From Ecuador to U of T: What It's Like Being a Latina in Canada

Edited by Avleen Grewal

Okay, so here’s the thing. I am a first-year international student at the University of Toronto coming from Ecuador, South America. As you can guess, Latin American culture and North American culture is pretty different, and believe me when I say this, realizing how different it actually is and just adapting to little things is hard.

Most people know Latin America from the typical stereotype. You know, the ones that say like “Oh, you are Latina. You know for sure how to dance. SHAKIRA, SHAKIRA”. Or the one that says, “you’re from Mexico? Tacos, enchiladas, tequila!” as if saying random words in Spanish makes sense. And finally, one of my favorites, “Do you come from Latin America? Is it true that you have like 10 uncles or so?” North America has a weird image of our culture, now I’m just going to list a few differences between our cultures.

Greeting

This was rough when I first arrived here. In Latin America, we are used to greeting people by giving them a kiss in the cheek every time we say hello and goodbye. In North America, a simple wave is enough. When I first came to Canada, the first time I kissed someone in the cheek to say “hi” and the other person just waved me, we just looked at each other super confused about the awkward situation, until someone was kind enough to explain it to me.  

Swearing

I find (personally) that we swear a lot more in Spanish. When I first cursed here (as I would do it in Spanish) people got scandalized and asked me why I use that kind of language. Don’t get me wrong, we still consider “bad words” to be rude, but we are definitely more open about them, and we do use it more freely.  

Parties

Okay, I know. As Latin Americans, we do have the reputation of been party people, but that’s only because our parties are just different. For us, a party is not complete unless there’s no Latin music (reggaeton is a must), and a decent place to dance! We are more active people and have to be active during the entire party. In big or small gatherings, we are always either dancing, or playing games (all kinds from cards to soccer), or even just making friends with a new person. Also, our parties last much longer. Usually starting at 11 pm and ending at 4 or 5 am sometimes!  

Talking with the person right next to you

Okay, so this is still awkward to me because I always talk with the person next to me. When I first came here, people were super awkward whenever I would start a conversation with them, though I didn't know them (which is how you would make friends in Latin America). Here, as it is more of an individualist culture and everybody is doing their own things, it was really hard at first to understand why people wouldn't talk to me, when I started talking to them.

Hugs and physical contact

This is really sad for any Latin coming to North America. Latins are really passionate and loving people. We love kissing and hugging our loved ones. That’s one of the many ways we show our love, but here on the other side. Hugs are not really a big thing. In fact, a lot of people get awkward when you try to hug them, which is really strange to us.

There’s plenty more difference between our cultures I could mention, but what it is really important to understand is just the fact that both cultures rock! And that as long as we have respect and tolerance, there’s no reason why both sides could not learn and improve from each other! I definitely miss South America (can't wait to go back and dance all night to reggaetón), but for sure I am enjoying here learning everything about how life functions. Hope it can continue to be that way for the next 4 years.