I was in for a culture shock when I moved to West Vancouver, B.C. Having spent 22 years of my life living in the bustling multicultural metropolis that is London, England, I initially found myself feeling anxious when greeted by the stark shoreline of Vancouver. My instinctive reaction was restless and antsy, dreaming of being back in the thick of the mayhem. As a British woman of Indian descent, I found myself being referred to as “exotic,” something unfamiliar to me as this was not how I had ever defined or understood myself.
My cultural identity and sense of home were aspects of my life that left me feeling conflicted for the first two years of my move. This was especially so on the North Shore, where my peers were predominantly white Canadians that found my ethnicity paired with my accent delightfully entertaining. Capitalizing on this at first, I soon found it to be isolating as an outsider. My views and beliefs were very different from those surrounding me, and those who may have shared my perspectives – fellow immigrants and other minorities –lived in further away areas that were not quite figuratively, nor physically, close to me. I found it hard to “fit in” and maintain a favourable view of what I deemed to be a much less cohesive city.
With this in mind, I also learned a lot from the friends I did make – how to enjoy hiking and simple pleasures, and how to appreciate the slower pace of life and the connection with nature that I could easily have overlooked. Witnessing life on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast offered me insight into another element of myself I had not yet tapped into. Over time I noticed an overlap of cultures and started to observe friendships that represented multiculturalism a little more closely to how I had experienced it in London, especially the closer I drew to downtown. Cultural integration didn’t feel so far removed anymore.
My journey of self-discovery led me to reading a lot about consciousness and the power of presence, meditation, and checking-in with myself on a deeper level. By branching out, meeting new people and breaking out of my comfort zone a little more in a bid to find like-minded people, I discovered a spiritual underbelly in Vancouver. From bookstores focused on esoteric philosophies, through to further engagement within my expanded peer network, there was another world that had previously been separated from my awareness. Within these circles, I learned further about communal housing in East and North Vancouver; people looking for spiritual connections living in small collectives and building communities with those in other collectives.
These friends love music, art, self-exploration, community and expression. They are a host of people of mixed creeds, heritages, abilities and orientations who welcome anybody with a desire to learn more about themselves and humanity at large. The similarities that draw these people together simultaneously break down boundaries. They continue to show me their curiosity of different cultures and strive to understand each other on a deeply personal level. It has been humbling to be able to both observe and partake in such relationships. I have found new depths to Vancouver that I hope to continue fostering, and in turn, share with others to move towards an ever inclusive and progressive community.