“You’re gorgeous, baby, you’re sophisticated, you live well…Vancouver is Manhattan with mountains. It’s a liquid city, a tomorrow city, equal parts India, China, England, France and the Pacific Northwest. It’s the cool North American sibling.” – The New York Times
We get these kinds of lovely accolades all the time, and for the most part they are pretty well deserved… most livable, cleanest, greenest, healthiest, etc… these are the categories we’re often listed at the top of and that’s great. It’s true too that we’re up to our Lululemon-clad yoga-toned armpits with outdoor recreation options for guided tours - everything from mountain biking to back-country and downhill skiing to kayaking, hiking and fishing. The variety of tours offered by experienced guides that focus on the beautiful Vancouver landscapes and scenery, and on helping you to master the truly overwhelming amount of stellar photo ops are plentiful… so there is never any shortage of reasons to visit.
On top of all of that though, there are a few unique things about Vancouver that always make me smile.
#7 – We Take “Relaxed” Fashion To A Whole New Level
With the active lifestyle many Vancouverites have, I thought we may possibly be forgiven for always looking like we’re on our way to or from the yoga studio (painfully personal truth bomb: I actually own what I refer to – at least in my head - as “dress” sweats). But on a recent list of worst dressed cities, we even lost to New Jersey – by quite a few spots (that’s right, a beat-down by the “Jersey Shore” – where fashionistas like Snooki & “The Situation” ruled). A quote from our city’s #1 daily news rag stated the problem isn’t so much what we wear, but where we wear it… “Jeans to funerals. Sweat pants to the grocery store. Pyjamas to high school. Flip-flops to a wedding. Ball caps to court. Wife beaters to the symphony. Cleavage to the office. And those yoga pants, everywhere, usually trying to contain girth not meant for the trendy confines of spandex”. Thanks for that Vancouver Sun.
Pay them no mind I say! Until those snotty hosts from “What Not To Wear” show up throwing wads of cash at me, I’m going to be reveling ever so comfortably in our collective shame.
#6 – We Like To Get Naked
When even our casual approach to dressing seems like too much to bear, Wreck Beach – Canada’s first, and arguably North America’s largest clothing-optional beach - attracts local and international exhibitionists alike. Boasting 7.8 kilometers of coastline - it’s found just 15 minutes from the downtown office towers. Here you can drop your drawers, enjoy live music and fresh fruit cocktails, or have a massage on vendor’s row. Just being a spectator at the annual 5K Bare Buns Run held here will give you a keen appreciation for all the support your underwear provides, and of the importance of life-long sunscreen use.
The newest buzz in Vancouver is “naked sushi“. Yes you heard that right…. eating strategically placed raw fish, rice and wasabi off of naked women. Then there is the annual “Naked Bike Ride” through the streets of downtown - another opportunity to cut loose for those who feel burdened by societal clothing constraints. “No Pants Skytrain Ride” events are not uncommon either.
For a people who live in a generally cool and damp climate, we’re surprisingly prepared to go full-blown full-monty at the drop of a hat.
#5 – We Still Breed Hipsters!
I’ve read a number of frightening articles from reputable publications recently that point to the impending world-wide demise of the “hipster”. Thank god this city is always years behind in every trend because hipster-spotting in Funcouver has never been easier. Paul Bunyan beards and waxed moustache works of facial art, suspenders and bow-ties, tattoos and V-neck tees, skinny jeans, flannel shirts, and knit toques abound… the melting pot of ironic intent, pretension, self-deprecation and self-awareness begging to be noticed (and let’s not forget mocked). It’s still here in spades.
#4 – We Talk Like Pretentious Wankers
Certain areas of town are perfect for when you’re feeling unsure about yourself. For example, I may wonder if I’m being a bit self-absorbed, not doing enough for my fellow man, or not spending enough quality time with family, or even feel like I may be taking life a little too seriously. Then I go to certain neighbourhoods in West Vancouver, or Point Grey, or maybe even Kerrisdale and mingle and listen…. voila - it’s like a living, breathing, symphonic version of the crap posted on Overheard At Whole Foods. Result… I come to complete agreement with myself that I am an awesome and philanthropic humanitarian (at least comparatively).
#3 – We Are…. Um… Liberal?
Vancouver (a.k.a. Vansterdam) seems to be a city trying its very best to make being a lazy stoner as easy as possible. The city is home to several cannabis coffee shops where maryjane and hash is smoked openly and personal use throughout the city is tolerated by local police. Recent business launches that have gained substantial widespread support – marijuana vending machines and THC-infused pizzas in restaurants (only $10 extra!).
#2 – We Build Stairs On Mountains
The best known outdoor hike in Vancouver is the Grouse Grind and it is perpetually packed! The “Grind” allows you to realize your life-long dream of stepping seemingly to infinity - up an uneven rough-hewn staircase in the woods with your nose in extremely close and awkward proximity to a complete stranger’s backside – right up until your heart literally explodes out of your chest with the exertion. Good times. There is a nice view at the top though…. and a bar.
#1 – We Say Thank You To The Bus Driver
About 5 years ago I gave up owning a car. Living in the downtown area it just made sense to leave it parked more often than not, and I decided to give the transit system a try. It’s not perfect by any means, but one unusually sweet thing I see across this city is the habit of thanking the bus driver when you exit. Think about it… buses can be crowded and noisy, and typically you exit from the back – so in order for the driver to hear you, you have to kind of yell. And most people do. At first it really surprised me. Isn’t that just his job? But what surprised me more is how quickly it became my habit too. The real challenge comes at a popular stop, when all the passengers try to use the placement of emphasis on certain words and even timing to try to make their contribution to the chorus sound at least a little unique… 1st off – “Thank you”, 2nd – “Thanks”, 3rd – “Cheers”, 4th – “Thank YOU”, 5th “Bu-Bye”, 6th – “Thanks man”, 7th “Bye now”….. you get the picture. We may be über-polite, but we never want to come across as sheeple.