One summer afternoon on a Vancouver bus, my mother looked at me wide-eyed, “A lady in transportation asked me how my day was … what do you think she wanted from me? ” she asked, a little bit embarrassed. “Nothing,” I replied. “Except knowing how your day went, I suppose.”
I could only sympathize with her reaction. I remembered my first confrontation with the good spirit of
Vancouver. It was a day that was in every way abnormal to me. In the morning a cashier asked me how I was, a waitress told me that she liked my bracelet, and then a stranger on public transit began to ask me how my day was going so far.
I too was in shock that day – I was wondering what’s going on with these people. I remember being knocked out by the cultural shock.
Such scenarios are pretty unusual for someone who has only known the region of Paris. I remember the Parisian everyday life: taking the subway, bus or RER daily, no smile, shouldering into the crowd, remaining rigid, dodging lewd looks, avoiding other people’s gaze, not talking to others, actively avoiding contact.
Vancouver was different, less aggrieved; it was impossible to run away or hide behind a mask of severity!
What struck me most when I arrived in Vancouver was not the English, not the street grids, the cannabis clinics, the green hair, the poor cheese or the length of the cafés, no! What struck me most was the spontaneous sympathy of most people.
In Vancouver, people say “Hello” and ask “How are you?” Of course, this “Hello, how are you today?” does not necessarily mean all the waiters in town desire to know for the smallest details of your life.
Even if it’s fun to imagine, you couldn’t answer,”It’s not really going well at all, sit down here so we can that we talk about it!”
Such expressions are conventions of language, but they nevertheless participate in a general positive atmosphere. The form favours the content.
Because yes, people are courteous but also relaxed, confident and jovial, in other words they look happy. They are ecstatic about your outfit of the day, the beautiful weather, the beauty of nature. It is not uncommon to see people help each other, start a discussion on the train with a stranger, or say “thank you” to the bus driver.
Such things as these are science fiction for an inhabitant of Paris!
People’s eyes are different, less scrutinizing, less critical. The way men look at women, even the way women look at other women is different, which explains why people have to freedom to sport short-shorts, green locks, tattoos and flip flop with socks!
Here, the eye does not imprison, it opens possibilities.
After more than a year in Vancouver, I find myself more relaxed. I find myself smiling more often at foreigners and holding discussions with strangers without being on the defensive. The form has served the content.
But let us not fall into utopia either. Integration is a process, not a complete detox, and I will always have tears in my eyes at the sight of sandals and socks enthusiasts!