Vancouver: Expectations VS Reality


Although I had been to Vancouver before on holiday, life as a student here has been a much more immersive experience. Until now, I had lived in the same country my whole life and moving to another continent has offered me so many unique opportunities. Canada really is a beautiful country, and although it is vast you don’t have to go far to find stunning mountains and beaches. Reflecting on the last month, there are a few things which have got me thinking about how my time so far here compares with my expectations of Vancouver before I came here to study.

Sunshine Coast

When writing about expectations of Canada, it would be rude not to mention the stereotype that Canadians are politer than everyone else. While I am aware it would be unrealistic to expect this of every Canadian, I still thought it must be true to some extent and in general it has been a pretty accurate assumption. On my first day here, I emailed a Professor and she immediately replied, informing me that I had disrespected her by addressing her inappropriately and I was quite taken aback by this response. After a stressful morning trying to get registered on courses this email probably got to me more than it should have and in all fairness to her, her email was entirely professional. On reflection I maybe was too familiar and informal with a professor I had never met. The exchange definitely has taught me not to generalise and that maybe more importance is attached to politeness and formality in Canada than I’ve experienced at home.

University in North America is notorious for its frat parties and although I’m not sure I really understand what a frat is, I expected big things. After countless people telling me I ‘had to go’ to a frat party within hours of getting to campus, a group of us ended up going one night. In all honesty, I was completely underwhelmed. From chatting to drunk strangers, my friends and I gathered that many underage people simply use Frat parties as somewhere to go for a night out because they can’t go anywhere else. The drinking age in Vancouver is 19 and two pieces of I.D. are required, so many people can’t go to bars or clubs when they start university. While we all had a fun night, none of us have rushed back to any frat parties and have much preferred bars in the city which have less keg stands and more ‘happy hour’ food (“Anyone want to get some fries for the table?”).

Skyscrapers at the waterfront in Vancouver

I was under the assumption Canada was a very safe place to live. There is less gun crime here than the US for example. From my limited research (mostly American sitcoms) I know that Canada has also better services such as healthcare available than the US. The city is undoubtedly beautiful however I was entirely oblivious to the immense homelessness problem in Vancouver. This is a problem not unique to Vancouver of course, but it is a problem which seems particularly tragic here compared to any other city I have been to. It was heart-breaking for me to learn that due to Vancouver’s mild climate, relative to other large Canadian cities, many homeless people travel here as it is the only place where they will survive the freezing Winter. UBC has various opportunities to get involved with charities in the city and I hope to do so at some point throughout the year.

These are just a few of the many insights I’ve had since moving to Canada. So far my times in Vancouver has been better than I could have imagined, and I couldn’t be more excited for the year ahead.

Categories: British Columbia, Canada, INTERNATIONAL EXCHANGE, North America

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