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Why Vancouver? Why You?

Thank you to all entrants. Please visit the semifinalist page to view the top ten essays as determined by our panel and the public voting. Click here to view the top ten

Machuca-Photography-Marco-Pennino-IMG_3186

People Versus Place

By Marco Pennino

When I graduated from university, I wanted to do something more than just stay at my home in Laval, Quebec. I imagined my name in lights and my face on the big screen. My family tried to talk me into moving to Toronto, where I wouldn’t be far from familiar faces, and I had a realistic chance of being surrounded by numerous studios in the up-and-coming New York of Canada. But my friends and my intuition led me to the Western coasts of North America, and after a 6-month stint in the city of Los Angeles, I drove to Hollywood North, and settled in Vancouver. While the city may have a reputation for high mountains, high-rises, and high prices, the biggest reason to come here is for the people.

The first thing I noticed about this city is that nobody is really from Vancouver – most of the people I met weren’t born here, but came for better opportunities, like myself. Lots of young, wide-eyed individuals, all trying to get that great education, that luxurious apartment, and the spotlight on their accomplishments. Like me, they were strangers from strange lands with different customs and expectations, but when we all came here, we bonded more easily because of our differences and our openness to the unfamiliar. Whether or not we felt like we belonged at our original locations was irrelevant; we were all brave enough to venture out of our comfort zones, and wanted to share our experiences with others like us. That diversity is a portion of the foundation Vancouver is on, and will continue to be a capital reason for coming here alone.

All the fun times I have had in Vancouver were only capitalized by the people I shared those times with since moving here. While the city’s in the top 20 places to live in the world if you can afford visiting the variety of landscapes within a 2-hour ride north or south of Vancouver, none of that stuff has as much meaning when one has seen that stuff elsewhere. Mild temperatures with mild temperaments? You can find that all along the West Coast of the US. Beautiful downtown city with a diverse population? That’s in Montreal, Toronto, and Paris. Great skiing and beaches? Come on, Vancouver may have both, but Quebec’s Mont-Tremblant and California’s Santa Monica work their respective tourist-traps better. The thing is, I have enjoyed nights downtown and the lackluster skiing because of the people I was with. Maybe I’d have enjoyed the slopes more if I hadn’t spent most of that time flat-on-my-face, but my memories focus on the friends I had the pleasure of skiing with. Vancouver is the jack-of-all trades for the tourist stuff, so one has to look at the people for a fun time, and they are the ones who turn this good city into a great one.

Housing is a mess out here. I have had misfortune upon misfortune when it comes to actually living in Vancouver. My previous landlords had been controlling about who I had over and how often, my former roommates couldn’t keep a clean kitchen without investing an effort that only equaled half the patience I lost discussing the subject with them, and nothing is affordable enough for one person to live in without at least one or more roommates, sometimes forced to share a bedroom to make ends meet. When things do line up, that’s when the living conditions liven up. Finding a roommate one enjoys spending time with in and out of the house makes the experience much more enriching, and when landlords actually follow the tenancy act, they tend to be bright and understanding. Is there room for improvement? Damn straight, but again, it all comes down to who one knows when going through all this out here.

After having spent the better part of three years in Vancouver, I have to be honest and say that it’s like any other city I’ve been to. The weather isn’t always good, the living isn’t always up to par with what housing should be, and almost nothing is worth the extravagant prices, but I am happy to say that the people I’ve met are the reason why I believe Vancouver is a great city. While I’ll always miss the other great places I’ve visited or lived in, those locations offer different people for me to enjoy spending time with. Vancouver isn’t exceptional, but it’s still pretty enjoyable to be here. Maybe that’s the key to ending the cynicism and disdain mentioned in most personal publications about this place. Vancouver offers an entertaining experience, just like everywhere else; how much one enjoys that experience depends on how one muses about it later.

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