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.


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

Walking Victoria – Ogden Point

Named after a 19th Century, Hudson's Bay Company trader, the breakwater pier at Ogden Point provides great views whatever the weather.

Victoria proved to be a good city for walking. Whilst on a recent visit, the car was left idle and the legs provided all the motive power needed to cover the downtown and harbour area. One walk I took was out to Ogden Point and this city hike delivered a range views, changing weather and even a blast from the past.

The breakwater curves out in to the Juan de Fuca Strait is narrow and it only gained safety railings in 2013, which I find amazing given the winds that can batter the body whilst heading out to the lighthouse. I found an image on Flickr that shows the pier before railings, and it seems that Victoria was suffering from a dearth of safety anoraks until the early 21st century. I wouldn't have attempted the walk without the railing in the high winds that were gusting when I was in the area, but maybe that's me being too risk averse. What was really apparent during the hike was how changeable the weather can be in the area. Blue to grey, gusty to balmy, I managed it all within 60 minutes.

My blast from the past moment came when I realised that the large cable laying ship docked in the harbour was the Cable Innovator. In my distant work life I spent time with Mercury Communications / Cable & Wireless. I can remember the Cable Innovator docking in London next to HMS Belfast. It was the pride of the C&W Marine fleet. The cable laying business has been sold multiple times since the 1990's, yet Cable Innovator was still resplendent in C&W Blue. These unexpected incidents that happen over lifer have the tendency of prompting memories. Time goes in to reverse, the rose-tinted specs are donned and the world is very different, just for a few moments.

Most of my Victoria trip images were taken with the OM-1 however, Ogden Point was captured digitally as I'd used up my film roll and didn't have another roll with me (note to self - old-school means better planning). The images above really show off the changing weather to great effect.

Come what may, a walk out to Ogden Point provides great views, whatever the weather.




The film bug bites hard

It's a brand new, old world and I'm loving it.

I admit that form and function are important to me. After reacquainting myself with film through the Olympus Trip I turned my attention to finding an old SLR camera. What to look for? It was a no-brainer. The Olympus OM-1, a well storied, professional quality SLR was my first choice. I was fortunate to find what I was looking for on Etsy, in fact I got more than I'd bargained for as the OM-1 I bought came with 'nifty 50' lens, an original case, strap and flash. A complete package that had been lovingly reconditioned. The camera is as much a work of art as it is functional and it's not just me that thinks so. An upcoming YouTube channel, Analogue Insights, have a great review of this stunning camera.

Rather like my first roll of film with the Trip, I just wanted to test out the OM-1. Whilst out in Vancouver I took the opportunity to play hometown tourist and  get used to a fully manual and mechanical camera again. The aspect I love about the OM-1 is the shutter speed selector being at the base of the lens ring. It makes adjustments so easy and when starting from a known 1/125th, F8 I can swiftly fine tune my exposures. With a single ISO setting to make along with full stops of shutter and apeture adjustments, the OM-1 is a joy to use, it's about simplicity, it's uncluttered, it's about the possibility of the image.

I used a local camera shop to get the roll developed and scanned the negatives myself before lightly retouching in Luminar. The images below are a good representation of what a forty year old camera can capture.

Using film again is becoming a very relaxing and creative experience, plus there's the joy of waiting to get the film developed before finding out how well I've shot.