“The important thing is to just be passing through.” Eugene Dabit
I really like this quote, which perfectly illustrates my journey since I arrived in Canada 18 months ago. Armed with a work permit a year and a half ago, I was thirsty for a new adventure and to “see something different” as they say. But I wasn’t running away from my circumstances in France: the mountain environment, a wide and meaningful circle of friends, the ease of knowing how everything worked (or almost). That’s an important element that needs to be understood and that changes the experience of immigration.
My boyfriend and I even hesitated to leave (a little) once we had obtained our work permits as it was difficult to jeopardize the fine balance we had. Without any real goals upon arrival, but with an idea of maybe “settling down” in BC, we wanted to “see some country” and get out of our comfort zone.
I did not arrive in Vancouver until last May. “Oh, were you in the east before?” they would ask me. “No, I spent the summer in Kelowna and the winter in Revelstoke. Yes, they’re in British Columbia.”
When I arrived here, I faced many (too many?) misconceptions held by my compatriots: where can you live in BC except in Vancouver? Are there really any other “cities”? A little thrown off, I conveyed to them that Vancouver is not representative of British Columbia, let alone Canada! To my eyes this laid-back city exists in its own little world.
Of course, there’s the mountains and the ocean – those great Canadian spaces that make you dream and that are within sight or a bus ride away – but there is so much more to see and so much space to explore!
I was shocked when I arrived. What a big, beautiful city, so green and nice to live in! But the other side of the coin is harsh: you have to earn your place here, and it takes a high social standing and status to enjoy it completely.
But cultural diversity is omnipresent – what joy! On the other hand, communitarianism is there too and there is, I found, too little dialogue between the various communities. One has “tolerance” without interaction.
Even among francophones of the world, we can’t seem to get our act together. A small rivalry persists – who can be more francophone than the other? Social bonds are more superficial and though we can easily talk to everyone, we do not necessarily create a deeper relationship. This is something that I find difficult.
I then took refuge in a small (and francophone!) circle of friends, where in a few weeks I found a semblance of belonging. But that is not enough to thrive and to think about settling in the area. So, since July of last year I’ve been roaming, visiting and living life in BC as I think it deserves to be lived: wild, isolated mountain hikes and canoeing uncrowded lakes with wildlife surprising us around every corner in their native environment.
My Canadian experience is coming to an end, and I feel fulfilled, happy and proud of what I have seen and of my own evolution. Crisscrossing southern BC has confirmed my expectations of the beauty, range and diversity of landscapes. I met friends – French, Canadian and Australian (for the most part). I will surely see them again as we shared beautiful adventures and expeditions.
I hope people upset the established social order (job, transit, sleep, wedding, house, children) to gain some perspective and realize the chance that we have to trace our own path through the lakes and the forests.