Bridging the Cultures


Name: Jude Gaal

ParentsCountry of Origin: Hungary

Current City: Windsor, Ontario

How was it growing up in your community? As a child of immigrant parents, what are some of the challenges you faced in your community? How does having immigrant parents affected your childhood or growing up in Canada?

My parents came from Hungary after they fled the Revolution of 1956. I remember being teased a lot because of my last name and because of the clothing my parents bought for me. As an immigrant child I wore oxford shoes in the late 60s when go-go boots were in. I also faced harsher rules and restrictions in what I could and could not do when I was growing up. My Canadian friends were surprised that I could not date, or have a boyfriend at the age of 12. I wasn’t allowed to visit friends or have sleepovers. It was really tough to integrate into Canadian culture and the more strict Hungarian culture that my parents were brought up with and therefore used as their template to parent me.

How does it feel to be living in two worlds simultaneously: one being the world you were born in (Canada) and the other being the cultural background/world your parents raise you in at home?

It still feels odd. My mother’s style is very traditional and conservative. She loves Louis the XIV style furniture and having silverware and a good set of china for company. My parents were also of the belief that one should respect their parents whereas I always felt affronted by this as I didn’t feel respect was reciprocated. I didn’t respect my parents and also felt that they did not love me. They never once told me that I was loved as a child. I had many chores to do to help around the house, which I would have done gladly had I ever been recognized for my contribution or even been thanked for. That was just not part of their ethos.

I am much more casual and don’t adhere to the cultural norms of the division of labour in the home. My husband and I share work. I also left home at the age of 17 because I felt so restricted. Being on my own for many years and being away from my parents has led me to appreciate them more. However, that has taken a long time. I am now 61 years of age, and only now enjoying my parents.

What is your occupation? What have you accomplished so far and aim to in the future?

I left home at the age of 17 and moved away from my hometown across the country when I was 18. I made a life for myself out in Vancouver where I got training to be a legal secretary and eventually got into typesetting for a weekly newspaper. I married and had a daughter. I also went back to university at the age of 38 and attended for 12 years on a part time basis to get my bachelor’s degree. During that time I also got trained as an ophthalmic technician with SAIT, and as a career counsellor. I have also acquired a career practitioner certificate and worked helping people who are unemployed in the non-profit sector. I also worked at a university advising students regarding job search and careers. Currently I am working towards building my business as a resume writer. I would like to grow the business to supplement my income. I am 61 years old and will be collecting CPP next year.

What steps did you take to achieve the occupation you are currently in or previously held?

I attended a course initially that consisted of 4 segments, each being a two day workshop. With that I got my initial certificate for career counselling. I then went to continuing education at university to get my career practitioner certificate. During my 10+ years in the field I have also participating in ongoing professional development and also received national certification for resume writing and job search.

How has your life changed?

My life changed when I became a career counsellor as my wages increased significantly. I went from just over minimum wage to adding $4.00/hourly to my wage in my first position which then increased to making about $21.00/hour which in Winnipeg was a decent wage. I was also able to have more of a say in the work I did and eventually grew to have a relationship with my manager where we would collaborate on ideas. I was also able to bring new ideas to the table and use my creativity to increase services for clients and also use my writing skills. Making this change got me out of the pink collar and service industry ghetto.

What advice would you give to other children of migrant parents like you?

Realize they are doing their best, and talk with them about how you feel. Tell them that you respect their values and those values are yours too, but that you need more freedom than they had in their country of origin. Try to negotiate to reach an agreement that your parents and you can feel good about. Above all keep the lines of communication open and tell them every day that you love them and really respect them for making this arduous move to this new country so that you could have a better life.

Since you were born in Canada, have you visited your parents’ country of origin – Hungary? What was your first impression of the country? How did it feel being in Hungary? What advice would you give to some of our readers in Hungary and other countries?

I did visit my parents’ country of origin. Once when I was 14. I loved it. All my relatives were so happy to see me and accepted me without complaint. I also got to hang out with my cousins which was so much fun. I realized they were like me. They liked boys and wanted to sneak away and smoke cigarettes and hang out with other young people. They also looked at their parents as old fashioned. I thought the countryside was beautiful and really loved Budapest. The architecture was so beautiful compared to the dullness of Windsor Ontario.

I also went to Hungary when I was 27 years old. My husband and I met my parents there. He was introduced to my family. Again we loved the country side and Budapest and every one was so kind to us. In 1985 the country was still quite agrarian and most of my relatives lived in small rural communities. Most people thought that my husband and I were rich because we lived in Canada. It was difficult for them to believe that we had saved our money for 9 months to take an extended holiday in Europe. The only possessions we had were the clothes at my husband’s parents’ house and my bicycle. My cousins who were also married at that time had cars, apartments with furniture and seemed to be doing much better than we were financially.

I would advise that you go without any expectations and try to educate yourself on the current situation in your parents’ country of origin. That will help you deal with the big change that you will see.

What advice would you give to newcomers in Canada?

Go outside of your community and make friends with English speaking persons. This is so important so that you don’t feel like the “other” and so that people from other cultures as well as Canadians understand your culture as well. Also make sure to investigate things like certification if you are a professional because you may reconsider things if you don’t want to go back to school to get the level of accreditation you need to practice your profession in Canada. I know this may seem unfair, and things are slowly changing to better acknowledge and accommodate professionals from other countries but it is not here yet. Above all, enjoy the country and take part in the different cultural activities, don’t isolate within your own community. Reach out and get to know others.

What advice would you give to Canadians on how to relate with immigrants?

Realize that refugees have come from very traumatic situations. They are tired. They want to work, but have a hard time getting work. Don’t blame them for taking your jobs because they do the work that Canadians don’t want to do. Make them feel comfortable. Be curious about their culture. Food is a really good and safe way to make that first connection. If you can volunteer in an English language program and just spend time helping newcomers develop their English skills. Ask them about their home country, about their friends, their lives. They will start to feel part of and embrace Canada.