Ideas of Love

By Aundrea Henry

Love

The beauty that aligns in your soul

The way that it can be intertwined with one is love

Not just the kindness and thoughtfulness that everybody else describes

It’s the passion that fires the inner you to accomplish what you desire

It’s the soft touch that is felt when within you

It’s not the good looks or prettiness but the exquisiteness and artistry that is displayed

Yes, you can be allured by beauty but the beast in disguise can catch you by surprise and destroy the intellect that abides

The laughter that can simply put a smile on people’s face is astonishing 

Never thinking that it can be this way

The love of another being granted upon them

The ideas of love relate to the superficial feelings connected by foolish residence 

Sexual ties, desire, using another, selfishness, victimize

They all aren’t the best 

They leave you unblessed your mental distressed begging you to let go of this restless mess but you call this love 

The toxicants that remains in your spirit is the plug that blocks you from freedom 

Think of it as a sink that’s clogged full of gunk which fills the bowl up forcing it to overflow

That’s the negativity

Until we let go of the things that are stopping our souls to free, it will remain trapped in a box endlessly trying to unbound, stopping the overflow not letting it reach capacity 

The ideas of love are irresistible and glamorous 

Full of potential, prosperity and abundance

Full of divine and wishful opportunities 

Full of challenges and charity 

Full of triumph and misery

Full of ugly yet delightful discoveries

The ideas of love aren’t for the aspiration minded

Open and responsive are tools needed in order to be binded 

Binded and connected with one another trusted with the chance that it wouldn’t be forever

The ideas of love are beyond apprehension which is the astounding grandeur that should leave you in an mindset of full comprehension 

Photo courtesy Loe Moshkovska/Pexel

Lost Girl

By Allandra Gordon

Lost in time.

Lost in the dark.

Lost in the light.

She gave up, she never won a fight.

She’s drowning in depression.

Impossible to get back to shore.

That’s how the innocent girl felt.

She’s tired of trying.

Surviving and hiding.

Surviving the voices in her head.

Hiding her emotions and feelings.

She’s not eating.

Always sleeping.

Her life has meaning.

But she wants to stop breathing.

She turns to drugs to escape reality.

When reality hits her again.

She’s back to being herself.

Lost girl is hurting.

Screaming.

Crying.

She needs help.

Tired of hearing “It will be okay”.

Her world is grey.

She felt betrayed.

By the ones who are supposed to stay.

Her pain is excruciating.

She needs to get away.

Away from negativity.

Healing in peace.

Her anxiety increases, decreases.

Increase, decrease on a scale.

She can’t catch a break.

She’s tired.

Begging for you to save her.

Can’t you see?

The system failed her miserably.

Photo courtesy pexel.com

Reflection

By Allandra Gordon

Look in the mirror and tell me what you see.

A beautiful soul destined for greatness, set yourself free.

Your smile is as sweet as sugar, it captures the eyes of onlookers.

You’re phenomenal, you’re one of a kind.

Remind yourself that you’re worthy and a mastermind.

Apply pressure because you’re the finest treasure.

Your personality set the room on fire, your determination inspired others.

Your skin is pure, your skin is gold, and your body is perfect.

Self love is important, don’t bleach or inject.

Whether you’re fat, whether you’re skinny.

Love your body shape.

Don’t try to escape your body image.

You’re incredibly beautiful.

You’re incredibly handsome.

All that beauty shows.

Body Shaming is rude and offensive.

I know it’s depressive, I went through it before.

Ladies and Gentlemen when you’re having self-doubt.

Remember to read my lesson.

A lesson on self-love and positive messages.

You’re a blessing.

Accept your flaws, self- confidence and self-respect.

Love yourself in every aspect.

Now look in the mirror and tell me what you see.

You’re more than what society makes you seem.

Photo courtesy Min An/Pexel

Living in a world that is falling apart

By Samar Pant

For someone who arrived fairly recently in a history that spans billions of years, humanity has forged the destiny of the planet in unimaginable ways. We have altered its climate to the extent that our survival is threatened. We have polluted its waters to the extent that its life has been poisoned. Each day, we lose more species than we can count. Each day, more forests are destroyed than are planted.

And still some continue like nothing is wrong. Each day is just another day; each day is just another dollar.

I read somewhere that in a billion years we will have run out of oxygen. But I doubt we’d even make it as far as a fraction of that billion. You see, long before the universe renders our planet lifeless, we may just have done it to ourselves because of the way we are going on about things.

It’s no secret the world is falling apart, yet most of us continue to turn a blind eye to this reality. Every second we live, breathe and work, we ignore our fate. While those who try to alter this path continue to push day and night, with no end in sight to the struggle.

When the kids strike to demand action on climate change we either say nice things to them, ignore them, or criticise them. I wonder how many of us take our cues to get involved. I am guilty too. I am just as culpable as you. But I decided some time ago that I would vote with my conscience. I decided to take part in conservation and activism, whenever, wherever possible.

True, we are all busy with our lives. Each one of us has a large mortgage to carry, never ending bills to manage. We all have plenty of responsibilities. But I ask you this – can we not make little changes to our lives, can we not take as little as an hour per week, to get involved, to push for positive outcomes? Can we not all take little steps; something as small as reading about climate change or joining the discussion? Surely, we can at least vote consciously or write letters to important people. Surely, we can learn new habits like how we dispose of our rubbish or what we consume.

You see, it wasn’t that long ago that most of the planet was covered in forests. Nature enjoyed living an undisturbed presence. But we changed all that. And now we face the consequences.

So now isthe time to act. Now is the time to do something about it.

We are the ones who put us into this position. Only we can take ourselves out of it. A better future is possible, we just have to act to get there.

Photo courtesy Singkham/Pexel.com

Lone Lover

By Disha Nag

As the foyer gets drunk with sun;

But the gloomy ambiance prevails,

In the heart of the lone lover…

The shadow jumps from one corner to the other,

As frail as a swooning maiden,

She danced as she had never before…

He promised love to the virtuous soul,

Left her with an unfulfilled promise.

The lust was unseen…

Dejected melody, the violin plays;

The dew trickles down the petals of black dahlias,

Even the betrayal cannot stop her heart from loving him…

Image courtesy of Sadman Chowdhury

Online Dating Stories: #2 I Met my Rapist on Tinder

By Tracy Thomas

When I got a response with the title “I met my rapist on tinder”, a chill washed over me like someone dumped a bucket of iced water on me. The reason is that when I downloaded the Tinder app, my second biggest fear was getting raped; the first was getting killed. For some like Ash, Shan, and Carly, this fear was their reality.

About five years ago, Ash did something that hundreds of thousands of people do every day. She downloaded the tinder app. Very early on, she matched with someone who had most of the qualities she looked for in a partner (or so she thought) and with the convenience of being a ten-minute bus ride away, they met up for their first date where they had a nice walk.

The first signs of trouble were mild, with Ash not allowed to be outside of his room when she visited (even to use the bathroom) because he did not trust his roommate. Ash saw it as him being a little overprotective, but it was not enough of a red flag because the roommate in question was “a really garbage” person.

A few weeks into dating, the financial abuse started with him asking for money for things such as bus tickets and meals with no reciprocation, and this was quickly followed by verbal and emotional abuse that involved words like “You’re useless, you’re a slut, you’re a whore!”

After over three months of dating, Ash realised she was dating an alcoholic who needed weed to function. He was insanely jealous to the point of threatening to harm her male coworkers and occasionally saying, “you can’t leave me, or I’ll kill myself.”

On a mid-December day in 2017, he had visited Ash at home. Whilst having sex that night, she asked him to be gentle because she was still sore from him using a toy on her the day before (or that morning), which she had protested (in vain) was too big. He met her request with accusations of cheating and him being rougher with her. At that point, she asked him to stop because she was in pain, but her pleas fell to deaf ears, her being pinned to a position and leaving her with the only choice of shoving her face into the pillow so that he couldn’t hear her pain noises. 

An argument started at about 4 am because he wanted the window open, and she wanted it closed because it was too cold. He brought up the subject of a work dinner she had planned to escalate the fight.  Accusing her of sleeping with her coworker, he promised to attend the dinner to “punch him (the coworker) jaw in.” After a physical altercation that involved him punching a wall and a vodka bottle in her direction, she responded by throwing a piece of the glass back in his direction, she asked him to leave multiple times, and he refused. She eventually let him sleep on her couch and ended the relationship with him after leaving the next day.

Like Ash, Shan met up with a tinder date years ago. She was 18 years old, and he said he was in the army and had pictures of him in an army uniform. When she got to his house, “there wasn’t much furniture and it looked… weird.” He said his house had been robbed when he was away for army work. The date went okay, and Shan agreed to spend the night. During sex, he penetrated her anally without permission “and wouldn’t stop,” says Shan. It was the last time she used a dating app.

Similarly, Carly met her rapist online through another dating App, Bumble. Both parties had expressed wanting a casual hookup during the first date, and on the second date, they hung out with other friends, after which she had told her desire to go home alone because she had too much to drink. He begged to come with her, and Carly agreed on the condition that there would be no sex that night. “When he got to my house, he wound up overpowering me and assaulting me,” she says.

Neither Ash, Shan or Carly reported the rapes to the police, and in Ash’s case, it was because when she reported a sexual assault to the police when she was in high school, she was told they did not have any evidence to charge the culprit. “I was told I couldn’t charge the first person with sexual assault, so what’s to say I’m gonna be able to charge him with rape,” says Ash.

According to Ash, “The unfortunate part of dating apps is that…you get attracted to the good qualities of somebody without being able to see the bad ones,” says Ash. She continues to suffer PTSD, requiring her to go to therapy years after this incident.

Part 3 of Online Dating Stories will be available on Wednesday, May 12.

MASK

By Disha Nag

Sitting at the corner of dimness,

The feathers slowly shed the dreams I once dreamt.

The wings that had once given the power to fly,

Lay on the ground, shattering the courage I once felt.

The heart that once beat with passion,

Now stays still with no rhythm to dance to. 

The bricks create a barrier,

Reaching my hand towards you,

Wearing a veil, I camouflage my fear.

The hands that once swayed to the melody;

Remain still to each and every harmony.

The invisible hands hold me back,

Drunk in sorrow, I flow down a river of tears.

Exhaustion pulls me towards the ocean floor.

I wake up from a dreadful dream,

A dream of my own death,

Not surprising although I run out of breath. 

The heart that once wept,

The fears that crept,

The love that I once felt,

The happiness that had once brightened my eyes,

Sink in an endless ocean.

Image courtesy of Lucas Pezeta

Cleansing Your Online Presence

By Ela Sakotic

Social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Instagram allow users to present their qualifications in a more dynamic way than a traditional resume. But job-seekers need to also keep in mind their other social accounts. According to CareerBuilder, seven in ten recruiters turn to social networking sites during the hiring process to screen potential employees. Even job hunters with presumably high privacy settings can fall victim to a prospective employer or client finding unflattering information about them online. For this reason, anyone entering the professional workforce — and even those who are already in their careers — should periodically cleanse their online presence.

While cleansing an online presence can be tedious and time-consuming, it could be the difference between getting (and keeping) a job, or getting turned away.

Google yourself.

It may sound tacky, but Googling yourself can save you from a great deal of potential embarrassment. It allows you to see what potential employers and clients will see when they look you up. You can then remove any potentially damaging information that’s floating around the internet, such as photos of you partying too hard in college. This precautionary self-research also allows you to update or delete old social media profiles, so recruiters get an accurate representation of who you are today.

Delete old accounts.

Did you find an old Tumblr or Nexopia account from when you were in junior high or high school? Unless there’s a legitimate reason to keep that account, it’s probably best to get rid of it to reduce the risk of potential employers finding something embarrassing. There’s also the danger of someone hacking a perfectly innocent (but unmonitored) account and posting something that may damage your career. If you feel nostalgic about what’s in your old accounts, take screenshots and save them to your computer.

Go through your tagged photos.

See what photos and videos you have been tagged in and untag yourself from anything unprofessional. Unless it’s from your own social media, you’ll likely have to ask the person who posted the content to remove it altogether. CareerBuilder said 36% of recruiters chose not to hire a candidate based on photos of them drinking or doing drugs. With that in mind, it is well worth the effort to reach out to someone (even if you haven’t spoken to them in a few years) to get them to remove an embarrassing photo.

Scroll through your feed.

Go back through all of your photos, captions, tweets, and anything else you have posted online. Something that you thought was hilarious when you were 18 might today look awkward, and could even cost you a job, if an employer or client came across it. Don’t underestimate how far back people might scroll. It’s better to err on the side of caution and delete any unprofessional posts.

Strengthen your privacy settings.

After you’ve removed any potentially damaging information from your online presence, it’s also a good idea to increase your privacy settings. If your account doesn’t need to be public, make it private so that people have to request to see it. However, bear in mind that making an account private doesn’t mean that strangers won’t be able to see it. There are many ways for people to see your counts online, whether it’s through your friends sharing posts, or through other means. That said, if the purpose of your account is to showcase your skills or personal brand, you’ll want to keep it public so recruiters can see it.

Start posting professional content.

Newer content will come up first when someone researches you. So now’s a good time to start posting content that shows off what kind of professional you are. This is also a good opportunity to show employers that you are creative, that you fit in with the company culture, and you actually have the skills you claim to have on your resume. Employers and clients will appreciate seeing your skills in action.

Removing unprofessional content from your online presence doesn’t guarantee that nobody will ever see it. However, cleaning it up now will undoubtedly benefit your professional life.

Story of a Korean Immigrant: Minor Cultural differences between Korea and Canada that make a Major Difference

By Emily Yeo

Jenny is a 28 years old female. She’s born and raised in South Korea but affected a lot by her father and grandfather, who are big fans of Hollywood movies. Naturally, she has been deeply in love with American and British shows for 2/3 of her life, starting from Rambo 2 when she was 10. After graduation, she got a job in her field of study but quit soon, saying she “was not cut out for it”. Then she got a new job the next day as an English teacher.

Getting experienced enough in teaching for four years, she gets bored with everything surrounding her that she’s been seeing and doing for 27 years and thinks, Isn’t it such a waste to live my whole 80 years of life only in Korea? I speak English, and I’m pretty used to the culture of English-speaking countries. Soon, she leaves for Canada. Question – Will her new life in Canada be as comfortable as her old life in Korea?

Of course not. As some of you may have already noticed, that is my story. When I just came to Canada, I was a confident fresh-off-the-boat. I thought I would be able to do anything without any problems with things I learned from TV shows. The complacence that I assumed I knew a lot enough about the country and the people of the country I’d never been to was unbearably ignorant, looking back on it now.

Now let’s go through some examples of slight cultural differences that nobody would tell you and are hard to catch through TV shows and movies, yet anybody would have a hard time with if you just came to Canada from Korea.

1.People who were born and raised or spent long enough time in Canada apologize a lot. For example, at a busy mart in Korea, you don’t apologize unless you physically bump into somebody by mistake. It’s because everybody’s aware that the place is very crowded, aisles are narrow, and it’s your job to find some space to pass through with your cart. But in Canada, you apologize or excuse yourself when you go over, pass by or behind somebody. You also apologize when you’ almost (but didn’t really) block or bump into someone. Finally, you apologize when you feel like you’ve been interrupting other shoppers by standing in front of a showcase for too long. It’s a very polite and considerate culture, but when you weren’t raised in the culture, you can be a rude person in just a second without knowing, so you need to adapt to it as soon as possible.

2. Let’s say you(Korean) are having lunch with your friends, and your food is a bit too bland. Your Canadian friend is sitting in front of you; You quickly translate a Korean sentence, a polite request in English and ask your friend, ‘Can you pass me the salt?’. And the next second, you look like you don’t even know proper table manners because your sentence lacks ‘please’. In Korean, ‘Can you’ or ‘Could you’ is already believed to include ‘Please’. In English-Korean dictionaries, ‘Please’ is translated in a Korean word that has way stronger nuance than just an ordinary request, which makes the whole sentence sound like you’re almost begging your friend for the salt. So we barely say ‘Please’ in Korean, and the habit makes us forget to say that in English or not say it as often as English speakers expect us to. 

3. Koreans don’t have personal conversations with strangers. Picture yourself at a bar after work. It’s just to have a quick beer before you get home, nothing else. Do you drink beer quietly and go home, or talk with whoever is sitting next to you? Most Koreans do the first, and most Canadians go with the second. When I just came to Canada, I saw four people talking and laughing for 2 hours none-stop at a bar. Of course, I assumed they’re old friends or a family – And of course, again, they were not. They were all strangers who first met one another at the bar 2 hours ago. Old ladies approach me at a grocery store and give their best recipe for whatever I’m holding in my hands? Nothing new anymore! 

4. Koreans don’t usually invite strangers to their house. Do you want to invite a traveller you just met on the street to your house? Koreans will think you’re looking so hard for trouble. It works the same with friends. Even though you’ve been hanging out with this person a few times, you don’t invite them home until you form a deeper bond. Don’t even mention people you’re first hanging out with, introduced by your close friends. You DO NOT invite them unless there’s an apparent reason that you have to. For that reason, the Canadian (or North American) house parties that fill my place up with a bunch of strangers is still sort of unfamiliar to me. Needless to say, my Canadian friends who want me to stay at their friends’ house that I’ve never even heard of during road trips are even more unfamiliar to me. 

5. Have you ever thought about which part of your mouth you use when you speak? I realized this recently as I had to make a quick and frequent transition between Korean and English. You make your voice deeper in your throat when you speak English and farther front, near the nose, when you talk to Korean, Japanese, and even French. I think this matter because sometimes the English vocalization makes the tone more serious, like you’re upset. If you hear somebody without looking at his/her face, setting aside the accent, emotion, wording and everything else, the voice from the throat sounds calmer, whereas the one from the nose sounds brighter. Or is it just me? Anyway, this is why I started to care about people’s facial expression even more than the tone of voice.

6. Reading facial expressions, which is slightly easier than reading the tone, is not a piece of cake. I learned American facial expressions through TV, but as everyone knows, ordinary people’s facial expression is not as solid and clear as actors’ and actresses’ on shows. Besides, not every single Canadian has the same level of expression. There are people who use their whole face all the time, while others barely show any emotion on their face. Furthermore, some facial expressions are just different. For instance, when somebody doesn’t finish a story, Koreans make droopy eyebrows and open the eyes wider. But lots of people I met in Canada frown a bit and roll eyes, smiling. So it’s necessary to consider the situation when I read someone’s facial expression.

7. When it comes to jokes, it’s tough for me to tell which one is offensive and which is funny. Korea’s more likely a single-race nation. Of course, there has been a massive influx of the foreign population since the Korean War in 1950, and we’re almost one step into a multiracial nation these days, but still, most of the people you see on the street in Korea are Koreans. And Koreans are pretty conservative on social issues compare to North Americans. There are discussions about race and gender issues happening in political areas, especially among progressive parties, but it can’t be discussed as fast and delicately as in North America as our primary social issues are in a different field; Economy. Personally, I have spent most of my life only with Korean friends, figuring out how sensitive the topics are challenging. Sexual and religious jokes are confusing as well. Sometimes Koreans get offended about a joke Canadians doesn’t, and the other way around occurs, too.

It’s easy to lump all those differences together and say it’s a language barrier and cultural difference, but it actually feels like something more than that. When I speak in Korean, I can change the ‘mode’ according to TPO. But my image is totally out of control when I speak in English. And we’re living with people from hundreds of different countries. There must be hundreds of thousands more misunderstandings and inconveniences somewhere we don’t even expect to encounter.

It requires more effort than it seems like to live in Canada. Anyone living in Canada must be quietly struggling to minimize conflicts with people from a different culture. Just like I have my own survival rules such as ‘Do not mention sensitive issues’ or ‘Don’t forget to say PLEASE’, I’m sure others have their own rules such as ‘No facial expressions doesn’t mean the one’s being rude’ or ‘A gap in the conversation means the one’s processing what I just said’. I hope they do, and if they do, I’ll appreciate that very much for the fact that I’m not the only one struggling and trying to overcome the differences.

In conclusion, my #1 rule to navigate through life in Canada is this: Consider unexpected reactions as cultural difference. 

캐나다에서 한국인으로 살아남기 : 살아보지 않고는 모를 것들

제니는 스물여덟 살의 여성이다. 한국에서 나고 자랐지만 할리우드 영화 팬인 할아버지와 아버지의 영향을 많이 받아 초등학생 시절에 람보2를 봤고, 인생의 2/3을 영어권 국가 드라마에 빠져 지냈다. 대학 졸업 후 어찌어찌 전공 맞춰 취업하는가 싶더니만 적성에 안 맞는다며 이내 때려치우고, 본인만의 특장점을 살리겠다며 영어 강사로 취업해 4년이 흘렀다.

가르치는 일에도 도가 틀 무렵, 매일같이 같은 출근길, 같은 풍경, 같은 사람들, 같은 말의 반복에 질린 제니에게 문득 든 생각. ‘평균수명 80년을 한국에서만 살다 가긴 좀 아쉽지 않나? 영어도 할 줄 알고 저쪽 나라들 문화에도 어느 정도 익숙한 것 같은데.’ 그렇게 제니는 캐나다로 떠난다. 언어도 되고 문화에도 익숙한 제니가 과연 캐나다에서 제 나라처럼 편안히 살았을까?

절대 아니다. 사실 제니는 나다. 처음 캐나다에 왔을 때 나는 자신만만한 촌뜨기였다. 교과서와 영화에서 배운 영어로 뭐든 할 수 있을 것 같았고, 모든 사람들이 다 내 최애 드라마 속의 캐릭터들 같을 줄 알았다. 성격이며 습관이며 말버릇, 제스처, 표정 같은 것들 말이다. 내가 사는 데 지장 없을 만큼 영어를 충분히 알고 내가 살게 될 나라의 사람들을 충분히 파악했다고 생각한 그 안일함이 그렇게도 촌스럽기 그지없었다.

드라마나 영화로는 캐치하기 어렵고, 너무 사소해서 아무도 얘기해 주지 않는, 그러나 캐나다에 살아보면 누구나 겪을 법한 소소하고 디테일한 문화 차이들을 몇 가지 생각해 보자.

  1. 캐나다에서 나고 자란 사람들은 확실히 사과를 훨씬, 훨씬 더많이 한다. 예를 들어 한국에서는 사람이 바글바글한 곳을 걸어 다니는 경우, 다른 사람과 실수로 부딪히지 않는 이상은 굳이 사과하지 않는다. 번잡한 곳임을 누구나 알고 있고 각자 잘 피해 다니면 될 일이라고 생각하기 때문이다. 그런데 캐나다에서는 누군가를 앞질러 지나갈 때, 좁은 통로에서 누군가의 뒤를 지나갈 때, 부딪히진 않았지만 그럴 뻔했을 때, 누군가와 같은 물건을 집을 뻔했을 때, 매대 앞에서 너무 오래 서성였다는 생각이 들 때, 그 외에도 많은 상황들에 사과를 한다. 정말 예의 바르고 배려심 깊은 문화지만 내가 그 문화에서 나고 자라지 않았을 때는 영문도 모르고 무례한 사람이 되기 십상이라 빠른 적응이 필요하다.
  2. 친구들과 밥을 먹는데 음식이 좀 싱겁다. 맞은편에는 캐나다인 친구가 앉아 있다. 빠르게 머리를 굴려 공손한 한국어 부탁 표현인 ‘소금 좀 줄래요?’를 영어로 직역한 뒤, 친구에게 ‘Can you pass me the salt?’ 라고 묻는다. 그리고 나도 모르는 새 식탁 예절도 모르는 사람이 되어버린다. 공손한 영어 표현에는 반드시 Please가 추가적으로 붙어야 하고, 한국어에는 존댓말 문장 속에 please가 포함되어 있기 때문이다. 영한사전에서 Please를 찾아보면 주로 ‘제발’이라는 뜻으로 등재되어 있는데, 한국어에서 일반적인 요청 표현에 굳이 ‘제발’을 넣으면 문장이 난데없이 비굴해진다. 그래서 우리는 ‘제발’이라는 말을 웬만큼 아쉽지 않고서는 하지 않고, 영어에서는 그 말을 해야 함을 알고 있더라도 습관적으로 빼 버리거나 영어 사용자의 기대치만큼 자주 쓰지 않는다. 
  3. 우리는 낯선 사람과 사적인 대화를 주고 받지 않는다. 여러분이 일이 끝난 후 바에 들렀다고 치자. 다른 목적이 있어서는 아니고, 집에 가기 전에 간단히 맥주 한잔하고 싶을 뿐이다. 여러분은 조용히 목적한 바만 이루고 나오는가, 옆 사람과의 대화를 시도하는가? 한국인은 주로 전자, 캐나다인은 주로 후자다. 필자가 캐나다에 막 왔을 때, 호텔에 딸린 바에서 두 시간 남짓 웃고 이야기하며 즐거운 시간을 보내던 네 명의 손님들이 전부 바에서 처음 만난 사람들이라는 것을 알고 내가 캐나다에 왔음을 실감한 적이 있다. 마트에서 식재료를 고르고 있는 나에게 뜬금없이 그 식재료를 이용한 황금 레시피를 알려주는 아주머니들은 이제 반가울 정도다.
  4. 우리는 낯선 이를 집에 들이지 않는다. 이사를 갔을 때 옆집에 떡을 돌리는 것이 관례여서 낯선 집의 초인종을 누르긴 하지만, ‘들어오세요’라는 말을 듣는 일은 드물다. 혹여나 누가 들어오라 한다고 한들 정말 들어가는 사람은 더 드물다. 방금 만난 여행자를 집에 초대하겠다고? 봉변당하고 싶어 안달이 났냐는 말을 들을 것이다. 친구도 마찬가지다. 같이 몇 번 어울렸던 사이라도 본인 기준 가까운 사이가 되기 전에는 집까지 놀러 가지 않고, 처음 만나는 사람을 집으로 부르는 일은 더더욱 없다. 나와 절친한 사이의 친구로부터 새로운 친구를 처음 소개받는 자리는, 집에서 만나야만 하는 명확한 이유가 있지 않고서야 식당이나 카페로 잡는다. 그래서 내 친구, 네 친구 다 불러 모아 온 집안에 낯선 사람이 가득한 캐나다식 홈 파티가 나는 아직까지도 좀 낯설다. 나와 일면식도 없는 사람 집에 친구의 친구라는 이유로 초대받는 건 말할 것도 없다.
  5. 본인이 목소리를 낼 때 어디서 내는지 생각해 본 적이 있는가? 캐나다에 와서 한국어-영어 변환을 빈번하게 하다 보니 깨닫게 된 점인데, 영어는 목구멍 깊숙이에서 발성하고 한국어, 일본어, 프랑스어 등은 좀 더 코에 가까운 위치에서 가볍게 발성한다. 이게 왜 중요하냐면, 목구멍 깊숙이에서 나는 소리는 종종 화난 것처럼 들리기 때문이다. 예를 들어 마트 계산원이 카운터 밑에서 뭘 찾느라 표정이 보이지 않는 상황이고, 그 와중에 내가 물은 말에 대답까지 하고 있다고 생각해 보자. 악센트, 목소리에 실린 감정선, 말투, 단어 선택, 모든 것이 같다고 가정했을 때 목구멍 안쪽에서 눌러 담은 듯 말하는 소리는 하이톤의 가벼운 발성보다 진지하게 들린다. 나만 이런가? 내가 캐나다에 온 이후로 사람과 대화할 때 표정을 주시하게 된 이유이다. 
  6. 문제는, 그나마 믿을 만한 표정을 읽는데서도 종종 에러가 발생한다는 것이다. 나는 TV로 미국식 표정을 배웠지만 누구나 알듯, 일반인의 실생활 감정 표현은 연기자들의 연기용 감정 표현보다 훨씬 작다. 또한 표정 자체는 한국보다 종류가 다양하고 크긴 하지만 다들 같은 정도로 표현하는 것도 아니다. 표현이 큰 사람이 있는가 하면 거의 없다시피 한 사람도 많다. 심지어 몇몇 생활용 표정들은 한국과 표현 방식이 아예 다르다. 대표적인 예로, 누군가 말을 하다 말았을 때나 당연한 말을 했을 때 짓는 ‘그래서 뭐?’하는 표정을 한국인은 주로 얼굴로 질문을 하는 것처럼 눈썹 끝을 내리고 눈을 조금 크게 뜨는 반면, 캐나다에서 본 많은 사람들은 미소를 지은 채 미간을 살짝 찡그리고 눈을 굴린다. 놀라운 사실 하나 – 한국에는 눈 굴리기가 없다. 그래서 표정을 보고 최종 결론까지 가는 데는 언제나 상황 판단까지 동원되어야 한다. 말콤 글래드웰에 따르면 표정은 인류 공통인 것 같지만서도 문화적이어서 문화권마다 조금씩 차이가 있고, 고립된 사회의 경우에는 그 차이가 더 크다고 한다(Malcolm Gladwell – Talking to Strangers).
  7. 농담의 선이 어느 정도인지, 웃어도 되는 농담인지 아닌지를 구분하는 것이 너무도 어렵다. 한국은 단일 민족 국가에 가깝다. 1950년대 한국전쟁 이후로 외국인의 유입이 부쩍 늘었고 요즘이야 거의 다민족 국가 대열에 한 발 걸칠 수준은 되는 것 같지만, 여전히 한국에서 가장 많이 보이는 사람들은 한국인이다. 그리고 한국은 북아메리카에 비해 아직 꽤나 보수적이다. 정치계에서, 주로 진보진영에서 인종 및 젠더 논의가 이루어지고 있기는 하지만 미국이나 캐나다 같은 본격적인 다민족국가들보다는 그 속도가 훨씬 느릴 수밖에 없다. 한국 사회의 주된 이슈는 경제 분야에 좀 더 치중돼 있기 때문이다. 개인적으로 젠더 고민해 본 적 없는 한국인 친구들과만 29년 인생 중 27년을 보내온 나로서는 어떤 문제가 사회적으로 어느 정도 예민한지 가늠하는 것이 아직도 난해하다. 성과 종교에 관한 농담도 마찬가지다. 어떤 면에서는 한국이 더 보수적이고, 또 다른 면에서는 캐나다가 더 보수적이다. 이런 주제에 관해 사람들끼리 암묵적으로 정해 놓은 기준이 있는지조차 잘 모르겠다. 셋이 모여서 한 명이 농담을 하면 다른 한 명은 웃고 있고 나머지 한 명은 불쾌해하는 경우를 종종 봤기 때문이다. 한국 이외 국가의 시각을 이제 막 접하기 시작한 나로서는 아직 그런 대화에 낄 자격이 없다고 생각해 그저 침묵을 고수하는 편이다. 

단순히 언어장벽, 문화적 차이라고 뭉뚱그리기엔 생각지도 못한 복병이 너무 많다. 한국어를 할 때는 내 스스로 TPO에 맞춰 모드를 바꿀 수 있었다면, 영어를 할 때는 내가 투영하고 싶은 외적 이미지가 전혀 컨트롤이 안 되는 느낌이다. 내가 정중하고자 쓴 표현이 의도와 딴판으로 철벽이 되는 순간, 내 농담을 받은 상대방의 얼굴에 ‘…???’가 찍히는 순간, 그 스트레스는 이루 말할 수 없다. 한국인의 시각으로만 봐도 이런데 캐나다에는 이례적일 만큼 다양한 국가 출신의 사람들이 뒤섞여 있고, 그만큼 오해나 불편함도 생각지도 못했던 부분에서 아주 디테일한 모습으로 존재할 것이다. 

캐나다에서 살아가는 데는 보이는 것보다도 많은 노력이 필요하다. 모르긴 몰라도, 캐나다에 거주 중인 사람이라면  누구나 타 문화권 출신 사람들과의 마찰을 최소화하며 살아가기 위해 각자 고군분투하고 있을 것이다. 나에게 ‘인종이나 젠더 문제는 언급하지 않기’, ‘표정을 되도록 크게 짓기’, ‘Please를 의식적으로 붙이기’ 등 남몰래 정해 놓은 생존용 규칙이 있는 것처럼 다른 사람들도 서로를 예민하게 받아들이지 않기 위한 룰이 있겠지. ‘표정이 없어도 화난 것은 아니더라’, ‘대화 중에 마가 뜨면 내 말을 이해하는 중이더라’ 하는, 뭐 그런. … 부디 있길 바라고, 혹시 정말 있다면 감사한 일이다. 적어도 노력이 쌍방이라는 소리고, 노력의 효율이 배가되고 있다는 뜻이니까. 

그렇게 몸으로 부딪히며 만들어낸 나만의 캐나다에서 살아남기 제1 수칙 – 상대방의 예상치 못한 반응에는 문화 차이를 먼저 떠올릴 것.