Most of the people I interviewed came from areas of high urban density. Hyderabad and Karachi, Pakistan. Tehran, Iran and even the Netherlands and Great Britain.
The area of Tehran is 730 square kilometers and the population is 14 million. Compare that to Calgary which is 825 square kilometers with a population of just over 1.4 million. “You can’t imagine” says Reza. “There are a lot of apartment buildings in Tehran. Tehran is louder, noisier, fancier than Calgary. You can see restaurants, cars, movie theaters, activity in Tehran that you can never see in Calgary. But you are always pushed to go faster, faster.”
“The Netherlands is an upright country” explains Bo. “If you flipped it by one quarter it would fit in between Calgary and Red Deer and not stick outside of Alberta, and there are 17 million people living there, almost half the population of Canada. There’s traffic, there are people everywhere. You are constantly with people and there is not enough space for people to feel that you are by yourself on this earth. Commuting took about 3 hours of my day. Everything was a rush. That is something we do not have to deal with here. When we first moved here our house backed on to a golf course. The first day that my husband got home from work at 4 o’clock we sat on the back deck and drank a beer and he said ‘This feels like we are on vacation.’ In July when you go to some of Alberta parks you think, seriously, where is everybody? I love going to the Netherlands for holidays, and the rest of Europe too. But there, if you want to find nature you have to look really hard and if you find it there’s like 2 million people there already. A beach on a sunny day on the weekend you can’t even see the sand.”
“It’s hard for people who don’t live there to appreciate” Jeff says of the U.K. “When you visualize a little island with so many thousands of people, there so many people squeezed into one spot, while in Canada there are wide open spaces.”
Ruback says that Hyderabad has a lot of air pollution and noise pollution that he doesn’t miss. Fatiha does miss the hustle and bustle of Karachi sometimes. “The city we came from was a very big city, very populated and it was lively all night long. It’s a city that never sleeps. Exquisite dining, hotels and fancy restaurants. Almost every week we would go out for a nice meal. It did not take as big a chunk out of our budget to eat at nice restaurants there. We used to wake up very early to go to the office, six or seven, and then we wouldn’t go to bed until around eleven at night. We ate dinner around 9 o’clock at night. When we first came here it seemed to us that everyone went to sleep so much earlier, like a village! Everything closes so early here.”
Photo courtesy of Reza Moshkin
In the next blog post we’ll discuss the differences in food and shopping between the home countries and Canada.