I arrived in British Columbia over a year ago, and I’ve been in Vancouver for nine months. Time flies. I had no particular expectations when I left Paris other than to improve my English, practice more yoga and live close to nature. I believe that all these objectives were successfully achieved: I became a yoga teacher, I can now watch Friends without subtitles and I have the impression that the house where I live is in a tree!
I did not know that expectations of which I was unaware would leave me bewildered and disappointed. I expected to find a culture similar to mine. I was convinced that what separated us was language. Big mistake. It took me a while to understand – and above all, accept – that the rules of the game are different here. The way people relate, the way people eat and work… there have been a lot of misunderstandings and adjustments to make. At first, I sometimes even felt rejected and was left with a strong feeling of superficiality.
I think that what has been the most complicated for me is the food. I don’t understand the presence of GMOs, or overly processed foods in so-called “healthy” food. I don’t understand why my body digests gluten less well here than in Europe and why fruits and vegetables are so bland. I don’t understand why there is mayonnaise on sushi and pizza. And why do people eat alone?!
Once I got used to this new environment, I started to open up more and see this city as it is. Or at least, as I live it: an international city where a lot of people are just passing through, where nature in all its beauty is very present. It is a city of entrepreneurs, where people work hard – a dream location for lovers of the mountains and yoga. Vancouver, in fact, offers its residents a fairly pleasant quality of life, provided you have the means, because it is a very expensive city for what it has to offer. Oops, I’ve gone off track!
What is certain is that I learn about the local culture every day, but I believe, in my heart of hearts, that my exploration is very selfish. In the end, it is my own self that this experience is allowing to be revealed. I did not know my own culture or my thought patterns before I settled here. I didn’t know how attached I was to food and all its rituals or the importance of intimacy and connection with others in my life. In the end, I knew very little about my attachments, my habits or everything I took for granted.
On the other hand, I also didn’t know that I was going to fall in love with the freedom that this lifestyle offers. Freedom that you tame with its share of loneliness. In that way I learned to like loneliness and today I cherish it. We feel freer to say no or “I don’t feel it anymore”. We allow ourselves to respect our needs first and in this way we learn to practice kindness towards ourselves and, indirectly, with others.
Living here transforms me every day and it becomes more and more complicated to stay connected with my previous life. We learn to break away, to choose, to lighten up and to live in the present. To be continued.
Translation by Barry Brisebois