Normalizing the differences


To leave your native land, your hometown, is never an easy task. Plenty of questions, and sometimes a few doubts, will overwhelm you. So in my opinion it’s important to settle in a place that suits oneself best despite cultural or even geographical differences.

Before flying off for Vancouver, many people were intrigued by my choice. What had pushed me to make me choose this destination, less well-known in France than other cities such as Montréal, Toronto or even Ottawa? Beyond my desire for adventure and emancipation, my first objective was to blend into this Anglophone Canadian city to learn their language and their habits. Although I had heard of the open-mindedness of the city, I did not imagine what I would actually find. The local population is as diverse and mixed as the downtown buildings and the jagged, mountainous scenery overhanging the city. Maybe I was faced with the true definition of “multicultural,” which was finally taking on its full meaning.

Being from Paris I was no stranger to rubbing shoulders with different cultures. The one thing that hit me was the overall symbiosis that reigned in the heart of Vancouver. It was as if difference were the norm with every characteristic accepted without constraint – a force that an entire country wanted to depend on. It was a sort of ideological revolution without violence. The overall vibe emerging from the city was one of serenity, but with a sense of aesthetic shock present every day.

It is indeed sometimes hard to realize that I’m in a North American country, so powerful is the melting pot. Besides, national identity and Canadian pride are not very pronounced, as opposed to the United States for example. No doubt this may be due to the fact that one in two inhabitants isn’t born in Vancouver. People live here (mainly based on the encounters I have had) for professional opportunities and the quality of life. It is as if the city is still searching for an identity for itself, as is often the case in countries as young as Canada. This is a quality that might call out to certain people, such as myself, who come from a continent with a more pronounced everyday history.

But Vancouverites know how to do justice to their environment and are ahead of the Europeans in this matter. They are very proud of it and showcase and preserve it in consequence. If you want to be part and parcel of the “city” you have to respect the rules. Despite a relatively high cost of living, the locals like to lead a healthy lifestyle. So it is not surprising to find a number of organic restaurants or people jogging in one of the numerous city parks. For example, on the beach, in front of stores and on terraces, smoking is prohibited. Alcohol is not strongly favoured either, not being tolerated in public spaces, as opposed to say, cannabis. Besides these few “elementary” rules that sometimes totally contradict the Latin spirit (which is hard for a Frenchman to suppress), Vancouver doesn’t hide its ecological ambitions. Nearly half of all urban trips are carried out by bike, on foot or by taking transit with many projects under development. The advantages in Vancouver are real, and besides being able to breathe a little fresher air than elsewhere, you can also stroll along the streets without fear of stepping in dog poop, unlike Paris.

Translation Barry Brisebois