Monday, January 16, 2006

Ways in which Vancouver, BC is not like a US city

At first glance, British Columbia seems a lot like Washington, except for being slightly darker in the winter and slightly lighter in the summer, and with a little more maple sugar candy (yum). But surfaces can be deceiving, as savvy travelers find if their eyes are open. Here are some of the differences I noticed:

  1. Packaging is written in French as well as English, which is an excellent way to, at the very least, expose speakers of one language to some vocabulary of the other. Unfortunately, the translations do not necessarily extend to product names. I would love to know, for instance, what “Canadian Beaver Droppings” would be in French; alas, I know merely that they are composed of amandes grill√©es au sirop d’√©rable.
  2. There is not a Barnes and Noble, nor a Borders, to be had anywhere in Canada (I double-checked this online—both bookstores are US only). I understand that giant, Wal-Mart*-like booksellers have their drawbacks, namely destroying the livelihoods of mom-and-pop or genre-specific shops, but they have their benefits as well, particularly if it’s 43 degrees and pouring down rain outside for two days in a row. No large British chains, such as Waterstone’s or W.H. Smith, make an appearance either, and there doesn’t seem to be a Canadian counterpart. Indeed, one large underground mall in which we spent an inordinate amount of time had no bookstores at all. We had to take a bus all the way to another part of town to find even one general interest bookstore, Duthie’s Books, which nevertheless was a comfortable, dry place which yielded many fine reads.
  3. There’s a Starbucks on every corner. No, wait, that’s a similarity. Actually, several of the corners housed Canada’s own espresso chain, Blenz, which we enjoyed. Oh, and americano is pronounced ameriCANo.
  4. In produce markets you can buy tropical fruits grown other places than California, including Thai favorites such as longan and other lychee relatives like rambutan, and the glorious fuchsia-and-white dragon fruit.
  5. Tylenol with Codeine can be bought without a prescription. I think this is true; alas, I am not a savvy enough traveler to know how it’s done. It doesn’t seem to just be in the aisle with Tylenol PM and regular old Tylenol.
  6. City buses are exotic and foreign so I’m more likely to take them—three times!—than I am here where they just seem dismal. And last,
  7. When Mom and I run out of steam shopping—and, more to the point, talking non-stop—but don’t yet want to head back to our hotel, and I say “Let’s get a cocktail,” she thinks I’m brilliant and it’s a brilliant idea, instead of thinking I’m a borderline alcoholic and it would be enabling.

*Wal-Mart does exist in Canada . . .


Melissa said...

Actually, Chapters is the Canadian counterpart to Barnes and Noble -- next time you're there, there's on in the South Granville neighborhood (maybe on the corner of Granville and Main?), right across the Granville St. bridge from the downtown core. :)

I'm so jealous -- Vancouver is one of my favorite cities...

CMT said...

Excellent! Thanks for the tip--if we'd actually gotten out of the Granville underground mall, maybe we would've seen it ;).