When you come to Canada, or it used to be that when you came to Canada, the immigration office would hand you a book that was supposed to help you with many things including how to obtain language training, medical care, job interviews, etc. And it was very useful in that regard. There was another part to it that was supposed to tell you about the culture here and warn you about culture shocks.
The weather and food and language and transit system were different from what I was accustomed to. But most of these I learned to cope with quite fast (transit system is an example) and some I continue to be challenged with (the language is a good example). But there were other things that caught my attention and literally shocked me. My own perceptions (perhaps biases), the Canadian perceptions of what may shock me, and my little discoveries of where these two intersected and where they diverged. At the end, I realized the culture shock worked both ways: I was surprised at the ways people in the new country behaved, but looking back and observing from a different perspective, I was equally surprised at how people in my homeland behaved.
At first, it seemed remarkable to me how realistically Canadians dealt with death of a relative/a loved one. Then, there were times where I was surprised or rather shocked. I remember one occasion a friend of mine told me that his parents went to a dance on the evening of his uncle’s funeral. I kept asking, what? They buried your uncle and then they went to dance!? And he said, well, they were depressed. One could spare a little sadness over one’s brother’s death, I exclaimed (I know it wasn’t any of my business but imagine my state of shock, I had just arrived in Canada). At that point, he realized it was a bit odd not to want to be sad and mourn for just a few hours over one’s brother’s death.
On another occasion, I witnessed a Canadian friend of mine, who had just lost her father, condoling a common friend (an Iranian) who was crying over my Canadian friend’s loss. The friend, who had suffered the loss, kept saying that it was natural to lose one’s father. There was a great deal of truth to that, but, to me, it also seemed natural to be sad about it too. These examples do not represent the attitude of the whole population, but they exhibit certain aspects that seemed in sharp contrast to what I was used to.
Iranians, in my experience, grieved or rather savored the grief over the death of a loved one, a relative, or sometimes a stranger. It was fairly common all around me to mourn for at least a year, wear black, disregard appearances, avoid all celebrations, … My mother’s family is Kurdish, and you would know what I mean if you have ever attended a Kurdish mourning or funeral. They scratched their faces to the point of bleeding and robbed soil/mud on their hair and … And they took offense if others didn’t.
Over the years I have learned that the general feeling in Canada is to fight grief in any possible way. Sadness is not encouraged. This aspect of human emotion is highly undervalued and underrated perhaps because it is counterproductive. In Iran, it is highly overrated and overvalued. Even though we are generally happy people, we don’t seem to want to miss the opportunity to immerse ourselves in sorrow. Ashoura was a good example of this.
I hear that is changing and nowadays, and in many places, specifically in Tihran, some funerals resemble weddings in terms of preparations, food, flowers, etc, but that was not the case when I lived in Iran and for many more years after I left.
This was one of the examples where I was shocked at a new experience which prompted me to re-observe my old experiences. I think I was equally shocked at both.