Dos and Don’ts

Vancouver is a city of migrants; It seems like everyone is from someplace else. Burgeoning Asian populations include Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans. Europeans migrate from the UK, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Croatia, and elsewhere. People speak Arabic, Farsi, Punjabi, Pakistani, and Japanese. Canadians from “Back East” come seeking opportunity and milder weather. This cultural mix gives Vancouver a wonderful blend of ethnicity and character, and makes it a very welcoming place. If you follow a few basic cultural rules, you’ll be most welcome too.

Manners: Soft-spoken and polite, Vancouverites appreciate good manners. “Excuse me,” “Thank you,” and “Please” go a long way.

Litter: Vancouver’s streets are clean and locals work hard to keep them that way. Do not spit or litter, and recycle whatever you can (public facilities make it easy to do so).

Rain Gear: Understand that, for much of the year, “Cloudy with a chance of showers” is basically the daily forecast, an optimistic way of saying “it’s probably going to rain.” With the right rain gear and attitude, you’ll learn to enjoy—or at least tolerate—the wet weather, too. After all, that’s why everything is so fresh and green. You’ll notice many locals don’t bother with umbrellas (opting instead for hooded rain jackets), so if you carry one on the busy streets, be mindful you don’t poke anyone in the eye.

Tipping: Tip bartenders and waiters 15-20 percent.

Smoking: Vancouver is a smoke-free city and smoking is prohibited in indoor public spaces. Some restaurants and bars have patios where you can smoke, but most indoor spaces are smoke free.

Phrase Book

Grow-Op: Short for an illicit marijuana “Grow Operation,” where “B.C. bud” is grown

Kits: The abbreviated name for Kitsilano, the west side residential neighborhood and home to “Kits Beach”

Kokanee: The name for a species of land-locked salmon (accent on first syllable); also a popular brand of beer made in the Kootenay district of B.C.

Parkade: A multilevel parking structure

Pissed: In Vancouver it means you’re drunk

The Drive: Refers to Commercial Drive, an alternative and culturally diverse street and neighborhood in East Vancouver

The Island: Refers to Vancouver Island, which is home to Victoria, British Columbia’s capital city

The Lower Mainland: The area comprising Greater Vancouver (Vancouver and surrounding suburbs)

The North Shore: Refers to the mountainous area north of Vancouver where you’ll find the separate cities of North Vancouver and West Vancouver

Toque: A Canadian word for knitted winter hat or ski hat

Two-Four: A case of 24 beer bottles or cans; a six-pack is called a “half sack,” a 26-ounce (.7-liter) bottle of alcohol is called a “26er,” and a 40-ounce (1.2-liter) bottle is called a “40 pounder”

West Side vs. West End: The West Side refers to the entire western side of the city; whereas the West End refers to the downtown neighborhood along English Bay.

Skookum: A Chinook word meaning awesome, delicious, or the best—as in, “Dude, that’s a skookum snowboard”


About Vancouver and Canada

  • <p>Photo: Vancouver skyline at dusk</p>


    Get travel tips, see photos, take a quiz and more with National Geographic's Ultimate Guide to Vancouver.

  • <p>Photo: The northern lights</p>


    Explore Canada through facts and photos, related features, a country map, and more.

Join Nat Geo Travel's Communities

2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

  • Picture of a volcano on Reunion Island

    Who Will Win?

    Browse photos of nature, cities, and people and share your favorite photos.

Take a Nat Geo Trip

Select a destination or trip type to find a trip:

See All Trips »

Get Social With Nat Geo Travel