Moving to Vancouver is an emotional and enriching experience. I find that I am getting to know myself because this is perhaps the first time I don't have a large community of family and friends telling me who I am and what I should think.

On the other hand, I often really miss interacting with people I've known for years. I go back and forth between missing old friends and meeting new ones I'd like to build lasting relationships with. Living in Vancouver forces me to manage these conflicting emotions on the daily basis. Yet, I go to bed at night feeling inspired.

When people realize that I am a newcomer to Vancouver, they always want to know what I think of my new home. Many of them have been in my shoes and want to compare and contrast their own experience with mine. Others have lived here or at least in British Columbia, for the better part of their lives and wonder what their home looks like to someone taking it in for the first time.

Professional and Personal Networking

Nearly everyone perceives Vancouver to be a simultaneously diverse and emotionally cold city. On the one hand, you meet people from all walks of life. They come from all over the world. You can see that in people's faces, their styles of dress and the languages written on signs. You can hear it in the many languages spoken on the street and in shops. And you can taste it in the restaurants offering a variety of cultural foods.

On the other hand, Vancouver is a bustling city with lots of busy people commuting from here to there. They wear headphones, play with apps on their phones and read books, but rarely look up to greet the person next to them. I think this behavior can be seen as an impenetrable wall to many newcomers.

Volunteer Connections

Because I am a military brat, I'm pretty adept at figuring out what makes a place tick and inserting myself into the fabric of that new place. I found that volunteering and signing up with local social networks helped me to meet people. I used Craigslist to find people I could volunteer to tutor using Skype. I was even able to set up a language exchange to improve my second language while helping a woman residing in another country to improve hers.

I used Google to search for local organizations in my career field that wouldn't mind the help of a volunteer. I approached managers and directors with an updated resume and background check, exactly as I would if I were applying for a paid work position. This is how I met the owners of my current company L2 Accent Reduction Centre. I contacted them thinking I could learn more about helping people wanting to improve their English language skills. 

I also signed up with a number of social networking sites. One or two of them proved useful in informing me of social meetings. I continue to use these social sites to alert me to interesting groups meeting near me. I show up with an open mind to a few each month, meet new people and decide whether or not I will meet with that group again. I also occasionally talk to people on the bus or in cafes. I open with a question, and I detect whether I can get away with striking a mini conversation. In this way, I've found I've been able to avoid much of the loneliness that a newcomer might experience. In conclusion, I'm still a new person with all of the frustrations and excitement that that comes with, but I've managed okay.

Story by Jeff Madigan, Director of Programs at L2 Accent Reduction Centre in Vancouver.

About the company

Interview with Spice by Jennifer Madigan

L2 Accent Reduction Centre provides specialized accent reduction training to address the communication needs of the ever increasing diverse modern workforce. We go beyond English language training and target aspects of communication skills to help people deliver their message with clarity and confidence.

Having unintelligible accented speech, using inappropriate tone of voice, or speaking with grammatical errors, can create obstacles for progress for both individuals and companies.

Our accent reduction training can transform a person into an effective communicator and give life-long skills for success.