Social Upgrade: Vancouver’s social culture desperately needs a revamp

We need to re-approach how we socialize in the city

vancouver cityscape at night
Diversifying our social options helps everyone. PHOTO: Victor Tran / The Peak

By: Hannah Kazemi, Staff Writer

We need to change the way we socialize in Vancouver. Vancouver’s social scene isn’t approachable for many people, and no one should be excluded from the fun just because they want to partake in a more relaxed way.

Not everyone wants to spend their entire night at a club or bar, but if you want to go somewhere else after 9:00 p.m., you’re out of luck as everywhere else is closed. People have no choice but to choose the least grimey club on Granville Street to grab a drink at, and spend the rest of their night elbowing their way to the bar. This might be appealing to some, but it’s known to be a pain for those who aren’t into that type of social scene. Spaces like clubs and bars are usually uncomfortable and unsafe environments for non-drinkers, disabled folk, women, people of colour, or queer and trans folk who experience harassment in these settings.

Many casual hangouts in Seoul are open late or 24/7, and you can find a variety of options from karaoke rooms, to night markets. Attractions like these are a relaxed way to spend the evening without relying on alcohol for your fun. There are also lots of restaurants, services, shops, and public bathhouses in Seoul that are open till late, and the city is bursting with people walking around — creating a safer environment.

In Vancouver, cafés tend to close early — like 5:00 p.m. or earlier. In Europe, though, cafés are open at later hours and provide an alternative to late-night socializing. Vancouver doesn’t have anything quite like the places found in many European cities, but there are a couple spots in the city that are a bit more innovative in the way that they invite people to socialize. The Keefer Yard in Chinatown is one example — they provide table service and mini golf.

What is it about Vancouver that inspires such a hardcore party culture? Is it the city’s design, or our cultural lack of interest in other modes of socializing? What about catching up with a friend over coffee after work, or casual late-night food? I’ve asked so many people these questions and not a single one of them has given me an answer, but the consensus seems to be that Vancouver just needs to do better.

Especially during COVID-19, all these things make being social in Vancouver very difficult, and often unenjoyable. Going to clubs, bars, and busy restaurants don’t allow for casual modes of socialization, which deters people from going out in the first place. This also fuels Vancouver’s “No Fun City” reputation. This type of socializing does appeal to some Vancouverites, but not all. Vancouver needs to seriously reassess its social culture and the way people are encouraged to come together.