By: Adam Hartley
Going away really does change people. Three friends and I came from the UK to Whistler in December and upon encountering the first of our fellow countrymen in a bar we were greeted with the response: “Yeah, we may be from England, but now we’re in Whistler baby! Woooo!” Suffice to say we hastily moved along and never saw him again. Not that we’re in any way bitter or antisocial, but our decision proved to be a good one as he preceded to spill a pitcher of beer over his friends.
In the same evening we encountered a number of very friendly Canadians, a few Germans, some Swedes, an absolute ton of Australians and, later in the week, a very nice Czech man. Which, aside from showing up how terrible the English are abroad, perfectly highlights how multi-cultural Whistler really is.
As places go, this is an extremely nice place to live and it’s no wonder that some many people from all over the world come every year. It is a real melting pot and is made even more accessible by the people that inhabit it. Within a matter of days you feel at home and it is possible, even just through bus journeys, to find lots of new friends. Everyone seems to know everybody else and it’s incredibly endearing how many people will just strike up a conversation or go out of their way to help you.
There were, however, a number of initial minor culture shocks when we first arrived, namely: no postman, coat-checking, no bin collection and bears. In fact, mainly just the latter – bears. There was a bear sighting on all of our first three nights out. The scariest of which took place on the way to the bus stop whilst three of our party were performing a necessary task in the bushes. The beast appeared out of nowhere and was upon us immediately. All we could do, given the situation, was a speedy side-step towards civilization as it bore down on us. We were very exposed (in more ways than one) and it was a lucky escape as it ran off down the road in favour a lone target. Thankfully that has been our only near death experience aside from of course, the usual don’t ski there there’s a massive drop.
From a seasonaire’s perspective Whistler is the ideal place to come to. It gets a large consistent amount of snow, has an incredible amount of terrain and fantastic back-country and it is relatively inexpensive to live. Mike Neale came here from the UK for a ski season. He said, “I wanted to get away from work and responsibilities after university and a ski season seemed ideal.
“I chose Whistler because of Canada’s immigration policies and obviously the skiing is brilliant.”
There was a possibility that Mike may have gone to America for his season but after considering his options he eventually settled on Canada.
“It was an easy decision in the end,” he said. “I’m very glad I came here over America. First of all the terrain is so much better and secondly I think the people are probably much more friendly and accepting of people coming in.”
It seems that many people benefit from Canada’s friendly immigration policies, and the thing that struck us most about Whistler was the sheer amount of Australians here. You just can’t seem to escape them, they’re everywhere. It is even rumoured that they outnumber the other occupying races put together. This isn’t a bad thing of course, it’s just incredibly strange that they should all flock to this area. I came across a mob of Australians (and yes that is the collective noun) and decided to find out why they come to Whistler.
“I came here to snowboard,” said Sam (an Australian) “My friends just told me that Whistler had sick parks so I came here.
“I’ve only ever really been boarding in [Australia] but this is so much better. I only ride park, but they’re amazing.”
“Whistler reminds me of my home town – Byron Bay – Just heaps of tourists and chicks flocking every weekend…The locals are nice though, pretty legit.”
“I think there are so many Australians because it’s really easy to come here with immigration policies. It only took like six weeks and you can stay for two years which is really good. I’m planning to stay until the end of the season then just go back to my winter.”
Canada’s visa policies are really geared up to help Australians come into the country to live and work. After their initial two years there is even the option to become a citizen and fully emigrate, which it seems a large number of people are looking to do.
It is very easy to think that all Whistler offers is skiing and forget about all the other opportunities that present themselves. As a massive tourist hub there are lots of openings for new businesses in the town. One of the newest businesses to set up shop is Deseo’s Bistro in Marketplace, run by Romiro Madrid and his fiancée Isabelle Demers.
“I came to Whistler at the end of August after selling my restaurant in Quebec,” said Romiro. “We took one year holiday to go travelling and then came here to start working again.”
“One of the reasons I came here was for the snowboarding and also it is quite easy to make money in Whistler. There are lots of opportunities.”
Whatever the reason for coming to Whistler, it definitely seems to make people want to stay. You couldn’t ask for a friendlier, more laid back place. Once you’ve been, no matter where you end up, the chances are you’ll come back.
“I used to work as a line cook in Whistler ten years ago so I’ve always wanted to come back. It is a nice, beautiful little town with nice people,” added Romiro. “I think maybe stay here for a few years, and then after that, maybe forever. Like lots of other people seem to do.”