Canada: Home of the Syrian Refugee Super Geos

Toronto's first Syrian refugee family, helping to establish new Canadian-Arabic super geos The first Syrian refugee family in Canada arrives in Toronto, 2015.
Photo (cropped) by Dominic Santiago on Flickr

Super geos are where the super consumers live, and they’re the holy grail for marketers. They’re particularly devoted brand loyalists who serve as word-of-mouth evangelists. They’re a small percentage of the brand’s buyers who nevertheless contribute to an outsized chunk of the brand’s overall market share. Super consumers often congregate in particular geographical areas, hence the shorthand ‘super geos’.

An example of super consumers and super geos would be American multicultural consumers of dried vegetables and grains in regions with a high number of Asian-Americans and Hispanics, both of which buy these products more than other groups. According to the Nielsen report The Multicultural Edge: Rising Super Consumers these dried vegetable-and-grain-loving fans are congregated primarily in thirteen regions around the U.S. including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami and Houston, while Nashville and New Orleans are super geos for the same products because they’re staples of ethnic African-American and Cajun cooking in these regions.

Related: Qué Pasa? Ambicultural Hispanics & Other Multiculturals

With only one-tenth the population of the United States, Canada’s concentrations of culturally-motivated super consumers are smaller and less noticeable but we see one potential localization super geo emerging in Canada’s traditionally three most popular immigrant destinations: Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

The growing need for culturally available food, in Arabic


Canada’s goal to take in 50,000 Syrian refugees is just a fraction of the 2.5 million that have settled in Turkey or the one million in Lebanon. Germany has accepted 450,000, the most of any European country. Forty thousand have been admitted to Canada as of January of this year, and the language barrier has been their biggest challenge. Many speak neither English nor French, yet to become established they still need to shop, find an apartment, and buy essential services like cell phone and Internet service. Until they learn one of Canada’s official languages they will naturally gravitate toward the services they can understand in Arabic and its dialects.

dondurma, a Middle Eastern ice cream

While dondurma, the ‘chewy Middle Eastern ice cream’ isn’t, strictly speaking, a food staple, but doesn’t it look like something you’d want to buy? Mmmm, strawberry! Photo by Linda Kachadurian on Flickr

Middle Eastern food is one type of product in high demand now. One food bank near Toronto can’t keep up with the demand for olives, tahini, rice, chickpeas and halal meat. With grocery businesses expanding online and offering delivery services, this provides a prime opportunity for enterprising grocery retailers to offer a less stressful shopping experience to these new Canadians. While native-born and more firmly-established Canadians haven’t yet warmed to the grocery eCommerce shopping and delivery trend that’s growing in Europe and Asia, localizing an eCommerce grocery site for Arabic-speakers offers new opportunities in the three emerging super geos.

Related: Arabic Content Not Matching Arab World’s Online Growth


Toronto & Montreal – the most super geos

The first Syrian refugees landed in Toronto in December 2015 and since then the city has far outpaced others  with 6,000 refugees, along with 6,000 more in other parts of Ontario including London, the fourth-largest recipient thanks to their already existing large Muslim community. Montreal is in second place with nearly 4,000 refugees and others settled in Trois-Rivières, a couple of hours away.

With 10,000 more refugees to come, the need for Arabic language services will only grow. In Nova Scotia, the demand for Arabic translation and interpretation services increased by 25% and 130%, respectively.

One of the first things an immigrant needs to do in their new home is to apply for a bank account and a cell phone and it appears that Canada’s banks are way ahead of the mobile companies for Arabic localization, although the SEO optimization leaves something to be desired.

Asking Google in Arabic, “Where can I open a bank account in Toronto?” offers only one option from the first page of search results by a bank located in Toronto but the link was optimized and localized for visitors physically located in Egypt. Canada’s major banks have localized pages for Arabic but one won’t find them on a Canadian computer typing in Arabic.



Arabic query Google search results showing no local banks - not at all good for Canadian super geos

“Where can I open a bank account in Toronto?” With a little help from Google Translate we asked that question the way a Syrian refugee would. The results speak to the poor SEO optimization of Canadian banks’ otherwise Arabic-localized websites.


Asking “Where can I buy a mobile phone in Montreal?” in Arabic yields a similar collection of useless, if Arabicized websites with nary a single mobile vendor in sight, mostly because Canadian mobile companies aren’t offering language options other than English and French.

Refugees generally tend to concentrate in large metropolitan areas so the likelihood that Syrians will gravitate toward regions with established Middle Eastern communities and make them super geos increases. In the United States, before the new administration halted immigration from specified countries, 12,857 Syrian refugees settled in 2016, primarily in Michigan and California. Detroit is home to one of the largest and oldest Arab-American communities in the U.S. and Los Angeles hosts a long-established Syrian community.

The Syrian refugee migration has increased the need for localization, translation, and interpretation for Arabic speakers congregating in new or existing super geos. SEO optimization for Arabic is critical as well if your website is to be found with queries typed in Arabic.




Yappn Corp is an enhanced machine translation company offering translations in over 100 languages and with particular experience with Arabic including a staff native speaker. For more information please contact or call us at +1.905.763.3510 x246. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn!


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Written by Nicole Chardenet, Sales Development Rep at Yappn


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