Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Some Observations After 7 Months in Vancouver/Burnaby

Things you see a lot of in Vancouver/Burnaby:

1    Rich people in luxury cars (BMW, Porche, Mercedes, Audi, Ferrari, etc) – just about every second car downtown is one of these makes, I suppose because only the rich can afford to park downtown.  It costs $24.50 a day to park in the parkade of my office building downtown.  To park at a meter near the harbour costs $6 an hour.

2    Very poor people with next to nothing – especially along East Hastings in the downtown East Side.  There’s a whole city block along East Hastings where hundreds of poor, homeless, and addicted people try to trade and sell there wares.  The gap between rich and poor here is very large.

   Visible minorities, mostly Asians.  According to the 2006 Census, 55% of Burnaby residents are visible minorities.  Bit of a paradox there, don’t you think?  On my bus-ride home one day, I counted and found that 16 out of the 20 people in my vicinity on the bus were visible "minorities".

4    People being active.  In the park by our house, on any given evening you will see a myriad of people either walking, running, cycling, skateboarding, doing Tai Chi, throwing a Frisbee, flying a kite, playing bocce ball, tennis, basketball, ball-hockey, or soccer.  The parks are very well-used here.

5    Fit people.  See above.

6    Faces and bodies altered by plastic surgery.  There's a disproportionate number of women with very large chests walking around Vancouver.  Ellie’s dance instructor has implants.  And before you say something snarky like "So, Mike - how do you know?" . . . it's obvious people.  Really, really obvious.

7    Ads for plastic surgery clinics.  See above.  Now, the question is, which came first, the chicken or the egg?  Are the ads driving demand?  Or is the demand driving growth in the number of clinics opening and therefore advertising?  I think it’s both . . . sort of self-perpetuating - each driving the other.

8    Vegetarian/vegan restaurants & grocers selling organic foods.

9    Cloudy days.  Of course it does rain quite a bit in winter, but actually, for the most part, it’s just cloudy.  And when it rains, it’s usually a light misting.  People certainly don’t let rain in the forecast stop them from being outside and doing things.

10  Green grass – all winter long.  It doesn’t grow, so there’s no need to mow, but it’s green.

11  Skunks.  Well, you don’t see a lot of skunks (although I did see one the other day on my run), but you sure smell them a lot.  Not so much in winter, but in the summer it seems every week or so the stench permeates the air.  Supposedly it’s not always a real skunk though.  Apparently marijuana growers fill the air with fake skunk scent to cover up the smell of their grow-ops.  Not sure how true that is.

12  People smoking marijuana.  Hmmm, maybe it is true.

13  Gays and lesbians engaging in public displays of affection (e.g. holding hands).  Despite the fact that Winnipeg was the first large city to have an openly gay mayor in North America, it seems Vancouver is more tolerant of homosexuals.  At least it seems homosexuals feel more accepted here and willing to be "out" in public.

14  People honking their horns.  People here are very quick to honk at you.  Zero patience, zero tolerance.

15  Basement tenants.  Everyone – and, as Hannah would say, “I seriously mean everyone” – has a tenant in their basement.  It’s the only way people can afford to own a house here, even with both parents working.

16  Nannies.

17  Dog shit.  People don’t seem to clean up after their dogs as conscientiously here.

18  Funny, long-billed hats worn by Chinese ladies.  Here's an example, taken during the Toderash's visit last August:

Things you don’t see much of in Vancouver:

1    We’ll start with the obvious (and good) things.  Snow . . . unless you go up a mountain, then there’s lots of snow.  But it only snowed a couple times this winter, and the “big snowstorm” that got everyone all worked up here was a few inches of snow that melted within a few days.

2    Mosquitoes.  I’ve seen three mosquitoes since I arrived here over a year ago.

3    Other insects.  I knew there wouldn’t be many mosquitoes, but I always expected there to be lots of other annoying insects like flies and wasps.   Nope.

4    Screened windows on houses.

5    Dirty vehicles.  The streets stay so clean all the time.  We haven’t washed our vehicle once since we arrived.

6    Tim Hortons.  They are around, but it’s mostly Starbucks, Blenz, Waves, J.J. Bean, and Café Artigiano here.

7    Air conditioners.

8    Wind.  This surprised me.  I expected it to be quite windy here, but it’s not – it’s usually very calm.  In some ways, it would be nice if it was a little breezier, at least in the summer (see above).

9    Jaywalkers.  The traffic lights downtown change so frequently (and it’s not cold out), so there’s no reason to cross against a red light.  You know it’s going to change within 15 seconds or so.  When the red hand comes up, it really means don’t walk . . . ‘cause you ain’t gonna make it (unless you’re really quick).  Oh, and remember, drivers will honk at you if you dare cross after the red hand comes up.

10  Sunglasses. Even on sunny days, hardly anyone wears sunglasses.

11  Christians, especially Evangelical Christians.  Apparently Vancouver is one of the least Christian cities in the North America.  (Yes, I’ve now moved on to some of the bad things – although, some might argue this is still one of the good things).

12  African-Canadians.  Lots of visible minorities, but not many of them are black.  This is the reason friends of ours here, originally from Toronto, commented that Vancouver isn’t very multi-cultural in comparison.  That shocked me when they said that, considering the number of Asians here, but it some ways I suppose it’s true.

13  Bungalows, especially new bungalows.  The price of land here is just too expensive to build a bungalow.  People will pay over $750,000 for a shack on a standard lot in Burnaby, just to tear it down and build a new house.  To make a 2,000 sq ft house even remotely affordable, you have to build up.

14  Bus drivers waiting for a few seconds so someone can catch their bus.  The bus drivers here are absolutely ruthless.  I have often seen buses drive away from the stop just before someone gets there.  They clearly see that the person is trying to catch the bus, and if they would wait literally 2 seconds, the person would be at the stop and could get on, but it seems that bus drivers here are not willing to wait for anyone.  I saw that happen to a lady that looked to be about 65 or so.  Made me furious.

15  Parkas.  'nough said.


  1. Great post! Other things you see in Vancouver (or soon will): Mike and Karla kicking a** in the Sun Run. Woot!


  2. Ask karla about the lady we saw at the airport who had obviously had had plastic surgery- I didn't even notice her chest, I was looking at her face. She looked like a cat.