What sucks about Victoria, BC? Why should I not move there?
June 7, 2013 10:08 AM   Subscribe

My sister lives in Victoria BC and has spent years trying to convince my wife and I to move, telling us how beautiful it is, how bike-friendly and walk-friendly the city is, and how we simply must drop everything and move there immediately if not sooner.

We politely listened and ignored her requests until last year. I had to go to Victoria for a training program for my work in mid-February. I got on a plane in a city with two feet of snow and -18C, and landed in a city where the flowers were already out and the grass was green. I came home rather impressed and two months later my wife and I flew down for a week's vacation. Turns out my sister was absolutely right, and it seems like a wonderful city. We loved every moment of our week there, and had a great time. We didn't have a car for our trip, but we found no difficulty using transit and walking. We spent every moment doing something and left with a huge list of things to do the next time we came down.

So we came back to our home and spent a year thinking about moving to Victoria. We have been spending a lot of time considering the possible challenges and obstacles, but our "con" list is very short compared to the "pro" list. For personal reasons, work is a nonissue for us (my work doesn't need me to be any specific place, her work is extremely transferable, especially somewhere with an aging/retiree population). Our household income is somewhere between 120K - 150K $CDN and relocating wouldn't reduce that, in fact it is likely that my wife's income would increase. We are quiet and introverted people, we do not want or need an active nightlife scene. We enjoy walking, hiking, the outdoors, animals, eating well-made food and cooking same. We have no children and have taken surgical steps to ensure that situation never changes. The city seemed made for us, and my sister is now telling us "I told you so" when the subject comes up. Also whenever the topic of moving arises, my wife gets the most amazing look of joy on her face and shouts "DO YOU REMEMBER THE BABY DUCKS?" because we had some incredible duck-related experiences in Beacon Hill Park.

I've talked to a number of people who live there or have lived there, and every single one of them has told me that if we can, we should move there and never leave. I've only heard two criticisms, one from my sister regarding her opinion that there are too many single women competing for too few single guys, and one from an erstwhile friend who claimed that everyone in Victoria hates strangers and treats new people like trash (I didn't find this to be the case and have never heard it anywhere else). I also found an online forum filled with insane rants about how awful Victoria is, but it was so over the top that I disregarded it as an outlier.

Do you live in Victoria? Did you live in Victoria? Please tell me why I wouldn't want to live there. Is it awful in the winter? Social issues that were not apparent to us? There has to be something wrong with the place, something I haven't thought of. Otherwise my wife and I are pretty likely to pack our lives up and relocate. Even after a year's cooling off period we are still rather excited by the idea.
posted by Sternmeyer to Society & Culture (34 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I visited from Vancouver and while I found it charming and sweet and lovely, I'd go nuts if I were 2 hours by ferry away from the mainland.

That's me. YMMV
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:12 AM on June 7, 2013

one from an erstwhile friend who claimed that everyone in Victoria hates strangers and treats new people like trash (I didn't find this to be the case and have never heard it anywhere else).

Bear in mind that you were a visitor when you were there. Visitors are welcome in Hawaii, too, but I've known lots of people who didn't think much of living there as non-natives. But if your sister likes it there as a non-native, then maybe your erstwhile friend is just the kind of person who isn't happy anywhere.
posted by Etrigan at 10:18 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

People I know call Victoria "the home of the newly wed and nearly dead."

I've never lived there but I have a lot of family who do, and have spent a lot of time there, and the major complaints about Victoria seem to be that it's a pretty small, sleepy city which doesn't have the greatest nightlife and that if you need big city amenities you're a ferry/plane ride away from any larger city. The ferry itself takes roughly an hour and a half but driving to it on either side and waiting for it really adds to the time it takes to get to Vancouver.

It can also have kind of a small town vibe, I know when i go I often run into people I know walking around the parks or downtown which wouldn't be such a problem if my extended family were less nutty. To be absolutely honest too if its anything like Vancouver a lot of people who have grown up there/lived there for a long time probably enjoy running their city down as basically a hobby.

The weather isn't so bad if you don't mind rain as the temperatures are fairly mild. It sounds like from your description you'd actually like it a lot.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 10:18 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

a city where the flowers were already out and the grass was green.

This is in part because I suspect it rains for eight months out of the year, as it does elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest. (Former nine-year-resident of Portland, Oregon here.)

You really just have to endure a few winters to see whether it's your cup of tea. You're not the first person to say, "Wow, it's really warm and green here! Why do I put up with freezing winters?" And you may not be the last to realize it's because freezing sunny winters can be preferable to mild, endlessly gray, soggy ones.
posted by seemoreglass at 10:24 AM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

Not threadsitting I swear. Just wanted to mention that I grew up in Kitimat and Prince Rupert and so there is literally no rain in North America that could bother me.
posted by Sternmeyer at 10:25 AM on June 7, 2013 [9 favorites]

The one time I visited Victoria I really enjoyed it. I just wanted to point out that one of the things I liked about it, despite its remoteness is that you can actually take public transportation from there to Vancouver to do things like get to the airport. I think I actually got on a bus that got on the ferry. In any case, I was a long time PacNWer who really enjoyed Victoria specifically because it was a sleepier city but had public transpo options. Also I took the helicopter shuttle to get there once and that was sort of fun.
posted by jessamyn at 10:30 AM on June 7, 2013

The number one reason I would not move there, personally, is that I think I would have a hard time finding my community there, since I tend to like big-city things. The number two reason is that career-wise I would not see a lot of opportunity. Similar arguments exist for any kind of beautiful small town, really; for example, Salt Spring Island is wonderful IF you can make a living there and IF you are compatible with the lifestyle, and those two features alone rule it out for most people. Cost of living can be high, as well.

You seem to be in a dream situation in which you can pack up and move pretty much anywhere you want. My only question is whether there might be other places you might like even more.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:32 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

I lived there for 10 years. I eventually had to leave. But really, my reasons for leaving, are kind of covered by yours. Victoria just may be the right place for you.

Things that are a challenge:

Ferries. If you want to get off the Island very often, this is an issue.
People. There are a lot of people coming and going. The people that stay like things the way they are.
Diversity. It's one of the most white bread cities I've been to.
Work. Not much of it.

All that being said, there're some great restaurants, I have some great friends there, I'm ok to visit, but it's the small town part of it now that makes it hard for me. People generally have a small chip on the shoulder about why they stayed, and how good everything is, and how they don't need to go anywhere else. There is some truth to this for sure, but the reality is, larger cities can offer more - more culture, better art, more choice. But for many many people, Victoria is the perfect place. It really is nice and comfortable and has the most temperate climate in the country. Part of me will always feel like my home is there.
posted by miles1972 at 10:48 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

When you're just visiting Victoria, I think it's easy to over-estimate how "city-like" it really is. The downtown core is small. A few months on foot, things will start to feel very familiar. This is difficult to quantify, but Victoria feels too big for that classic small-town warmth, but too small for anonymity. If there is any truth to the oft-repeated (and I think exaggerated) thing about Victoria being cliquey and unfriendly to out-of-towners, I think it's related to that.

Our famous Chinatown is barely more than a square block. The largest art gallery has interesting exhibits, but on a very limited scale compared to Vancouver. There's no Ikea, and many "big box" stores are not within walking distance. I don't know if this even matters in this day and age, but the more obscure your hobbies are, the more likely you'll be resorting to mail order. As any example, it was extremely difficult to get any kind of quality Martin guitar in my hands without getting on a ferry. There are good restaurants but again it's difficult to gauge until you're living here. So you like Indian food, well I hope you like one of the handful of choices available! And even if you do, after a few years are you gonna get bored with the handful of dishes there? Just something to consider. I'm not a foodie so I don't know how important that might be.

In the "pro" column, Victoria gets much less rain than Vancouver. It's not smack dab in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, but it does have an effect. You can't judge the quality of Victoria winters by anecdotes from people who live in Vancouver. In fact, it is one of the sunniest places in the entire province. Also, food trucks are blowing up here right now. Delicious.
posted by Lorin at 11:01 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

posted by helloworlditsme at 11:09 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I grew up near Victoria and lived there for five years, between the ages of 18 and 23. Most of my complaints about the city would not apply to you; you have jobs and a good income, things that are in short supply in that town.

The thing I hated the most about living there was how oppressive it could be. I was an averagely reputable citizen who constantly was being made to feel like I was doing bad things. I've never lived anywhere so quick to enforce obscure bylaws. Long grass, strange plants, a temporary pile of sticks that was going to be turned into something, all led to a visit from the local by-law officer. I had unreasonable noise complaints made against me constantly (I swear, I'm not that loud). Two different friends were given jaywalking tickets, and I once had a bottle of wine confiscated while having a date picnic in the park. Every campfire I lit was on the beach was immediately extinguished. Even worse, I found a lot of people to be very passive aggressive. If they didn't call by-law officers on you, they let you know they can. I lived in several different neighborhoods and found this experience pretty universal to all of them.

Aside from that, the ferry is loathsome. I can get from Victoria to Toronto quicker than I can get from Victoria to Vancouver. Everything closes early too; it's the kind of city that advertises shops that are open until 8 on Fridays. Oh, and the city is ram packed with tourists all summer. I wouldn't even bother going downtown between May and November; it's impossible to find parking and, unless you're looking for souvenir totem pole key chains, there's nothing worth going there for.

All that said, I love Vancouver Island. I fully intend to live their again one day, but likely out in Sooke (it's near Victoria, up the west coast of the island) or more north.
posted by melgy at 11:17 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ahh, that reminds me of something I'd forgotten living on Salt Spring: "Victoria has more police per capita than any other Canadian city. " Pro or con?
posted by Lorin at 11:20 AM on June 7, 2013

If you want to get to Vancouver faster than the ferry, taking a seaplane is an option.
posted by ShooBoo at 11:23 AM on June 7, 2013

When I moved from Alberta I spent a year in Victoria, and am now in the Lower Mainland.

Moving to victoria I really enjoyed:
-Warmer winters
-Walkable, cyclable, transitable services
-The ferry. I don't drive. 2 hours on a ferry as a walk on is cheaper, more reliable and a helluva lot more pleasant than 2 hours on a greyhound. My gf lives in Victoria and I commute nearly every week and the ferry is (minus boarding and unloading) a little slice of sanity.
-The airport. It's small, but reasonably well served and getting in and out is pretty painless.

Things I wasn't enamoured with:
-Wind. And I went to U of Lethbridge so that's saying something.
-Dark. More sunshine in the winter than some places, but not many. Brighter than Surrey in the winter, but darker in the summer
-Perspective. The town is neither as metropolitan, nor as community minded as it's inhabitants would like to think of themselves. It was hard to make friends outside of structure extracurriculars.
-Employment. The community is small if you don't work retail or in the government. Poor relationships anywhere else can be, as mentioned above, confining.
-The ferry. Ah the ferry. How sharp that double edged sword. Reasonably priced if you are a pedestrian but it's clear that the corporation doesn't value that traffic. And declining vehicle traffic has spurred higher costs as opposed to better service. This is most clear when getting on and off.
posted by mce at 11:42 AM on June 7, 2013

Go with my extended metaphor here.

I've often wondered why the University of Hawaii isn't an athletic powerhouse in college sports. Schools recruit athletes based on what the school can do for the athlete, and Hawaii offers everything a Division I school can offer (facilities, competition, coaching, etc) and then on top of that, it's freakin' Hawaii. If you're a football player, do you want to go to Hawaii ... or Nebraska?

And I didn't know the answer until I actually met an athlete that did exactly that. She had her choice of Pac-12 schools (USC, UCLA, etc), but chose Hawaii thinking she'd get exactly the same as those schools, but her school would also be conveniently located in the fucking Garden of Eden.

She transferred one year later. Couldn't take it any more.

And the answer is ... athletes don't go to the islands because it's the islands. The island factor plays into more than you know and it plays into everything. You can't escape. No one can visit. You're remote in place and time (6 hours from the East coast). The closest major U.S. city to the islands is Anchorage. Pineapple is cheap, but a head of lettuce costs five bucks because island.

Now, obviously, Victoria is not Hawaii. But the island factor will raise its head constantly, in ways you won't think of.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:44 AM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

I moved to Victoria from northern Ontario ten years ago. I think your opinion will be somewhat dependent on where you're coming from. I grew up in an ugly, icy, blue-collar, 98% white city with not much by way of culture or nightlife. Victoria is like a paradise for me. My friends from Vancouver think it would be torture to live here because of the relative lack of amenities.

The only downsides I can think of are the fact that real estate is crazy expensive. Out of reach for me, but probably not for you, given your income. The rental market fluctuates a lot, and has lately been a bit more of a renter's market than in the past, which is a nice change. Pubs and bars close at odd hours, but if you aren't crazy nightlife people, it won't matter. I did find it difficult to find a job when I first moved here. Everyone repeatedly told me that Victoria feels like a small town, and getting work is all about who you know. They weren't wrong.

Being on an island and dependent on ferries can sometimes be an issue. I got stranded on the mainland once (delayed at the US/Canada border crossing, then missed the last boat out of Vancouver), and had a dreadful 18 hour travel day another time (when the seas were too rough for the Anacortes ferry to take me home). You have to plan your travel timing accordingly, account for the extra costs (if you're taking a car across) and be prepared for possible system failures.

I still think the winters here are delightful (again, keeping in mind my reference point). Sure, you get runs of grey skies, but the rain is generally not even umbrella-worthy, it rarely drops below freezing, and best of all, it's over by February!

I've had motorbikes off and on, but never a car here. Again, people from Vancouver complain about how awful the transit is (relative to what they're used to), but I've found it easy to rely on. Late night routes are limited, but nothing's really open that late anyway, so it sort of fits. Walking and biking are totally practical means of transportation.

Given your list of interests (which are very similar to mine!), I think you'll love it here. Memail me if you have any specific questions, or if you want to go for a beer after you arrive!
posted by bethnull at 11:47 AM on June 7, 2013

My parents retired to Sidney (just north of Victoria) and enjoy sending us pictures of themselves sitting in their green garden when it's -30 where I live (Calgary). They love it, and we love to visit. That being said, there's a definite "retirement community" feel, and you can drive up the island for road trips, but going anywhere on the mainland becomes a lot more complex and expensive.

If my wife and I were to ever move, it would be to Vancouver Island.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:58 AM on June 7, 2013

"My sister lives in Victoria BC and has spent years trying to convince my wife and I to move, telling us how beautiful it is, how bike-friendly and walk-friendly the city is, and how we simply must drop everything and move there immediately if not sooner."

This, and this:

"my sister is now telling us "I told you so" when the subject comes up."

Gets to the heart of why I, personally, have little inclination to move to Victoria (and why I left Vancouver area after living there for three years). I find that smug self-congratulatory attitude and a constant (insecure?) need to keep bringing up how great the place is to be a huge annoyance, and I ran into it all the time when I was on the West coast. I don't know that Victoria is better or worse in that regard than Vancouver, but I think there's a chance it's actually worse.
posted by bumpkin at 12:31 PM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

I too have only visited that pretty town and can offer no experience. An acquaintance moved to the Oregon coast to live by the beach. Everything was fine until his wife became ill and frequently had to be driven back to Portland for care. Facilities on the coast may be better now, but the availability of e.g., health care should be a factor in your decision. If you are young/healthy now you might not consider a future need. Are all the trades and professions that you use present in the "small town" of Victoria?
posted by Cranberry at 12:43 PM on June 7, 2013

I've never been there, but there's one huge reason why you should NOT move there --- and that's your sister.

As you say, she's harassed you for years for you to move there, and now she's pulling "I told you so" all over the place. If you WERE to move to Victoria, it wouldn't matter if Victoria is paradise on earth, you'd be that much closer and that much easier to reach to nag you and shove her nose deeper into your daily lives.
posted by easily confused at 1:13 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can tell that one of the quirks of Victoria is that so many people have strong opinions of the place even though they don't live here. We who do spend a lot of time defending, or explaining or brushing off such comments - it comes with the territory when you live in one of the mildest and prettiest places in Canada. I have lived in Victoria for 7 years now, and for me I absolutely love it. But there are a few reasons why the downsides of Victoria and island living don't bother me as much as they might others. First, I make a decent income that isn't dependent on the island economy (yes, the job and housing markets are rough here), I have a partner (yes, dating is tough), I tend to introverted and homebody activities (yes, the nightlife is laughable compared to big cities), I don't have kids (so the high COL isn't so oppressive), and I have enough travel flexibility to be able to enjoy the added complexity of ferry rides in my off-island excursions.
For me, I like the fake big city nature of Victoria. It's just big enough for me to be able to try a new restaurant when guests are in town, or to usually be anonymous if I'm drinking in a pub somewhere (I have a semi-public job), or to do or see any sport, art form or activity I can think of at least at the B level somewhere during the year. And I have enough money to afford the occasion splurge to go to Vancouver or Seattle for the A level stuff of interest. But it's also small enough that I can make enough of it mine, mine, mine that I never feel lost or alone - I can go someplace public and run into someone I know just enough to keep me from feeling all by myself in my introverted brain. That's important to me. I like that if you ask for help, someone usually knows someone who can (and will) do something for you.
But, if you are still reading, there are things that I get tired of too. Cruise season is annoying, and I do avoid the downtown area during the summer. The Winter Truck Parade makes up for it in my mind, but ymmv. You don't have to live right downtown. Traffic is a problem, it's like 200% capacity on the roads built for a small town and there's no solution in sight. But the ability (i.e.$) to choose your location well will make this less of an issue for you. Most social circles are well-established, small-town like, and it can be hard to break in. But adopting a sport, hobby or established group to participate in is the secret here. Once you are "in" with the dog walkers or the curlers or whatever, you are in with the extended family of the island. Pizza is more expensive here - that's the COL things that annoys me the most -- and Ikea is on the mainland. Victorians have to plan ahead a little more to get around these things, but it's almost a shared game for us since we can't really complain about the weather.
I can't think of anything else right now, me-mail me if you have any other questions, weird or not.
posted by dness2 at 1:18 PM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Victoria is the capital of BC and is a small city, not a small town. It has all the hospitals, trades, and professions that one would expect to go along with the seat of provincial government. It is a lot like Portland before it began to sprawl. Just FYI.
posted by dness2 at 1:23 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I live in Victoria. I grew up here, went to university here, and moved back here after spending 10 years abroad. After I got back I got a job with a Vancouver-based company that sent me all over BC.

I live in James Bay, less than 10 minutes from the center of town (such that it is).

I think Victoria is a great place to live. It's great if you have kids, or if you like the outdoors. If you like bookstores, there are plenty of those. It's great if you like coffee - we have the most independent coffee shops per capita in North America.

There's a strong arts scene. Starting in May there are festivals downtown every weekend. There's the Rifflandia music festival, which is huge now and attracts massive acts, plus numerous other theater festivals, notably Uno and Fringe, but there's more.

There's UVic if you want a good university library.

There's sailing clubs everywhere (if you want to sail a laser), SUP paddling is big now, there are outrigger clubs that practice along the Gorge, all that sort of thing. At least two cycling festivals.

Good schools for kids, lots of parks for kids. Great parks and recreation programs in each of the suburbs.

The downsides:

No food culture, really. Since Victoria can be a tourist town (actually, the technology sector has double the revenues of tourism), most of the restaurants cater to tourists, so it's a lot of bland, homogenous touristy dreck. Rebar? Overpriced organic vegetables thrown on a plate by snooty pseudo-hipsters.

It's very white. Victoria is a very white town. Because of that, it can be a bit of a cold town.

COL is going to be higher: While mortgages are cheaper than Vancouver, houses are still pretty expensive, especially when compared to household income. Food is more expensive than Vancouver, because everything has to be ferried in. Gas is cheaper than Van, because there are fewer fuel taxes.

There is very low unemployment, but the population is highly educated: Most jobs here are for people with advanced and professional degrees, or applied STEM degrees. Royal Roads churns out project manager certs. UVic churns out MBA's. They all want to stay here. Government has actually shrunk by about 10% over the past decade. If you want a job, you had better be an engineer or a developer. There are a lot of jobs for engineers and developers. A lot (Microsoft has a studio here, as does Amazon. Zynga does. So does KIXEYE).

Despite the tech sector's success, the local business leaders still focus on tourism: I live downtown, and we have all sorts of tacky tourist crap polluting what could be a sophisticated city, from stinking horse-drawn carts to mimes and jugglers, to a pedicabs and t-shirt shops.

However, the miles of oceanfront park along Dallas Road makes up for this. Tomorrow I am going to walk with my son over to Ogden Point to go fishing.

In short, if you have a job, great. If you have kids, great. If you are coming here to start a new life with no connections, not so great.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:11 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've lived here for about 8 years. I'll get to the pros in a moment, but here are some of the cons: you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than finding a family doctor who is accepting patients; landlords can and will refuse to rent to you if you have pets; strata (condo) boards can and will refuse to sell to you if you have kids; cost of living is high; our surrounding suburbs are ugly big box store complexes punctuated by housing; there is one highway in and out of town.

The pros: I find you get out of Victoria what you put into it, even more so than other places I've lived. Living here, we don't have the advantages of a big city where you can step out your door and be presented with a huge menu of options. You have to look for the stuff you want and if you don't find it, you get together with people and make it happen. Farmer's markets. Food trucks. Artisanal doughnut makers (three have sprung up this year). A bakery for dogs. Small-batch ice cream. Music festivals. Film festivals. Beer festivals. A thriving local art and music scene. Our mayor just helped plant an edible garden at city hall today. All that stuff is happening now because Victorians got tired of just being a beautiful-but-stodgy tourist destination.

I like how our scrappy little city is evolving and the more I get involved in my community, the more I love living here!
posted by atropos at 2:26 PM on June 7, 2013

I think one thing that appeals to me about Kitimat and Rupert (where you're from) is the sheer majesty of the landscape there. I've travelled all over the province for work, and Hwy 16 is the most beautiful wonderful place I've ever been, and I think it beats out the Rockies. The Island doesn't really have that sense of majesty, at least south of Campbell River, although I suppose there is Tofino.

And having lived surrounded by mountains for a decade or more in Japan, I really miss those too. There aren't any mountains on the South Island, although there is some great hiking to be found up behind Juan de Fuca Park.

We tend to go camping at French Beach and China Beach, where it has a great west coast feel, and we're planning a trip to Renfrew this summer.

As far as Victoria being a cold town, it isn't that friendly, that's for sure. It's very white, and very very bourgeois. However, professionally you can leverage the insular nature of the place quite well - networking works very, very well in this town, and jobs are advertised word of mouth.

I don't know what the male/female ratio is, but as a (married) man I always tend to think there are fewer hot young ladies strolling around to ogle.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:31 PM on June 7, 2013

"As far as Victoria being a cold town, it isn't that friendly, that's for sure. It's very white, and very very bourgeois."

I couldn't disagree more about the friendliness. We're not going to rush up and hug you, we are Canadian after all, but I've struck up way more casual conversations here than I ever did in Toronto. I'm not an outgoing person by any stretch of the imagination and I've found it really easy to connect with people. White? Disturbingly. Bourgeois? I guess. Friendly? YMMV

(Oh, and as a married woman, I can assure you that there are plenty of "hot young ladies" in Victoria, should that be a factor in your decision where to move. KokuRyu just lives in the wrong part of town.)
posted by atropos at 2:56 PM on June 7, 2013

I've probably said it before, but Victoria (and actually Vancouver shares in this) was given so much natural beauty and favourable climate that the inhabitants lack, because they may never have needed, much sense of civic identity or engagement. It's as if the Olympic Mountains or warm January days were some sort of civic project we should take pride in. Compare to some small cities with less natural blessing -- Saskatoon comes to mind -- and Victoria can seem smug, and smug with no good reason, really. The sense of outrage that we might have to build a sewage system - a task every other city in Canada takes for granted - is sort of indicative of this I think - a vague sense of entitlement.

As almost a lifelong resident, I'd concur with many of the points above:
- cost of buying a nice house is very high. You sound like you'll have a good income and all, but make sure you check it out closely first.

- this is especially true for the nice neighbourhoods. Suburban Victoria is as depressing a wasteland of strip malls, car lots and cul-de-sacs as there is in the entire country.

- I do think people are fairly insular here. They mind their own business and they will value your privacy for you to the extent that they won't intrude on it by, for example, asking if you want to get a coffee. If you have an in (your sister maybe) then this won't be a problem. I don't think this particularly has to do with it being white-bread though. For one thing, that's an old stereotype. There are a lot of people of Asian descent here (invisible visible minorities), including south Asian and of course there is a large urban aboriginal population - rapidly growing. I think it's a west coast thing you'd find in Vancouver as well.

- Victoria-proper is very dog-hostile in my experience.

- the parking police are ruthless and unforgiving

- Victoria has a lot of the same proximity to nature benefits Vancouver does, except if you want to ski it's a 4 hour drive vs in Vancouver it overlooks the city. On the other hand, you could afford to own a small sailboat here and moor it within 30 minutes of downtown and the boating here is much better since more central to the Gulf Islands.

- there's a zone of semi-rural areas outside the suburbs that are nonetheless within 20-30 minutes of Victoria - Central Saanich and Metchosin for example. Lots are large or small acreages, you could keep a horse or sheep, have a large vegetable garden, and yet still nip into town for a movie without thinking twice. Not many cities have that so nearby.

- yes, once you are on the Island, you are very much on An Island and it becomes psychologically hard to leave. I never go to Vancouver for a daytrip or an overnight thing, nor Seattle, not for pleasure anyway.

- There's really not a lot missing in Victoria except variety. As others have noted, there is one of everything, almost. Exceptions would be good coffeeshops and microbreweries.

memail me for more info or a beer.
posted by Rumple at 4:45 PM on June 7, 2013

My fondest memories of living in Victoria were the departures. It's an island paradise, and like paradises anywhere it's dull as doom. Lovely small city which seems to have engulfed the population with its smallness of vision. But if most of your social contact is immediate family and your night life is defined by your housing situation then it has its advantages.
posted by ptm at 6:42 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I grew up about 40 minutes outside Victoria in Sooke (one of the so-called "Western Communities" which are essentially bedroom communities for Victoria) from birth until I was 18. I went to high school in Victoria, did all my dance training in Victoria, and lived there on my own for one year after I graduated high school. I love Victoria and the Island with all my heart and every fibre of my being, but there are reasons to leave (which I ultimately did), and reasons why I haven't moved back.
The reasons I left were perhaps specific to my age and career ambitions at the time, but are maybe worth mentioning...
I left because:
- despite the vocal protestations of residents to the contrary, in my experience the so-called "vibrant arts scene" in Victoria is in fact relatively small, incredibly insular, and generally quite provincial, which is fine, except that people tend to be rabidly celebratory of the homegrown arts organizations in the city, even when they are consistently producing disappointing work. The combination of these two things leads, in my opinion and experience, to a cultural scene which is sadly closed to outside influence, and lamentably un-critical of even the most mediocre Victoria-grown talent. It makes the city's arts makers and audiences (which are limited to begin with) seem somewhat over-protective of their own, and therefore under-appreciative and un-supportive of outside artists. Very few national or international dance, theatre, etc. companies make stops in Victoria (though almost all will perform in Van), which only exacerbates the artistic insularity. If you are an artsy person who needs to be seeing and experiencing new work regularly, Victoria will emphatically not provide that. Vancouver and/or Seattle can, but getting there is generally a pain in the arse. That being said, there are some pockets of genuinely amazing artists who make Victoria their home, if you take the time to wade through the other stuff and find them.
- it can be expensive and time-consuming to get out of Victoria. Heading up island can be wonderful, especially for outdoor pursuits (I have a particular soft spot for Strathcona Park, just outside Campbell River), but even Nanaimo, the second-largest town on the Island and the closest "large" town to Victoria, is about 1.5 hours away (assuming you drive the Malahat like a local). The ferries are an absolute racket, and flying into and out of Victoria will usually add an extra $50-$100 to any itinerary, which can feel burdensome if you're the type of person that likes to escape the island mentality fairly often.
- the island mentality thing is real. Others have articulated it well, so I'll just add my seconding to that point.

Despite these not-entirely-minor grievances, I miss the Island to a degree that is physical at times, and will probably move back as soon as it is feasible career-wise for me to do so (aka when I retire). However, I don't think I would ever move to Victoria-proper, as the things I miss about the West Coast are the rugged beaches, the dense rainforests, and the hills and mountains, none of which are especially abundant in or near the city. To get at the good stuff, the stuff that makes living on the Island worth the hassles mentioned above, you need to get somewhere farther North and/or West (Renfrew, Uclulet, Gold River, etc) on the Island than Vic....
posted by Dorinda at 7:32 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I lived in Victoria for 15 years. Three words that I've just read in posts above stand out based on my time there: provincial, insular and self-congratulatory. Ugh. For some reason, many residents of Victoria are convinced that it is the most aMAzing place in the universe. Now, it does have its merits, certainly, but so do many places.

If you like to travel internationally, there is quite a bit of inconvenience associated with not being able to fly direct to most international destinations. Whereas from Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver or Calgary you can fly direct to many destinations such as Paris, Tokyo, LHR, Barcelona, from Victoria you first have to fly to a hub city. Not a big deal on paper, but considering for comparison that from Vancouver you take a ~20-minute cab ride to the airport, then get on a plane and debark in France/Korea/Germany, whatever, the added 3-4 or more hours associated with a layover in Vancouver can get annoying. And expensive.

How long ago was it that you lived in rain? When I lived in Victoria, I never even noticed that it rained -- truly! But now that I spend the majority of the year with dry feet, dry socks, dry shoes and dry jeans, I do find Victoria to be wetter than I remember when I visit, and I am now more irritated by all the rain. And the constant grey skies. To test your current capacity to withstand rainy greyness, spend November there. It will rain every day, and you will not see any vague hint of sunlight. That is perhaps a more realistic picture of the weather than a beautiful flowery spring visit.

Finally, if you do go, be sure that your wife will be able to find work. It is not a normal job market, and it's common for entry-level jobs to go to to people with 20 years of experience and a PhD. So make sure that there are actual jobs that she could actually get - not just job postings - before you commit.
posted by lulu68 at 3:05 PM on June 8, 2013

I grew up in Ontario, moved to Victoria and lived there for a few years, and now live in Edmonton. I would *love* to move back to Vic.
posted by Edna Million at 3:34 PM on June 8, 2013

Checking back in and I thought I would mention one more thing: if you're coming from Rupert you won't be a stranger to rain but the wide range of densely packed microclimates might be a little more surprising. James bay will be colder and windier than Cordova bay, oak bay gets more rain than saanichton etc. Being on the tip of the island, and basically composed of low mountains, the region is full of rain shadows, valleys, exposed hill tops and the like. Its amazing how.much warmer a backyard in north park can be compared to a street downtown.
posted by mce at 8:22 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

First off, Victoria is great for walking, hiking, the outdoors, animals, eating well-made food and cooking. From what you've said about yourself this city may very well be a great match.

I've lived here five years and will soon be moving. While incredibly beautiful, and a great home base for a lot of traveling up the island, I never really felt at home here.

Victoria is far smaller than you realize when visiting. People are constantly moving here from the east, then moving away in a couple years. The more permanent community is very insular, to the point where it's nearly impossible to meet someone who doesn't already know all the people you know. Jobs and apartments are mostly found through word of mouth. Knowing the right people can completely change the way you experience the city. Being a friend of someone seen as important in the community gave me way more opportunities than my skills or experience. It's hard for anything new to take off here because of the of the way most of the city is a small, closed off circle of mutual appreciation.

People will continue to throw money and praise at mediocre restaurants, bands, artists, and attractions just because they existed first and people feel loyalty towards them.

There is very little variety. The clubs all feel the same, play the same music, attract the same people. Same goes for bars and galleries. We have a larger selection of restaurants, but nothing close to the selection in Vancouver.

After about a year the lovely flower baskets and lights and perfectly clean streets seem less wonderful and more like a play we are paying to put on for boatloads of tourists. It becomes hard not to notice that it's a city of mostly new stuff with a fake old timey British facade over it. It doesn't feel like a real place. Having a scary line of police clear Government st. on Canada day in order to start leaf blowing the streets free of trash made me feel really unwelcome.

I have a hard time with the undefined seasons and the lack of sunshine. I sometimes have to stop and think about what time of year it is because August to June can seem like one long, dark blur. Christmas does not feel like Christmas. I miss the snow and I miss lightening storms.
posted by feelingcold at 12:33 AM on June 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Making plans to move to Victoria from Winnipeg. Lived there 20 years ago..came back to be with family and now moving back. Love Winnipeg and the friends we have etc..but the winters are wearing on us. Hoping to hear others stories of transition ..
posted by wanderings at 8:03 AM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

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