Where I come from

I think that for travelers, whether over the short or long term, the search for meaning and identity follows them everywhere. Having arrived in Vancouver on October 22nd 2019, I would never have thought of being part of such a mix of cultures. And yet, diversity is something I had always experienced in my native Alsace.

I grew up in Mulhouse, France, a breeding ground for immigration. Different cultures rub shoulders, exchange ideas and communicate. A dynamic that is familiar to me but that was turned upside down by my arrival in Canada. Finding myself this time in the shoes of an immigrant, I was more aware of the changes and complications of building a new life elsewhere – new habits, new language, new landmarks. Notwithstanding this observation, I had the good fortune to be French and to have experienced very acceptable living conditions. I also found things much the same here, even if everything had to be redone in terms of professional networks and friends.

The loss of landmarks is not to be taken lightly. I am particularly impressed by immigrants from far-off countries, both geographically and culturally, and whose living conditions are nothing of an El Dorado. The journey, whether agreed to or forced, involves uprooting.

Immersed in the Canadian experience since October, I am able to observe the welcoming of different immigrants. The task is not easy, but Canada is doing it. Everyone can live freely, without being criticized for their lifestyle, their appearance or beliefs. I am still surprised by so much kindness. Coming from a country where criticism and racism are commonplace, I appreciate the apparent social appeasement.

I was, however, faced with questions, having first set foot in Montréal. Queries related to the presence of what you call “First Nations” or “natives.” I noticed a difference in the treatment of history from one side of Canada to the other. In British Columbia, native culture seems to me more present and accepted.

Mural near Granville Island. | Photo by Émeline Riffenach

In the end, this issue of origins seems to me to be the same throughout the world. One clan following after another, often within the violence of colonizing movements, while seeking to legitimize their presence.

In Canada, the situation seems peaceful, but taboos are not far away. Vancouver is a reflection of this ambiguity. It brings many nationalities and communities into close proximity, but one wonders about human relationships and their depth. A difficult question to resolve.

The apparent serenity, however, is a good thing. While in my country, the social and identity crisis is becoming more and more important. I would like to emulate a bit of this Canadian example. The question of the veil, and more broadly of religion, does not seem to be as tense an issue here in British Columbia.

I would like to take advantage of this serenity to make people reflect. To push them to travel as well so as to understand the Other and put themselves a little more in their place. To understand that it is not easy to leave one’s family and adapt to a new way of life. To also understand that one can live together while being totally different.

Although I left my “home,” I now know that I have taken small bits with me. Small pieces of identity that we can show, describe and share with others.

I will take advantage of this “Canadian” experience to share more about who I am and where I come from. Opening one’s mind, based on exchange and discussion. That seems to me to be an important key to “living together,” threatened everywhere on the planet. So, let’s find the optimism in simple sharing without any monetary expectation. And there you are, I have shared a little of my “heimat” as we say at home.

Translation by Barry Brisebois