I am a counsellor in private practice in Surrey. I am from Dublin, Ireland and when I lost my job to the recession in 2009, I moved to Canada. I have been living in Surrey over nine months.
In 2009, it felt as though the bricks were tumbling down around me as young people fled to Australia and North America. I had heard stories of this happening before, but to my generation they were like folklore and a time long ago.
I have lived in Vancouver and loved it, but in June 2012 my partner and I were fed up renting what I consider to be sub-standard accommodation. Owning dogs limited our options.
This is when I came across Surrey listings. Friends cautioned, “It’s dangerous there!”
I had heard East Van described similarly and from my experience, there are no places in the Lower Mainland that I have ever felt unsafe.
Photo: Sarah Flynn
The image Vancouverites conjure up about Surrey is similar to how many North Americans envision Ireland. However, my experience of Ireland is not one of frolicking through green pastures with leprechauns, while car bombs explode on the horizon.
My experience of Surrey is not one of danger, theft and drug-riddled pavements. I am by no means saying that Surrey does not have its problems but that it’s worth considering how the distorted image of a place could be a far greater reason for why a city struggles to heal than we give it credit for.
I enjoy Surrey so much so that I felt called to write about it. It is a rapidly changing city, vividly apparent with grandiose apartments and disheveled sex shops. I witnessed the rapid expansion of Dublin and its consequential demise, but there is something very different about how this city is moving.
There is a well-thought-out plan for every step and a great mayor behind it. Perhaps I am lucky to be looking at Surrey with new eyes and having experienced what happens to a city when its eyes are shut tight.
My hope in writing this is that readers might feel a little extra pride for their city. Maybe an outsider’s perspective may help residents dust off their city’s old coat and hold their heads a little higher. Maybe I’ll inspire those in neighbouring cities to begin to consider how unrealistic our images of a place could be.
For if not, and they are to visit Ireland someday, they will be surely disappointed to not find a leprechaun anywhere in sight.