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Gemma: A Scots Canadian Adventure

In our InterNations Recommended Blog section we let you take the spotlight! Expat life in general is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for great, user-generated reads, and life in Vancouver makes no exception. Take your time and browse the great blogs showcased in this article!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Vancouver, etc.

My name is Gemma and I moved to Vancouver by myself on a whim in the summer of 2011. I am a proud Scot, originally from Glasgow!

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

I decided to start blogging about a month before I left. I thought it would be a great way to keep all my family and friends updated, and a great way for me to document my adventures!

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

I’m all about the photos… and for this reason my favourite post to read is probably about a hiking/camping trip we took to Joffre Lakes. I also like To stay or not to stay, where I talk about the pros and cons on making the decision to apply for permanent residency…

Tell us about the ways your new life in Vancouver differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?

Life is relatively similar to back home, so there was no huge culture shock. The main thing was how crazy expensive everything is here. Even though I earned waaay more money, I definitely have less disposable income! Also, everyone here is so healthy!!! Every time I go back home now I’m aware of how much is piled on my plate. Now I actually eat salad… but don’t get me wrong, carbs are still my favourite!

Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Vancouver? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?

Not really… the best way to succeed in a move is to just throw yourself in and learn as you go. I’m glad that I stayed in a hostel for my first week as it meant I met some fellow Brits in the same situation as myself…. Instant friends!

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?

The main thing that Canadians continue to laugh at is how much people do not understand me here. I don’t even have that strong of an accent! I often have to repeat what I say several times, and even have a fake Starbucks name to save me the hassle! It always provides others with amusement…

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Vancouver?

  • Have an open mind! I’ve known of several people who have had such high expectations when it comes to jobs etc. that they’ve had to go home. If you don’t have a job waiting for you here, apply for everything and take the first thing that comes up. Then you can continue with searching for the job you really want without having to stress about money.
  • Put yourself out there. I am naturally shy but when you don’t have any friends, you are forced to be a ‘yes’ person. Don’t be scared to try something new. Snowboarding, Snowshoeing, Ultimate Frisbee and Dodgeball are some of the random activities I’ve tried.
  • Be money conscious. Vancouver is an expensive city and with a lot of deductions of my wage, I can’t be as crazy as I used to. I also have to accept that I won’t own my first property for a long time – way longer time than my friends back home. It’s a sacrifice, but when the beach is a block away, who cares!!

How is the expat community in Vancouver? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

Like I said, staying in a hostel at the start really helped. Vancouverites are friendly on a surface level, but when it comes to actually becoming more than acquaintances, it can be hard. Thankfully as a city full of immigrants, most of my friends are not from here and everyone is happy to introduce you to new people.

How would you summarize your expat life in Vancouver in a single, catchy sentence?

Hit the city, mountains, and beach all in one day… three years later I still pinch myself when I see that view!

Andrey Vasilyev

"When moving to a huge city such as Vancouver, InterNations made it easy for me to find fellow expats and the network that I needed."

Amarilis Castillo

"InterNations make networking in such a large city so much easier with their events and extensive information."

Global Expat Guide