It’s been a little over three days since I arrived on the shores of Vancouver, wide-eyed to experience what the “west” is really like. Between battling jet lag, getting to know my fellow travel bloggers, and soaking in the sheer beauty of the maple leaf country, I’ve validated notions that I’ve subconsciously held of North America, and in a way, gotten to know my “travelling self” better.
On this cloudy morning, as I pen my first impressions of Canada, the rain drops are gently dripping on my window and the pine trees are swaying in the wind, perfectly encapsulating the start of my love affair with the great white north.
1. The Canadians live up to their reputation of being incredibly friendly.
From the lady who whipped out her iPhone to help me figure directions on a chilly night, to the security guard who walked me to the right exit, to the bus driver who let me go ticketless when I didn’t have enough small change, to the couple who helped me decode the way to a valley in east Vancouver, I’ve already had my fair share of random acts of kindness!
2. It’s a riot of colors.
And not in the way India is. Now in May, there’s still a hint of spring in Vancouver. Green, maroon and yellow trees stand in the foreground of deep green mountains, peaked in white snow, the grey mist occasionally playing hide and seek with them. Maple leaf trees line every other street in Vancouver, and while they’re green now, I can just about imagine how beautiful they’ll be in autumn, when they turn their signature red. So all those pictures of Canada that make people go, “wow”, I know now that they aren’t photoshopped.
3. Hollywood is spot on.
Naive as this might sound, my first impressions of North America are derived from Hollywood. And a part of me always wondered how fair that was, given just how inaccurately Bollywood often portrays India. But the posh residential suburbs of Vancouver that I ventured into yesterday, were right out of a Desperate Housewives set – designer homes with front lawns lining the street, soccer moms watching over their kids as they rode their bicycles and scooters! Then there were the not-so-posh neighborhoods, with four wheel drives parked outside dilapidated houses and tough-looking men sitting in the porch. I’m not trying to lump the US (where I’ve never been) and Canada together, but Hollywood had painted these images in my head a long time ago.
4. “Comfort food” is local here.
I’ve always felt guilty about satisfying western food cravings in other countries, because local culinary experiences are what I’m after. That only means one thing – I’m binging on what’s considered “local food” in Canada, and it’s all delicious! Sandwiches, pastas, pancakes, waffles, you name it. And my cafe hopping can include even Tim Hortons, Canada’s version of Starbucks; got to indulge like the locals do, you know?
5. Travelling in an English-speaking country is just not the same.
Surprising as it might sound, this is the first time in four years that I’m travelling to a country where the primary language is English; the last time was Australia in 2009. And I have to say I miss the challenge of getting by without a common language. The remote Black Sea countryside of Turkey, the small villages of southern Spain, and the interiors of Vietnam, were all special experiences because the warmth of the locals outdid the communication barriers.
Of course, being able to communicate easily with the locals means I get to swap so many more stories. Like an ex-armyman I met yesterday at New Westminster Quay who told me all about the 100-year-old boat he’s trying to restore and take sailing again. Or the couple I met at Capilano Suspension Bridge, who have spent the last seven years in a rainforest, training mighty birds like falcons and the great horned owl. You’re sure going to hear some interesting stories in the days to come!
What were (are) your first impressions of Canada and its people?
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Welcome to my blog, The Shooting Star. I’ve been called a storyteller, writer, photographer, digital nomad, “sustainability influencer,” social entrepreneur, solo traveller, vegan, sustainable tourism consultant and environmentalist. But in my heart, I’m just a girl who believes that travel – if done right – has the power to change us and the world we live in.
Nice post! In some sense you have validated my observation. I was speaking to this American friend of mine..really close friend and I said “people from Western world are friendly but I think warmth is really not their thing”. He replied “Well, what is the difference?!!”. So yes…in my travels to the western world….I have always come across friendly people but warm people – none. I guess we have warmth to offer to the world and I am very proud of that. It also explains why any western person who comes to India always raves & raves about people in India (hotel staff, restaurant staff etc.)
As for Canadians – they really are some of the nicest people that are out there. Give ’em a bear hug 🙂
Interesting perspective. It’s too soon for me to judge the warmth from the friendliness – not just because I’ve only been here a few days but also because cities are never a good way to judge an entire people. Shall share my observations towards the end of the trip 🙂
Hi Shivya, I just sent you an email, but in case you aren’t able to check it…Let me know if you’re planning to travel to Ontario. Enjoy the west coast! Cheers,
Looking forward to meeting you in Toronto, Betsy!
Yes, Vancouverites are very friendly, nice and helpful. I just arrived her too from the States and am loving the city. It’s very bike-friendly and walkable, at least down on the Waterfront near Gastown, Chinatown, Robson Street (aka “Vancouver’s Runway”), etc. I’m looking forward to exploring more of this amazing beautiful city’s art, history and its local food scene too.
I agree. Wish I had more time to spend there, there was just so much to choose from! I’m sure you’ll have a ball exploring it. Let me know how it goes, and where I can read about your explorations!
So happy to hear your first impressions are positive ones. You are not wrong for having a ‘hollywood’ feeling. Many US movies and TV shows are filmed in Canada (mostly Vancouver and Toronto but also surrounding cities). Vancouver looks absolutely stunning and I need to make my way there myself asap. Looking forward to your posts about Toronto.
I could’ve sworn it felt like deja vu! You really have to make your way there soon 🙂 Looking forward to exploring Toronto soon too.
never been to Canada but loved reading your experience. So when I will go there, I will be less touristy and more open to enjoying Canada in its rawness.
Glad to hear that, Jas. In that case, you have to go to Jasper! It’s breathtaking.
beautiful place,and i think it is very comfortable to travel here.nicely described.waiting for ur next post.
It is, I agree! Got so much to write already, I don’t know where to start.
Yes challenge of not having a common language is different experience. I had this in Da Nang in Vietnam where very few people could speak english and I had the best time there. Of course sharing stories is much easier in English :). Looking forward to see rest of Canada. Are you planning to go to Niagra falls from Canada side. Have read that same waterfall is completely different from US and Canada 🙂
Oh yes, Vietnam is the epitome of that. I think I’m gradually easing into the common language bit; got so much to pen and share 🙂
The one thing that stuck with me here, after reading this is the “friendly people” part. I feel, what makes a place heaven for a traveler, are the native people. One cannot enjoy unless one feels welcome by the locals and the anecdotes I keep hearing from my cousin who has shifted there recently and after reading what you wrote about Canadians, my interest in visiting the place has increased many folds. 🙂
I absolutely agree, Namrota. I’m glad you’re going to be planning your own trip soon. You’re going to love it, not just because of the people and the food, but also the breathtaking beauty!
Ah! true that 🙂
It’s interesting that you are longing for the language barrier! I just got back home (to Australia) after three months in Europe, and by the end, the language difference no longer had the novelty factor. That said, it is always so amazing and humbling when you can successfully communicate with another person even though neither of you share the slightest nuggets of language in common!! Makes me all misty-eyed at our common humanity!
I guess I know what you mean; it’s a bit surprising that I’m actually longing for the barrier. Guess I’m gradually easing into it. I so agree about the misty eyed bit 🙂
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Beautiful post Shivya. I haven’t been to Canada but I am enjoying reading your experience. So in a way I am travelling through your posts 🙂
Thanks Shweta, glad I have your virtual company! Got so much to share from the last few days. Stay tuned 😉
Great place. I have never been to canda but after reading your post i think i should plan a trip to canda. Pictures are lovely. Thanks for sharing your experience with us!
Looking forward for your more posts.
Thanks John! Greetings from Winnipeg! I’ve had a great time so far, and absolutely loved Jasper (a small mountain town in Alberta). You definitely a lot more time than I have here to explore the country. I’ve just scraped the surface in the last 10 days!
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I like your post and thank you for mentioning that we are so friendly up here in Canada. Next time you should visit Edmonton. It is really coming up as a tourist destination in Alberta. I am an avid hockey fan but also a fan of business entrepreneurs like Daryl Katz. His family pharmacy empire grew tenfold under his direction and management. He paid $200 million for the Edmonton Oilers . in 2008 and he is currently working to refocus his efforts to build Canada’s largest mixed use-sports and entertainment district. He is by far one of the most successful businessmen in North America. I am looking forward to seeing how he helps to take this team to the next level and what is next venture will be. He is really focusing on helping Edmonton become a fantastic tourist destination and the city has seen a huge jump in tourism.
I know this is an older post of yours, but it makes my heart happy 🙂
Vancouver’s home to me, (well more specifically a town near Langley) and I love hearing about what travellers enjoy when they visit 🙂
It really gives you a different perspective of home when you get to see others enjoying it as tourists! We take everything for granted when it’s what we’re used to…