Brits in Vancouver – Shayna’s story

A portrait of Shayna at Acadia Beach VancouverWith a love of mountains, oceans and forests, Vancouver had a natural pull for Shayna.

I met Shayna at one of her special places, Acadia Beach within Pacific Spirit Park. It’s a place that showcased the best thing about being in Vancouver for her; access to water, forests and mountains.  Not wanting to assume anything I asked what brought her to Vancouver.

“The opportunity to teach following a holistic curriculum and live by the sea and mountains” My feeling is that I’d be hearing one part of that answer many times during my meetings with other British expatriates. 

Working conundrum 

Having been sold on the place following a short visit, Shayna applied for a Permanent Resident visa and was surprised that it was approved within six months. The move happened in May of 2017. I asked who she knew before heading here. “a distant relative and some ESL [English as a Second Language ] teaching colleagues”. What surprised her was even though she’d been granted Permanent residency at Federal level based upon her qualifications and skills, her teaching qualification wasn’t fully accepted in British Columbia. This meant a further period of study which she is currently working through. However Shayna is able to use her skills within the private school system and is working as a University Prep Academic English teacher and tutors ESL three times a week.

Taking in the culture 

A portrait of Shayna at Acadia Beach VancouverShayna is also exploring Indigenous culture through an online literature course. Her reading has to led to a desire to “explore the history of First Nations and Indigenous People. I would love to go to Squamish and speak with Elders and hear their stories.” There’s a real thirst for finding out more and I find it encouraging that other immigrants are open to exploring the full history of this province, one that extends far beyond the easily accessible Euro-centric stories.

Outside of work and study Shayna takes advantage of the natural environment and walks whenever she can. It’s not all soaking in the local culture though as brunch at Cora’s with her Brit bestie is also right up there as a special time.

Surprises

I wanted to find out more about the surprises of relocation; those things that despite the research just weren’t obvious. Not surprisingly, “Studying and working two jobs” was prominent as well as something a little more off-beat, “The friendliness of the bus drivers. The fact that buses stop for you without being prompted to.” Yep, I agree, it’s very rare to come across a bus driver that doesn’t engage with you in some way. It’s one of the pleasures of transit use here.

Something that I’ve noticed on comments on Facebook groups and through conversation with other Brits has been the challenge of getting a wider friend group established in Vancouver. It’s been something that Shayna has also experienced and I’m left wondering what is is that leads to this. The best I can offer to the conversation is that when newcomers arrive, we are, in some ways, competing with long established relationships and that holds true for singles and couples. One other thing that I’ve noticed since relocation back in 2007 is that locals may not return social or business calls or messages. That’s just how it is and so it falls on the newcomer to make the effort which, when trying to assimilate is another ball to keep in the air. 

A portrait of Shayna at Acadia Beach VancouverMissing

There are invariably things that the emigrant misses when moving to a new country. Rather than the more obvious family and friends, I asked Shayna about what she would have brought with her from the UK but couldn’t. I loved her thoughts “Waterstones bookstore my local pub, the Cornish coastline: Tintagel.” 

Time for tips

To round off the conversation I asked for relocation tips. “Compromise is key. 

Ensure you have your professional qualifications assessed before you arrive, although we are all part of the Commonwealth there are some professional certificates Provinces do not recognize. (Teachers beware you might be required to complete another year at University). 

Go with the flow, there will be dark days.” Her last thought really resonated with me as despite not having the pressure to learn another language, it can still be hard navigating ones way through the administrative, social and business differences that exist. Having said that, for me the challenges have been worthwhile and it seems that is the case for Shayna as well as she updates her education for BC and takes advantage of living in a stunning environment. 

Thank you Shayna for being up for sharing your experience as a Brit in Vancouver. Enjoy your studies, make the most of being in this amazing environment.

A portrait of Shayna at Acadia Beach Vancouver with the TARDIS