10 reasons Vancouver is a great place for an exchange semester

Good morning Vancouver!
In order of subjective importance.

10. The beer is better than in the US (I know, there are microbreweries …)

Granville Island makes an almost bavarian Hefeweizen. So you are not doomed to drink American light beer.

9. The seafood is awesome

They basically invented Salmon and Tuna here. And they definitely learned how to make great stuff with it.

8. Hawaii is as close as it gets

Chances are, you are not getting much closer to Hawaii anytime soon. (That doesn’t meen the flight from Seattle is actually getting you there quickly but fair enough …)

7. You are not strange if you are actually interested in the stuff you study

More students than in Vienna actually want to study what they study. In addition, the professors I had take pride in teaching the stuff they do. They are disappointed if people fail their exams and they talk to you if you don’t perform to their expectations.

6. Vancouver is a city, but it’s not really big

There is a downtown with skyscrapers, but you can bet there are some wooden houses right across the street.

5. You get a chance to see bears and all kinds of wildlife

A 10 hours drive gets you to the Canadian Rockies, four national parks that are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (If you are more into whales and dolphines you can also go to the Vancouver Aquarium or whale watching.)

4. There are mountains, island, beaches, parks and forrests right around the corner

Mount Seymore, Cypress and Grouse. Bowen Island, Vancouver Island. English Bay, Kitsilano Beach. Stanley Park and the Pacific Spirit Park.

3. The people are really nice

They even say “Thank you” to the bus drivers – something you’d be laughed at in Vienna. In return, the bus drivers tell you where to go and even drop you off between stations at night.

2. Vancouver is a very progressive city

There’s the West End, Vancouver’s gay community. There’s Wreck Beach, the famous, hippiesque nude beach. There’s 4-20, the marijuana holiday. So whatever is your thing, there’s probably a place for you in Vancouver.

1. Most people arrived “just recently” (in historical dimensions)

Most people here are first or second generation Vancouverites. Multiculturality is a core part of Vancouver’s identity and I haven’t even heard debate or negative sentence about that while I was here. This is so different to Vienna, where you have to face racism in political campaigns and even newspapers.

420 and bluegrass – Or: Things that I didn’t know before coming to Canada

I have mentioned before that a lot of people in Vancouver tell me about the quality and importance of B.C. marijuana and how the laws or rather their enforcement is lenient compared to the US and Canada’s east. I think I also mentioned that on the other hand alcohol laws and their enforcement are extremely strict compared to those in Austria. So I was already kind of used to seeing the reverse image of Austrian culture: people smoke weed in public or at concerts where there’s a strict “no tobacco” policy, people get arrested for drinking or being drunk in public.

Anyways, when it came to April 20th I was still stunned by how different our two cultures deal with the two drugs. April 20th or 420 (4-20) is a (supposedly) global counterculture holiday to celebrate the use and demonstrate for the legalisation of marijuana. It obviously never made it to Austria, a country where April 20th is more related to the birth of a rather unpleasent historical figure.

So – how would you expect this counterculture holiday to look like? Secret private gatherings? Think again.

(Nope: I do not have original video material as I was not downtown …)

Please take a second to imagine a demonstration like that in Vienna, preferably 1st district.

On the same day, maybe remotly connected in terms of ideology, I agreed to attend a bluegrass concert. The Yonder Mountain String Band was in town and I got some insider information that they would be absolutely amazing live. And they were. (Music starts at 1:40)

Canada, Beer and The Least Common Denominator (or: “Proud to be Canadian”)

Waving Maple Leaf (you didn't know that, did you?)
At the very end of our intercultural training for my exchange semester in Canada, the professor showed us a little video to loosen up and cap our session.

We had talked about culture and intercultural communication in general before, about Austrian an Canadian culture in particular and we had even discussed about some “strange encounters” between Canadians and Austrians. We had heard lots about the “Britishness” of Canadian culture, and how it is different from the US in some way. And still, when we watched the video (which is from 2000 by the way), we had really no clue what it really was about (or “a boot”).

Almost four months and some Canucks games, pints of (not very well-tasting) Molson Canadian and “intercultural interactions” later, I feel like I know a great deal more about Canada. Continue reading Canada, Beer and The Least Common Denominator (or: “Proud to be Canadian”)