The little peculiarities definitely strike you the most when explore new places! Wondering what odd little things you’ll notice in a Canadian city? Our editor, Iske, is lucky enough to be travelling through Canada at the moment, soaking up all of its wonders and oddities. So she jotted down the weirdest differences between the large city of Vancouver (a coastal city in the British Columbia province) and South Africa – just in case you were wondering or if you’re planning a family trip/gap year in this part of North America.
First off, let’s map out exactly where Vancouver is:
Now, let’s get to the funny bits. Here are 10 things that struck me as soon as I stepped into the buzzing streets of Vancouver…
1. Jeanekkies are more than okay
In Vancouver there’s jeanekkies (jeans paired with tekkies) EVERYWHERE! Even dressekkies and skirtnekkies. Here, there’s absolutely no shame in wearing your tekkies with absolutely everything.
In South Africa the only place I’ve ever seen so many people wearing jeanekkies is on reruns of 90s TV shows. That’s it.
Luckily emerging myself in local culture, meant I could explore streets and streets of city life geared in whatever I liked AND non-blister-inducing shoes. Ahhhh the absolute delight.
P.S. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to prioritise fashion before the ability to wander effortless ever again…
2. Jaywalking is only for criminals
After one week in Canada I scolded my own mother for crossing the road when the pedestrian light was still red.
I just couldn’t help myself. Here jaywalking (what my mother did) is so frowned upon, it’s finable!
People will walk a kilometer just to cross the road at a designated zebra crossing! Their reverence for road rules is so meticulous, it’s infections.
Whenever I HAVE to cross a road without the appropriate go-lights, I feel like a criminal. A reaaallly despicable one, despite hailing from a country where people dash over the streets at every “relative safe” chance.
In South Africa’s defence, the intervals between car and pedestrian go-lights are much shorter and almost every road has a designated crossing. Cars also pause about 5 meters away from any living life form, so you kind of feel you need to return the favour.
3. The toilets flush themselves
Most toilets in Vancouver have sensors that pick up that you’re standing up. They take the cue that you’re probably leaving the cubicle and then flush themselves (I’m not sure how the men’s bathrooms work).
It’s quite creepy, but you never walk into smelly surprises, which is cool.
Also, bathrooms here are called washroom here.
4. They drink shocking amounts of takeaway coffee
In American movies elegant ladies always sip on Starbucks coffee while they’re walking down the busy city streets in their stylish dresses. Well the coffee part is true in Vancouver.
There’s a Starbuck shop on almost every corner. The city streets are speckled with takeaway coffee cups in the hands of pedestrians.
The weirdest part is actually the size of the cups! There are usually three sizes on the menu. The smallest size is about the size of our regular coffee and the middle size is almost half a liter of coffee! The largest one holds about 590ml. Talk about being caffeine addicts.
As for the ladies’ dresses, they’re actually really monochrome and bland compared to the wide array of styles and colours you’ll see in South Africa.
5. Wearing your gym clothes is a fashion statement
Even at work, you’ll find most girls are dressed in black leggings and running shoes (with no makeup).
When I asked a local about it, she said that being active is very fashionable in Vancouver, so people like to stay in their active wear all day.
One outfit fits all (situations). No makeup. No drama. Nice.
6. They say “thank you” more than we say “ja”
Even if you’re the 55th customer in the queue shop, the person working in the shop will ask you how you are and wish you “a great day” when you leave. Every single person, every single time. It feels a bit like you’re a character in a musical where every working person always serves with a smile. In South Africa you always face a million different personalities: some will greet you just as happily, others won’t look you in the face and other will seem super irritated when you try to chat to them.
I’ve only met one very grumpy Canadian, but she still mumbled her thank you’s and “have a great day” through her clenched teeth.
Over here, when most people get off the back of a bus (which is the size of four taxis in a row) they scream “thank you” to reach the bus driver all the way in the very front of the bus. Almost always.
7. There’s joggers EVERYWHERE
Vancouver’s probably the only city where the models in sports brand billboard ads actually represent the real people of the city.
People are almost always geared in sports wear. They’re usually have skeletal or muscular bodies and they determinedly jog everywhere, all the time.
Past the pharmacy? Yessiree. In the city centre? Yup. Past restaurants? Oh yes. Past train stations? Who needs trains when you’ve got your tekkies on? Next to their waveless beaches? Oh yes (the men are usually topless too, when the sun’s out).
8. The food has less calories, even the Coke
As you gulp down a Coke in Vancouver, you’ll notice that you’re hands aren’t sugar rush shaking like they usually do. Coke, chocolates, cookies, juices – everything has less calories in Vancouver.
No wonder they’ve got walking billboard people. If we chow one South African sandwich and two local ice teas, we probably consume double the amount of calories your average Canadian consumes.
9. It’s trashy not to dissect your garbage
In South Africa life is simple. Most people will chuck away all their garbage in one bin and then complain about pollution like it’s completely unrelated to their daily chunks of rubbish.
In Vancouver (a gigantic city) I haven’t seen one single-purpose bin.
At the very least you’ll do the following to rid yourself of your cup of Starbuck coffee:
1. Drip your soggy dipped cookie crumbs into the “food waste” bin.
2. Tip your plastic lid into the “plastics” bin.
3. Throw your paper cup into the “paper” bin.
Some trash areas have 6 different sections. It’s quite tiring and often very confusing to disseminate your garbage like that, every time, but once you see how little garbage actually gets thrown away without being recycled, it totally feels worth it.
If that doesn’t motivate you, your guilt will. Once you see your gross cookie crumbs and your plastic lid lying on top of a perfect heap of recyclable paper, screaming at you: “look at what you’ve done human!” you never throw stuff into the wrong bin again. Oh the guilt of being the very first offender.
10. It’s super quiet in public places and super loud in some clothing shops
The lack of sound on the streets is probably the most noticeable sound I’ve ever heard in Vancouver.
In South African streets you’ll hear two friends laughing boisterously, while swinging their arms descriptively. You’ll hear ladies chatting away in isiXhosa or you’ll tap to the beat of a catchy song blasting through someone’s open car window.
In Vancouver people are MUCH more reserved and they’re very aware of not disturbing other people. It’s nice, but as a South African you can easily miss the melody of sounds.
Here, the only words ever spoken loudly are usually in foreign languages (many people living in Vancouver are originally from different parts of the world – it’s quite an international city).
So there you have it: the weirdest little things about a city about 16 500km away from lovely South Africa!
If you have your own story about any adventure you’ve been on (local or international), give me a shout out here and maybe you’ll feature in YAAAS mag!