A Vancouverite’s guide to living in paradise

Welcome to Victoria, former Vancouverites! I hope you’re enjoying your $650,000 house with actual indoor plumbing (not to mention the $1 million you just put in the bank — hello tropical vacations).

You’re going to find things a little different here, so I’m happy to give you a few tips, gratis. Eleven years ago, I was in exactly your shoes, except without the million dollars!

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First things first: Relax and save yourself the embarrassment of being 20 minutes early for everything. Unless you’ve succumbed to the allure of the spa bathroom and chef’s kitchen in a developer-built spec house on the West Shore (that’s what we call our sprawling suburbs), you can probably get practically everywhere you need to go in 15 minutes by car.

Except that you’re in Victoria now, so you don’t have to go by car, do you? You can walk or bike or even skateboard (it’s allowed downtown now). And you’ll still get places earlier than you would have back in Vancouver.

The first thing you’re going to notice is our lack of ethnic diversity, although how you feel about that depends a lot on how much you enjoy the company of white people. Because, man, we’ve got a lot of ’em.

On the plus side, you can still find decent sushi and Vietnamese food here, just not in the quantity and at the low prices you’re used to.

Your neighbours might be nicer, though — at least, that was my experience. The day we took possession of our Victoria house, we found a sign on the lawn with “Welcome new neighbours” written on it. Compare that to our first night in our East Vancouver house in 2003: At midnight, we awoke to loud banging on the front door. We cautiously opened it to find a young, wiry bald-headed man who appeared to be an enthusiast of the National Socialist Party shouting obscenities.

After a few minutes of this, it became apparent that we had inspired this tirade by parking in front of his house, mainly because someone was parked in front of ours. This is something we never did again, especially after we discovered he had suffered a brain injury and was prone to unpredictable bursts of anger. Welcome new neighbours! Park in front of my house again and I will kill you!

One thing that might help is if your wise real-estate-investing practices have given you the financial power to move up a notch or two in the neighbourhood department.

Take my advice, however: Don’t get over-excited and blow all your cash on a Rockland mansion, or you’ll have to get a job to pay for those dinners at Victoria’s new hip downtown eateries and whisky bars.

And getting a job in Victoria can be tricky, unless you’re an ace at government hiring panels. If so, find yourself a nice mansion and start flexing those Fridays on the Goose. If not, go for the $650,000 Fernwood fixer upper and live off your fat bank account.

You’ll discover a few significant differences in your new home. First, the good ones.

Free parking! Yes, beleagured Vancouver parker, you can park in metered spots here for free after 6 p.m. and on Sundays and holidays. If it’s too much to take in all at once, feel free to pay anyway, but you really don’t have to. Really!

Those strangers that say hi to you on the street are not a) actually talking to someone else on a hands-free phone, b) trying to sell you Amway, or c) about to ask if you have a relationship with Jesus Christ — they’re just nice, friendly Victorians. And when a car stops as you stand by the road, it’s not to get a bead on a drive-by-shooting target — the driver is letting you cross the street. We do that here, believe it or not.

So, sure, you have to travel a little farther to ski (OK, it’s about three hours), but we’ve got lots of lakes within a 15- or 20-minute drive. And did I mention the Galloping Goose?

We’re very proud of “the Goose,” which is used by everyone from cycle commuters (they’re the pschyo speed freaks in spandex — keep your toddlers close at hand) to Sunday cyclists and dog walkers. Branches stretch out to Sooke, the ferry and downtown, and it’s flat the whole way. I’ve taken my kids on it for miles without having to pedal more than once or twice.

It’s not all a bed of roses here in the City of Gardens, however — especially if your green oasis attracts four-legged friends with or without antlers.

Yes, that’s Bambi’s mother in your yard, but she’s not cute. She will eat everything in your garden, especially the stuff that online sources tell you is deer-proof. On the plus side, our raccoons are just a tad cuddlier than the street-hardened East of Main criminal-gang variety.

If you’re worried about culture, we’ve got enough festivals to keep you buzzed and hydrated until Christmas, lots of theatres and a really big cavernous arena with a roof that doesn’t move. And a fine crop of craft breweries and wineries.

So, relax and enjoy your windfall in your new home by the sea. And say, now that you’ve got that million bucks in your pocket, maybe you could buy your new Victoria friends a beer, eh?

Ha ha! That’s just our laid-back Island sense of humour. Go ahead, cross the street. We’ll wait.

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