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Friday 20 Jul 2007
Vancouver Island, Canada

Victoria: NOTHING MUCH AT NIGHT!

All my posts about Victoria have focused on the positives.. but after living here for 6 weeks I've discovered that even this silver lining has a cloud.

In general, it's not a great place for a young person in terms of night-life... it mainly resembles a retirement town. There is a majority of slacks-wearing elderly people about the place.

It's also quite conservative and parochial: they don't seem to open up too much or get chatty with foreigners.
Maybe that's because it's also a tourist hub and they like to keep foreigners at "arms length".

Thankfully other spots on the island, like Tofino, are geared more toward youth and seem to take a laid back view toward strangers and life in general.

The following are some more details I wrote concerning things that bother me about Victoria...

Vic at night

The night-life is woeful. This is a Friday night - it's just turned midnight - and I'm stuck inside having just walked the length of the city trying to find a good music venue.

Nothing much going on in my favourite bar, Swan, either (favourite bar is a bit of a misnomer, I've only really been in it about 4 times!).
It's not empty though. The place is packed full of 50-somethings dancing away to a bad cover of "The Love Shack" or something similar (as are most bars in town).

Needless to say, I hurried on past the entrance to Swan with my hands over my ears.


"SHPS"

There is an undeniable case of "Shiny Happy People Syndrome" in Victoria (or "SHPS" as we in the industry call it). Essentially this means that there is a discernible underlying pressure to walk around in a "happy" temperament all the time, as if to show that living in Victoria is the greatest privilege a human being can have.

They're a little too airy-fairy, and hippie-like for my tastes.

Walking around town with anything other than a smile on your face, or not greeting every random stranger you meet, is deemed to be a sign of unfriendliness, or even aggressiveness.

I guess I'm just a big-city kid and enjoy the comfort of anonymity and keeping-your-distance-from-strangers that is part of big-city living.

Victoria is more like a large rural village (with all that that entails).


"We don't take too kindly to foreigners round these parts"

Despite being so ott-friendly, I've many times encountered people that seem less 'taken' to foreigners than, say, Vancouverites or Torontonians are, and quite often their smile drops and the eye of suspicion falls on you when they detect you're not a local.
Being from abroad seems to be a conversation killer as opposed to a catalyst.

There are also a fair few really rude people to balance the ott-happy people. There don't seem to be any 'normals' that sit in between the two extremes.

When I go cycling, I pass a lot of redneck villages and farmer markets about 5 minutes outside of downtown. Evidently the city and country ideologies are not as separated here as they are in other places in Canada.


Snobbery

Snobbery seems to be a major cultural factor here in the way people talk/behave and dress. I even feel that people mix me up for being a street bum on account of my slacker baggy jeans and baseball cap (which seems to be the de facto fashion statement for the up and coming bum in Vic)

I would say Victorians reinforce the snobbish air due to their proximity to the US and the fact they want to retain their "English colony" identity.


Drug users

While being nowhere near as bad as Vancouver, drug users and homeless (the names can be interchanged since they usually belong to both groups) are rife about town. I have the "fortune" to be situated right beside a homeless shelter so I frequently watch them scrounge among the bushes across the street, which they seem to be using as a storage area for their drugs and needles.

I've even seen (and videoed) a few jacking up with needles right down from my window!

Also, every day, when I wander up China town to get my daily bottle of coke or bubble tea, the SAME old guy asks me for change despite knowing I never give any!

It's sad to see at first, but really becomes so irritating now, that I actually walk across the street any time I see homeless or crack-addicts staggering about the place.

Their language is pretty appalling too. I often get rudely awoken (if not already so by the rubbish truck) by a stringy-looking "girl" shouting "F*** this" and "You F***ing b*tch" for no apparent reason other than because she was off in a world of crack-induced paranoia.


The Law and Alcohol

The laws regarding consumption of alcohol are amazingly strict here. You would think that because they don't seem to give a toss about junkies injecting themselves out in the open, that you would be able to drink a beer down at the beach! But no, even this is banned. Alcohol is only to be drunk indoors here. Also if you happen to be drunk in an establishment such as a bar, and start making a little too much noise, the police have the power to shut down the entire bar for up to 24 hours! And apparently they have done this in the past.



There is a local free magazine that I've started to read called "Monday Magazine" which gives a good insight into Victorian's views on these laws, plus a general overview of Victorians themselves. The reader's letters in particular provides a very good analysis of Victorians.

e.g. 2 weeks ago they had a cover which featured a 20-something blonde girl smoking a cigarette and holding a cocktail glass, while reading a book. It was supposed to be an ironic image about a girl enjoying her time off college!
The majority of readers letters for the past 2 weeks have gone on to say things like:

"Great influence for my 12-year-old girl, seeing this cover!"

or

"Will somebody think of the children!?"

In another reader's letter a few weeks back I remember reading about a bus driver that was driving around the city "too fast", so that some old git wasn't able sit down in his seat properly. Apparently some 20 year old guy gets up and marches up to the front of the bus and shouts at the bus driver:

"This is not how we Victorians behave!".

The letter was congratulating the guy.

I kid you not. I think that pretty much sums up Victoria.



To say the least, I don't think I would want to live in Victoria long-term.


P.S. Something else I've noticed about this city which is quite strange. Most people seem to be around 5'6" tall. I feel like a giant walking around!

P.P.S. After my rantings in the previous blog, I've decided in the end that I'm NOT going to buy a bike while I'm here since I'm only here for another 5 weeks or so.

I'll just rent bikes/kayaks instead!

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