We are a hippie city


A relative is back in Victoria after living elsewhere in Canada. She spent a few days re-absorbing the character of the town and then offered some observations.

Victoria is not typical, she said. All sorts of things are done differently here. We think we are normal, but we are not.

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She summed it up this way: “We are a hippie city.”

There are bike lanes galore. In many other places, the dominance of the car is largely unchallenged, with traffic signals and street design tuned to the needs of motorists, not pedestrians or bicyclists. (Though, in Victoria, we can be a touch overbearing about our bicycle culture.)

Motorists here know how to share the road with cyclists and pedestrians with a minimum of unpleasantness.

Motorists stop for pedestrians, even when they don't have to.

Walking to work is not weird.

Being a vegetarian is not weird.

Recycling is not weird. There are sorting bins in public places, and people actually use them. When kitchen scraps recycling was rolled out, requiring us to sort our garbage, there was nary a peep of protest about the extra labour being imposed on us.

I know from my own brief trips that this cheerful recycling thing is abnormal. In a visit to England, I winced as I placed recyclables into the trash because I didn’t have an alternative. People grumbled about pushy government making them recycle. But in Victoria, recycling is ingrained; tossing away a recyclable feels like you’re doing a bad thing, like spitting on the street.

My relative also commented on the buy local attitude. “Businesses make an effort to provide local goods. Consumers make an effort to buy local products from local people. This goes hand-in-hand with the artisan culture on the Island. There just plain are lots of local things to buy!”

She made an observation about the behaviour of Victoria’s transit bus riders: “Sometimes people in other cities will say thank you when they exit by the front door. But only Victorians say thank you when exiting by the back door.” She’s exaggerating only a little.

Plus, we are less intense and in less of a hurry. (This really annoys people from bigger cities.)

And an observation from me: We are inclined to talk, talk, and talk some more without coming to a decision. Then we invite even more people to talk, as we aim to talk about every angle, and give everyone a chance to air their views.

I’m not sure if that’s a hippie characteristic. But it seems like one. In a good way. Mostly.


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