Leaving the bunny hug behind: A Regina to Vancouver move
"The air feels different… even the airport smells delicious!"
Trans-Canada Culture Shock explores the small surprises, unexpected discoveries and rude awakenings that come with making a move within our borders.
Rain City, No Fun City, Terminal City, Lotusland, Vansterdam: Vancouver goes by many names and has many reputations. But what is the city really like when you move there from another part of the country?
Tammy Lawrence was raised in Regina, lived in Banff and Montreal, but settled for good in East Van. For all the Canadian places she's lived in, Lawrence still experienced a big culture shock when she arrived at the place that's finally become home.
What was your biggest misconception about Vancouver?
Because I grew up in Saskatchewan, I thought it was such a big city and then getting here it was like, oh, no, it's actually quite a small town. I mean way bigger obviously, but not like Montreal or New York City. And I thought I would take part in nature way more than I ever did.
When you arrived in Vancouver, was there a dead giveaway that you were from out of town?
I guess people did know that I was from somewhere else. When you first move to Vancouver, I think people really stick with people they know from back home, or just other people from "away." I felt you needed to be vetted here. Like there was one group of people that said "ya she's okay" and then the golden door was open. Maybe more so when I was younger than now. It's kind of notorious in Vancouver that it takes two years to make friends that you didn't already know.
I thought I would take part in nature way more than I ever did.
What has become something you love about Vancouver culture?
I think for me now as I'm older, I'm seeing the benefits of living in a city that's surrounded by nature, that we have the ocean and the forest. The air feels different. I go to New York a lot now, and every time I come back I'm like "oh my god, it just smells delicious." Even the airport smells delicious, compared to anywhere else. But culture in Vancouver — I feel like it's something that people have worked really hard to build here. Especially that Vancouver gets strapped with this "no fun city" idea, and I think that was really hard on people here for a long time, and it was easy to drop into that narrative.
Is there anything you missed about Regina after leaving?
Would it be terrible to say no? I guess I missed the friendliness of the people. And that people were, no matter what, ready to have a conversation or if you were into the same thing it was very easy to pick up the thread. I definitely missed that — the outgoing-ness of people, the friendliness.
Between Saskatchewan and B.C., have you noticed any different vocabulary?
Oh my god yes: bunny hug! Ask anyone in Saskatchewan. I have no idea why, but it's a hoodie. Also, Halloween Apples which is what we say instead of "trick or treat." I was telling the kids to say "Halloween apples" and it was like I was speaking a foreign language.
What about style? Does Vancouver have a different look?
There is an outdoor element to Vancouver. The raincoats, the fleece pants. I lived here in the '90s, so it was more known as a sporty town. Which has changed a lot. Now there's way more expensive stores here and a fashionable crew.
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At what point in time did you finally feel at home in Vancouver (assuming you do now)?
I think it took me a really long time to even consider home here. I moved a lot from apartment to apartment in Vancouver, and then moved to Montreal and back, but now I've lived here longer than I lived in Saskatchewan. Crossing that line made it become like home. It would be really impossible to leave now. This is the home that [my partner] Ted and I have together — we didn't grow up in the same place and we met here — and this is where we're raising our kids, this is where we bought a house, started a business. Before, I didn't think I'd ever have a home-home, but this is where we've chosen to be.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tammy Lawrence manages Banquet Atelier & Workshop and lives in East Vancouver with her partner Ted and their two children.