A quiet acceptance of our differences

I’ve chosen to spend my Canadian working holiday in Vancouver for one simple reason: the climate. I come from the south of France. I’m one of those people who occasionally appreciate (and I do mean occasionally) spending a few days in the snow. Otherwise I take refuge at home under the covers with a cup of tea by the fire at the first sight of a snowflake. Of course I really do want to visit the rest of Canada and intend on doing so when spring begins over there as well.

The Chinese section of the Vancouver Public Library, Central Branch. | Photo by Laura R. Copes

The Chinese section of the Vancouver Public Library, Central Branch. | Photo by Laura R. Copes

I only arrived a short while ago and, for the moment, one of the spots where I spend much of my time is my neighbourhood library; I noticed that they had novels by Fred Vargas (a French author of detective stories), Doctor Who DVDs (a British television series) and knitting magazines. The library has become my new favourite hangout. I was also very happy to notice that they had a section for “international newspapers,” thinking that I might find Le Monde, but my neighbourhood is mostly made up of people of Asian origin so they only have Chinese newspapers. It’s understandable, too bad. But there’s a fire by the reading corner (so I know where to take refuge in case of snow).

Like most new arrivals, the variety of restaurants amazes me and I often try to guess the background of the people I have a chance to speak with. When I mention that I am French, the question “from France or Québec?” leaves me a little perplexed. I guess that conveys the attachment that the Québécois have for their “cousins” from across the Atlantic (the fondness is mutual, especially in my case as I have family in Québec).

Going to different meetups or workshops has led to meeting a lot of people: French, British, American, Mexican, Australian, Spanish, Belgian, Japanese, Chinese … (I’m forgetting some surely) and of course Canadians who hail from all parts of the country. When I come upon a Canadian born in Vancouver I feel as though I’ve found that special someone.

Everyone has their reasons for having come here, and many mention the attraction of a city focused on nature, where it is pleasant to live and where multiculturalism is viewed as a plus. Coming from France, where national origin is often a touchy subject I find the Canadian approach –
which provides services in foreign languages and actively monitors its new arrivals – is pragmatic and gives excellent results.

I’m also pleasantly surprised by the calm acceptance of each person’s quirks. For example the cashier at my supermarket has changed her hair colour three times (and by colour I don’t mean blonde, red or brunette but blue, green and orange) since I’ve been here and the only remarks from customers that I’ve heard have been to compliment her. I have a hard time imagining this in my local supermarket back home.

However, I’m not naive and I’m aware of the difficulties and social problems that the city endures. But overall, and especially after having lived two years in Paris where the tension in social relationships is palpable, I find the cosmopolitan and relaxed ambience of Vancouver very pleasant.