Top 10 things I miss about Vancouver

25 05 2010

As some of you may know, I love lists – especially top 10 lists.  Plonk me down in front of an MSN.com top 10 article and I am a happy camper.  FYI, this morning I read an article that said Ellen Degeneres was ranked number 1 as the most likely replacement for Oprah when she leaves daytime – Somewhere in the world Tyra Banks is wheeping.  Anyways I digress, I figure I’m not alone in my love of rankings so I thought I would do a top 10 list myself!

However, I will start with a disclaimer: This list does not include specific people. Obviously family and friends are number 1 and I miss them tremendously, but that makes for a lame list so for the sake of readability I just won’t include them at all.

10. Chili Powder

We are a long way away from Mexico my friends.  As such, it is very difficult to find anything that resembles the smoky flavour of Mexican chili powder. They have the premixed, sodium filled packets of fajita mix, but that simply will not do.  Chili powder is such a top priority that Mike and I asked our friend Kathleen (our first visitor) to bring three things with her to Amsterdam – an iPad, my glasses that weren’t ready before we left, and chili powder.

9. Dogs

Some Dutch people have dogs but they are few and far between in the city.  They also aren’t as cute as the ones in North America.  The lack of dogs might be because there is no grass in the city so all the dogs go to the bathroom on the sidewalk. Watch your step.

Wiley! (belonging to our friends Krysty and Andrew)

Hailey! (my parent's dog)

8. Spud

I miss having my groceries delivered.  Spud is an organic grocery service that delivers all of your produce and household items that you select online dropped off in a bucket for you every week on a designated date.  Turns out going and buying your own groceries sucks even in Amsterdam.

7. YWCA

I love the YWCA gym.  I used to go serveral times a week straight from work and it was conveniently located at Burrard Skytrain station.  I especially miss Clare’s monday night spinning class.

That's Clare on the right!

6. English Bay

Do I need to explain this one? Anyone that has sat at English Bay on a warm night watching the sun set while eating some marble slab ice cream knows what I’m talking about.  For maximum effect, eat the ice cream after Clare’s spinning class.

5. Good Sushi

I doubt herring is on par with wild salmon sashimi. Also, there are a lot of Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam, but Japanese isn’t very popular unfortunately.

4. Red Robin

I understand that there are lots of fantastic restaurants in Vancouver, and Red Robin is not in the top echelon of places.  But there is something about a Teryaki Chicken Burger with salty steak fries and delicious ketchup.  It is a quintessentially North American experience that is hard to replicate here in Amsterdam.

I usually add guacamole. Gross? If you tried it, you wouldn't think so.

3. My favourite coffee shops

Cafe culture is awesome in Amsterdam which will be discussed further in a later post, but I miss my old haunts.  I love Continental Coffee on Commercial Drive and I have been known to get the odd vanilla – soy – latte from Starbucks. Enjoying a coffee in an unsustainable paper cup while carrying your sustainable bag is part of the Vancouver uniform, and I actually miss it.

Go there. You won't be disappointed.

2. English

Not the poeple, just the language.  Yes, you can go into almost any establishment in Amsterdam and start speaking in English and they will understand you but that really isn’t the whole story.  Jobs usually require Dutch which is a huge pain for us, but it can be tough being out and about in the city and hearing Dutch, French or German and not know what anyone is saying.  For a huge eavesdropper like myself, that can be tough.  Plus the news is in Dutch so you can sometimes feel a little disconnected from the city that you live in.

1. Canadians

For this one I really do mean the people.  Canadians are known for being polite, respectful and good natured and although it might not feel like it when you are smooshed and pushed on a crowded skytrain, the stereotypes are for the most part, true.  One could make the argument that Canadians really aren’t that nice at all, that their apparent politness is simply a thinly veiled attempt.  Canada is a society that tries to reward politeness even if at times it is inauthentic, but in my experience Europeans make no apologies for their rudeness.  Sometimes it isn’t even rudeness, as much as it is general unfriendliness and it has been hard to get used to.

For example, I generally like to smile at strangers but apparently they don’t really do that here.  In fact, as I smiled at a nice lesbian couple in a restaraunt the other day, she gave me the oddest look that I get a lot in Amsterdam.  My friend Kris mentioned to me that smiling at people means you are romantically interested in them.

One more quick example.  Mike and I were at a cafe yesterday and a man that was sitting next to us kept trying to reposition his chair to get comfortable.  In the process he kept bumping my chair which was especially noticeable considering the metal legs kept clanging together. Finally after doing this for about 10 seconds I looked at him, smiled, said “I’m sorry” and tried to shuffle my chair away from his. He looked at me, chuckled and said “Don’t apologize!” almost as if I was being scolded.  I then started to wonder.  Why did I apologize?  Was I really sorry?  Well the short answer is no because really I did nothing wrong except exist.  So why did I apologize? Because I’m Canadian, we are kind  and courteous people and I miss that humility.

So that's who bought all the Olympic stuff at HBC...

Canadians!

So there you have it!  Stay tuned for next week’s update when things take a turn for the negative and I explore the top 10 things I don’t miss about Vancouver.

-Nick