First impressions are made within 3 seconds (apparently). As the plane swooped in over Vancouver, I saw towering mountains and sparkling fjords with the sun on its way down for the day adding that special orange glow, a city scape (which admittedly from the air looked pretty flat) and boats (but no pictures, I was too busy looking out the window to whip out the camera). First impression – speechless. I’m not usually lost for words, as those of you who know me know! But as M and I stared out the window all we could say, over and over like a broken record, was “wow”. Which was a nice reaction to have, seeing as we had both agreed to move to a city that neither of us had ever even visited before (I had never been to Canada or even the west coast of the US).
And the first impression didn’t stop there. Being used to some pretty harsh (sometimes, not always, unfriendly) border control in NZ (well we are an over-sized island or three, and biosecurity risks are pretty high), it was in stark contrast that we whizzed through customs, collected our bags, and lined up to get our visas. Lining up took longer than the actual process of having our visas issued. All done with a smile and “Welcome to Canada”. So painless. I really didn’t expect that. No tricky questions or incorrectly filled in forms. Just easy.
The painlessness of entering another country didn’t stop there. Obtaining social insurance numbers (although the guy couldn’t pronounce our names), swopping over drivers licenses, getting new phones and contracts, hooking up the internet, opening bank accounts – everything so far has been pretty much pain free. The biggest hassle was getting phone contracts for mobile phones as we have no credit history here, but even that was solved pretty fast. I guess a lot of my impressions are formed on the context I am coming from – a country where, even by the time I left, my Swedish was not great, let alone at the start when I could say “hej” and little else, so a lot was often lost in translation. My embarrassment at forcing the another person to speak English, because no matter how good my Swedish got, their English was always far superior, which ended up with me behaving like a mute (and rude?) person much of the time. The agonisingly slow progress of ANY company/department/institute you must contact for anything. The lack of information provided (you never asked about that – but I didn’t know about that so how could I ask). The lack of anything resembling customer service 90% of the time. Don’t get me wrong, it sounds like I’m complaining about Sweden, but if you’ve read any of my other posts you’ll realise I love the place. What I’m trying to emphasise is the contrast between a place where things always felt like a huge achievement because of the different various obstacles in the way (and I admit most of these were probably due to language) and a place where everything just flows because people want to help you. I’ve met other people here who have had entirely the opposite experience, but they are coming from a different place so experience things differently. My first impressions have only been good.
So with a “Welcome to Canada” I’ll leave you with a few photos I took on our first days meeting our new home.