Tag Archive | flight to Vancouver

The Great Canadian Language Barrier

I’m now over four months into my Vancouver adventure, and I can already say that there are some things I’ll never get used to. My unsuccessful interactions with the Canadian service industry is one of them. I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason I’m asked to repeat myself every time I order a coffee/coke/sandwich/other food and drink is because the person asking for my order is so distracted by the fact that I have an accent that they stop listening to what I’m saying. So they ask me to say it again. Every. Single. Time.

The situation got so hilariously ridiculous that three of my Canadian friends created some cue cards for me to flash instead of speaking my regular orders. We soon realised that the English-Canadian language barrier doesn’t stop at food and drink, and before I knew it I had a comprehensive set of 41 unique cue cards. Here are a few of my most used translations:

Bin = Garbage
Chips = Fries
Crisps = Chips
Lie in = Sleep in
Lemonade = Sprite
Wellies = Rain Boots
Line = Queue
Hockey = Ice Hockey
Toque = Beanie
Poutine= Chips, cheese and gravy
Loonie = 1 dollar coin
Toonie = 2 dollar coin
Hydro = Electricity
Pop = Fizzy drinks
Take off = Go away
Trunk = Boot
Hoser = Loser/Idiot
Concentrate = Squash
Cilantro – Corriander
Canuck = Canadian
Movie Theatre = Cinema
Apartment = Flat

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Flight of the BUNACers

As you’ll be aware from reading my previous posts, my boyfriend and I travelled to Vancouver on a BUNAC group flight.  This means that we booked our seat with BUNAC rather than directly with Air Canada (BUNAC always use Air Canada flights) who sorted out the paperwork for us and met us at Heathrow to give us our documents and make sure we checked in OK.  At the other end a SWAP (BUNAC’s North American counterpart) rep met us at Vancouver airport, loaded us all onto a bus and took us to our hostel (one night’s accommodation was included in the package).  We also received a t-shirt and a phone card, and we’re able to change our return date for approximately £35 (essential if you want to stay for a year as you can only book a return date 11 months from when you book your flight).

The best thing about the group flight is that it’s a great way to meet other people who are travelling to the same place as you on the same visa, with similar work/travel plans. There were 38 of us on our group flight, and meeting for a drink in the airport bar helped calm the nerves (and not just because of the alcohol) – we soon realised that we were all as terrified as each other.  We’d already set up a Facebook group for everyone on the flight, and stalkerish pointing and shouting ‘I recognise you!’ definitely broke the ice.  As you know I’d already sorted a place to live, but it proved a great way of getting to know potential housemates and the majority of the others on the flight are now living with each other.

Upgrade on the return flight anyone?

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We’re going to need a bigger bag…

The pain of packing one’s worldly possessions into a suitcase was so much that I’m only just bringing myself to write this post five days after the incident took place…and I’m still suffering post-traumatic stress even thinking about it.  Monday 10th January 2011 was one of the most stressful I have ever known, made all the more difficult by the realisation that all my things were just not going to fit.

My first attempt at packing had my suitcase at 28.5kg (my limit was 23kg) and my little ‘shoes’ holdall at 10kg.  At that point, all of the clothes in the ‘maybe’ pile had to go, unfortunately along with most of the ‘can’t live without’ pile too.  My second attempt was better, with my suitcase weighing in at 22.5kg, however the holdall wouldn’t even do up with less than half my remaining belongings.  As a result, my Mum was dispatched to collect a newer, bigger holdall from Argos to fill (and I mean fill) with what was left.  My third and final attempt at packing left my suitcase at 22kg, and my new Puma holdall at 18kg, with my hand luggage consisting of a backpack and a laptop satchel.

My room after packing attempt number one

Hand Luggage

Backpack – Book, guide book, scarf, gloves, slippers, ear warmer, tissues, flu tablets, throat sweets, bottle of water, deodorant, make up bag, glasses, contact lens case, plasters, purse, passport, immigration documents, padlocks, Vaseline, iPod, diary, pen

Satchel – laptop, laptop charger, money, jewellery, magazines

Checked Luggage

Suitcase – Coat, salopettes, handbags x 2, hoodie x 2, hooded jacket, jeans x 2, denim skirt, smart trousers x 2, smart tops x 3, dresses x 6, tops x 10, leggings x 6, tights x 2, underwear

Holdall – Snow boots, Trainers x2, heels x2, ballet pumps x 2, work shoes, heeled boots, wash bag, wash bag with hair bits, wash bag with make-up bits, phone charger, camera bits, scarves, hat, ski gloves, good luck/goodbye cards, framed photo

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The Final Countdown

This time in 4 days I’ll be beginning my descent into Vancouver International Airport, which is for some reason abbreviated to YVR.  It’s getting pretty close now, and the final countdown has well and truly begun this week with the release of the contact details of other BUNAC participants booked onto the group flight.  It just so happens that I’m running low on reading material for the plane, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to matter as there will be 37 other people to talk to!

I was expecting 10-15 others to have booked onto the flight through BUNAC, but it’s great to see that there’ll be even more of us turning up to the airport decked out in ski jackets, bulky hoodies and a million and one layers dragging the world’s biggest suitcases and weeping relatives (just me?).  What’s even better is chatting to everyone and realising that I’m not the only one who hasn’t quite finalised my CV, told my bank I’m leaving the country, or chosen how many pairs of shoes to take with me.

They're not all mine....honest?

Whilst I have noticed that I’m sleeping less and grinding my teeth more (classic anxious Lizzie) I’m also thinking about what to wear to the airport and planning my first few days in the city (classic excited Lizzie).  The more I worry the more I realise that there are dozens of things I haven’t done that I could have, or even should have, but the more I also recognise that none of these things are likely to really make a difference in the long run.

Anyone who knows me (and anyone who doesn’t but has been reading this blog) will know that I like to plan.  I’m not a total Monica Gellar, but part of me definitely subscribes to the notion of ‘organised fun’.  As a result, most of my anxiety stems from the fact that in 4 days time I’m going to be in a brand new situation that I cannot possibly imagine let alone plan for; in essence, there is no plan!  It’s not that I’m not prone to moments of spontaneity (I have a list as long as my entire body of items I purchased on a whim but never used, and it includes a violin and CDJ decks) but I do like to know what’s happening next, so jetting off to live in another country with no job is going to be a scary but liberating experience.

I’m jumping head first into a scenario where I won’t know what the coins in my purse are worth, how to turn my mobile phone Canadian or where to get the bus to the mountains, but the thought of living without any trace of a plan is strangely refreshing.  And if it all goes wrong, at least I’m in good company…

The Long Goodbye

So, chapter one of my Canadian adventure is over – I’ve finished work, moved out of the flat I shared with my boyfriend and driven out of Southampton for the last time for a very long time, if not ever.  I’m now well into chapter two, which is living with my parents over Christmas and new year until the start of chapter three, which will see me leaving the country on January 11th (assuming there’s no snow on the runway of course).  What happens when I land is a currently a source of panic, anxiety and extreme fear which doesn’t bear thinking about, at least until the last of the cold turkey sandwiches have been eaten.

Most of the milestones in the journey so far have come and gone just as I imagined, with the major exception of saying goodbye to friends (I haven’t got onto family just yet).  I didn’t quite anticipate just how many people there were to go for dinner, drinks or both with, and how busy I would be in my last few weeks before I left, to the extent that I can count the number of times my boyfriend and I cooked in our own flat in December.  Even then there were people I didn’t get to see, and people I still have yet to meet up with over the holidays (get me – I sound Canadian already!).


Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about my social life suddenly rocketing through the roof, but there are definitely pro’s and con’s to an endless string of leaving do’s.  The more time I spend going out for lunch, drinks and dinner the more food and alcohol I consume, the more money I spend, and the less time I have to go to the gym to burn off the food and alcohol I’m consuming, which I’m also still spending money on a monthly fee for.  A vicious circle if ever I knew one.

Despite losing pounds and gaining pounds (geddit?) at such an alarming rate, it’s been fantastic to see so many friends for one last time before I go.  Making an effort to get up and get out of the flat every evening when all I want to do is curl up after an exhausting day of handover at work was definitely worth it, as I have that many more memories to take with me.

I guess what I’m getting at here is that the most important thing isn’t how you feel at the time (tired, stressed, panicked), but how you’ll feel weeks and months down the line when you look back on the long goodbye with happiness or regret.  For me it’s definitely happiness, and I’m already planning what I’m going to say in my first postcards home.

The To-Do List of all To-Do Lists

With seven weeks and two days left until I leave the country, and three weeks and two days until I leave my flat and job to go and stay with my parents for Christmas (not that I’m counting of course), it’s about time I started doing things.  I’m a great believer in lists (ticking off accomplished tasks makes me feel better about having lots to do), and a move such as this requires the ultimate of to-do lists.

I’m sure this list will change dramatically in the next month as unforeseen things get added and unnecessary tasks get removed, but here is version 1.0, nicely divided into areas of my life:

My Flat

  • Hand in written notice to lettings agent one month prior to move-out date (tick)
  • Get reference from lettings agent (scan and save)
  • Get reference from previous landlord/housemates (scan and save)
  • Cancel electricity (tick)
  • Cancel council tax (tick)
  • Cancel TV license (and get refund)
  • Cancel Sky (TV and internet) (tick)
  • Cancel BT line rental (tick)
  • Cancel contents insurance
  • Book professional cleaning

My Car (actually my boyfriend’s, so I don’t have to do much in this section)

  • Sell or store car (decide which!)
  • Book service/MOT
  • Cancel car insurance

My Job

  • Hand in written notice to line manager (tick)
  • Get reference from manager and other partners I’ve worked with
  • Make a note of contact details for key work contacts
  • Write my Canadian resume (more than one, tailored to job areas)
  • Send CV to recruitment agencies in Vancouver, and arrange appointment for January
  • Search and apply for jobs
  • Send off speculative applications to companies I’d like to work for

Every list has to start somewhere...

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No one knows you’re up there…

In my last post I mentioned that telling other people about my Canadian adventure was making it seem all too real, however nothing could prepare me for the trauma that was to take grip after watching Adam Green’s Frozen (2010)[1] on DVD last week.  Without giving anything away for those of you who haven’t seen it, Frozen tells the tragic tale of three skier/snowboarders who find themselves stuck on a ski lift after the slope has been closed down for the week.  If you don’t want to know what happens when someone jumps off a ski lift, don’t watch this film (or look at the back of the DVD case).  It’s not pretty.

Funnily enough, despite moving to Canada it wasn’t the thought of actually being stuck on a ski lift that terrified the living daylights out of me (I’m planning on going snowboarding a few times but I’m not doing a full on ski season), more the knowledge that if I was to find myself in a sticky situation, my family would be a 10 hour flight away.  I will of course be in the more than capable hands of my horror film obsessed boyfriend (who knows all the rules and would make sure I won my fight for survival as the final girl), but the thought of being in a different country to my family just makes breaking a limb, getting burgled or catching some sort of airborne illness seem all the more terrifying.  Of course, these are minor ailments compared to being stuck on a ski lift for 5 days and nights (depending on the airborne illness), but still.

Frozen (2010): How not to end a Sunday on the slopes

Realistically I am fully aware that Vancouver is really not that far, and a 10 hour flight is nothing compared to the likes of Australia or New Zealand.  On a bad day it can take me 5 hours to drive to my parents’ house from home, and the fastest I could get to Edinburgh on a coach is 11hrs 50 minutes.  Unfortunately such logic and rational thinking does not always prevail at 4am in the dark when one is convinced they can hear wolves in the kitchen.

After thinking for far too long about endless ‘what could go wrong’ scenarios, I have come to the conclusion that the answer is: anything.  Indeed, anything could go wrong in Vancouver, but it could also go wrong in Southampton (my house). Or Ipswich (my parents’ house).  Or anywhere else in the UK at any time whilst I’m getting on with my everyday life.  And if I was on a bus in Edinburgh when the unthinkable happened, it would take me even longer to get home than from Vancouver.  Worrying about what could happen abroad is silly, unnecessary and counterproductive, and I hereby resign to move on from this phase of the emigration thought process.

Saying that, maybe I’ll walk the Grouse Grind[2] up to the top of the mountain instead of taking the chair lift when I first go snowboarding, just in case. No point tempting fate is there?

[1] Frozen is out on DVD in the UK now: www.frozen-film.com

[2] The Grouse Grind is a 2.9km trail up the face of Grouse Mountain: http://www.grousemountain.com/Winter/vancouver-bc-hiking-trails-trips/


Useful Resources #3 – The Sensible Girl’s Guide to Emigrating Elegantly

Sally Corner, The Sensible Girl’s Guide to Emigrating Elegantly (London: A & C Black, 2010)

The Sensible Girl’s Guide to Emigrating Elegantly is genuinely unique in its approach to emigration, focussing on the ‘fun, fabulous and feminine’ aspects in addition to the decidedly less so.  As the title suggests it’s written for females, and covers key emigration issues such as what to do if your friends react badly to your leaving, what to wear to the airport and how to deal with homesickness when you arrive.  Of course there is all the practical information about visas and red tape, how to tie up loose ends before you go and what to take with you to YNC (Your New Country), but the extra advice about the less documented, emotional side of moving abroad is honest and refreshing.

The book is set out in a chronological style, taking the reader all the way from choosing a country to move to, to making friends when you’ve settled in.  Quizzes, check lists and questionnaires are interspersed by the author’s own real-life emigration fairy tale (complete with happy Australia based ending) and some funny, original illustrations.  It covers all the little details that you might not think of otherwise (like what to include in your hand luggage), but that really make a difference to the emigration process.  Regardless of where in the world you’re moving to, this book will prove indispensable at every stage of the journey.


The Sensible Girl's Guide to Emigrating Elegantly


Where can I find it? A range of book shops (including Waterstones), however I purchased mine from Amazon  for £7.49.

Good Points: Everything about this book is fantastic, however the checklists are particularly useful.  Whether it’s what to pack, how to sort out your healthcare or what you should have sorted two weeks before you go, they’re incredibly comprehensive and you will definitely use them.

Bad Points: If you’re a girl, none. If you’re a boy you will probably consider this book confusing, unnecessary and downright bizarre; that’s why it’s not for you.

Living the Dream

Today has been a particularly stressful day at the beginning of what will be a particularly stressful week at work, and every time I open a particularly frustrating email or receive a particularly irritating telephone call I remind myself that in 12 weeks and 3 days I will leave my office for the last time, and in 15 weeks and one day I will be on flight AC855 to YVR (Vancouver International to those who don’t speak airport).

Handing in my notice to leave for a completely new country with absolutely no idea what I’m going to do for work is a dream I find exhilaratingly liberating, perhaps because it is the perfect excuse to start from scratch and choose a job that I genuinely do enjoy.  At the end of my working holiday I’ll be returning to the UK, and to my career, and I’m starting to view my year in Vancouver as a parallel universe in which I can do absolutely anything without it really mattering in the ‘real world’ back home.  I like cheese, so maybe I’ll work in a deli?  I like bath and beauty products, so maybe I’ll work in The Body Shop?  I like chocolate, so maybe I’ll work in a Hershey factory?

12 weeks and 3 days to go...

As a Volunteer Coordinator by trade, I’m a great believer in the benefits of giving up one’s time, both to the individual and to the chosen organisation, particularly when it comes to developing new skills.  This week I discovered the amazing http://govolunteer.ca/, a fantastic source of hundreds of volunteering opportunities across all of Vancouver, and I am confident that I’ll be able to use my spare time to volunteer in a role that  utilises my UK experience and keeps my CV ticking along.

Although I’m under no illusion that Vancouverites don’t work hard or that all Vancouver jobs are easy, the thought of doing even the most mundane administrative role doesn’t sound quite so boring ‘over there’.  I like to think that even when the in-tray is piling up, just knowing I’m half way across the world in a thriving city by both the beach and the mountains will be enough to get through 9-5 and live for the evenings, weekends and bank holiday Mondays.  As with any new place I’m sure the novelty will wear off eventually, I just hope that time comes long after I’m on a plane back home for Christmas!

It’s Official!

Today my flight confirmation pack arrived from BUNAC!

A confirmation letter detailing my flight information (AC855 Air Canada), my BUNAC Moneywise Guide to North America (I’ll let you know what I think when I’ve read it), two BUNAC luggage tags and a BUNAC Global Phonecard with 15 minutes pre-loaded. BUNAC-tastic!

I received this pack because I booked onto the BUNAC group flight.  BUNAC group flights leave London Heathrow once a month (more during peak times like June, September or November) and include the following:

  • A BUNAC rep at the departure airport
  • Transfer to your pre-booked arrival accommodation (the price includes one night’s stay in a hostel)
  • T-shirt and phone card
  • Contact details of fellow BUNAC-ers on your flight before you leave the UK[1]

My BUNAC Confirmation Pack!

There always seems to be a lot of debate about whether the BUNAC flights are good value or not, and as I’m flying back from Toronto I found booking this return flight to be cheaper than booking two one-way tickets.  I like to think I’m a confident flyer and know my way around an airport (or at least the duty free section), but I still liked the idea of sitting with other travellers on the plane – it’ll be a bit like University halls of residence, where you’re put on a corridor with people you might not have anything in common with, but you all talk to each other because you have no choice, and (usually) end up great friends at the end of the day. I admit my own University experience didn’t go quite like that, but I have faith in BUNAC’s seating plan!

Knowing myself as I do, I imagine I’ll be far too jet-lagged and overwhelmed to even remember the name of my hostel at the other side, let alone get on the right bus to downtown, so I was also encouraged by the inclusion of one night in a hostel and pre-booked transfers to get there.  The hostel accommodation will of course be in a shared dormitory with my new friends, as I think I’ll be entitled to call them by then – there’s not a lot about me that they won’t know after 11 hours in economy class.

If you decide not to book onto the BUNAC group flights you have the freedom to travel on whichever day you want (unlike the group flights) and with any airline you like.   BUNAC use Air Canada for the vast majority of their flights, but other airlines to fly from London to Vancouver and you may find a bargain, particularly if you don’t fly direct.  Try GS World Travel (http://www.gsworld-travel.co.uk/) or Canadian Affair (http://www.canadianaffair.com/) for some good deals, but be wary of hidden fees for changing the date of your return flight (BUNAC charge a flat rate of £35).

At least one thing’s for certain now – there’s no turning back for me!

[1] BUNAC Work Canada website – www.bunac.org/uk/workcanada/flights.aspx