Thursday, December 23, 2010
Vancouver through new lenses
To give context to my observations on Vancouver, I must first describe my experiences in Ireland. Everyone loves the Irish, whether at home or overseas. This is because the Irish are polite and kind, almost to a fault (I'm sure my Irish friends are shaking their heads at this... but imagine how rude I must come across much of the time!) I've blogged before about how, in general (this whole blog will be generalizations) the Irish would never complain. But the politeness in the culture extends beyond that. For example, you wouldn't be given your bill in a restaurant, because it would be "rude" to suggest that you should leave (it took us a few restaurant outings to figure that out! Waiting at an empty table for our bill was a wee bit awkward).
Once you have a personal connection of any kind with a person, they are like your BFF (hence why pubs are so much fun). Thus, the support network of people who would help one out if needed would extend to most of your acquaintances. For example, our friend Steffi delivered her baby prematurely, and so they spent a month going to the hospital in Dublin. Their friends made up a rota and left a meal outside their door every day. The meals did not come with any names attached so that Steffi (et al.) wouldn't feel obligated to thank everyone.
Thus, in general, strangers wouldn't talk to you, for if they were to do so... then you would have more of a connection and an obligation to be kind and friendly. For example, when the mums from the toddler group all went out for an xmas drink, we were approached in the pub by a fairly tipsy man (think effusive complements and endless ballads). But we weren't able to get rid of him, because no one wanted to be rude. So after about 15 minutes, we just decided to ignore him (which was the rudest you could be in that type of situation) and he eventually moved on.
Now on to VANCOUVER. A world class city, in a world class province. So self assured that the licence plates (I kid you not) proudly state: "The Best Place on Earth". There are mountains, an ocean, skyscrapers and culture. The city is a multicultural melting pot (40% of Vancouverites were born outside of Canada), a sustainable city (Eco Density was trademarked courtesy of city hall). So politically correct is Vancouver, that the previous mayor, Sam Sullivan, was quadriplegic and Caucasian, yet fully fluent in Cantonese, and the current mayor, Gregor Robertson's claim to fame is his "Happy Planet" juice company and the fact that he's an avid cyclist.
As an illustration of Vancouver's entitlement, on Saturday, we did a shop at our two closest grocers and tasted the samples of the season. They included:
- chocolate truffles (local, and your choice of 10 flavors)
- panettone made into french toast, served with whip cream and maple syrup
- brie, with nuts and cranberries served on rice crackers
- matcha green tea with cocoa
- manuka honey chocolate bars
- plus the usual meat bits (not sampled, so not described)
And the city steeps it's people with this sense of wealth and self being. The hipsters, the yuppies, the granola, the boomers and all the ethnic groups are celebrated and bolstered in this city. So, what we have noticed the most in Vancouver is that strangers talk to you! They smile at Nikolai, complement him on his coat, his talking, they tell us how to get off the bus with a stroller (buggy), that Nikolai should be walking as it's better for his health. All of this is delivered with a sense of self esteem that suggests that their opinions should be expressed, yet without an obligated friendliness; for in this city you can have an encounter and then disappear into the crowd.
No pictures of Vancouver as it's rain, rain, raining, so we stole one off the interweb...