"Canadians smile on the street but they don't invite us in."
Her words stopped me in my tracks as I stood in front of the class I was leading: Marketing For Immigrant Entrepreneurs. For the first time in over ten visits as a guest speaker, I realized it was time for me to stop talking and start listening.
I looked around the room. There were participants from Vietnam, China, Korea, India and Russia. I asked the room whether they shared the sentiments of the lady who gave me a hard stop. I found that indeed, they agreed. This experience of not being invited "IN" was universal.
I left the room that day passionately curious about why newcomers weren't being invited in. And, if I was being honest, I hadn't yet invited my new neighbours from France. Truth be told, I hadn't invited anyone in for months but that doesn't change the fact that my friends were used to being invited in, back home. And until they are invited in, how could Moncton really feel like home?
I began asking questions of every newcomer I ran into - determined to uncover more of these unconscious barriers that I may be putting up... and man, did I find some!!
- pop culture references (who IS Vince Vaughan?)
- being asked out for coffee (which is just a greeting in Canada, NOT an invitation)
- dialect differences between New Brunswick and other regions (Shiac, anyone?)
Earlier this Fall, I was asked to speak at a local conference on the topic of community building and I knew, almost immediately, that it was time to talk about these barriers out loud.
A few weeks of preparation and I hit the stage at ACT One last week but this time, I wasn't alone. I was with three friends who each told their respective stories of being immigrant entrepreneurs that have chosen to stay in Greater Moncton. They own businesses here, they live here and they want to stay here.
They were incredible. It was my honour to share the stage with these brave, intelligent, funny people who lit up the room. The audience laughed, sighed and opened their hearts, minds and hopefully, their doors!
While we don't yet have the professional video, I'm too proud of them to wait. Here's a sneak peak:
I'm making a conscious commitment to invite more people in. Will you join me?