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Is Vancouver a Friendly City?

Recently, Vancouver Magazine published an article with the title ”Vancouver Men Suck.” I won’t get into the details of the article, but basically it suggested that men in this city are lazy, poorly dressed, unambitious goons who have lost the art of chivalry. Not surprisingly, Vancouver men responded in droves, claiming that Vancouver women are the ones who suck because they are pretentious, shallow, unfriendly gold diggers. After reading both viewpoints, it seemed to me that both sexes feel that the city is a cold, harsh place to meet new people and potential partners.

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It got me thinking, is Vancouver a friendly city (yes, that was me invoking Carrie Bradshaw’s voice)?

I have been out of the dating scene for awhile (I met my husband in my early 20s), so I can’t really offer much of an opinion on it, but I think the Vancouver Magazine article raised an important issue about whether people here feel open and willing enough to talk to strangers. I asked some friends and searched around on internet forums asking the same question about how friendly Vancouver is. Here is a sampling of responses:

Nobody is overtly rude, and any snobbiness may simply be quietness coming across in a negative way. People are generally polite (ie: keeping doors open, asking for direction on the streets/bus).

Vancouver is a multi-ethnic city, and every ethnic group tends to stick with their own.

I’ve had moments of kindness, but overall, no. Based on several experiences riding the bus, driving around the Lower Mainland, shopping, eating in restaurants, neighbours. Everyone is just focused on themselves and could care less if they inconvenience you. Americans are way friendlier.

The people in Vancouver are like people anywhere. 90% nice and 10% jerks. However Canadians, while friendly, tend to keep to themselves more than Americans and will not bother you unless there is a good reason. Some people will see that as aloofness. Unless you look like an obvious tourist, going up to random strangers anywhere in Vancouver is a recipe for being ignored as they’ll think you’re going to tell them a sappy story of how your wife is giving birth across town and you need money for a cab, you’re dying with HIV and you need money, you’re a backpacker who needs money for a hostel, you need money for drugs, etc.

Despite the embarrassing Stanley Cup riot this year, Vancouver is (usually) the world’s friendliest city. Vancouver is an international hub, making it easy for lone rangers to make friends in the metropolis. Locals are known to be hospitable to foreigners, particularly while cozying up in local Irish bars during winter. All you have to say is, “Jeez — pretty cold out ‘ere, eh?” and everyone will rejoice (from a CNN article)

For outsiders, Vancouver is considered very ‘clicky’, and in some cases they may not be that off. Perhaps it’s the west coast attitude mixed with the big city awareness. By that I mean the idea of accepting everyone, but being cautious of everyone. 

As a recent import I would say Vancouver is superficially friendly. It’s harder to actually break into a new social group though.

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Photo c/o ArianeCDesigns

So there you have it, Vancouverites are friendly enough to smile and give you directions, but don’t ask to join us for a beer, or we might get a bit creeped out.

While people may claim Vancouverites are not the friendliest, the city still tops lists for being the most liveable and having the most beautiful women, as well as the worst dressers (why are do both articles feature women in Lululemon pants??). It makes one wonder if these generalizations mean anything.

I think not. Cities are complex organisms with many different types of people, living situations and experiences.  For every person living the good life in an awesome condo, getting off work at 4pm and skiing every day, there is an impoverished drug addict struggling to make ends meet in the Downtown Eastside. For every shallow, poorly dressed guy at the bar trying to pick up an equally shallow, well-dressed attractive woman, there are genuine men and women meeting and forming genuine relationships in Vancouver.

Is Vancouver friendly then? I guess it just depends on who you ask. Having lived here my whole life, I have seen numerous displays of kindness - especially during the 2010 Olympics, the post-riot cleanup and every day that I am downtown during the work week. So yes, Vancouver, I like you. And maybe I shouldn’t be offended if you don’t want to get too close to me until we really know each other.

***UPDATE (October 2013): Read my follow up piece on this article here. Also, if you are interested in some suggestions on how to connect with people in your city. You can read about them here

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