I’m an immigrant to this city, though I’m legally a citizen. I moved here in May 2006, and I knew precisely one person prior to my arrival (my brother, Christopher). I moved here from Ireland, a country known for gregarious socialising. In the years since moving here, I’ve encountered a wide variety of people, have a large number of acquaintances, and a couple of circles of friends. Occasionally, I hear someone complain that “Vancouver is a cold city” or “it’s difficult to meet people here”.
To be frank, I can’t see that as anything other than bullshit.
Vancouver is one of the most diverse cities on the planet. It’s a population of over 600,000 people, over 51% which is made up of visible minorities. What kind of hubris does it take to declare that half-a million people, from almost every country on the planet, are cold and unfriendly? How many of them could one have possibly interacted with? After living here for 8 years (minus one-and-a-half living in Japan), I’ll bet I’ve not met even five percent of the people who live here. Such broad and sweeping statements are not indicative of a reflective thought process.
Are there unfriendly people here? Of course there are! There are plenty of people who are brusque, and plenty who are assholes and worse: even if only 1% of the population were made up of such, there’d still be 6000 assholes wandering around. You’re bound to run into them from time to time. But the question that’s front and centre for me is: what are your expectations of the people of Vancouver that they are failing to meet, such that you label the whole city as unfriendly and cold?
A few people have made the complaint to me in person, and it almost always seems to centre around people on the street and bus not talking to them, that when they try to strike up a conversation with their fellow commuters, they are met with abruptness, silence, or cold glares. And yet there’s a certain level of entitlement embedded in the idea that you are somehow ‘owed’ interaction from other people in the city. Your fellow commuters are going somewhere, they have lives and concerns of their own. Even if they’re not nose-deep in a book (or engrossed in their electronic devices), even if they’re not wearing headphones, you are not entitled to their attention. I’m often engrossed in my own thoughts on the bus, thinking about my job, or a student I’m going to meet with, or the date that I just left, or a whole variety of things. While I do try to make an effort to be cordial to anyone who disturbs me, it’s an effort to be cordial to the person who simply assumed they could butt into my mental space at that time. There is little different here from the 15-year-old guy getting mad at the person who rejected him, it’s just simple narcissism.
Moreover, there are an *extraordinary* number of social events going on in Vancouver all the time. If I were looking to meet people (as I often am), the website Meetup.com has 39 events scheduled for Saturday, May 17th, within 5 miles* of me. The number of attendees range from 1 to 98, and they are all within a fairly small radius, for a total of 496 attendees. That’s just under 0.1% of the population of Vancouver*** looking to hang out tomorrow, nevermind any other day, and only using this one website.
For those folks who are committed to declaring Vancouver to be cold and unfriendly: stop bothering people when they’re busy, stop bothering people when they’re going some where, stop bothering them when they haven’t decided that they want to talk to other people. In short, stop stepping on other people’s bounderies, and then blaming them for your transgression. If you *really* want to meet people, to make friends with folk, take a few minutes out of your life and go look for other people who share the same disposition are yourself. Your inability to find them doesn’t mean that Vancouver is cold and unfriendly, it means you need to familiarise yourself with the (many and varied) tools at your disposal.
*I can’t figure out how to change this to kilometres**.
**Seriously, Chrome, your autocorrect for this is “kilometer”? Fail…
***The area I’ve selected probably catches a little bit of Burnaby too, but the point stands.