“The internet has made it easier than ever to connect with other people.” Is not exactly a new idea. My friend Becky can vouch for that better than anyone I know.
One day she opened her phone, logged onto Tinder, and found that a man in the UK, a country on another continent, was only a swipe away.
This Englishman, Martin, was visiting a friend in Vancouver and was trying to meet someone over Tinder before he arrived. When he came down, Becky met up with him, and the two hit it off. Fast forward about half a year, a couple of flights, and some long conversations later… she was flying to London to move in with him, where she still lives to this day.
Living in a new city, in a new country, on a whole new continent, had to feel different. I was curious about what she had noticed about herself living there and being immersed in a new culture. I got in touch with the two over video call to see what they had to say.
First impressions are always key, so I started there. The answers surprised me.
Becky told me that she feels that people in both London and Vancouver tend to keep to themselves a bit more but the reasons for doing so seemed different. “In Vancouver, I feel like we are too self-aware. Like we are always worried about what other people think of usso we keep to ourselves. Whereas in London everyone is sort of just in their own world with two blinders on, not really paying attention to each other.”
Makes sense. Big cities don’t really have a reputation as being full of warm and welcoming people, eager to get to know you. Martin’s answer was just a little different.
“You guys don’t have much of a drinking culture. Here it’s pretty normal to have a pint at lunch or hit the pub after work, but I didn’t see much of that in Canada. I mean you’ve got your happy hours, but it’s not the same.”
I should note that when I visited the two over the summer of 2019, I drank way more than I ever had. It was pretty normal to see people at pubs at 2 PM having some pints on a lunch break. When I’m home, f I suggest getting a pint any time before 4PM, I’m getting concerned looks.
What is something you’ll find in Vancouver that’s rare to see in London?
“You have dispensaries! That’s a huge culture shock. You’d get arrested pretty quickly for having weed in London.” That’s one I always forget. Even before pot was legal in Canada it was not at all uncommon to see dispensaries around Vancouver. They are such a common sight that it’s easy to forget it’s a still a taboo around the world.”
However, we don’t out-smoke them in everything. “Nobody in Canada really smokes much tobacco. The Irish, Australian, and English—they all smoke. But nobody really does in Vancouver.”
With the first impressions out of the way, the next thing I wanted to know about was the biggest adjustments that come with moving to a new city.
When Becky made the leap to London, she was able to transfer her position at what she calls “an unnamed toy store” in Burnaby over to their store in London. Although the job was the same, she says the feeling around it was very different. “Over here (London), it’s really money and social based. The job at hand is very ‘go, go, go’ and on the task. But when you get out of work it feels like ‘Work Hard, Play Hard’ so everyone wants to go out and hang out. I feel like working back home everyone is much more ‘Goody Two-Shoes’ and trying to behave, but what I noticed in London
“There’s always things you just don’t think about in Vancouver that you need to be aware of in London. Like a terrorist attack.” Woah. That one was little heavy, especially coming off an answer about work culture. Martin followed up by saying “London has experienced a terrorist attack four years in a row. There are places you walk by on a day-to-day basis where people have been stabbed, blown up, shot. Vancouver has been lucky to miss out on that.”
Becky’s adjustment included the threat of terrorism, which could be terrifying. So, what was Martin’s biggest adjustment spending time in Vancouver?
“Not smoking everywhere. “It’s interesting how you guys [people in Vancouver] are very strict on health-conscious things like smoking in public places, whereas here almost everyone is near someone’s cigarette puff.”
Hm, I have a feeling that one is a bit easier to get used to.
“The drug culture is the biggest issue I saw in Vancouver. You might bump into somebody who is off their face (in London), but you just walk away—it’s very easy to disregard. But you have a huge area in Vancouver you shouldn’t walk down at night. There is a meth problem in the UK, but it’s not as visible as it is in Vancouver.”
The conversation wasn’t exactly moving in a positive direction with things like this. So, I wanted to shift the tone in a lighter direction. I did so by asking “What is something you like about each other’s city.
Becky was quick to reply with “I feel like the art culture is much more accessible here. It’s much more affordable to see a show. In Vancouver, community theatres might charge you 30$ to 40$ a ticket, but I can see a West End (the London equivalent of Broadway) show for 15 pounds (about 30$). Things like museums are free for the public, but if I were in Vancouver and wanted to go to the art gallery that could result in a 30$ day for me—which is extortion. Everyone I know here has done theatre classes in school and has some semblance of history. History here is always around and always available. But in Vancouver all the old buildings are torn down for new ones and things like Indigenous history have been suppressed. There isn’t much sense of a history.”
Martin added that in London you walk by buildings that have existed longer than Canada as a country pretty much daily. As a matter of fact, when I visited them, we went to a few pubs older than Canada! But in Vancouver older buildings are constantly being torn down to build more townhouses, come to think of it… I can’t remember the last time I’ve been in a bar older than me!
Any quirks they notice with each other?
Becky says “Martin is from Essex which is famous for its reality TV stars (Martin had a less kind way of describing them). There’re people who are famous for not really doing anything, they’re like the Kim K’s of the UK. Sometimes you hear his accent slip back into that and he is different from the London Martin we all know.” Martin didn’t have a lot of kind words to say about what some of the people of Essex are like, but to put in clean terms—they’re pretty well known for partying and debauchery. A side of Martin I hope to never see.
So, what does Martin see in Becky that’s different?
“I know a lot of Canadians. I don’t really see a big difference. I don’t think there is a huge amount of difference in the cultures when you look at it person to person. I hear about all these Canadian stereotypes, but I don’t know about that—I never had a Canadian person apologize to me! It’s terrible. I don’t see a lot of ‘Canadian traits’ that are very far off from the people I met in Europe.” I think that one took Becky and I both a bit by surprise. For as long as I can remember I’ve seen Canadians portrayed as polite and respectful, but as someone who has worked in retail and been yelled at many times for seemingly no reason; I can vouch that is not always the case.
And that wrapped our chat! Always cool to hear a perspective from around the world.
Well, actually—before I said goodbye Martin had one more thing to add.
“Between London and Vancouver, I would pick Vancouver anytime.”
Aw shucks Martin. Vancouver misses you as much as you miss it.