Charlotte’s Story

A portrait of Charlotte"Researching bears; bear presence, bear reports, bear behaviour, bear videos, how to be bear aware…"

It was a sunny, West Coast, evening on Third Beach when I met Charlotte to chat about her Vancouver journey. Having arrived in January of 2020, this year has been challenging. However, Charlotte has made the most of her time in and around the city and is now working. 

Back in January, the world was a far simpler place. "What brought you to Vancouver, Charlotte?"

"Ultimately, access to the outdoors.  I’d had my eyes on Canada for many years but the timing had never worked out. My partner works for a global firm and, when the Canadian branch offered him a role in Vancouver, it was a no-brainer."

"You knew that this was the place to be then?"

"I didn’t! But the combination of mountains, coastline, and an English-speaking metropolitan city meant the risk of not enjoying the lifestyle or finding a successful career path fairly low …I hoped anyway!"

As I implied above, it turned out that the risks for Charlotte were higher than initially envisaged. More on that, later.

As Charlottes' partner had been offered a role in Vancouver, I wondered if access to a new social group had helped the transition. It turned out that it was more of a friends referral network that helped. Charlotte spoke about their contacts.

"(I knew) one guy from university days that I didn’t even really know very well and whose visa expired 4 days after I landed. We met for one drink before he flew home. My partner had a few sporadic connections in BC but I had only met one of them before arriving. Luckily each ‘friend of a friend’ we have been put in contact with has developed into our own friendships, although our network is still primarily British."

A portrait of CharlotteIt often turns out that way. I think back to the UK and listening to complaints from relatives or acquaintances about immigrants sticking with their own countryfolk. The same thing happens here and Brits are just as likely to have a predominantly British social circle. It's not wrong, it's just how it is.

Having arrived just as the world descended into a pandemic, I asked how Charlotte had coped. New country, no work and lots of uncertainty.

"My arrival was poorly timed! I was working my UK job remotely for the first 9-10 weeks that took me to the second week of March. I had just secured a job in Vancouver to follow on from that when Covid went global and, I was told not to turn up for my first day. 

I spent 3 weeks unemployed applying for around 10 jobs a day before finding something to fill the gap. The job was not a particularly positive experience and the hours were very long, but we’ll call it character building. 

During this time I went through the recruitment process for a more career-focused job which I was eventually successful for and have just begun work (remotely). 

My partner has been working from home since March and, we have both been getting outdoors in carefully chosen quiet spots. I feel very lucky to live somewhere that we can access those places without travelling far from home."

Not the easiest of starts to a new adventure, yet Charlotte stuck at the task of finding appropriate work and came through the experience with a sense of satisfaction.

Given her experience, would Charlotte recommend moving from the UK to Canada's West Coast?

"Do it, but do your own research. Join local social network groups, visit in advance, ask people who live there, spend hours on Google Maps, look at living costs in detail, investigate the job market and contact recruiters in advance. But ultimately I 100% recommend it."

Now that life has settled into a more settled groove, how does Charlotte spend her free time?

A portrait of Charlotte"Hiking, trail running, cycling, skiing and ski touring in winter. We are considering buying stand-up paddleboards to get out on the water and I am psyching myself up for some open water swimming. And of course doughnuts and craft beer!"

Her weekends are mostly spent on the North Shore or up towards Squamish and Whistler. That call of the outdoors and wilderness again. It seems to get in the blood when living here. Although the outdoor life here brings with it a few unexpected additions to one's routine. As Charlotte puts it, 

"Researching bears; bear presence, bear reports, bear behaviour, bear videos, how to be bear aware…"

What else was a surprise to Charlotte?

"How hard it is to get things done online! Vancouver feels surprisingly behind the UK on technological ‘advances’ such as online banking and online shopping. Also traffic vs pedestrian functions."

I can attest to the last point. Getting used to pedestrians having right-of-way when turning right in a vehicle was a shock to the system when I arrived. It's a habit destined to result in near misses when back in the UK as I've found myself just wanting to walk across a road without looking, as drivers will just stop. Wrong!

Charlotte finds herself going through that "pinch me, am I really here?" feeling as well. There are times when living in Vancouver feels familiar, as Charlotte puts it, 

A portrait of Charlotte"It just doesn’t feel like I have moved 5,000 miles from home. But I still get excited when I unexpectedly catch sight of the mountains through a gap in the trees or houses when I’m just out for a walk/run to the shops."

However, the eight hour time difference was also a frustration. It's an awkward gap, particularly on weekdays, as it makes catching up with family and friends in the UK more difficult.

Before we headed to the beach for the photoshoot, I wanted to find out what Charlotte misses (other than family and friends). Cheddar cheese and online shopping was mentioned as was her cycling network from London, 

"I have just joined a road cycling club now that group riding is allowed again, which is helping me get out on the bike, learn new routes and push my limits… I conquered Cypress mountain twice in one week on my wheels (yes ouch).

To finish on a high, I asked Charlotte the best thing about living here and, what a great response.

"Sitting on/walking along the beach with a view of the sea, the city and the mountains. Usually with a cracking West Coast sunset."

And, that sums up life in Vancouver. Thank you, Charlotte. It was great to speak with you and I hope you enjoyed the portrait shoot as much as I did. Enjoy your West Coast adventure and, welcome to the Tardis.

You’ll find more images from Brits in Vancouver on my photography site.

A portrait of Charlotte with the Tardis

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