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A young girl uses an umbrella to shield herself from the rain as she runs along Beatty St. near Robson St. at lunch time in Vancouver, on Friday October 8, 2010. (Darryl Dyck For The Globe and Mail/Darryl Dyck For The Globe and Mail)
A young girl uses an umbrella to shield herself from the rain as she runs along Beatty St. near Robson St. at lunch time in Vancouver, on Friday October 8, 2010. (Darryl Dyck For The Globe and Mail/Darryl Dyck For The Globe and Mail)

Glad you asked: pithy responses to visitors' FAQ Add to ...

We've all had to do it. I had to do it earlier this week: play tour guide to someone visiting from Ontario and, in the process, try to explain our city. We're asked the usual questions about real estate, homelessness, drug abuse, transit, attractions, population, emergency preparedness, municipal infrastructure and debt service ratios.

In the interest of saving time I've prepared a handy Vancouver FAQ (Frequently Annoying Questions) that you may hand to your guests upon arrival. Please, feel free to clip and save.

Q: Why is residential real estate so expensive?

A: Good noticing, it is expensive. The average price of a bungalow in the city is $890,000.

The cost of housing remains high because the Vancouver real-estate market is a pyramid scheme teetering atop a cloud of ephemeral hope and, simultaneously, eternal fear. If a single homeowner begins to doubt the prudence of their investment, the pyramid will collapse. Which is why there is a bylaw prohibiting homeowners from ever expressing out loud regret for their real-estate purchase. Regardless of how leaky it may be.

Q: But then, how do regular working people afford to live in the city?

A: They don't. Unless you define "regular working people" as "a partnership consisting of one doctor and one lawyer (or some combination thereof) with no children." Otherwise, they bought in the 1980s, live in a basement suite, inherited a pile of money, or they have a grow-op.

Q: Why are there so many homeless people and panhandlers?

A: I have no idea what you're talking about. I don't see them.

Q: Why does gas cost $1.22 a litre?

A: Twelve cents on each litre of gas sold goes to "TransLink," which manages the Lower Mainland's transit and transportation system. TransLink is governed by a shadowy group of well-compensated provincial appointees known as "The Pentaverate." They have an insatiable appetite for cash. Their meetings are held in secret, by torchlight in an underground cavern far below Metrotown Station. Their secrets are guarded by an ancient and unfailingly loyal order known as "The Spokespeople."

Q: Wow. You must have a really awesome transit system?

A: Yeah, right.

Q: What's that big oval-shaped thing with all the spikes sticking out of it and cables strung everywhere?

A: That is BC Place stadium, the home of the B.C. Lions and soon to be home of the Whitecaps FC, a Major League Soccer franchise. The stadium is being renovated and fitted with a retractable roof at a cost of approximately $500-million. There is currently some discussion about what the refurbished stadium will be called. Money-Sucking Sinkhole-Dome or Colossal-Failure-to-Prioritize Place have not yet made the short list of possible names.

Q: I understand Vancouver is overdue for a major earthquake. Is the city prepared for such a disaster?

A: Yes, unless you happen to be a K-12 student, and happen to be in a public school when the big one hits. Essential buildings like the Emergency Communications Centre and the Provincial Liquor Distribution Branch Warehouse have been upgraded to withstand a significant quake. As well, the city is currently working on affordable housing so emergency workers such as paramedics, police officers, firefighters and baristas will be close at hand in the event of an emergency.

Q: Why does everyone on Commercial Drive look like they want to hurt me?

A: Even through the haze of Belmont Mild smoke, the burnt-eraser stench of stale IPA, and over the din of rope-tuned djembes, Commercial Drive denizens have an uncanny ability to sense people who might be a threat to their lifestyle. Relinquishing your concept of what constitutes "proper attire" will help you blend in. Also, a splash of patchouli may help disguise your scent.

Q: Does it ever stop raining in this city?

A: Yes. In May.

Stephen Quinn is the host of On the Coast on CBC Radio One in Vancouver. 88.1 FM and 690 AM. stephen.quinn@cbc.ca

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