Brits in Vancouver – Nicole’s Story

“It’s a constantly rewarding job with many fascinating elements to it."

A portrait of NicoleI’d previously indicated that I wanted to extend the scope of the Brits in Vancouver Project to a wider range of people. My latest guest is certainly someone that I’d not have expected to be meeting when I launched the project early in 2019, however, if one doesn’t ask, nothing changes. I really appreciate Nicole giving up her time to be another Brit in Vancouver and to offer a different perspective on life here.

I never thought I’d succumb to the great outdoors the way I have!

Brits that live here have arrived in Vancouver for many reasons. For some it’s a stopping off point on a multi-year, globe-trotting adventure. Others, like myself and family, arrive to start a new life, a serious shaking off the cobwebs. However for Nicole, it was work that brought her and her partner to Vancouver. 

“I work for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and transferred here to take up the position of Consul-General at the British Consulate-General 

Many moons ago I was in the Royal Air Force and I’m well aware of overseas postings and how they work. In conversation I found out that Nicole has been able to extend her stay and I like to think that this is a reflection of how well she and her team have represented British interests since she arrived in July 2016. I was curious about how Nicole spends her days.

“Work keeps me pretty well occupied – it’s a busy job.  It also involves some travel and a number of evening engagements every week.  That aside, though, we (I’m here with my partner) try and explore as much as we can so really enjoy getting out, both in the city and outside of it too.”

A portrait of NicoleSome of the Brits I’ve previously spoken to almost stumbled across Vancouver whilst travelling, then returned or found a way to stay here. Nicole was well aware of what awaited, however, that doesn’t stop Vancouver from having its customary impact on newcomers..

“You only have to look out the window and see the amazing views every day to know that this is a fabulous  place to live.  That aside, though, we really enjoyed getting to know the city and appreciating just how much there is to do here.  But, the longer I’ve worked here, the more I realise how much is going on economically and in business as well which makes the work aspect really vibrant too. “

Part of getting to know the area is getting out and exploring what’s on offer and it’s no different for British Diplomats. I asked for a few out of work highlights.

Craft breweries!  We both enjoy them and my partner is very academic about them (e.g. making tasting notes and keeping scores!).  We have also succumbed to the love of the outdoors here and have been camping, hiking, kayaking etc.  We’ve been lucky enough to make some really good friends here too with whom we enjoy spending time.  And we like to travel when we can. Port Renfrew has become a particular favourite”

No matter who I’ve spoken to, the call of the outdoors has consistently been unavoidable and, for Nicole camping and kayaking appears to have been one of those more unexpected pleasures that one often discovers when in unfamiliar surroundings.  

“I never thought I’d succumb to the great outdoors the way I have!”

I focussed in on the Metro Vancouver area and asked about the good and ‘could be better’ things that Nicole has experienced. The positives, 

A portrait of NicoleThe friendliness and good manners of virtually everyone I meet.  And, the traffic and ease of being able to get around.  I guess it’s all relative, but, coming from London, the traffic really isn’t bad here!”

Having worked in London for several years and despite recognising the increased traffic in the area, I certainly agree that the traffic here is not that bad. I used to live in Maidstone, Kent and can vividly remember traffic gridlock days in the town centre and those days could certainly equal those in Vancouver. 

And the harder things about living in the area?

Not hard so much as annoying: drivers are a bit too ready to be aggressive on the horn here for no real reason.  Most of the time you’re moving lanes because you need to move lanes – it’s not to be awkward.  So, drivers, let people in and don’t feel the need to honk quite so much!

Even though Nicole has spent a lot of time out of the UK I was certain there’d still be one or two things that she missed. Her immediate response, 

To be honest, as long as I can get my supply of Marmite, I’m happy.

Okay, I’ll allow at least one Marmite answer from the Brits I meet. Personally, I’m on the loathe side of the ever-lasting Marmite debate. However, I’m more in agreement on Nicole’s thoughts on what she’d have brought with her if only possible. 

“A really good, large, well-stocked, independent bookstore (that doesn’t also sell blankets, candles and smells)”

The nearest experience I’ve had to a well stocked independent would be submerging myself in a couple of the used bookstores on Richards. They’re the kind of place that one expects to find a 1960’s nerdy bookworm tucked away between towers of philosophy and beat poetry. There are certainly no signs of artificial smells, just genuine musty paper.

A portrait of NicoleTo round off the meeting, I wanted to find out a little more about high points of Nicole’s time here so far. 

“It’s a constantly rewarding job with many fascinating elements to it. It’s hard to single out any one high point but the visit of the RAF Red Arrows would have to be right up there.  They were here for a three day visit last September and undertook a whole range of activities but the pinnacle was their flypast over the downtown waterfront. It was an amazing image.”

Yes, it was a truly amazing image watching those flypasts. Glimpsing the dashes of red against the North Shore mountain canvas followed by the formations along the Burrard Inlet. Wonderful!

My final question concerned the future. At some point the Consul General moves on to another post, another country. I asked Nicole how she would like Vancouver to remember her. 

That’s always a tough one – thinking about legacy is weird.  But I hope that I’ve come across as someone who really values the city and people and that I’ve really engaged with it.  

Nicole has certainly waxed lyrical about her time here so far. I think it’s safe to say that Vancouver can feel well and truly valued by this particular British Consul General and, that strong bond will continue after she moves on.

This project is all about travel, adventure and experiencing different cultures. Brits come to Vancouver for a variety of reasons and maybe it’s easy to forget the official UK Government presence that’s here, continuing the special relationship that’s been forged over many years. I’d thoroughly recommend reading some of the stories on the 55 Parallels site to find out more about how the UK and Canada are bonded through shared values.

Thank you for spending time with me, Nicole. It’s been a real privilege to get an insight in to the life of the Consulate. Welcome to the TARDIS.

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

A portrait of Nicole with the TARDIS

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