This was the first image that greeted me upon leaving Vancouver airport. Indigenous totem poles rising behind a food cart selling Japanese style hot dogs.
As it turns out, this was representative. Vancouver is an international city, and the staple foods are not maple syrup and poutine, but sushi and ramen.
The restaurants for these and other foods will commonly have lines out the front. They’ll happily tell you the wait is fifteen minutes, and then let you stand around for thirty. One of my colleagues abandoned the group so that she could get a seat without having to wait another thirty minutes for a table of five. I can’t judge too much, since it was two seats she nabbed, and when she pressured me to take the other one, leaving me with the choice of abandoning the rest of the group or her herself, I acquiesced. Fortunately, the others simply wandered on and found food elsewhere.
At one noodle bar, there were Canadian flags everywhere. I commented how I had thought that Canada would not engage in such displays of nationalism.
Our Canadian friend replied, “well, I guess recently we’ve been feeling rather proud here in Canada.”
“How recently?” I asked.
“Well,” he mused, “I guess ever since the American election.”
At the #1 restaurant in Vancouver according to Tripadvisor, Jam Cafe, the line started at 7:35 AM, twenty five minutes before opening. I was at the front of the line since I arrived at 7:00.
My reward for my wait was not the chicken and waffles prominently advertised, which I can find anywhere around home, but rather pulled pork and pancakes. It was heavy and wasn’t as good as its poultry counterpart, but I was glad to have tried it.
Other interesting bits of the unusual culture include the absence in my apartment building of a fourth floor. In Chinese, the character for four is the character for death. In fact, there’s no floor with a four as any digit. Alice pointed out that there is also no thirteenth floor. Equal opportunity superstition.
My best find of all, though, was this set of billboards. Look closely at them and try to figure out what they’re intended to communicate.
I spoke to a native who said that these billboards had been on that wall for ten years, but that he still hadn’t figured it out. My theory is based on the colors. Red means “don’t say this” and green means “do say this.” It is a public service announcement about how to speak to your child.
Alice hates when I don’t include some kind of concluding statement, so in conclusion, don’t expect Vancouver to be all lumberjacks, beavers, and moose. I didn’t see any of those things. Expect lines, crowds, and delicious Asian food.
(cover image is from outside the Vancouver Aquarium)