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COVID-19 vs Culture: A Personal Perspective from a Canadian Experience

BY: Yorgos Lam

Registered Clinical Counsellor in British Columbia, Canada

 

Disclaimer: The following is just a perspective of my personal experience with COVID-19 here in BC, Canada. It does not encompass the collective experiences of Canadians as a whole.

Having living here for almost 10 years, I have become adopted to the Canadian way of life. Canadian lifestyle is a diverse melting pot of different cultures. It is a gentle way of living, as long as you have a source of earning. People respect your culture, and expect you to do the same. Discrimination and racism are frowned upon, a direct opposite to what I have experienced when I was living in the Philippines. 

When COVID-19 hit this country, we were scared. but we continued to work, play, and enjoy our lives. We never thought it would affect us that badly, since Canada is not a densely-populated country. But considering the more open attitude of the Canadian borders for local and international tourism, it was inevitable that this virus would slipped through.

April 2020 was the turning point. Everyone who is considered vulnerable were asked to stay at home. Work from home became the gold standard of work safety. Communication platforms like Zoom became a must-have for almost everyone. Schools were shut down, and online schooling and homeschooling became an accepted form of education. Traffic became quiet. Air pollution dropped. 

As the pandemic progressed and intensified, businesses started to lose their sales. Shoppers found it more safe to buy online. Suddenly, there is an upsurge of online businesses. Websites like Amazon became an attractive alternative to do shopping. As physical businesses started to close, employees started to panic about the possible permanent loss of jobs.

Our Prime Minister had daily COVID briefings in the morning during these times. The federal government started the Canadian Emergency Response Benefits for those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic. There were also other support in place for businesses to ensure that businesses are helped to keep them afloat during this time. 

During this pandemic, everyone’s priority was to keep distance. As this happened around the summer time, when people would hang around with their families and friends, have backyard barbecues and go camping, it was quite difficult for most. Vacations have to be cancelled, and people ended up staying at home instead. The government has instilled a 2-metre social distancing between people, and basic needs businesses imposed this strictly. Markers were placed on the floor inside the supermarkets, creating one-way lanes, to help people avoid coming face to face. Restaurants that were allowed to open could only have a 50% capacity, with alternate tables marked off for use. Most people followed this without complaints. Fitness centres were initially closed, but eventually started opening with limited capacities. 

Canada
Inside the Canada Line transit train. Notice the yellow sign, telling people to keep distance.

 

Masks became mandatory in public places and transports. This was followed by most. Few would wear masks in a funny way (e.g., under the chin or over one ear), but then, there will always be those who think they are immune to the virus. Until they get infected. of course. Hand sanitizers became a norm. You can find one in every business establishment, and in everyone’s pockets, purses, bags.

Disposable masks and hand sanitizers had become an integral part of the new normal and and important part of our grocery list. This also means that prices for these items are now higher than pre-pandemic times. Toilet papers are now irregularly available.

British Columbia was one of the hardest hit at the beginning of this pandemic. As of October 14, 2020, British Columbia has a total case of 10,892, while the highest number of cases in Canada was in Quebec (88,994).  With this came an increasing number of people in need of assistance for their mental health and wellness. Some agencies here at the Lower Mainland have received an increased number of referrals for individual and family counselling.

With all the difficulties presented during this time, I have the opportunity to discuss this with some of my colleagues and they were quite optimistic about the situation. They were quite hopeful about the turnout of this situation later this year, or early next year. Personally, as long as I make sure that I keep my distance, wash my hands often, and wear my mask when going out, then I know I am safe. Also, I am enjoying the quietness of it all, since socializing is not one of my strong suits. 

A cup of tea with a side of reading. For me, That's enough for me.

Canada

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yorgos Lam is a registered clinical counsellor in British Columbia, Canada, working as a program manager for a social service agency. He has an academic background in clinical psychology and is a self-professed old-school philosophical counsellor. A two-time immigrant, he lived in the Philippines for 37 years before moving to BC, Canada for good. He enjoyed talking to himself and taking adventurous journeys in his mind. 

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Reference taken from Government of Canada: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): 

Outbreak Update

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html?&utm_campaign=gc-hc-sc-coronavirus2021-ao-2021-0005-10020125402&utm_medium=search&utm_source=google-ads-107800103024&utm_content=text-en-434525470059&utm_term=covid#a1