I wanted adventure. Faced with the choice of an in-state school in Colorado or travelling to the Great White North, I chose the beautiful University of British Columbia. So, up I came with my laptop and twin extra long sheets in tow, expecting hockey fans and maple trees.
My first culture shock came when I patiently waited on a curb to cross the street and an entire bus stopped for me to cross. I had not even a toe over the curb and a city bus stopped to let me pass. In Denver, I would consider myself lucky if someone even slowed down when I tried to cross the street. Canadian politeness doesn’t stop at driving either. I have been asked numerous times if I needed directions from kind strangers on the street, and I could go about a month without ever having to open a door for myself if going in after someone. One woman went to three different professors with me to help me find information on a new science class I could join. It was the first time I bear hugged someone I had met twenty minutes prior.
The dorm I live in houses predominantly international students, and I have felt myself defending America quite a bit. At the same time, I like taking a step back and looking at it from a different perspective. Growing up in America I thought everyone must have grown up with an “it’s a free country” attitude. My impression is that Canadians embrace the freedom and rights provided by their country, while also participating in the responsibilities that come with the privileges. With the “American Dream” comes a very individualistic attitude that purports anyone can do well if they work hard. Individual success becomes paramount and the idea of community can lose itself in the shuffle. America by no means is devoid of camaraderie and collectivism, but Canada has really struck me as a place that seems to have your back no matter who you are.
As far as the little differences go, I heard the term “First Nations” for the first time here and have been slowly learning the history behind First Nations people via the Museum of Anthropology on the UBC campus and my Sociology 101 class. I am interested in learning more about their culture over the next few years.
I do miss Denver’s amazing Mexican food; the city has a very rich Hispanic culture. I love participating in all the celebrations such as Day of the Dead and Cinco de Mayo. However, I love the abundance of Asian cuisine in Vancouver, namely sushi. I can say that I eat sushi four to five times a week and never get tired of it.
Concerning Canadian vocabulary, I have become well acquainted with terms such as Timmy’s, two-six, mickey, loonie and toonie. There are also fun accent differences that leave my friends and I saying the word ‘pasta’ back and forth for a good five minutes. I only know bonjour and au revoir in French, and I still had to spell check au revoir to spell it right. My five years of Spanish classes are somewhat useless here, but I am not opposed to learning new languages.
Overall, I could not live in a more breathtaking place than beautiful British Columbia. With a kind community and Timbits in hand, Vancouver already feels like home.