avoid kind of being stuck in your comfort zone of staying with just what’s comfortable to you back home. It’s okay to go back to there every once in a while because you need that when you’re feeling a bit homesick. There’s nothing wrong with that. But make sure to let yourself grow, take that opportunity, experience that discomfort and realize that’s an opportunity to learn.


Miguel Abascal
Yeah, completely. I think something that you mentioned, I think what you say is exactly so true because the more we practice and the more we do, the better it goes. And I think also asking really good questions because if I could redo my journey, I will ask more questions like, what should I not do as a Mexican to my Mexican friends? And then probably that will give me more information because what I did was similar to your advice. I just went to other groups to understand their cultures better, but without understanding how my culture interacts with their culture better as well. So it was kind of like, okay, I was just discovering that through trial and error. And then if I had done that, it’s like, hey, do not hug people or ask for permission. Can I help you? Or can I give you a keys?


Miguel Abascal
Or whatever. So exactly. Those little things, of course, make a huge difference. To finish, I think if you have a billboard out there in the world to see what would be your message for people, what will you put there?


John McGraw
Yeah, my message might be a bit long for a billboard, but I like the imagery that you mentioned with that. So I think it would say something like, everyone has their cultural biases and it’s nothing to be ashamed of, but when you’re aware of it, then you can grow and you can become a more global person and get more opportunities both professionally and personally and learn from your biases and you can become a bridge between cultures.


Miguel Abascal
I love that, a bridge between cultures. By learning from your biases, I think that’s exactly what we need to do as an is also discovering the new things, the things that are going to help you and things are going to delay your journey. So John, I think there is a lot to discuss, but I do appreciate a lot you coming to the show and sharing your wisdom and your experience. For sure we will have you more in the future just to discuss more specifics. But thank you. Thank you again for giving us all of this and is there anything else that you want to share? Any way for people to reach out to you or anything that is coming up soon?


John McGraw
Yeah, I would encourage people like I mentioned on LinkedIn, you can easily find me. My handle is John Edward McGraw. Also you can do a search for HIYAKU coaching so you can see the sign up there. If you can’t remember my name, search for me there. And every week I run a LinkedIn live show called Intercultural Insiders where I have conversations with people, with intercultural experiences, including newcomers to Canada. I’ve also had job search, know career coaches on as well to give advice. It’s a great opportunity not just to hear the guests, but also to connect with other audience members as well. So I encourage you to tune in for that. It’s also streamed on YouTube, so you can go to the Hiaku Coaching YouTube channel and see all of the past episodes there. And it comes out on, I should say that’s every Wednesday.


John McGraw
That’s Wednesdays at noon Eastern time. And the podcast also comes out as an audio version the following Monday. So if you prefer to listen in your own time, you can subscribe to the Intercultural Insiders podcast there. The website. We do have a website for Hiaku coaching. It’s at thriveglobally. CA. We’re going through some adjustments and changes with that, so it might not be the most up to date there, but certainly reaching out to me through LinkedIn is a great opportunity. Can discuss maybe some of the challenges you’re having or if you have questions. If you’re looking to whether you’re someone who’s just arrived in Canada or you’ve been here for quite some time and you’re thinking about ways to advance and you’re not sure how to do that. Quite happy to have a conversation. Looking forward. I always like to have conversations, so feel free.


Miguel Abascal
Amazing I’ve been part of your shows and for sure I can recommend a lot. Thank you so much, John. Thank you. And yes to your success. Thank you.


John McGraw
Well, thank you very much for having me.


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