I say “Canada” but I’m really talking today about Vancouver BC. I realize that Vancouver is different than a place like Montreal.
I just got back. As usual when I travel outside the country, my schedule was packed. In less than four days there I…
- Had two meetings with a branch office of a client company.
- Had a meeting with a consulting prospect.
- Gave two speeches to two different groups (one on time management, one on how to structure open relationships).
- Had the Friday night thingy I mentioned on this blog, which turned into a Q&A coaching session with a handful of guys.
- Did a few touristy things (boating, Vancouver Lookout, Chinatown, etc).
- Had sex six times (I think).
- Had an in-person coaching session with one of the SMIC guys.
…and that’s on top of all the usual running around when you travel (taxis, trains, airport stuff, screwing around with hotels, etc).
Regardless, I did have time to move around and observe the city and its people, to compare it to other cities I’ve visited. The following is strictly my very biased opinion based on my own very strong tastes. Feel free to disagree.
1. Vancouver BC is now officially my favorite major city on the west coast, knocking San Diego out of the top spot. Though not by much, because I love SD, just for very different reasons.
To quickly run through the west coast cities…
My hometown of Portland, Oregon is interesting, but too damn weird, too hardcore left wing, too small, and too hipster/hippy/granola.
Los Angeles is a cool place to visit, but it’s in a constant state of decay and disrepair. Just as an example, the freeways in Los Angeles are on par with those of a third world country. I’m serious.
Seattle is a decent place, but there’s nothing extraordinary or particularly interesting about it. Same goes for Sacramento/Stockton.
San Francisco is very cool. Good food, interesting cool people, and I love hanging out there. But everything there seems small and expensive.
For example, my brother lives there and his entire apartment seems like the size of one of my closets, even though he pays more for his place than I do mine. If you lived in downtown Manhattan that might make sense. Maybe. But to pay that kind of price just to live in downtown San Francisco? Um, no. Move out to the suburbs, dude. The in-your-face left wing stuff also gets a little tedious, every bit as bad as Portland if not worse.
San Diego rocks. It has the best year-round weather of any other city I have ever visited. It’s clean and cool and fun and beautiful. I’m taking my daughter to Comic-Con this July and I can’t wait to go (more for San Diego than for the nerd convention).
Vancouver BC, while not perfect, beats them all. It’s clean. It has a big-city feel while not actually being a big city (I will explain this in a minute). There’s lots of water, and that means boats, and boats are awesome. The people are chill and laid back. The chicks are hot (with a few caveats I’ll get to in a minute). The food is awesome. The culture is rich and interesting. It’s very racially diverse in a unique and fascinating way. It has a very modern, high-tech feel. All good.
On the minus side, it suffers the same terrible problem of all cities in the pacific northwest, which is terrible weather. Cold, clouds, and way too much fucking rain, damn near year-round. It’s irritating beyond belief.
It’s also in Canada, which means socialism, which forever disqualifies it from a place I would ever consider living in. Granted, it’s the nice, quaint flavor of socialism that New Zealand has, rather than the angry, “businessmen rip people off!!!” socialism so often found in Europe and Scandinavia. But you can’t sugarcoat a pig; high taxes and assloads of silly regulations and paperwork is still socialism. (Not that my own country is any better.)
It also lacks the majesty of the truly big cities which stir my soul, and that was a noticeable absence, but that’s not really Vancouver’s fault. There’s also a very distinct lack of blonde women there, which in my opinion is bad, even if the rest of the non-blondes there are very hot.
2. I’m pretty sure Vancouver is the most racially and internationally diverse city I have ever visited. It’s also a great example of a fully western city where North American white people are actually in the minority.
As you walk around the downtown area and observe and talk to people, you’ll find that about 50% are Asians (mostly Chinese, but lots of SE Asians too). Another, oh, 15% are middle easterners or west Asians of various types. Another 10-15% are white people who are either not speaking English or speaking it with a strong non-Canadian/American accent. And I’m not talking about French.
The native English speaking whities make up whatever is left over, and that’s well under 50%.
Side note: There are no virtually black people there. I think I saw three during my entire stay. There are virtually no Latinos. I don’t remember seeing any in four days. Such a strange thing for me, since I’ve lived on the American west coast my entire life and seeing vast amounts of Latinos is just something you become accustomed to.
This diversity makes for a really vibrant and interesting city. Diversity kicks ass. Just so long as it’s something that happens organically and is not something government or political correctness shoves down your throat. (My mom teaches college courses and is involved in a lot of “diversity training” and a lot of it is really sickening. And frankly, racist. Yes, the PC version of “diversity” is racist. But I digress.)
You can scan a popular bar or restaurant and see a group of Asians, then a group of middle easterners, then a mixed group, then a white group, often all speaking different languages, and getting along fine with no dirty looks thrown towards each other. It really is a wonderful thing.
3. The most interesting thing about Vancouver, at least to me, is its illusion of bigness. It really isn’t a big city. Something like 2.5 million people live there, which in my world is small…about the size of Portland which is very small. At least to me.
Yet when you’re in the center of downtown, it looks and feels like a city of 7 or 8 million people. This is because the population density is so high. The residents tell me it’s the third most densely populated city in all of North America. I’m not sure if I believe that, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
I’ve been all over the world, and mostly to big cities. After hanging out in places like Mexico City, Hong Kong, New York and Tokyo, population density is nothing new to me. However because the density is high but the population is low at the same time in Vancouver, you get the vibrancy and majesty of a big city without the usual trash, graffiti, stress, crime, and social/racial strife that typically accompanies such a configuration. It’s the best of both worlds.
4. In the U.S., Canada has always had the reputation of being “like America, just nicer”. The reputation is accurate; this trip has pretty much confirmed it for me. It’s like the USA, but people here are more laid back and more friendly.
Many times complete strangers would start conversations with me, something that would never happen in Los Angeles, or even in a place like Denver. Not once in four days did I witness an altercation. Try spending four days in Manhattan or Shanghai without seeing one argument. Hah!
When I made a joke to one of the Canucks about their primary mass transit system being ironically called the “Skytrain”, when most of the airport line is underground, they were quick to point out that, “The first two lines were in the sky, ay?” As usual, no offense taken. No eye rolling or sarcastic glares at the stupid American you would normally get in so many other parts of the world.
Canadians really are just…nice.
5. Lets talk about the women. The women in Vancouver are clearly hotter than average. I said hotter than average, not amazing. It’s not like southern California where you’ve got smoking gorgeous babes walking around all over the place. But the number of cute gals downtown is definitely more than in most cities in the world.
Because of the racial aspect, there are lot of Asian women in Vancouver, but unlike the rest of the west coast, they are very attractive Asian women. Asian women in most cities are just like the white women, i.e. some hot, some average, some ugly. In Vancouver, the number of hot Asians is much higher. If you’re one of those Asian-lover guys, you’d be in heaven there.
There are also a lot of hot white women and mixed women. It might be my imagination but women who have big boobs tend to show them off a little more than in other cities. Not that I’m complaining. (Though the number of big-chested women in Vancouver is definitely lower than in most cities, probably because of the high Asian factor.)
6. Vancouver has a vibrant Chinatown which I enjoyed very much (what little time I spent there). My favorite food is dim sum, so whenever I go to any city of Chinese influence I make a beeline for the best dim sum restaurants and stuff my face and gain about five pounds, causing me to spend a week of diet catch-up time when I return. It’s worth it.
7.Overweight people are scarce. There are so few of them, when you see one (like me) they really stand out. This, along with the Latino thing, was the oddest thing to me. Not seeing lots of overweight people walking around really is a bizarre thing for an American. The vast majority of men and women of all races in Vancouver were quite skinny. Not since my first visit to Hong Kong was I so amazed at the overall thinness of big city dwellers.
That’s it for now. My next international trip will be my long-delayed visit to Singapore, hopefully with a stop-off at Melbourne, Australia for a Blackdragon Retreat out there. We’ll see.