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April 5, 2017 3:50 AM   Subscribe

Weird, last time I was out there (admittedly, 20 years ago), I was taken aback with how people were constantly up in my face. My local friends claimed this was normal and teased me about my frosty Ontario attitude.
posted by rodlymight at 4:37 AM on April 5, 2017

Vancouver's a great place to hide in plain sight. Always has been, but now that there are so many newcomers, it's moreso. Also here's some April Wine
posted by Zedcaster at 6:45 AM on April 5, 2017

lonliness is our biggest problem? Not unaffordable housing, homelessness, fentanyl..... I honestly have found Vancouver very friendly.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 7:41 AM on April 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

There is certainly something different about Vancouver in terms of how infrequently you end up talking to strangers, but nothing that I haven't experienced in other parts of the pacific northwest (often heard it called the "West Coast Chill").

I have had friends from Ontario, California and Texas all move away from Vancouver stating this reason as the main one even though they loved most other things.

I've lived here for more than a decade and when traveling somewhere else frequently look forward to having fun social things happen more often than home. Things like making friends with the next table over at a bar, having a group of people who just met decide (at some event or conference or something) to go out together to a bar or restaurant or similar.

I don't know what the causes are, I've heard a bunch of things that make some sense:

Homelessness definitely makes your default, instinctive response to a stranger approaching you or talking to you "No I don't have change or a cigarette" because you do that a dozen or more times a day.

It's nice and progressive, but somehow a side effect became a strong culture of "talking to people you don't know is being creepy", mostly in terms of a man talking to a woman he doesn't know but it seems to have spread to a lot of other interactions. Men from outgoing and friendly cultures learn the unwritten rules of interaction outdoors in public: Never say hello to a woman you don't already know unless you have a specific reason, that's "creepy".

Asian cultures from crowded cities have different norms for acknowledging people in public, part of that has been absorbed into general Vancouver culture.

The weather and surrounding nature make for outdoorsy people who are indoors a lot and have to do a bit more planning to do something outside.

There isn't much "middle class culture" in Vancouver due to cost of living and status importance. Many friend groups are slowly and quietly dissolved through differing ability to go out to eat in expensive and cool places. Keeping friends of a different class is *hard* here (not sure it's easy anywhere). There are very few cool hipster dives compared to cool hipster high end places.

Who knows? I would love for someone to figure it out and change it though. When I travel somewhere, even solo, and make friends in a weekend and have a great time I'm reminded of what's normal in some places and it makes me pretty sad that it's so different in Vancouver.

You should, of course, just join a club or meetup group or take some kind of class to meet people. That makes it easy because most people are always looking for new friends.
posted by Infracanophile at 2:50 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

i grew up in a suburb of vancouver, and lived in the city itself on my own for about half a year (after having moved to toronto). when people ask me if i ever want to move back / ever would, my answer is "if i want to be lonely." neurotic that i am, though, it never fully occurred to me that it was a common or city-wide problem; i thought it was just me
posted by LeviQayin at 5:05 PM on April 5, 2017

w/r/t to causality, i think this is more a general problem with these cities that have been sort of sterilized by gentrification (or "development"). it's the logic of neoliberalism; there is a demand for a sort of privacy/privatization in/of (the) public - it's none of your business
posted by LeviQayin at 5:19 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

As a native Vancouverite of forty and change, I just don't see this as a problem. Certainly nothing to be talked about, and even if it were, not with strangers.

I get nervous and irritated when I go to other places and people talk to me without a solid verifiable legal reason to do so. You say weird, I say nothing because I'm avoiding you in the first place.
posted by Tad Naff at 12:56 AM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm a Vancouver native and my experience was people stuck really closely to the people they'd grown up with and that it was a hard city to make new friends. A lot of the people I known left for new opportunities or I think from a feeling of being stuck.

I just went back for a visit recently and found strangers fairly friendly but that a lot of the people I caught up with were anxious and there was a huge focus on economic success specifically property related. The snobiness may be a problem with the suburb I grew up in though. I've always intended to move back but it makes me think twice.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 5:35 AM on April 6, 2017

I didn't know about this Vancouver stereotype, but it makes me want to move there. I'm sick of people talking to me when I'm out. I don't know you - why would you think I'd want to talk to you?
posted by DrLickies at 1:22 PM on April 6, 2017

I've heard this problem cited for Seattle as well.
posted by reiichiroh at 2:38 PM on April 6, 2017

DH and I have the opposite problem -- we keep meeting people we want to get to know better. Of course, we're both active in a number of local communities, from scouting to crafting to professional work. And we have kids, which also brings a lot of very cool fellow parents into our lives.

Also, I've seen newcomers to Vancouver throw themselves into a subculture and within a few months, they know everyone in that group, and everyone knows them. If you're confident and extroverted enough to put yourself out there a LOT (and put in some work to contribute to your community), it's hard to be lonely in Vancouver — or probably, any other big city.

After all: What sets loneliness apart from other social issues, he said, is its seemingly simple fix. “How easy is it? you just need two people to communicate, then they both fix each other’s social isolation.

See also Talk Vancouver's report on the city (pdf). 69% of their respondents moved to Vancouver. It's hard to find anyone who was born here — and most people own at least one umbrella.
posted by wenat at 11:37 AM on April 8, 2017

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