“I love hiking, in particular undertaking a challenging hike with the payoff of a great view. “
Back on location, this time on the edge of Stanley Park, I met Paul at his suggested location - Lost Lagoon. As with all my Brits in Vancouver, I chatted with Paul about his motivations for relocation...
“I had wanted to live abroad since I did my undergraduate degree back in 2005. This desire was enhanced after touring America in 2008. The decision to come to Vancouver specifically, followed me giving Louise (Paul’s wife) the choice of Canada or New Zealand. She opted for Canada with its relative proximity to the UK. Vancouver was then put on the list as I am a runner and wanted to be able to exercise outdoors 365 days of the year as opposed to 8 months of the year in some of the colder climes like Toronto or Calgary.”
You will get to read Louise’s side of this decision-making process in a later Brits in Vancouver feature. I digress. The decision was made and Paul (along with Louise) arrived in Vancouver in June 2017. However, the decision to relocate to Vancouver wasn’t simply about Paul’s exercise habits, other factors played their part too.
“I had read for some time that Vancouver was in the ‘top 5 places to live’ in the world. We decided to pay a visit to the Pacific NW (Seattle and Vancouver Island as well as Vancouver) in 2015 to see if we liked the area and how we would feel living here. We loved the island but knew our lifestyle was better suited to the active and busier community in Vancouver.”
My sense is that so many people are drawn here for the lifestyle that Vancouver can offer and it seems that Paul is one of those many, as was I. So, where does Paul head to, to make the most of his free time?
“Grouse, the Seawall, Stanley Park, Granville Island, Steveston, any park where there is an opportunity to chill or anywhere else that I can meet friends and head for a run. I love hiking and undertaking a challenging hike with the payoff of a great view. Therefore, I enjoy trips over to the North Shore. I never get bored of the view down from Grouse. I do enjoy kayaking although, almost never get the time with other training and commitments.”
I moved on to ask about some of the tougher things Paul has experienced when he first arrived. Once again, the relocation penalty raised its head. The well-documented lack of Canadian experience and lack of portability of qualifications hampered Paul’s initial career progress.
“I had to start from scratch in my professional field. Having worked in Universities in the UK in my profession I thought I may get some breaks but my first job was at a Running Room on minimum wage!”
Despite the initial hard start, Paul is very much up and running with his career now. In fact, he seems to be juggling three careers, “I work across 3 jobs. I am primarily a researcher at UBC (4 days), a physiotherapist at Restore Physiotherapy (1 day) and social media editor for a sports medicine journal (another 5 hours per week).” That’s quite the schedule and I’m left wondering how Paul manages to shoehorn in the rest of his activity-filled life, particularly with the arrival of a new baby at the start of the year.
The conversation shifted to other differences Paul has experienced. “Hmmm. This is tough. There is a subtle difference in humour, sarcasm, in particular, is something I have found you need to take care how you use it here, as it can come across as being unkind.” My sense is that many Brits have fallen foul of this particular culture shock. That ‘look’ you get when Brit humour misses by a country mile.
Paul had mentioned running a few times so I wanted to know if he’s ever come across a film set on any of his runs. “I accidentally ran through a film set early one morning in Stanley Park. They tried to send me back but I refused as it was a long way to go, so they let me through between takes. Lots of period costumes in the woods, I still never did manage to find out what was filming”. Coming across film/TV sets in Vancouver is one of those things that I’ve gotten used to but am still fascinated by. Paul even had the chance to be an extra in The Flash but didn’t take up the opportunity. It was back when he first arrived and maybe wasn’t aware of the city being used as ‘any town North America’.
Football. It invariably makes an appearance as does the word ‘soccer’ (nope – football!). Paul’s an avid Norwich fan so has had a difficult year of early morning TV games watching gradually worsening performances resulting in inevitable relegation from the Premier League. Paul mentioned missing the whole European game and culture. I guess that MLS hasn’t managed to permeate through the layers of history yet. One-day. Maybe…
I’m always keen to find out where else in BC and Canada fellow Brits have visited and Paul like others I’ve spoken to has a far more extensive list than myself. “Calgary, the Rockies (Banff/Jasper/Lake Louise), The Island (Tofino/Victoria), the Gulf Islands (Bowen and Salt Spring) plus the Sunshine Coast, the Okanagan, briefly Wells Gray Provincial Park. and then the whole area between Quebec and Niagara, including Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. So a fair amount! My favourite place was Tofino and the area surrounding, but Salt Spring is lovely too. I enjoyed visiting Ontario and Quebec but I wouldn’t want to live there, the provinces lack the ‘wow’ factor you get in B.C.” It seems that once again, Vancouver takes the top spot for managing to provide the right lifestyle mix for this relocated Brit.
Before wrapping up the chat and portrait session I wanted to get Paul’s feelings on what he misses. Football (obviously) gets a mention as do old, and I mean old buildings. When one has moved from a place that offers up a castle built in 1067 and a couple of medieval cathedrals, Vancouver’s built environment can be a let-down. Other notables on his list were good BBC dramas and quality cheese at less exorbitant prices.
Given the above, I asked what Paul would have brought with him if it could have fitted in a suitcase. His answer surprised me. “Honestly, selling a lot of our belongings collected over 12 years of living together was liberating. You do miss your own bed after a month of travelling but it’s nice knowing that you have nothing else in the world to tie you down.
I miss the stuff I listed above, but I also like having the divide, so I think on balance I would saying nothing.”
Having the opportunity to start afresh isn’t for everyone and it was encouraging to hear that others find the experience as liberating as I did back in 2007.
Finally, the combined wisdom of Brits I’ve spoken to is surely a great resource for people thinking of relocating and I asked Paul to contribute with his thoughts. His response was well-considered and comprehensive. I usually grab a snippet, however, I wanted to share all of Paul's thoughts.
“Be prepared for not having the tax on price tickets (you don’t get used to that). Be prepared for very slow-moving bureaucratic organisations when trying to process anything related to qualifications or visas (pretty annoying). Be prepared for more expensive groceries and cellphone costs (you do get used to that). Try to find someone whose address you can borrow to set up a bank account, that’s important early doors.
Volunteer for one of the festivals. We both did the Fringe in 2017, it introduced us to so many things we wouldn’t normally have considered and we’ve been back both subsequent years as patrons. It’s grassroots and a bit of a potluck but if you don’t like what you see you can have a laugh about it and volunteering you get to meet some really interesting people. Plus, it indirectly led to me getting my great job as a researcher under one of the leaders in Sports Physiotherapy at UBC. I even ended up editing/co-authoring a textbook, just because we took a chance volunteering and made new connections!
Don’t be scared to move. Even if you decide not to stay, you will never regret the landscapes you can experience in Vancouver and the wider area.
No matter what anyone tells you, there is always a way to sort out a problem you have, even when it seems you may have exhausted all opportunities.”
His last sentence captures the spirit of the immigrant. If you’re determined to make things happen, you’ll find a way. Make it work. Make the break. Change your life.
Thank you, Paul, for being part of Brits in Vancouver. It was an enjoyable evening around Lost Lagoon and a pleasure to get to know you (and Louise - who will join me later) and of course your new daughter Amelia (“Mia”). Welcome to the Tardis.
You’ll find more images from Brits in Vancouver on my photography site.
Follow Paul on Twitter
Listen to Paul on a British Journal of Sports Medicine podcast