Vancouver's overrated

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Each month seems to bring a new survey and new title: Best active lifestyle city in the world, Best place to do business, Most liveable, et cetera, ad infinitum.

The latest winner of a title – there are so many, surely every city will get one for something eventually – is Vancouver: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/what-does-it-mean-to-have-the-worlds-best-reputation-vancouver-will-soon-find-out/article4572459/

Now, this one distinguishes itself because it’s hard to see how they could get it wrong. The title is ‘City with the best reputation worldwide’. Regardless of the merits of the actual city, it’s hard to argue with something that is inherently opinion to begin with. You ask 18,000 people to rank the one they perceive as the best out of a list of 100 and, voila, you have your answer.

The only dispute one could have with this method is the small cast of characters: 100 cities ain’t a lot. To put this in perspective, China alone purportedly has at least 100 cities with populations of one million or more.

Perhaps the title should be ‘Metropolis with the best reputation,’ because you know a whole host of Canadian cities – including every one on the Atlantic coast - didn’t make it on the list.

OK, so as surveys go, this one appears to have arrived at a fairly defensible conclusion (ignoring the caveats above). But a secondary question remains: Is Vancouver’s reputation warranted?

This is where it gets entertaining: surf through the comments posted with the story and, no surprise, most break into two camps – haters and defenders. And as with all partisan debates, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

I lived in Vancouver – North Vancouver – for half a year. It’s undeniably a spectacular piece of real estate. The mountains are beautiful, and in North Van you get to live on the side of one. A one hour drive around town affords spectacular view after spectacular view.

The city itself is attractive-ish, too. But not remarkable. I can think of at least a few cities I’ve been in that are just flat-out prettier.

My experience of Vancouver is dated, but 20 years ago, its transportation system sucked. It made Toronto’s look good.

The East End is a full-on war zone – drugs and crime – and I can’t imagine that’s improved with the passage of time.

The real estate is astronomically expensive.

The weather is good and the rain, in my limited experience, wasn’t as bad as some say.

The people? Well, who knows. I thought they seemed a bit full of themselves – “Vancouver’s the best even though I’ve never lived anywhere else” – but maybe that was me or just the people I ran into.

What does any of this have to do with Amherst, this newspaper or the interests of our readers? Well, I lived on the west coast but I settled on the east. Each has its strengths, but I wouldn’t choose to live in urban B.C. over urban Nova Scotia, and I wouldn’t choose to live in rural B.C. over rural Nova Scotia.

The ocean feels like an afterthought in Vancouver, whereas here it’s a defining characteristic. Vancouver felt isolated from the world, even from the rest of Canada, and surrounded by an almost empty expanse of impenetrable mountains. Nova Scotia feels central, despite its remoteness from Canada’s largest cities.

Nova Scotia has a long written history, B.C. doesn’t. Halifax has the character of an old port, Vancouver skates by on pretty scenery.

Regular people can buy homes here – definitely not the case in much of B.C.

In my experience, Maritimers are friendlier.

No, there are only two ways Vancouver beats us: climate and mountains.

If mountains are what you live for, you should be on the other coast. And there’s no arguing, come February, a little part of me will envy our countrymen on the Pacific Rim.

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