Victoria’s citizens lead a different way of life
By Julia Siedlanowska, Staff Writer
We are all aware of the different stereotypes surrounding different cities across the country, but are some of them true? After a weekend in Victoria, I sought to make the discovery for myself. Having interviewed some of its citizens (mostly students at the University of Victoria), and through my own observations, I’ve decided that some stereotypes exist for a reason.
“People are less on time here, there is definitely an island time,” says Chase Hiebert, originally from Alberta. “People wear less black here. The style is a lot more focussed on practicality and comfort, whereas in Calgary downtown everything is angular.”
That I can attest to. Due to sunny weather on my trip, the island’s hippie stereotype was reinforced by the appearance of long flowing dresses and jean jackets. A survey of the latest MEC backpacks and rain jackets was easily conducted at the ferry terminal, where dozens of students with bright complexions came or went for the weekend.
Everyone seemed relaxed, well-rested, and more beautiful as I left the mainland and stepped foot on the island. Even the obviously middle-aged had a striking youthfulness to them. Many people choose Victoria for a mini-vacation—be it a nature adventure, touring the Parliament Building, or going to famous U-Vic parties. Since short-term visitors like myself can have a romanticized view of Victoria, I decided to consult some residents for a more balanced and thorough comparison of mainland life and island life.
“Because Victoria is so much smaller than Vancouver,” says two-year resident Emma Hughes, “it’s hard to make connections if you aren’t forced into social situations like living on rez or joining a club.”
We often associate small places with a feeling of community and connectedness, but U-Vic student Alexa Carrière complains about a feeling of exclusivity. “It’s small but exclusionary to those who don’t wish to play along with the whole brunch culture movement, kombucha brewing, or public market hosting. It’s mostly old hipsters with lazy youth. And almost everything closes at six p.m.,” she says. To those who like that sort of lifestyle, Victoria is a haven. Filled with cafés and small markets with local handcrafted goods, it is the artisan’s island.
“There is a focus on the arts here that you don’t find in Alberta because [Alberta is] very industrially driven,” says Hiebert. “Victoria doesn’t have the oil sands right there so the artistic community is nurtured a lot more, so that’s definitely affected the way I do my art.”
This pleasant feeling is found not only in the artistic community, but in the citizens and atmosphere as well. “Victoria as a city is rich with culture and collective attitude to just take life a little slower,” says Hughes. “In Vic it is extremely rare not to thank your bus driver, or pass up the opportunity to talk with local artisans about their work.”
One of my favourite things about the island is how easy it is to get around. Whether by bike or by bus, getting around in Victoria is much less stressful than on the mainland. And generally, the feeling is more relaxed.
Hughes puts it best, saying: “Once the social barriers are broken, Victoria provides a subtle change of brain chemistry to just chill.”