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Saturday 9 Jun 2007
Vancouver, Canada

Living on the "Wet" Coast

In 2006, Vancouver was voted "most liveable city in the world".

Having been here over a week I would like to contest this decision...

Sure the city has a lot of pluses going for it:

- The sushi is cheap (and plentiful) and really fresh

- They serve one of my favourite Asian drinks (Bubble Tea) in lots of restaurants

- Amazing scenery is within a 30 minute drive out of the city.

- It's quite laid-back compared to Toronto (women don't freak out when you overtake them while walking on a path at night - as I found happened too often in Toronto)

Sounds like paradise...

And so it seemed, until I started to seriously consider moving here for 3 months to continue working.

The main problem is that Vancouver is laughably chock full of crazies. It's like a permanent Special Olympics wannabes convention.. and they're minders have left them here to fend for themselves.

Picture this: you walk along the street, starting to enjoy the atmosphere and cosy little cafes, and decide you want to go to the cinema. Approaching a respectful looking man dressed in a Starbucks uniform, you decide to ask him directions. Within seconds of opening your mouth, it's a 50/50 chance that he might start loudly blurting out some random gibberish like "THE RAIN.. NOOOOOO.. THEM IS COLD BEERS ..MM.. CRACK? YEAH WANT CRACK?" or that he might actually be able to produce a tangible guide to the nearest movie theatre.

They seem harmless enough.. and in a previous entry I concluded that they were only centralised around East Hastings St (ironically where I was considering getting my first apartment before arriving here!).

But over the past few days, I have encountered them pretty much everywhere! Even today I took a bus in (what I thought was) a respectable upper class area of Vancouver called Kitsilano. Everyone on board seemed normal enough. Sure enough within a few minutes, out of the corner of my eye I noticed a relatively well dressed young man starting shaking his head from side to side, getting up to scuttle to the front of the bus with his head down, then run back to his seat.

What identifies this situation as "the norm" here is that none of the locals bat an eyelid at such a performance, hinting that it's such a common occurrence.

The beggars too are equally as common and too rambunctious for their own good. I read somewhere that the city of Vancouver thoughtfully provides for the homeless by providing them with work placements (they don't need a permanent address or social security number). All they need to do is turn up.

Yet still there are hundreds of them sitting on the corners shouting after you (or singing opera music badly as in the case of one guy).
They don't ask for money for food (food is given out to all the homeless for free), they actually ask for money for beer!

To be honest the ones that actually TRY to earn their money by performing are charming at first.. but it's just disturbing after seeing so much of it.

A guy from Chicago that Jonny and I met put forward an interesting suggestion as to why Vancouver has more than it's fair share of homeless: the weather.
(even in winter Vancouver's climate is the mildest of all the Canadian cities).

Actually talking of the weather, that's the second thing that's quite irritating about the city. The rain storms here are plentiful and heavy! They don't call it the "Wet Coast" for nothing.

The price for renting apartments anywhere out of the crazy areas (i.e. out of East Hastings and.. well.. anywhere downtown really) is exorbitant as well. I'm finding it nigh on impossible to find anything less than 900 dollars per month (around 700 euros rent per month) for a non-sharing apartment.

So to sum it all up:

Vancouver is a waaaaaaaay overrated city... I would even prefer living in Toronto despite the smog.

Sorry to prove the "most liveable city" report wrong there.

OK enough negativity, throughout our trip Jonny and I encountered lots of lovely little towns that you could easily move to permanently (Kamloops or Squamish spring to mind), with stunning scenery as a backdrop and relatively sane and very friendly people throughout.

Because of my general malaise regarding Vancouver, I'm going to pop over to Vancouver Island (and the capital of BC: Victoria) for 2 days tomorrow to scope it out and see if it would be a better place to live for the next 3 months.

Jonny left this morning to head back to Ireland.. it was a great 2 week trip we had and we managed to see everything we both wanted to see without conflicting over the direction we should take.

I'm taking one more weeks holiday extra to find a place to live and then it's back to the grind stone ... BC styleeee.

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