Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Introduction to festive season a tough one for newcomer

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The winter of 1962 was a difficult one for Dr. Joseph Du.

New to Winnipeg, the Vietnamese-born immigrant was scraping by as an intern at the Misericordia General Hospital and living out of a tiny rented room on Maryland Street. He had no friends or family in the city, and he was still learning English.

To make matters worse, he wasn't entirely prepared for the frigid grip of Old Man Winter.

"That first winter was very tough," says Du, who moved from Taiwan to Regina a year before settling in Winnipeg. "I wasn't used to the snow and I had to make a lot of adjustments."

One of those adjustments was adapting to the sub-zero temperatures he had always heard about back home.

"Before I got here I wondered how people could live," he says. "In Asia it was about 40 above and here it was 40 below. I was worried about how I'd survive."

But survive he did.

In a city that saw its Asian population explode over the course of the next several decades, Du emerged as a community leader in social and political circles.

And while the retired pediatrician has never regretted putting down roots on the Prairies, he still dreads their dreary Decembers.

"Winters here are horrible," he says. "I used to go to Phoenix for a month or so, but now I stay put because of health issues."

On the bright side, Du says, there seems to be less snow nowadays.

"Maybe climate change has made a difference," he says. "Because in the '60s and '70s, Winnipeg seemed to have huge snowstorms every winter."

Zhibo Yang, who moved from China to Winnipeg in 2007, says he loves the city but also isn't a fan of its bitter winters.

"I try and dress warm and wear gloves and a hat but it's still so cold," says the 24-year-old University of Manitoba student. "I don't do a lot of outdoor activities so I stay indoors a lot."

But despite his aversion to the season's spine-tingling temperatures, Yang has a soft spot for the holidays here.

His favourite day of the festive season, however, is not Christmas -- it's the one that comes after.

"The best thing about the holiday season in Canada is Boxing Day," he says. "I can buy things really cheap."

ryan.bowman@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 20, 2012 B4

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