Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘street cordiality’

Vancouver not only looks like a small town, it also has the atmosphere of one. People I met, for instance walking in a park, now and then nodded or said Hi! When leaving the bus, it is common to shout a loud “thank you” to the driver. Vancouverites also like to join ongoing conversations on the bus or in in the Skytrain. Standing at a street corner reading a map is a certain way of getting helpful questions like “Excuse me, are you lost?”  (No, I did not say: Well I would be without this map!) On the Seabus, a man asked us if we were from Denmark and apologized when we told him we were Swedish. It appeared that he had even visited Malmö!

Well, there is downtown - but apart from that "The City of Glass" feels like a small town.

Well, there is downtown of course - but still Vancouver often feels like a small town!

Vancouver seems to have a more cordial public atmosphere than for instance the much smaller Malmö. It would be foolish to jump to the conclusion that this difference has something to do with the public use of cell phones.  However, one does not see cell phones utilized in the streets as often as in Malmö. One explanation could be that people in Vancouver are more discreet – but also more keen on public face to face engagement. A simpler reason is that the percentage of mobile phone ownership is quite low in Canada (65% – lower than Argentina, Uruguay, USA and Venezuela) compared to Sweden (110% – obviously not so few people here have more than one cell phone). The more expensive pricing of telecommunications in North America may be an additional reason.

viewApart from this experience of a lower frequence of use, I did not detect any patterns of handling mobile phones that where different from those I have noticed in Malmö and elsewhere. For instance, take the man occupying the best view over the city with his loud conversation, on a beautiful night in Queen Elisabeth Park. Or the young woman, nervously checking her text messages at the bus stop. Not talking loudly, but still clearly expressing her tension.

girlShould not a friendly and helpful Vancouverite blend into his loud-voiced talk? Or ask what worries her? Of course not, the public use of mobiles represent something other than friendly face to face interaction among strangers.  Like everywhere else, phone users in Vancouver are untouchable, existing outside the realm of street cordiality.

As a tourist for a couple of weeks, I really enjoyed the friendly atmosphere in Vancouver. But the visit also made me more aware about the possible effects of the kind of absence from public space that comes with mobile phones.

Read:

Coupland, D (2000): City of Glass. Douglas Coupland’s Vancouver. Douglas & Macintyre.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: