If you talk to most Brits in Vancouver they’ll tell you of a general malcontent that pervades British life. Even though most live ostensibly privileged lives, they fail to wake up feeling healthy or happy, and this means that something is missing. So a lot of them find themselves on the furthest coast of Canada.
According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s annual Facts and Figures reports, the number of people arriving in Canada from the U.K. as permanent residents has more than doubled since 1998. A figure that loitered below 4,000 some 14 years ago now pushes 10,000 each year.
And that is despite the current financial malaise making it harder for people to relocate, something that immigration lawyer David Aujla has noticed in recent years. Aujla, who specializes in helping incoming British and American clients, says there are obvious reasons why British Columbia is appealing.
“A lot of British people have connections with family and friends and that helps with gaining employment, while others did well with business and come via the investor route,” he explains.
“I think it also helps that the climate is similar and English is spoken here, so there is no harsh transition.”
There is a joke that the inclement weather and drudgery associated with parts of the nation means that eight out of 10 Brits wish they were dead, while the other two live abroad.
That is pushing it, but in a period of unusually high unemployment, growing mistrust in government
policy, and with a university system on the ropes, it is hardly surprising that many are saying: “enough is enough.”
Chaminda Wjiesundera, 30, lived in England before moving to Canada with his family at the age of 15. Although suggesting Britain’s globally diverse demography, music scene, and self-deprecating sense of humor are highly praiseworthy, he believes some attitudes are less so.
“Because everyone else is positive it is easy to be lifted here, whereas in England it’s accepted in the pub that you tell everyone how pissed off you are because your boss is being a knob,” says Wjiesundera.
“Also, I think people are programmed not to be mean [in Vancouver], whereas in the U.K. it’s socially acceptable.”
Agreeing with Wjiesundera’s assertion that a ‘woe is me’ culture proliferates in Britain is Stephen George, a 28-year-old scientist who laments his decision to return after spending a year in Vancouver with a work permit and a much fuller diary.
“The U.K. is pretty shit to be honest,” he says. “People seem disillusioned and our impotent government doesn’t help. At night there are virtual no-go zones. Kids sit about pissed on cider with too much time on their hands.”
“We are a rudderless nation,” adds George, “but people don’t help themselves. My friends in Vancouver had lives. They did things. Here, too many people wake up, go to work, come home, watch mindless crap on TV, go to bed, and repeat the cycle.”
George, who would be “on the next plane” back if he had a job offer, would sympathize with Andy (whose last name has been withheld at his request), another Brit who was contemplating making B.C. his home before some unexpected visa news took the decision out of his hands.
“You wouldn’t walk alone at night where I lived in England, so I had definitely settled here, even if breaking into friendship cliques is harder,” he says.
“My Dad was born and raised in the same area in England and watched his son fly thousands of miles away. To have him sit down and say if he was younger he’d consider settling down here, and that I made the right call – that was amazing, really.”
Fate and circumstance will dictate whether Andy ever returns, but under the current economic and attitudinal climate in Britain, it seems highly likely that plenty of his compatriots will continue to jet this way for good.