The Holiday Season

How did Christmas creep up on me like that? Of course, Sue and I have been in the UK for the Opportunities Shows and a trip like that throws you off in many ways. Body clock for one, and the sense of the season too.

This article is written as a rough guide as to what to expect at this season in British Columbia.


Sadly political correctness has made it’s way to the west coast. Happy holidays tends to be the PC way to wish someone a Happy Christmas (oops – sorry). Actually there is something of a revolt going on – and we heard “Happy Christmas” a few times today.


I don’t know if there is a PC term for the lights that we put up around the outside of our houses. Probably. But displays of lights are very common. They vary from the tasteful white lights outlining the house, to the power grid threatening National Lampoon style excesses.

You also see inflatable Santa’s and snowmen in the front yard. Or, my favourite, the illuminated nodding reindeer. Very sophisticated. It says something about Canadians playful nature.


These are VERY important to Canadians. I bet that it is because Canada has a LOT of trees. Here in BC we have a lot, perhaps most of them. So a real tree is definitely the most popular choice for Canadians. I have even had clients in apartment buildings wanting to move because they are not allowed real trees in their building!

But it goes way beyond just choosing a real tree over an artificial one. You need to decide on what variety of tree you want. Noble Fir, Alpine Fir, Douglas, Blue Spruce? And should it be a wild one or cultivated? Really, Canadians care about these things.

You can spot the new Canadians in the tree lots. They are wandering around in a daze, overwhelmed by the choice. It is nearly as bad as the cereal aisle in the supermarket.


A useful tip on etiquette here. When you get invited to someone’s house for dinner or a party, you are expected to bring a gift for the hostess. This is also a big thing. Flower shops stay open late on Friday night so that people can pick up their flower arrangements before heading out to dinner.

Note also, while we are talking dinner, you might get invited to a pot luck dinner. In this case you are expected to bring a dish of food to share at the party. Your hostess will guide you as to what to bring. In this case you can skip the hostess gift, though they are always appreciated.


In the UK we always left a tip for the bin men (refuse operators). If not the bin got tipped instead.

Here we also leave a tips out. Two in our case as there is a separate collection for the garbage and the recycling. One year we forgot. No bins were tipped up. But we paid the next week.

I am not sure if tipping is common, but I have seen these guys working and they work really hard. The guy runs around emptying the bins. They work in all weathers, even on the rare times when we have snow on the ground. Kudos to them, they deserve $2. (Just kidding!)


This is a great idea. Nothing to do with red nose day. But instead it is a volunteer run operation to get drunks home. Three volunteers get you home in your own car. One drives it, one is the navigator and a third follows in their vehicle – otherwise you’d have to have them stay with you overnight!

Talking Canadians

This week we were in London, England. We had been out for drinks at the Canadian High Commission, as part of the run up to the Opportunities Expo at Olympia. We did a bit of mixing with other Canadian exhibitors. The speeches were mercifully short.

We went out afterwards for a drink with some of the other exhibitors (Anglo Pacific and HiFX). They kindly took us for one of the first of a series of curries. We went to a Masala Zone restaurant near Carnaby Street.  It was a bit like being in Vancouver in being very multi-cultural. The clientele, the servers and those around our table were from all over the world.

Finally, and coming to the point of the posting, we headed off for the tube. I was reminded of one of the reasons I was glad to be in Vancouver. The tube was packed and there were delays on all lines. We did eventually squeeze on a Piccadilly line train. Sian, being a real Canadian, started to talk to someone next to her. No response. Of course the chances were quite high that he did not speak English. But even if he did, he probably thought Sian was nuts.

We are used to the ease with which you can start a conversation in Vancouver. If you meet someone at the checkout in Safeway or in the line up for coffee, it is natural to chat. It might be trivia, the weather or observations about what is going on around you, but you will likely say something and exchanging pleasantries, and smiles, just seems to come naturally to Canadians. Better than the automatic assumption that the talker is a nutter.


It was all very pleas

Flying out of YVR

I am writing this at Vancouver International Airport (YVR), sitting in the beautiful landscaped area the other side of the security checks. Not something you expect to say about an airport – landscaped interiors! But there is a stream, a huge fish tank, bridges and comfortable seats. Lots of them, most of which are empty.

Above me the walkway has a stream of people walking. They have arrived off some international flight (your intrepid reporter is not going to find out which one). If anyone has flown into YVR they will have walked along this way too, looking down on the stream and wondering what the line-ups are going to be like at immigration.

Of course there are the usual duty free shops to entertain me. And I have had my double espresso from, unfortunately, Starbucks. My daughter, Alice, would be horrified. She, like me, favours the boutique coffee bars – caffe artigiano, 49th parallel or the like. (Ask Alice for her favourite ones in Victoria if you’re planning to visit there).

The standard of service has been good so far. The security staff were friendly. No bleeping sounds when I went through so no need to frisk me. The barista at Starbucks was super friendly too. Perhaps he wanted me to leave him all my Canadian money as a huge tip.

One thing worth noting is that I am using the airport’s free wireless internet connection. Something which I find very useful. It is too crowded at Heathrow for me to have even tried looking for a hot spot so I don’t know if it is available there for free. I do know that Vancouver is very well served by free WiFi connections. Some are deliberately so, and others simply not secured. I doubt that you would need an internet connection of your own in many downtown apartments… just borrow one of your neighbours!

In London, on my last visit, I struggled to find an internet service that did not charge and at a huge cost. Hotels have certainly woken up the fact that they can charge for this service and make a bit of extra money on the room bill. Grrrr.

I cannot say that I am looking forward to the flight. This, as you may know, is going to be a very short visit to the UK. Arriving tomorrow (Thursday) and returning on Monday. In the meantime, two days at the Opportunities Canada Expo at Olympia. Anyone who sees me dozing off there will know why. I am hoping there will be somewhere I can get regular supplies of double espressos. Or doppio ones from Starbucks as I will need them.

See you in London.

Snow angels

Snow season is approaching. We have already had some snow on the north shore mountains. Like most Vancouverites I am hoping for a lot of snow to settle on the mountains.

One of our friends has some lovely photos of their hike up on Mount Seymour last week, where there was enough snow for their oldest daughter to make a snow angel. For their youngest, not yet a year old, it was her first experience of snow. How exciting.

Actually locals too have this same excitement about the opening of the ski season. With the mountains visible from all over the area we have a constant reminder of the state of the snow and the urge to get out onto the mountains comes on strong.

It is something that most of us from other countries have not experienced – the thrill of waiting for the fun to start. And here in Vancouver, unlike eastern Canada which has already had a big winter storm, we look forward to snow purely as a recreational activity. It is rarely an inconvenience. And if we do have a big dump of snow, then the kids get to enjoy a “snow day” – with their schools closed.

Happy 150th Birthday BC

Today British Columbia is 150 years old. On November 19, 1858 in Fort Langley British Columbia came into existence. The colony’s first Governor James Douglas presided over the ceremony held in the fort. Apparently it was raining. By contrast today is bright and sunny.

There are a few other differences that someone present at that ceremony 150 years ago might notice. Fort Langley did not stay the capital for long. New Westminster took over only a year later and eventually Victoria.

More obviously of course, the Province has grown in population. It is estimated that in the 1850’s there were less than 150 people of European descent west of the Rockies. The first BC gold rush in the same year and the second one in 1862 soon changed that. Tens of thousands of men, and a few women, came up from California seeking their fortunes.

There were no roads in the colony at the time. Instead the rivers were the main transport routes. With the Rockies as a seemingly impassable barrier and transport no faster than walking or paddling pace, it must have seemed a very remote place.

The area was also densely forested. Imagine the huge first growth forests. Nowadays we have to use our imagination since so little of these mighty trees are left. I doubt that the few Europeans looked on these trees as anything but a nuisance or a business opportunity.

British Columbia has come a long way. Like me, many others are still attracted to this beautiful part of the world.

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