Part 2- Looking Like a Local

Vancouver 101 – Part 2: How to look like a Local by Ms._ J_ in_ VanCity

Welcome to Vancouver and congratulations on not choosing Toronto instead!  While Toronto may have all the corporate head offices and higher salaries for the same position, Toronto has humid weather and cold winters whereas Vancouver has mountains, ocean….and rain!  Like Bob, I was born in Vancouver but the main difference is I have lived here all my life (except for two four month work assignments in Montreal and Toronto). I am a first generation Chinese (also known as a “CBC” – Canadian born Chinese), fluent in three languages, a travel junkie and a bit of a McFoodie.   Vancouverites are quite rare and proud of it!

What I love about Vancouver is that it is a huge melting pot of cultures and the quality of the food rivals New York and Paris.  We recently hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics and we considered ourselves the Greatest Place on Earth. Ladies, please note one small fact about Vancouver – there is shortage of men in Vancouver – something like 6 ladies to 1 man (and there is a higher population of gay men in Vancouver second to Montreal). The men here tend to be fit and are preoccupied with their outdoor activities: mountain biking, skiing, swimming, running and yoga etc. so they may appear to be laid back and some often welcome it when a woman approaches them.  The men in Toronto tend to dress better (since Toronto has a lot of financial and corporate head offices) and are more “aggressive” ie. they approach you. If you are looking for a better ratio of men to women, Calgary or Toronto may be a better bet.

On the flip side, for the new guy coming to Vancouver, you will like these odds!  However, you may find that the “local” women here may be skeptical of your friendly approach as they may be tainted by the laid back attitude of the “locals” and the lack of men in Vancouver.  Please take this with a grain of salt: some men complain the women are not approachable in Vancouver, but I disagree!

So as a true Vancouverite, here is my top 10 checklist in no particular order on how to look like a local:
1) Raingear – As Bob mentioned in his article, it rains in Vancouver – if it gets too unbearable, book a trip to Mexico  – for about $1,500 or less, you can get away to an all inclusive!  In Vancouver, we have what we call “wet cold”, therefore, you need to own a Gore-Tex or Gore-Tex equivalent raingear.  Invest in a good quality one.
Local rain gear companies/stores (Outdoor Equipment/Raingear stores primarily located on Broadway Street between Alberta to Manitoba Streets, east of Cambie Street (Canada Line Metro station):

  • Taiga – the Chamonix jacket (about $200 for a ladies jacket) a classic shell jacket  with Gore-Tex
  • Mountain Equipment Co-op (aka MEC) –  a lifetime membership of $5 is required to rent or buy gear, carries own MEC brand, Patagonia and Arc’teryx products
  • Arc’teryx – high end Gore-Tex, head office and outlet in North Vancouver, sometimes they have factory clearance sales (often advertised in the Georgia Straight)

Others outdoor stores– Helly Hansen and North Face have stores in the Lower Mainland.

2) Yogawear – Vancouver was recently ranked 3rd worst City by Canada MSN Travel due to the City’s apparent obsession with yoga pants.  Lululemon is the pioneer of yoga (and running wear) in Vancouver. Lululemon’s first real store opened in Kitsilano in 2000.  If you see a soft fleece hoodie with a stylised “A” on the top of the hoodie, that is Lululemon.  Also, if you go to a gym, predominantly all the ladies, will have something from Lululemon, whether it be a workout bra/tank or pants.  For the ladies who do not prefer to be Lululemonized but want to still be sporting some yoga wear, here are some alternatives:

  • J76 Casual Wear  – aka Lululemon knock-offs but are less pricey
  • Costco – yoga pants for less than $20, how can you go wrong?  Only problem with Costco is you need a membership and there is no change room.  Warning: when you go to Costco, you always end up buying food/clothing and stuff you don’t need!
  • Joe Fresh or Joe Fresh inside Superstore – selection of own brand yoga wear, price similar to Costco, but they have a change room
  • TNA/Aritzia – more stylish yoga pants and hoodies at prices similar to Lululemon – for ladies who don’t necessarily work out but want to look good and carry small dogs in LV bags….just kidding!

3) Roots handbag and yoga wear– the Leather Flat bags from Roots is a must for ladies running weekend errands and can be used for travel.  You may see locals with a sweatshirt or hoodie with an iconic beaver on it; that is Roots. Roots had outfitted Canada’s Olympic team for years (but stopped a few years back). For the jocks who do not feel comfortable wearing Lululemons, Roots is a good alternative.

4) Canucks apparel – Vancouver is passionate about hockey and the Canucks. The fans have a love-hate relationship – we love them when they win, but when they don’t play well, fans start picking on the coach and some of the team members, most notably the Goalie, Luongo or the twins, the Sedins.   Get to know the names of the players as this will come handy at the cocktail/bar lounges.  For the guys who look as good as Ryan Kessler naked, just casually mention you were his body double during the photo shoot for the October’s ESP magazine when talking to the ladies at the bar.

5) Coffee cup in hand – Locals play hard and work hard and caffeine helps. I believe Starbucks which started out in Seattle picked Vancouver as its first Canadian city to market. There are lots of local and chain coffee shops that would require a separate article.

6) Own a pair of Running shoes or bike – Locals are active!  Nothing like a run/bike along the seawall in Stanely Park, Kits or Spanish Banks.  Many locals on have at least participated in one charitable run/walk be it the Vancouver Sun Run in April (you have to try it once), CIBC’s Run for the Cure (Breast Cancer) in October, S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Walk with the Dragon in July, etc.   Since 2008, Chip Wilson, the founder of Lululemon, has Chip’s Not Dead Yet Memorial Mile to raise money for BC Children’s Hospital in June.  For those who want to see people or run in their underwear, check out the BC Cancer Agency’s Underwear Affair in early July – 10km run or 5 km walk.

7) Reusable Shopping Bags – Vancouver is a Green city and we try to be environmentally friendly. We bring our own bags to carry our groceries.  All grocery stores have reusable bags.  Some places that come to mind are:

  • Granville Island
  • Whole Foods
  • Greens
  • Safeway
  • Save on Foods
  • Superstore

Eight) At the first sign of Sunshine in March – wear shorts and flip flops; most notably the men in Vancouver are guilty of this! Flip flops can be worn year round, rain permitting! Do not wear socks with flip flops or sandals ever!!

9) Do not wear a Toronto Maple Leaf’s jersey – enough said (I do like Toronto, honest!)

10) Date someone outside your race – Vancouver is very multicultural and you may notice a lot of mixed race couples.  It is common for most coming to Vancouver to experience “yellow fever” (ie. date an Asian).  For some it will pass, for others, they can’t be cured (I am being facetious!)

One comment

  • Italian Boy
    October 26, 2011 - 6:16 am | Permalink

    Boy, I wonder if this man-women ratio is really true. It sure feels that women in this city wear pants! … and to get one who looks half-decent in lululemon outfit you gotta own at least a boat or a Jag!