Why do I Live in Vancouver and Why do I Like it so Much?
I’ve thought about this question frequently. I’ve lived in downtown Vancouver for over 20 years, and I’m still excited by the city. Here are my reflections.
Livability: It’s rare in North America but in Vancouver we pack ourselves into a dense downtown core to live and work. Being a pedestrian and transit rider makes sense here. These are good values. I’m a cyclist, transit rider, and I use car-shares when necessary. Vancouver makes this easy for me. Credit activists and city planners in the 1960s for progressive listening and for keeping highways out of Vancouver. Some of Vancouver’s experiments fail, but that’s the nature of discovery and progress: hypothesize, test, refine, repeat. Vancouver is eager to experiment with livability.
Innovation: I have worked in and hired people from many cities, but Vancouver is busting at the seams with creative people. We’d all probably prefer San Francisco or Manhattan salaries, but for some reason, a lot of us stay here. Maybe it’s our coffee, our liquid muse – Vancouver loves its cafes, now available Portland-style. Maybe it’s our long, rainy winters that keep us inside for half the year, creating mad inventions. Maybe it’s our support of nerd culture, too many video game companies and spinoffs, maker fairs, hackathons, and nerd-themed restaurants and bars. Maybe it’s our lack of Silicon Valley venture capital, forcing us to run our startups painfully lean but without strings attached. Maybe it’s our whiteboard culture – I know a few Vancouverites who have boardroom-sized whiteboards at home, close at hand, ready for when the next weird idea hits. That’s hard core, but I like that these things are normal.
Acceptance: Spandex and Goretex to the office? As an employer, when I saw empty desks during winter, I would just accept that there was sun or fresh powder in the forecast. Same-sex or different race? Vancouver leads the world in accepting relationships of any flavour. New immigrant? No problem; the concepts of “bilingual” and “visible minority” get re-defined in Vancouver. And while our city has a wide rift between wealth and poverty, I think density helps us empathize with and accept people from all stratas of life because we’re in each other’s back yards at all time. So Vancouver has a tradition of legal and civil liberties activism, and I like this.
Vancouver life involves constraints: environmental, cultural, economic, and self-imposed. Stravinsky tells us that constraints are essential and create a lens to focus through. I think Vancouver is good lens material.
Darren Stone is an independent business and technology adviser. One of his recent projects was co-founding and operating Verrus PayByPhone (the “pay-for-parking-with-your-cell-phone” service). He expanded that company to over 100 cities around the world. You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org