I’ve been in Vancouver for around 15 months now, so I feel that I am now suitably qualified to list, judge, poke fun at as well as big up some of the traits that make this city, and it’s residents feel so very ‘Vancouver’.
1. The Rain
It’s very possible that this rant about the inevitable downside of living in a rainforest made it to the top of this list due to my very damp commute to work this morning. This and the fact that the typical lifespan of any umbrella I buy is approximately 2.5 days means that I haven’t quite fully embraced the ‘some people feel the rain, others just get wet’ philosophy. I have been told that I haven’t had it too badly, and to be fair it has been a relatively dry winter so far. None the less, Vancouver is known for its rainy winters and the resulting attire…
2. Mountain Equipment Coop
Or MEC as it’s known as around here. There are some BC based high-end retailers that will earn you major kudos for flaunting around Vancouver and most of Canada…maybe even some of the US. However, try bragging about those threads in Glasgow City Centre and general assumption will be that your pay cheque couldn’t quite cover an American Apparel or Superdry purchase, so you opted for a cheap knock-off from the Barras instead. MEC is one such tag. They are an outdoor clothing and equipment store, and couldn’t be better placed in a city like Vancouver. When the clouds gather and the skies open, every Vancouverite worth their rain boots will be zipping into their $400 MEC rain jacket with pride.
The other big brand name that is synonymous with Vancouver living, lululemon. A self-described yoga-inspired athletic apparel company. I dare you to take a public transit ride during rush hour and not come across at least forty people carrying their quinoa salad lunches in their little lululemon shopping bags. Lululemon is the corporate pride of Vancouver, with their first store in Kitsilano they now have over 201 stores in North America, Australia and New Zealand. The brand has yet to make it to the UK though, which may have something to do with the somewhat lack of nationwide obession with the brand’s key activity…
Outdoor, indoor, extra hot, extra cold, healing, restorative, medatative, traditional, ancient, contemporary, in water, on mountains…any variation of yoga you could ever think of has probably been done here in Vancouver. And I daren’t mock too much, as only last week I found myself sharing a hot, sweaty room with thirty or so strangers as I took part in my first Bikram (hot) Yoga class. As someone who has yet to be described as graceful or flexible, I fully expected to pass out in a puddle of my own sweat with my legs contorted in some ungodly position. However to my complete surprise, my friend and I made it through the full 90 minutes and are even considering going back for more!
5. Beautiful People
If you are a fan of the 1-10 rating system, or even the slightly more crude school of rating in pints e.g. ‘Nah, she’s definietly more of a four-pinter!’, you might find that you need to recalibrate your scale in Vancouver. Not only is the city hotties aplenty, but the concept of aging seems entirely lost to some people here. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve guessed someone’s age in the mid-twenties only to find out that they are dancing around forty.
6. Whole Foods
Whole Foods is a North American grocery store chain that spawned in Texas. Whole Foods differentiates itself from the rest of the market by aiming to sell only ‘natural’, minimally processed foods at seizure inducing prices. Naturally, the brand found a very comfortable home in health-and-premium-price-tag-obsessed-Vancouver. The store caters wonderfully to the quinoa (pronounced keen-wa by the way, you don’t want to go making that mistake around these parts!) and kale obessesed healthy high earners. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for clean eating and healthy living…but shop around and I’m sure you’ll find your organic tofu for less than $16/lb!
Food! More specifically, eating out. Even wiith an unlimited budget and the metabolism of a hummingbird, you would have trouble sampling all of the cuisine that Vancouver has to offer. What’s even better, is that for a city known for it’s high cost of living, you can eat out relatively cheaply…often for less than cooking at home. You can also eat out by remortgaging your home, so there’s definitely something for everyone! There is no doubt that Vancouver is a food city, with some of the best chefs and restaraunts in North America. My personal favourite cuisine, sushi, just so happens to be one of the cheapest eats in the city, with the average roll costing around $5. There really is so much to choose from, but a few of my personal favourites are:
- The Eatery. West Broadway – amazing sushi in a very funky, non-traditional setting, even if you don’t think you like sushi, you’ll like this place!
- Cincin. Robson Street – out of this world italian cuisine, pricey so great for a special ocassion. Apparently this is the place to go celeb spotting!
- Dark Table. West 4th Avenue – everyone should definitely try this out at least once. The concept is that you eat your meal in complete darkness, so dark that it’s like having your eyes closed. All of the servers are blind or visually impaired, and so are able to help and assist you where needed.
- Heirloom. South Granville Street – the tastiest, most satisfying meat-free meal that a non-vegetatrian will ever have. The food here is simply outstanding.
I’m not for a second suggesting that if you ever visit Vancouver, you should cut one of the locals open…however if you did, there is a good chance that they would bleed coffee. It’s definitely a life source here. You can barely walk 10 yards without coming across a Starbucks, Tim Hortons, Blenz, Waves or a little independant coffee place – so a cup of joe is never far away In fact even in my office I need to bring my own tea bags if I want to make a brew, but coffee is pretty much on tap. And if you speak ‘Starbucks’, you’ll struggle to find a barista who will even bat an eyelid at your request for an ‘extra hot half fat half mocha latte, two shots with soy milk and extra foam…but not too much…’
9. Craft Beer
This is a phenomenon that I’ve been all too happy to embrace. If you happen to visit a bar who specialises in craft beer, be prepared to take an extra half hour or so just to browse the menu. There are more beer choices in this part of the world than I have ever seen – although it should be noted that I have yet to visit Belgum or Germany! A craft beer is a beer that comes from a microbrewery, or a brewery that produces a limited amount of beer. A lot of these beers are seasonal, and so will only appear certain months of the year…making the drinking process even more exciting! Some of the better known microbreweries are Granville Island, Stanley park, Okanagen and Tofino…but there are many, many more in BC with new ones popping up each year.
Vancouverites love their dogs! Not only is the city filled with every size and breed of dog you could ever think of, but there is also a booming industry of doggy daycare facilities, dog walkers, dog spas, dog hotels, doggy boutiques and most stores will either happily let you bring your pooch inside, or provide a tie up area along a with a complimentay bowl of water.
So there you have it, the ten things that I consider to be oh-so Vancouver. Comments welcome for any extra suggestions!