I left France mostly because my interactions with my compatriots no longer suited me. It was as though every conversation I engaged in was met with a narrowness of spirit, a rejection of differences and an unjustified superiority.
Two years later, I don’t feel sorry. For the first two months of my stay, I did not really make friends. Canadians are warm and experts of small talk, and such sketchy social interactions satisfied me. That said, it soon dawned on me that I live in a cosmopolitan city. After walking downtown for a few minutes, one soon realizes that the people here come from all over the world.
When the time came to get out of my shell, I instinctively turned to the French community. It is not easy to leave one’s comfort zone, and I needed that safety: to hear my native tongue, to talk about cheese and bread, to hear others confess their need to rediscover France and its history-rich landscapes.
However, I soon reencountered what had impelled me to leave: sexist, racist or even homophobic remarks that are “just for laughs.” Torn between the impulse to flee from those who know better than everyone else and the feeling of being nevertheless at home, I sorted myself out and chose who would be my friends.
But above all, I have readjusted my perspective. How can I dream of an inclusive, pure and kind world, while remaining an observer, never taking one step toward anyone else? How can building walls around me be more productive than creating non-judgemental conversations?
This is what Vancouver taught me: to take the risk of living surrounded by people from here and abroad, in order to ask questions. Forget for a while my own culture, and open up to that of another person. Accept that what seems sexist in my neighbour’s culture may not be so. Realize that what to me seems simple and logical is not so for the one facing me. And that it does not matter.
I don’t always understand. But I try. Just as I hate hearing someone criticize France and the French, although I am the first one to do so, I tell myself that I am nobody to pass judgment on another culture. And even if I had never had the impression of doing it before coming to Vancouver, I believe that there is a difference between keeping silent and offering an attentive ear; between staying still and lending a hand.
What I like above all in Vancouver is those inhabitants who love this city…but who also love their roots. Those who admit loudly that their country of origin is not where they would like to live, for various reasons, but who are nevertheless excited and enthusiastic about going back for a short visit.
These persons make me understand that I have the right not to like everything in France, while still loving her with all my strength. I have the right to feel at home in a city very different from where I grew up, while constantly missing my birth city.
Vancouver gives me hope. If I have become able to open up to others, then anyone can. Here, my idealism seems to me almost realistic.