The friendliest place on earth?

There must be something in the water here. Or the air. Or the double skinny decaf lattes. Or the steam punk IPA craft beer.

People in Vancouver are so nice. Eerily so, as if they’ve all been on the same customer service training course which we (the 65m British people) skipped, or at least certainly this family missed out on. We must have been too busy arguing amongst ourselves.

Some examples, all from our first 24 hours in Vancouver:

  • Two separate bus drivers allow us on without paying, saying its just quicker and easier if we jump on
  • A woman on the bus overhears us talking about the face paint stuck on Cesca’s cheek; she offers us a wet wipe and then when we’ve cleaned the cheek she offers to take the dirty wet wipe and put it in the bin
  • A lady working at the supermarket overhears us talking about buses and walks up to us with a little bus map of the city

Small things? Perhaps, but the sensibility is there. It is too simplistic to say that Canadians are like Americans but friendlier, especially when some Americans could write the book on being open and welcoming and hospitable, but there is something in it. They are extravert in approaching you but low ego about it; they do not need to connect or dominate a conversation, they appear comfortable in passing on some tips or advice and then letting you go about your day. There is no compulsion to swap life histories and this ‘friction-less’ interaction is a pleasure.

Vancouver. A massive city. We are all blown away by the scale; we were expecting a smaller cuter city, but downtown is a shower of tall office and apartment blocks and you can smell the Asian investment. The metro area has almost 2.5m people. Apparently up to 30% of the city identify as being of Chinese origin and somewhere along the way the Canadians must have opened up their borders and investment policy. We haven’t been to Auckland but I imagine they have many similarities: cosmopolitan global cities on the Pacific Rim and on the water; commerce centres; safe low corruption culture; all these factors make this prime investment candidates and now they have the pressure of locals being priced out of the housing market. New Zealand has had so much foreign investment that they are banning the sale of homes to non-residents and Vancouver’s property was the world’s fastest growing (in price) a few years ago.

The city is still charming. We were expecting to find lots of new age, yoga-loving, positive-thinking hippies, and that counter culture attitude is still evident, it has just been updated and usurped by the pace of capitalism. The city hangs around the water, being north, south and east of Burrard inlet. We are in Kitsilano, a fairly posh residential area with blocks and blocks of large detached houses and tree-lined streets. There are beaches and all the shops and restaurants you could ever want. We meet a local in a restaurant, he says “If you live in Kits and work in downtown you have the best of both worlds, you never need to leave either”

We have been swimming in the sea, staring at totem poles at the Museum of Anthropology, biking around Stanley Park and swimming in the 137m outdoor Kitsilano pool. All good, clean, fun. We had a surprise mystery day trip yesterday and I’ll write about that later.

This is definitely a foodie city; British Columbia feels like Seattle / Oregon – very keen on their local coffee and beer. So Vancouver has incredible properties to live in, a stunning location with beaches for the summer and skiing on hand for the winter; there are endless buses and bicycle lanes but no underground; everyone seems to be yoga-ing or running or biking or hiking; it seems to have a decent economy – so…. is this the perfect city to live in? We cannot judge after a few days and we wonder how * exciting * it is culturally. We have to write this sentence carefully so we’re not accused of being racist, but the Asian influence is a bit… odd; has Vancouver ceased to be truly Canadian in the same way that the Yucatan Peninsula is not 100% Mexican any more? Or is such change inevitable and cities will of course change identity as part of the global flow of people?

Not that it matters and yes, we’ve had the conversation which many tourists must have: shall we move here????

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