Culture shock

NEWCOMERS: First year at Newmarket ‘best I’ve had’, despite culture shock and lockdown

Arriving from Nigeria with few clothes on their backs amid the pandemic, Oyinda and Simi Ayobami were welcomed and supported as soon as they stepped off the plane

Newcomers is a regular series featuring the impressions and experiences of new residents. Whether they come from another city or town, province, country or continent, newcomers to Newmarket each experience unique challenges, but they all share the same love for the city as they are now calling home. To share your story, email [email protected]

When Oyinda Ayobami and her husband, Simi, moved to Newmarket amid the pandemic, you could say it was based on a quick decision.

They didn’t have the luxury of meticulously planning their trip because when a small window opened in June 2020 allowing international travel, they took it.

They booked their ticket to Canada on a Monday and flew from Nigeria on Thursday. After a brief stopover in Paris, they landed in Montreal on June 26 — Ayobami’s birthday — with little more than the clothes on their backs.

The Ayobamis’ original travel plan was canceled due to the pandemic, and she “lost hope” that they would be able to make the trip.

Ayobami, heavily pregnant, began planning for her son’s arrival in Nigeria, but when the couple found out in June they could still travel, they left everything behind and flew.

“We didn’t have time at all. We left everything at home. We had no idea even on the plane where we were going to stay. We hadn’t even booked from Airbnb,” Ayobami said. .

A colleague from the bank where they worked who was already in Canada suggested Newmarket — a place they had never heard of — so when they landed they asked him to book an Airbnb not knowing how they would get on. travel from Quebec to Ontario.

This colleague found a man on a Nigerian chat group who was willing to bring the couple to Newmarket. Traveling from his home in Belleville, he picked up the couple. After a night in a hotel in Belleville, the couple finally arrived at the Airbnb in Newmarket.

Although they love Nigeria, young people who want a better future still think about leaving, Ayobami said.

“Nigeria is a good country but if you are young and want a better future for your children, security, you lose sleep. When you have the opportunity to move to a country where life is liberal, you do,” she said. .

“To be able to leave Nigeria the moment we did meant the whole world to us.”

Ayobami said she knows a lot of Nigerians who have chosen to move to the United States, but while researching, the couple decided to choose Canada.

“Canada is more open to immigrants. Immigrants here are not considered foreigners, they can easily blend into the culture,” she said.

The couple went straight into quarantine at an Airbnb home in downtown Newmarket hosted by Tracee Chambers, who happens to be a Community Positivity Ambassador for the town of Newmarket.

According to Ayobami, Chambers knew the woman coming to stay at his Airbnb would be pregnant, but not how pregnant she would be.

“When Tracee saw me, I can still imagine the look she had on her face,” Ayobami said with a laugh.

Chambers immediately asked the couple what they had with them for the baby and they told him they had nothing.

“I had nothing, I was going to have a child in two weeks. Nothing,” Ayobami said.

Once she heard that, Ayobami said, Chambers got to work securing everything the couple would need for their baby.

“I didn’t buy anything. Tracee bought us pretty much everything. To the point where we had to start choosing because we had so much. Tracee was coming with bags of toys, bags of clothes.”

As soon as they emerged from quarantine, the first place the Ayobamis went was to Service Ontario to get their health card. Their son, Jayden, was born shortly after their quarantine was lifted.

Chambers helped the couple find their basement apartment and a single Facebook post asking for donations of used furniture and household items helped the couple furnish their new home and provide toys and necessities at Jayden.

The Ayobamis had never lived outside of Africa and Ayobami said she was initially worried about being treated differently because of the color of her skin, but after her first outing in Newmarket her fears eased. .

“I came to an environment where people are not hostile. Everyone is friendly. You walk the streets and people laugh and say hello.”

Ayobami and Simi handle culture shock with ease and have already learned the differences in how Canadians and Nigerians socialize.

Back home, friends and family are “expected” to show up unexpectedly, Ayobami said, and she and Simi find it strange that friends here are supposed to call before visiting.

“Here, when you want to see someone, you have to make an appointment,” she says.

“If I want to see my friend I don’t have to tell him I’m coming to see him but here,” Simi said, “you have to say ‘I’m coming this day at this time’, so that’s the culture here For us, if my mother wants to see me, she comes.

Although she dislikes freezing winters, Ayobami said she and her family have come to love their new life and would not change anything about living in Newmarket.

“The last year of my life is like the best I’ve had.”