Last weekend marked my “one month in Vancouver” milestone, which made me think about how this city is different from my home city of Berlin. First, I should say I absolutely love Berlin. For me, it is the greatest city in the world. It is really hard to compete with that. However, I could not stay in Berlin anymore because, although I love the city with all my heart, I needed a break from its people. Berliners are rude, unfriendly, grumpy, always in a rush, and complain a lot (not all of them obviously, there are amazing people as well). As I have gone through a lot of personal changes last year, all this seemed incompatible with the person I have become. And I didn’t feel at home anymore, in the city that I had lived in my whole life. I once overheard a conversation, a girl told her friend “You are not a tree, if you don’t like where you are, move.” I think what she said is very true, and important. If you are unhappy, and can do something about it, then do it. So, I started looking for places that could become my new home. Why I chose Vancouver is a long story. Tl;dr: I fell in love with the city when I was here a few months ago. Yet, you experience a city in a different way when you actually live there, and are not just a tourist. So, what is Vancouver really like, and could I imagine making this place my home?
The first thing that I noticed was the pace of the city. Compared to Berlin, Vancouver is really laid back, and everything takes a little bit more time than what I am used to. When the traffic light changes from red to green, drivers wait for about four seconds before they slowly accelerate. As a Berlin driver, that made me feel uneasy, and I asked myself (or sometimes I also asked my driver) if they see the green light. Turns out, it is perfectly normal here that people do not race off right away like the hounds of hell are chasing them. Besides this, people walk slower. However, they try not to get in your way, and if they do, they apologize for it! In general, people are much nicer here than Berliners, and I love it. Although everybody tells me that Vancouver is a rather unfriendly city – have they been to Berlin? When I walk down the street here, people actually look me in the eyes and smile. When I wait in line somewhere, the person next to me is likely to start talking to me. This was really confusing at first, because in Berlin, we do not talk to other people, especially not if we don’t want anything from them. We keep to ourselves, and stare, at best we smile. I’m already getting better with small talk, and although I’m not at the place where I’m comfortable starting the conversation yet, I’ll happily chat with the other person and it feels natural by now.
Another thing I really love about Vancouver is how easy it is to be healthy here. You might say that we have a lot of healthy options in Berlin, and people are generally active, but that is nothing compared to what I experience here. Healthy food is affordable, you get a lot to choose from (blueberries are still in stores!!!), and it seems like everybody is working out. I started going to gym three times a week, I run twice a week, and do yoga. It just seems effortless here and more ingrained into the culture. It probably has to do with being so close to nature, no matter the weather I want to be outside all the time and walk along the coast, or hike up a mountain. I feel much calmer and more connected to myself here than in Berlin. I also changed my diet, not quite voluntarily, I’ll admit that. Instead of milk, cheese, and chocolate, I buy almond milk and baby carrots now. The cheese still breaks my heart though.
I don’t think that Vancouver’s slower pace is a bad thing, since it lets you slow down your mind as well. And I very much welcome that after years and years of rushing through Berlin. One thing I miss though is the big city. Vancouver seems like a small town, and you can reach everything in no time. That is, when there are no traffic jams, which are in part caused by the smaller size and the higher density of the city. I think it’s great that you get from A to B fast, but it also means you have seen “everything” within a couple months. I guess that is the price you have to pay for living in such a beautiful city, and being surrounded by nature. After my first month here, I can still say that I love it. It is very different from Berlin, but it’s refreshing. To be honest though, it has been difficult to meet people, and make new friends. That is one of the challenges I knew I had to face, when I decided to move to the other side of the world. Nothing worth having comes easy. I enjoy being so close to the mountains, going to cool science and tech events, and seeing raccoons in the park. These things make up for a lot and I can definitely see myself living here for a while, which is why I will be back after travelling through SE Asia.