I met a fellow Brit this week. Sarah has been here two months so was a great person to question about first thoughts on life in Canada.
Sarah is from London, so her first thoughts were on the size of Vancouver. She said it is both a big city and small at the same time. We met in the Cambie area, and she told me that it seemed strange to be in a suburban area and yet only be 10 minutes from downtown. All around us were homes, on quiet tree-lined streets, or condos on the main ones. The buses or the Canada line sky trains were an easy way for her to get around.
Sarah found it pretty easy to settle in. She couldn’t believe how easy it was to get her bank account set up. She found it strange that the bank tellers would chat to you about just about anything. She missed some of the things about British bank accounts, like the ease of setting up standing orders and direct debits yourself. [Some online banking here requires you to go into the bank and get the payee set up first.]
Getting her BC driving license was a breeze too. [For those who don’t know British driving licenses can now be exchanged for a BC one without the need of taking a test]. Sarah doesn’t plan to drive regularly and is planning on buying a bicycle instead. She thought Vancouver was a bike friendly city. [Which is good as that is what it is trying to be!]
The size of the cars here was something she’d noticed. Sarah actually thought it was funny that Vancouver prides itself on being green and recycling etc, but most cars on the road are huge. In London cars are small but in Vancouver the majority of vehicles you see are trucks, SUV’s, minivans and plain big cars.
One thing that surprised her was the number of crazies and crack heads that she saw in the downtown Eastside. [This area is notorious for its concentration of down and outs.] For Sarah it was a surprise partly because she is renting in Gastown and so is quite near the downtown Eastside. She did say that it was probably good that these crazies were all in the same place.
I asked Sarah about the cost of living compared to England. She told me that the cost of food was higher than she’d expected. She’d found steak to be cheap and had feasted on steak for a few days before deciding on a better balanced diet. Eating out was definitely cheaper she thought.
Sarah is a fashionable young lady and she was horrified by the lack of fashion sense she’s seen. She was particularly struck by the combination of “fashion” items that she sees. For instance mixing yoga pants with cowboy boots, leather jacket and bling! She said there are outposts of style like the sign she saw in a Gastown shop that said “yoga pants are not pants”.
Sarah was surprised by the city’s obsession with hockey. Seeing the streets full of fans in their hockey jerseys is quite a sight. In London football [soccer] fans may support one of dozens of teams, but in Vancouver it is only the Canucks. [The Canucks say that we are all Canucks and it seems Sarah finds this to be true.]
Sarah recently went up to Whistler for a couple of days. She went with a group of new friends and had her first go at cross-country skiing. Sarah wasn’t sure if she enjoyed it since it was both hard and a bit scary, but she loved being out in the snow. She said it was hard to believe [as we sat outside in the Spring sunshine] that only a couple of hours away you could be skiing.
Like many new arrivals, Sarah is enjoying exploring the area. And she is expecting her parents to come visit this summer. By then she should be ready to give them a guided tour.
[I’d love to hear other people’s experiences of arriving in British Columbia.]