French by birth and daughter of immigrants, I have known many different cultures and traveled to a great many countries during my lifetime – Switzerland, Belgium, Israel, Italy, Malaysia. I have experienced a lot of different cultures and met a lot of fascinating people. Each country had its own identity, traditions and conventions.
Being accustomed to such diversity, I have always been keen to discover new cultures and narratives. Five years ago, I decided to add one more country and a new culture to my list: Western Canada and Vancouver. However, to limit Vancouver to a single culture is like saying that the French only eat cheese (and to those who wonder, it makes little sense).
Like many North American cities, Vancouver was built by immigrants, and today, in addition to the First Nations culture, a wealth of other cultures make up its history. I expected to meet on a daily basis those famous Canadians whose kindness I had heard so much about.
I must say that, instead, I have come across very few, because the city overflows with so many other nationalities. On the street one can hear all languages, and the restaurants offer a multitude of ethnic cuisine for all tastes. The characteristic North American smell of the hot dog permeates Granville Street, whereas the whiffs of dumplings from the Chinese district gently fade away into the gentle aroma of curry on West 4th Avenue. Clearly, I can choose a new taste every day, depending on my mood.
All those diverse cultures are not necessarily grouped around communities (except for the culture of the charming Chinese district), and this is what makes Vancouver’s diversity so rich and unique.
No matter where I am in the city, I come across people from everywhere, discovering their cultures and their traditions. Every day I experience diversity on the bus, in the cafes, but especially in my job. I work in customer service in downtown Vancouver. Of all the employees, Canadians can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The majority of employees are Irish, Mexican, French, Taiwanese, Chinese, and Australian. Lunchtime is a true cultural cacophony where everyone shares accents and cultures.
But Vancouver’s diversity does not reside solely with its multicultural people. The city’s appearance changes with the rhythm of the seasons: in turn flamboyant in the autumn, colourful in spring, sunny in summer and cold and grey in winter.
In addition, Vancouver beautifully blends cityscapes with natural spaces. I have been pleasantly surprised when walking along the city streets at how quickly I can leave the urban center and find myself in the middle of nature whenever I feel like it. In the same afternoon, I can go see a new movie, have coffee with friends and go rest by the waves on Kitsilano beach. I don’t know many other cities that can offer such extraordinary sunsets that transform buildings, tree tops, slow moving waves and the mountains beyond.
This diversity is also reflected in the activities available in Vancouver. In the winter, the ski lifts run to the mountain tops, just a few kilometers from Vancouver. In the summer, kayakers and paddle pros crowd lakes and oceans, and hikers take over mountain trails. And if you do not like fresh air, summer brings lots of festivals, open air theaters, concerts, etc.
Make no mistake, Vancouver truly offers plenty of cultures and a variety of landscapes. Diversity is the very culture that defines the city. For that reason, each person will find their home here. I, from very early on, know that no matter what I wish for, Vancouver will offer it to me.