CHAPTER FIVE: Conclusions
The discourse in Vancouver surrounding social isolation and the reputation for unfriendliness has been greatly influenced by the Vancouver Foundation’s report which suddenly bestowed in-depth analysis to years of hearsay. This apparent state of “unfriendliness” has been shaped, in part, by Vancouverites obsession with the physical environment, lack of socializing spaces and a perceived lack of social capital, particularly when it comes to bridging the gap between ethnic enclaves and established social networks groups. One cannot discount the extent to which media coverage tends to favour or ignore certain themes in producing a new cultural lexicon by which social isolation is understood in Vancouver.
Another interesting aspect is the context of the Vancouver Foundation’s results. Much concern has been expressed about how 24 per cent of Vancouverites are alone more often than they would like to be while 31 per cent of residents find this to be a hard place to make friends. What about the 76 per cent of people who are satisfied with their amount of alone time and the 69 per cent of Vancouverites having no trouble making friends?
The Vancouver Foundation was rather in depth with its survey, asking 3,841 residents what they thought of human connections and engagement in their community. Was it is possible that the expectations were too high? Or was the follow-up reporting too skewed in one particular direction? Neighbourliness is something to be celebrated, but is it possible that the constant reiterating of Vancouver’s issues of loneliness, isolation, divides in ethnicity and a disenchanted demographic of young adults is just a self-fulfilling prophecy that continues to keep Vancouver in this apparent state of unfriendliness?
While the local media was focusing in on the social isolation and general “unfriendliness” in the city, the international media was lauding Vancouver for their “liveability.” According to The Economist Intelligence Unit, the London-based authority of the quality of life index, Vancouver was rated the third most “liveable”city in the world in 2012 and was rated 5th on New York-based Mercer’s Quality of Living Survey. Such international accolades associated with moving to a city whose iconic image exists on the panoramic level, conjure high expectations from newcomers and can be a basis for disappointment. This carries a particular impact in the early stages of living in a new city, a time crucial to shaping one’s identity, and one’s thoughts and feelings within that space.
Is Vancouver particularly different from other big cities with a transient and multicultural population? The factors studied in this thesis help explain Vancouver’s particular relationship with an apparent state of unfriendliness. The Vancouver Foundation’s report of 2012 clearly showed that there are major deficiencies in the city’s community engagement and the media’s reporting, whether intentional or not, has perpetuated a feeling of social isolation. Yet the additional awareness to the topic was the first step toward debunking this stigma or at least understanding it more comprehensively. Vancouver has a been assigned a label for “unfriendliness” rightfully or wrongfully so, but the nature of the reputation now more clearly understood, renders it accessible to be studied from a broader, more holistic approach rather than being simply based on rumours of Vancouver as an unfriendly city.