Every once and awhile you come across a community culture that, although it may be in the same country, is completely alien from your own. We travelled to Victoria, British Columbia from Toronto, Ontario in Canada to discover just this.
Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, is located on Vancouver Island, a peninsula on the West coast of Canada, and just like California, is home to some of the friendliest and laid-back people on the continent. The West-coast mentality really is one of ‘Welcome!’
We stepped off of the plane in full Winter-combat gear only to be stripping down for the 10°C balmy Pacific weather ‘on the island’. The sun was bright and warm. We squinted. This wasn’t just a different city in Canada; this was a city in a whole different season! Grass and flowers were actually growing. There was a lake with ducks swimming in it! While all of our friends had travelled South for the March break, we had travelled to Western Canada only to find the same Southern weather.
After ‘paddling’ around in the lake on the beach for a short while to acclimatize, we stopped by the store for some supplies. “BC Bud is all over the place here,” Mark told us, and although we didn’t see any of that in the grocery store, we did find a lot of people who could have easily been smoking it. I should explain that Toronto, Ontario, the New York of Canada, in comparison to other places in Canada is fairly frigid. No one would ever greet you in the street, let alone spark up a conversation, unless they were ‘mentally ill’, or genuinely knew you. I come from a small town, and the first time I came to Toronto, when I said, ‘thank you’ for someone holding a door for me, a friend admonished me saying, “don’t talk to people here! They will think you’re crazy!” And that’s true. No one says, “Hi”, “How’re you doing?” or “Thank you” to strangers on the street.
After years of hard Toronto conditioning, Victoria people were a shock. We went to check out, and the clerk asked, “so how’re you doing today?” “Good,” I replied suspiciously assuming it would end there. “What did you do today?” she continued. “Well, actually we came from Ontario just this morning for a visit,” I said and thought cynically, ‘and are you actually going to check us out sometime?’ The clerk continued with her chatty exchange as if we had been friends living ‘on the island’ for years. ‘She’s crazy,’ I thought (Toronto had trained me well.) The whole exchanged took about 15 minutes, and she was just genuinely a kind, nice person, but I was not use to that, and as a result, came face-to-face with the very different lifestyle I had been living all of these years.
Victoria weather had welcomed us with sun, smiles, and chatty strangers, and we took advantage of the day by climbing up a nearby mountain lookout over the city, and a swim at Crystal pool before bed. Crystal pool is a huge Olympic-size pool with waterslides, swinging ropes, and diving boards for the kids. I love those pool attractions too, but I guess adults in Victoria do not generally partake of the swinging rope or the water slides, because as I lined up with all of the other eight and ten-year-olds for a chance on ‘the rope’, kids kept cutting in front of me. “Oh, it’s my turn now,” I said politely to a small six-year-old.
“I didn’t think adults did this,” she said incredulously. “Well, sure,” I said, “adults from Ontario do anyway.” I guess Victoria, while friendly, is not quite so crazy in the pool.