Monday, January 14, 2008

new year, new discoveries

i probably should've started this 4 months ago, but after returning from TO, my new year's resolution was to explore and not waste another moment here in the next 8 months. or more accurately, i was suddenly hit with the desire to see and do new, undiscovered things, and to make every minute count. maybe this is another defense mechanism for underlying homesickness, but it's constructive at least.

i'm going to try and be as detailed as possible when describing restaurants, places, etc., so that if YOU ever want to visit or move here, you'll at least know some good places to eat or see. but it's for my own sake as well, since i have really bad memory.

so let's start with some general things you REALLY should know about Vancouver:

Driving (the only part i really, strongly dislike about living here):
-people don't know how to drive = you have to be alert all the time so you can slam on your brakes when drivers come onto the road even though you're going downhill from 60km/hr
-a blinking green traffic light does NOT = advance left turn!!it only means that pedestrians can cross at that intersection when the light turns red, and the intersecting road has stop signs
-there are no highways (100km/hr) here, therefore, it's ALL street driving at 50km/hr
-there are very few left turn lanes, which means if you follow too closely, you'll probably get stuck behind a car waiting to make a left turn
-people seem to be more passive (they're probably used to all the stupid drivers) and don't honk often. maybe that's why i got the finger and a rude comment after i honked at someone for cutting me off
-there are a ton of red-light camera boxes, usually at major intersections. most, if not all, have yellow signs to tell you as you approach the intersection. however, there are just 30 cameras for the 120 locations in the whole province, so you can decide whether you want to take that $200 risk.
-most parking in vancouver is metered parking, which means parallel parking galore!
-DO NOT LEAVE ANYTHING VALUABLE IN THE CAR or else it'll get broken into!

Survival Tips:
-look farther ahead
-give yourself lots of space in the front so you can switch lanes easier if there's a car making a left
-know that drivers will cut you off, so you won't be as pissed when it does happen
-you're facing north if you see the mountains
-carry lots of change for parking

-people generally have a more easygoing and relaxed attitude
-somewhat equally divided between cold/snobbish or open/friendly
-looooooove their starbucks
-more 'small town' feel than city atmosphere
-focus on active, healthy living in the outdoors
-higher cost of living with lower salaries than in TO = rich or poor
-Vancouver's supposed to be a "green" city, so their recycling program is slightly different than TO's: you can get $ back for returning certain things to either the recycling depot or supermarket, but 2 full shopping bags of stuff will only be $2 or so

-there are many small, unique shops vs. big chain stores
-fewer big concerts/events/festivals = less things to do on the weekend
-only GST is charged on prepared food (ie. in restaurants)
-sometimes the cashier at a store will ask if the item you're buying is taxable, which means if it's for someone aged 14 or younger, so they'll just charge one tax
-it's only a 2hr drive (depending on the wait at the border) to the US. it's so close that apparently some people even go across the border every weekend to get gas and buy groceries

i will save restaurants and food for the next post, because that deserves a post of its own.

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