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Expectation Vs. Reality

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

This article is not a series of humourous memes of expectation vs reality, even though we enjoy those memes very much. This article is areflection of conversations we had with 10 people from the Thrivve Community.

We asked international students about any expectation-shattering-realities they would like to share! Here are a few of the categories and observations that resonated with us.

Polite Vs Friendly

How do we define people in Vancouver?

In the last issue’s article, ‘Vancouverites, not so friendly’, we differentiated between polite and friendly. A common misconception we have of Vancouverites is that they are nice and friendly, and these expectations are based on a Canadian stereotype. However, the reality is that they are polite. This politeness may include embracing different cultures and backgrounds, apologies when bumping into you and even opening doors for you on some occasions.

“I thought it was a very open community.” Ghassan, Egypt

This politeness, however, does not mean inclusiveness all the time...

“Canadians are not inclusive, they are nice and everything, they are very polite, but they will not include you in their social circles.” Belu from Argentina clarified.

This is a generalized idea we have of the locals once we start living here. However, maybe “Vancouverites are not friendly” may be that they are just shy.

“I was impressed by how gentle people in Vancouver are and yet how shy they can be.” Tomas, Dominican Republic

It could very possibly be that there’s a big contrast between cultures. We come from everywhere, and our cultures can drastically differ from Canadian culture. People from LATAM, for example, are warm, social and outgoing. Still a generalization, but it is how we perceive Latins to be.

On another note, maybe Vancouverites are shy, and that’s why they come off as aloof, but can we afford to be shy too? Will we survive in this city if we stay within our comfort zone? That is a question for another day.

Vancouver as a hub

Vancouver is diverse to the core. It is a beautiful city that has gathered people from all over the world; this is what we see on TV. A city where you have a multicultural celebration of diversity, a sense of community, where you find yourself and build your tribe. Vancouver is a hub.

The negatives come with all the positives accompanying being a cultural hub. Most of the newcomers to Vancouver are international students. They bring their youthful energy, food, and music, and they contribute to the society as a whole. However, part of being a hub is that people come and go.

“The amount of people that you know that will go back to their countries after a while is really high.” Javier, Mexico

While building your tribe is part of the Canadian experience, things tend to change once you graduate from your program.

“I was under the impression that socially you make a lot of friends, you build your network and you learn a lot about other cultures as soon as you move out of school you basically have no social circle left, after school people have their own lives and seeing your friends becomes like booking appointments.” Ash, India

Although this point applies to most people after they graduate from school, it is accelerated in Vancouver for international students because of the constant turnover. Because Vancouver is so diverse and full of international students, that process becomes inevitable.

“Everyone gets busy and socially it’s very hard to make friends.” Ash, India

Even if you try to make Canadian friends in the hope of having friendships that last longer, it is not easy to meet Canadians in this city.

Another thing you will see here is the in-groups. Ahmed from Kenya said it best.

“In my opinion people tend to surround themselves with the familiar, you would see the Arabs in one large group, local white Canadians in another group. I guess I would rarely see an actual mixed friends group at uni, which made me stick to my comfort zone and surround myself with people who come from the same country or background.”
“I eventually found and built my community with people that come from similar background/country and I would not change it for anything. As a result of shared experiences in Vancouver we have built very strong and meaningful relationships.” Ahmed, Kenya

Canada is not the USA

Yet another phenomenon, especially for those who are used to the US. There is an expectation that Canada will be somewhat similar to the US in many ways. Pedro and Ale from Mexico opened our eyes to how simple it is to make that association. One point mentioned by both of them is the concept of consumerism.

“The market is very controlled. Something we didn’t expect at all” Pedro, Mexico
“I thought the variety of brands will be like the US, and it’s the opposite.” Alejandra, Mexico

Vancouverites and British Columbians in general, love everything local. Local restaurants, local brands, local businesses. That is reflected when you visit the supermarket and see only two or three milk brands. Competition is low, so we only have a few options within a narrow price range.

Another differentiator is the availability of services. The city’s infrastructure is different from the US. One thing we have noticed is that there seems to be high demand for entertainment but not enough places to match the population density. Therefore, you end up waiting in long lines or just never get to enjoy what you want.

“You have 5 classes in your area (sports) and they get filled on the first hour of the first day.” Pedro, Mexico

Local standards

The government is in everything, from regulating certain industries to setting standards for the minimum quality of service expected. In education, for example!

“I didn’t expect the government to be so strongly involved... at least a good standard of education. I find that amazing!” Pedro, Mexico

All educational institutions must fulfill a minimum requirement to operate in BC. From Kindergarten to University. This way, you can rest assured that your education in the worst-case scenario meets the minimum requirement, which is fairly good.

The top local standard that no one talks about enough, though, is the nature within the city.

“I didn’t expect it to be so beautiful.” Ghassan, Egypt
“I knew I was excited when I went there but it completely surpassed my expectations” Pedro, Mexico

We have the government to thank for that too. There is a minimum requirement for each BC city to have a specific population-to-park ratio. That is why you will see a park every couple of blocks in your neighbourhood. At the moment, BC has 1,033 provincial parks, recreation areas, conservancies, ecological reserves and protected areas, covering more than 14 million hectares, approximately 14.4% of the provincial land base.

Life is not easy

Sometimes, when you hear about the involvement and support of the government, the city’s safety and the people’s freedom, you might think that life for you will be fantastic here. Although you can have a wonderful life in Canada, it won’t come easily.

“A lot of people think it is so easy and that you are going to have this wonderful life but in reality, you have a good quality of life but you have to work hard for it.” Ala’a, Yemen

One of the obstacles you will face here is being able to save money or own a home. It’s like joining the race late but not being given a boost. For example, you will be expected to pay taxes like anyone else.

“They don’t take into account your net worth, only what you are making. We pay the same taxes as our coworkers who already have an apartment and savings.” Belu, Argentina

Navigating the system

The Canadian systems are mostly straightforward, although they sometimes seem complicated. From healthcare and immigration to employment, there is a system for everything. For example, the healthcare system is simple. Yet, suppose you want to see a specialist. In that case, you must see your family doctor, who will refer you to a specialist. You will wait for the specialist to contact you with an appointment that could be months away. Simple, yet complicated.

The healthcare system in Canada is free. However, free healthcare has its consequences.

“There is no culture of prevention.” Andrea, Mexico

There is no annual check-up. You only get tested if you are complaining about something specific. It can be very frustrating if you come from a country with excellent private medical services.

But of course, you are good to go once you fully understand the systems, including the unwritten ones, such as the employment system. The tools are there for you to succeed in life in Canada.

“Understand the system, how it works, where you fit in and then sell your ass off.” Tomas, Dominican Republic

You, without a doubt, will have many expectations of life in Canada, whether negative or positive. We hope this article helps you understand Canada better and also helps you keep an open mind.

What were your expectations when landing in Canada? Share them with the community on the Slack.

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