“Looking at the sun set over the mountains. Closely followed by how easy it is to split a bill, the skytrain and the libraries.”
I finally met up with Anastasia for our photoshoot on a late summer evening on the North Shore. We’d originally aimed to get a sunset session on a local Sky Train platform, however, it wasn’t something we could easily arrange with Translink, so we reset the venue to Lonsdale Quay. As the sun sets the views of downtown Vancouver from Lonsdale Quay are spectacular (as long as there’s not a freighter parked in an inconvenient place on the Burrard Inlet - but that’s another story).
Anastasia has been in Vancouver for a year having made the life changing decision to consign the ‘what if’s’ to the bin and do something she wanted to do, live overseas. Overseas could be anywhere outside of the UK, so why Canada and more specially, Vancouver. “I picked Canada because its politics aligned a lot more with me than other places. Toronto would have been the easiest place to settle, because I have friends there and there are more charity jobs there. However, I’ve been there several times and been thoroughly uninspired, whereas anyone who had ever been to Vancouver would wax lyrical about how wonderful it was, so I took a gamble and turned up here with a backpack, hoping for the best.” I’ve not visited Toronto; however, I’m not going to argue with moving to the west coast.
Leaving everything and everyone that you know behind must be difficult, Anastasia went on to explain her first few weeks, starting with one friend that came over from the UK before she arrived. “I spent the first six weeks on a carousel of “blind dates” in Vancouver’s coffee shops with potential friends, roommates, employers and lovers. It was exhausting to constantly have to be “on” and hope that I gave a good enough first impression that they would want to employ/befriend/date/live with me.” A year down the road and that open, let’s get this done attitude, can be seen to have paid off. Anastasia is now where she wants to be currently of her life.
That first day
When I have had visitors, I’ve usually spent the first day of their stay giving them a snapshot of what it’s like to live here. Places such as Queen Elizabeth Park has great views across the city, Burnaby Mountain and its spectacular sight lines of the Inlet, the sea-to-sky and even a trip to Bowen Island as a foot passenger for dinner. Anastasia had her own experience, “my friend took me on a wonderful day trip consisting of the seabus, central library and watching the sunset at English Bay. The amount of beauty and culture in one small place made me think “yeah I’ve really done this”.” Yep, that first day here can be rather socks knocked off special.
Day in day out
Anastasia is working for a charity as a fundraiser as the day job and spends her spare time outside and in, skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, hitting the vast array of restaurants (Commercial Drive being a favourite area), making the most of the copious local craft breweries, The diversity in the local area has even motivated Anastasia and friends to start an ‘eat your way around the world’ challenge. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. I’m pretty sure that the challenge will be met and possibly offering a second lap, the restaurant culture here is rich and varied. Oh, and having mentioned skiing, Anastasia was struck by being able to hit the local mountains for a cheeky ski after work. “In London you just go to the pub after work. Here you go for a ski. It’s a different world and I love bragging to my friends back home about it.” Chatting with Anastasia it was clear that she has a great sense of humour (British, Dah!) and I’m sure there’s some mischievous teasing of friends back in the UK.
Shocks and hard things
I wanted to know more about what culture shocks had been experienced. Anastasia was straight to the point “How difficult it would be to buy a pair of decent tights! For a cold country, they’re unaffordable and not very nice. I have to get people to post Primark ones to me.” I’ve not had that issue but certainly appreciate that it’s little things like that, that catch one out. Anastasia was also surprised to be socialising with fellow Brits most of the time, feeling a bit of a fraud for not being with locals so much. Having said that, this is Vancouver and it can be hard work to find someone that’s born and bred here, so I get her feeling.
Other than family and friends there are always things that immigrants miss about their country of origin. Anastasia’s listed “Cadburys chocolate, redbrick buildings, proper roast dinners, radiators, OS maps, cheese and going to the pub “for one” with work colleagues.” I must admit to not being fussed on the food side, it’s not my thing, however, red brick buildings, Yes! I’ve mentioned this before, the local built environment is to me, pretty bland. On a side note, it also staggers me how, with the amount of space available, road builders seem to throw in the occasional kink, rather like the old railway construction cliché of arriving from opposite directions and not meeting up correctly. All part of the rich tapestry of living somewhere away from where one was born.
I also like to ask the Brits I meet what they would have brought with them from the UK that’s out of the ordinary. Anastasia’s reply? “A proper footpath network with decent coastal walks. The hikes here are gorgeous, but there are only limited trails to choose from. In England you can literally walk out of your door and weave a route along historic tracks to wherever you like.” There is of course the Trans-Canada trail yet I’m not sure that’s what Anastasia had in mind, after all, a 24000 km hike is more of a lifetime activity than weekend recreation.
Should I stay or should I go now? “One year at a time, I’m going to keep having fun and will head home if/when the magic dries up.” With one year in the bag, it seems that the magic is still there.
Thank you, Anastasia, for a really fun photoshoot. I had a great time finding out more about you and your life here. The images from the shoot really tell a story of someone that’s living life and enamoured with the west coast life that Vancouver offers. Welcome to the TARDIS.
You’ll find more images from Brits in Vancouver on my photography site.