Vancouver: open, but not so open

What brought me to Vancouver is neither poverty nor the hope for a better life or even solid projects. Nope, boredom did.

The fatigue from seeing my beloved France going back to its old demons, career prospects as empty as an ice field on a foggy evening, or a love life as exciting as a five hour documentary on stamp collecting in Victorian England. Only one person in the world could drag me out of this boredom: Mr. Jack London.

White Fang

White Fang

I read his stories about Canada’s Great North and the West Coast over and over. I heard his call from the forest and since nothing was holding me back, I let him take me there, to the other side of the world, to the very place where gold hunters were gathering before leaving for the Klondike.

I came here without a goal or any contacts, not even being able to exercise my profession as journalist, in a language that I only moderately mastered.

There was only one thing I could do: listen to the city. Considered a “Terra Incognita” (unknown land) not that long ago, I was astonished by the degree of civilization achieved by its inhabitants in such a short period of time.

Not in regards to the quality or style of buildings though- only the Downtown and Gastown architecture pleased my sense of aesthetic – but by the quality of the human beings who one day, left everything behind to come build this city of peace, calm and quietness.

With the added benefit for any francophone wishing to broaden their knowledge of the language of Shakespeare: the dual display of French/English on product labels.

For those who don’t know France, it should be said that the country has a much more rigid social structure than it cares to admit. The destinies of Black, White, and Arabs meet at work and in streets, but not in life. It’s only when I came here that I realized that the only mixed couple I knew was my sister and her husband.

Among the hundreds of people that I knew, there was only one couple with a Black man and a White woman … I had to travel thousands of kilometers to become aware of this and to discover for the first time a place where differences don’t bring suspicion, where colours bring out the best, not the worse.

A beautiful lesson about life for the so-called “civilized” – what I thought I was.
Of course, heaven on earth doesn’t exist, but if it did, it should take more cues from Vancouver than from Paris. Cleanliness, civility, respect for people, geographical location and kindness. There are endless qualities to this city.

However, “Raincouver” is a mix of Anglo-Saxon and Asian cultures. It’s all been said, but I’m going to develop my point, it’s a marriage between the most selfish civilization in the world and one of the most modest and reserved cultures that the earth has seen.

Far from the warmth of our Latin and Gallic traditions, Vancouverites have polite and pleasant manners, they are really tolerant, but not warm. Not, at least, before they’ve ingested a dose of alcohol strong enough to release their inhibitions.

Here we learn about patience, humility (how can it be otherwise when situated between the infinite ocean and the majestic snow-covered mountain peaks, eh) and a certain reserve. My big moment was when I realized how much I needed all of that.

Nevertheless, it becomes obvious that a certain number of keys are required to decode this city. Vancouver is an open city, provided we devote ourselves to it and find the key to networking, the key to integration, and the key to meeting people who are so different from my home country. Above all, I had to open my mind which was under lock and key.

Translation Nathalie Tarkowska