For many people, immigrating to Canada means big changes-a new language, new climate, new jobs.
But there are a lot of little things to get used to too.
"In my country we say 'hi' with smiling," said Pradabkiat Beattie who came to Chilliwack from Thailand three years ago. "Thai people is smiling, but here . . . [she makes a glum face]."
To Lendita Kurti, though, Canadians seemed almost too smiley two years ago when she first arrived from Kosovo.
"We are serious," she said of people in her home country. "We just walk, not smile to people we don't know, and here is different. Here you can smile to people you don't know."
Beattie's and Kurti's contrasting views on public smiling are just one small example of the diversity being celebrated across B.C. this week during Mul-turalism Week.
And Chilliwack has a lot to celebrate when it comes to diversity, according Chilliwack Community Services, which is hosting an open house at its Mary Street Immigrant Services offices this week, as well as an Immigrant Services information booth at the Real Canadian Superstore Saturday.
Other Lower Mainland communities like Richmond and Surrey might have large immigrant populations, CCS settlement worker Sukaina Rehmtulla told the Times, but they are made up mostly of immigrants from the same country.
Not so in Chilliwack. "It's so diverse," she said of the local population.
"If you look at our reports and the countries of origin, it's just a real nice mix, and that's the beauty about Chilliwack."
Just last week, for example, a new refugee family arrived from Sudan, and it will be Rehmtulla's job to help them settle in.
Immigrant Services workers help immigrants and refugees with everything from accessing resources to meet basic needs like food and shelter to learning what they need to know about topics as diverse as legal rights, winter driving and health care.
Last week, Beattie, Kurti and their classmates were given a tour of Chilliwack city hall and a chance to chat with Mayor Sharon Gaetz-something that wouldn't happen in Thailand, Beattie said.
"In my country it's hard to do that," she said. "People who work in city hall, in parliaments, it's hard to see them. They hide."
For Kurti, meanwhile, the sheer number of immigrants in Canada were a surprise when she first got here.
"I don't have that experience in my country because we don't have immigrant people," she said. "When I came here, I was surprised people help a lot, especially immigrants. They have respect for immigrants. They understand. When I don't know how to speak English exactly what I want, they understand."
That's been good for Kurti because learning English has turned out to be harder than she expected.
"When I came here I was so excited I will have success, but for language I've starting to think maybe my head it's not good for language to learn," she said. "What's wrong with me? Am I stupid or what?"
Immigration Services English language classes have helped.
The centre also helps newcomers understand the often trickier puzzle of "how things are done" in Canada.
One thing that surprised Beattie, for example, is that Canadians spank and hit their kids less than Thai parents do.
"Not hit. What? Why not? If I not hit her, she not listen me any more, that what I think," she said.
Since learning more about how things are done in Canada, however,
she said she and her Canadian husband have added "timeouts" to their discipline regimen.
Teaching newcomers about Canadian cultural norms is a tricky business that involves communicating new ways of thinking and doing while also respecting where immigrants are coming from, said Rehmtulla.
The orientation session that's now called "Kids in Canada," for example, was originally named "Parenting in Canada," but organizers decided that title was too condescending, implying clients needed to learn how to parent their own children.
"There's a lot of cross-cultural counselling going on as well as trying to help them, kind of giving them bits and pieces of information about how things are done here, but we have to be very sensitive to their cultures as well," Rehmtulla said.
Since many newcomers intend to make Canada their permanent home, the tips they get at Immigrant Services have the potential to stick with them for the rest of their lives.
"I would like to stay here," said Kurti, who currently has a work visa but is preparing her application for permanent residence. "I love my country, of course, and my family over there, but I can't live there, seriously. I can come for visit but not to live there."
? Look for the Immigrant Services display at the Real Canadian Superstore (45779 Luckakuck Way) Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call 604-393-3251.