With an open mind

Originally from Le Havre, an industrial city in the west of France, I arrived in Vancouver in June. Since 2012, I have been fortunate to live and work in various countries, collecting lessons and teachings along the way: I’ve experienced hard work in Atlanta, discovered work-life balance in Ireland, learned about management at a Cameroonian company in Oxford and saw what it takes to start successful companies in both Munich and San Francisco. I’ve learned a lot in each of these places, and I would like to think that all this time spent far from home and loved ones has helped shape me into a better person (at least a little bit, I hope).

Why did I choose to come to Vancouver next? After experiencing an east coast winter, the weather might have been a factor – although I am only now realizing I was naively misguided – but what really attracted me were the professional opportunities and the diversity that the city boasted. I knew Vancouver had long been a hub for immigrants and cultures from all around the world, and I’ve always sought the company of people of different backgrounds than mine, so I was naturally interested. Fast forward to a few months later, I can say that my time here has been up to par with my expectations: I work in the historic Chinatown neighborhood with colleagues from Rwanda, Australia and Italy, I deal with clients from all over Canada and the United States, I have Korean roommates and I’ve started taking Japanese classes. Rarely have I interacted with such a diverse group of people on a daily basis.

Before coming to Vancouver, part of me was worried that moving to this city might be a professional and personal step backward. Despite the diversity I was hoping for, I knew that Canada was still very much a western country, and having only lived in Europe and the United States, I was wary of living in a bubble – only experiencing similar places with slight cultural differences.

In certain ways I was right, as daily life here can be fairly similar to England, France or Germany: overpriced coffee shops on every other corner, tech startups looking to raise funding, everyone spotting my thick accent within seconds of meeting me (it’s not going anywhere at this stage) and roommates universally taking their shower exactly when I want to take mine. But my outlook on life changed and so did the world around me when I decided to approach the city with an open mind, embracing being here instead of treating Canada as another temporary pit-stop or line on my resume.

From interviewing international artists, getting invited to cultural events, trying out new activities and taking on new professional responsibilities, Vancouver opened up a lot of opportunities when my state of mind shifted, allowing me to experience much more in these past few months than I have in other places in years.

Things aren’t perfect here, of course. Working in the Downtown Eastside has also introduced me to a gritty, nerve-racking at times and definitely upsetting side of Vancouver. But it is a reality for many down here, hidden away from the rest of the city behind a convenient, yet thin, curtain, and I wouldn’t trade my Chinatown office for another in a fancier location. It might not always be pretty, but it’s a real place whose slices of life, history, activism and unsung heroes are part of the canvas giving to this city a unique flavour, like no fuming clock ever could.

I am not sure how long I will stay in Vancouver, but I can say that these past few months have been some of the most interesting I’ve experienced, and have helped me open up to a lot of opportunities and worthy challenges. I am happy to call this city home, and I am looking forward to discovering what else it has in store for me.