Troy Media – by Mike Robinson
Many of the users of this friendly guide will have already met Vancouverites, perhaps as prairie tourists or through work connections, but more likely on their home turf. (For a B.C. resident’s Guide to Understanding Calgarians)
This is because Vancouverites have little money for out-of-province travel due to their enormous mortgages, and the general understanding that they already live in paradise, or within an hour’s drive of it. Therefore, the guide is primarily intended for Alberta residents who are planning coastal vacations or work trips to Vancouver, the principal residence of Vancouverites.
Vancouver difficult to understand
While every effort has been made to cover core aspects of Vancouver culture, the evolutionary civic geist is in many respects difficult for Albertans to understand. Frequent refreshment courses will be necessary to stay abreast of coastal trends. Annual updates to this first guide (current to January 2012) will be available, along with word lists and menu translations for the true enthusiast.
To begin with, Vancouverites live in a severely bi-planar culture: the entire coastal landscape goes up and down, sometimes as much as 20 feet, twice a day. Locals refer to this as “a tide.” When going near the ocean, Albertans are advised to plan for a rise and fall of waterline. Seasickness may occur. Needless to say, the prairie is a constant, and unvarying in its altitude and volume. A visit to Vancouver therefore poses potential problems for Albertans who expect terrestrial stability.
Another disturbing aspect of Vancouver is its political bi-polarism. People actually vote for different parties, sometimes several times per year. There is no tradition of voting in the Conservatives for four decades: the NDP and the Liberals in B.C. share in provincial governance, with a respectful and regular exchange of governments.
Like the tide, political fortunes go up and down in Vancouver, and Vancouverites actually may vote for different parties in their lifetimes. Depending on whether it is a civic, provincial or federal election, voters may elect socialists to city council, liberals to the legislative assembly, and conservatives to the federal parliament. Nobody finds this particularly disturbing, and it is seen to be normal behavior – again just like the tide.
Vancouverites are also disturbingly bi-pedal. Physical fitness is a very highly valued urban commodity, and for many is achieved and maintained by “walking to work.” Many pedestrian commuters also alternate with “bicycling to work,” and there are actually separate lanes for cyclists to peddle their bikes, and special roads called “seawalls” for pedestrians.
Albertans are advised to leave their pick-ups at the convenient parking lots near the Sky Train stations, and take public transit downtown. Operating a Dodge Ram or Chevy Silverado is difficult in the bike lanes, and definitely not advised on the seawalls either. What Vancouverites call downtown streets, would, in Alberta, be called rural routes or trails. It is definitely best, therefore, to leave the elevated comfort of your F-150’s cab and stroll about.
Downtown strolls will also place Albertans in close proximity to Vancouverites’ conversations and street behaviors. Alert listeners will perhaps be surprised to note that even Vancouver men have knowledge of a dizzying variety of regional cuisines. It is normal to consider ethnic foodie options when planning a dinner out. For instance, if in the proximity of Main Street, Chinese, Indo-Canadian, Italian, Thai, First Nations, Japanese, Greek, Lebanese, and Caribbean options are all close at hand. Albertans should note that none of these gastronomic fares include a beef entrée. All are on offer, and the average Vancouverite delights in the process of choice. Often these decisions boil down to a choice between two superb restaurants; in this respect Vancouverites are bi-foodal.
The most distressing bi-polarity confronting Vancouverites, however is buy-homism. To buy or not to buy, that is the question. Actually for young Vancouverites without millionaire boomer parents, buying is out of the question. Eight hundred square feet of condo in False Creek now goes for $800,000. In Calgary or Edmonton, this kind of coin would get you a starter mansion in the suburb of your choice. In Vancouver it gets you two tiny bedrooms, the requisite marble tile bathroom, a kitchen/great room and a magnificent three-foot entrance/hallway/greeting foyer.
Calgarians and Edmontonians contemplating such a purchase should note that Easy-Boy recliners and comfortable leather couches will have to be dumped as they will not even make it up the elevator, let alone scrape through the condo front door.
The alternative to condo ownership is renting, long a respectable choice in places like New York and London. Renting in Vancouver is normal unless your folks live in Beijing, Hong Kong, Moscow or Frankfurt, in which case purchasing real estate is a delightful option.
The point of this insider’s guide (written by an Albertan refugee currently renting in False Creek), is to give Albertans enough information to enter and reside in Vancouver for short periods of time, without ‘spilling the beans’ about their point of origin. To boldly proclaim oneself Albertan in Vancouver is to invite bi-polar classification as “not like us.” Key to understanding and walking/pedaling amongst Vancouverites is appreciating how they run on ‘alternating current.’ Albertans run on ‘direct current.’ When you know this, wiring the relationship you want with Vancouver becomes much easier.
Mike Robinson is CEO Bill Reid Trust and President, Bill Reid Foundation. He is the former President & CEO of Glenbow Museum in Calgary.
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