Well, I’ve spent just over a week now in Vancouver and I’ve got to say: it’s a beautiful city. Situated on the waterfront with its own personal mountain range serving as a backdrop, Van will charm you faster than you can say “oh God it’s cold, I can’t feel my nipples”. It’s nice having so long here, so I can relax and do decidedly untouristy, unfun things like join a gym and apply for phone plans. Day 9: At first glance, locals still do not realize I'm not one of them. Speaking of locals, I decided to abuse blood privilege and stay with my cousin, who after five years is now officially living Canadian. No car, no microwave, only fresh food and drip coffee; it’s basically the life of a Leederville hipster. The novel part is that if you live anywhere near close to the city, you don’t need any of these things. Van is laid out in such a way that everything is gridded – you use blocks and intersections by way of measurement, and public transport goes everywhere. I still have no idea how far 15 blocks is, but I do know that a bus will take me there and it won't smell like urine. (TransPiss!)
As most of my travelling has been done in Asian countries, I received none of the culture shock visiting Canada; all in all, it’s not too different from back home. DON’T BE FOOLED. You get lulled into a false sense of security, then say something supremely Australian like “arvo” or “goon bag” which is promptly met with an expression like they’ve just seen a yeti for the first time. To aid future travellers in my position, I’ve created a short handy guide between the land down under and the land somewhere near the top.
First of all, TIP. Tipping isn’t actually required by law, but it’s required to not be a raging douchebag. However, the conventions for tipping are a little complex; you only tip places providing a service, not simply working a counter. Bars, restaurants, cafés, etc, all require 10 – 25% depending on how generous you are, how good the service was, and how attracted you are to the person serving you. My first week, I accidentally forgot to tip a waitress and I still see the look of utter disappointment on her face when I close my eyes. I’ll take it to the grave.
The rumors are true, Canadians are polite as shit. Until you do something blasphemous, like jay walk. Sweet tapdancing Jesus, do not jay walk. The sanctity of pedestrian crossings is a staple part of Canadian culture, and if you disrupt the natural order of things you are likely to receive a passive aggressive frown and a slight shake of the head. Which is basically Canadian for “fuck you, c*nt”. SIMILARLY – I have had a super hard time adjusting to cars coming from the opposite direction. I dunno, man, my internal compass is way off here. Maybe we really are upside down. Anyway, Canadian drivers, much like Perth drivers, are perplexed by the concept of a roundabout. Treat them like Russian roulette and anticipate everybody panicking and swerving wildly
ALSO. PRICES ARE A DIRTY LIE. For some ungodly reason, Canadians don’t add tax until you go to pay for an item, which means the exact change you spent 5 minutes counting out is now completely incorrect. I found this out on my first day, when I accused the Foot Locker attendee of trying to scam me $15. “Woah, like, do you not, like, understand how tax works, bro?” It turns out bro, I did not.
They say English is a universal language, but if you want to convince Canadians that you are a visiting alien from an alternate universe, here are some handy Australian words that will induce terror and ridicule. Use at your own risk.
Beanie – It’s a tuque. Yes, really.
Singlet – Wifebeater, or “tank”
Bogans - Skids
Thongs – Flip flops
EFTPOS – Interact – but you have to specify Visa or Debit.
Capsicum – Peppers
Shitc*nt - Hoser
Jumper – Mexican immigrant (not really, it’s a sweater.)