Victoria: 13 tips for speaking like a local
Victoria: 13 tips for speaking like a local
Have you ever noticed that English speakers from different places don’t always sound the same?
Most people hear a big difference between British and American English, both in their accent and vocabulary. But did you know that Canadians sound different too?
In fact, Canadians from different regions have distinct accents and some very unique vocabulary too.
Let’s look at some common expressions you’ll hear while living in Victoria. Whether you’re coming to learn English in Canada or simply for a holiday, these tips will help you sound like a local in no time!
Did you know that Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, is located on an island? The expression up-island refers to everything north of your current location on Vancouver Island (wherever that is).
You’ll often hear people talk about going up-island for the weekend or staying up-island with friends. And because Victoria is at the very southern tip of the island, everything is up-island from here.
Relax, this ain’t the mainland.
Because Victoria is located on an island, we needed some way of referring to the rest of Canada. When you hear someone mention the mainland, we’re usually talking about other parts of British Columbia, although the mainland could mean any other part of Canada that is not an island.
To talk about Vancouver and the surrounding area, you’ll often hear people call it the lower mainland, making it distinct from the rest of the province. Common expressions include “My friend is from the mainland” and “The nearest Ikea is on the mainland.”
The Galloping Goose Regional Trail, known locally as the Goose, is one of our most popular trails for jogging, walking, skateboarding, horseback riding and cycling. This paved pathway runs 55km from Victoria to the nearby community of Sooke.
So, when you hear someone say they’re going to ride the Goose this weekend, you can be sure they’re talking about cycling the Galloping Goose trail, not an actual goose!
You’re walking down the street and you accidentally bump into somebody. You say, “Oh, I’m sorry!” The other person turns around and says, “No worries,” then casually walks away.
The expression no worries is a very west-coast way of saying no problem, it’s ok, or don’t worry about it.
We use this expression in two main situations: when someone apologizes and when someone says thank you. If you ask someone for help or information, you’ll often hear no worries instead of you’re welcome.
Go for wings
If someone ever invites you to go for wings, say yes! The “wings” they’re talking about are chicken wings, a popular meal not only in Victoria but throughout Canada. Any respectable pub will have wing night once a week (when wings are cheaper than other nights), and they’ll have a large variety of different flavours too. Common expressions include “Wanna go for wings tonight?”, “It’s wing night at the Flying Otter”, and “How about some wings and beer?”
*Wings come “dry” or “with sauce”. Dry wings are flavoured but you don’t have to worry about the sticky mess of having wings with sauce. My personal recommendation for dry wings are salt-and-pepper. For sauce wings, I love honey garlic or teriyaki.
Brunch [brʌntʃ] (noun) A single meal that replaces breakfast and lunch, usually taken between 10:30am and 1:30pm, consisting of typical breakfast and lunch foods; often a social event enjoyed among friends or family.
Brunch is not unique to Victoria, but we do have a very special brunch culture out here. It’s such a popular activity that we even have brunch restaurants that open early in the morning and close around 3:00pm.
It’s also common for people to host brunch at their homes, inviting friends or family to join them. Brunch is also a really popular dating activity! If you’re going to live in Victoria, it’s important that you embrace brunch as part of the local culture.
If you’re heading up-island from Victoria, you will almost certainly take a drive over the Malahat (sometimes referred to as the Hat). The Malahat is a low mountainous region north of Victoria.
There are some isolated homes in the area, but the Malahat is best known for the stretch of the TransCanada Highway (HWY 1) that runs over it – the only highway connecting the north and south ends of Vancouver Island. With friends living up-island*, I often drive over the Malahat for weekend visits with them.
*See up-island above.
The salmon run
No, salmon do not run. They’re fish. But each year in the autumn, salmon swim from the Pacific Ocean back up the rivers of British Columbia to their traditional spawning grounds (to make babies) during a season known as the salmon run.
The nearest place to Victoria that you can see the salmon “running” is in Goldstream Provincial Park, located at the base of the Malahat.
If you’re staying in Victoria during this season, you’ll hear people planning trips to Goldstream to see the salmon run or asking their friends if the salmon are running yet. Watching the display as they swim upstream is a truly local pastime.
If you’ve travelled to Victoria by plane, you might recognise YYJ as the airport code for the Victoria International Airport. It turns out that this code is also handy as a general expression to talk about the entire region.
You’ll find all kinds of events including “Car Free YYJ”, “Pub Crawl YYJ”, and YYJ concerts. So, if you hear someone mention YYJ, know that they’re talking about the entire south end of the island, not just the airport!
The word gumboots is borrowed from South African English and represents what the rest of Canada calls “rubber boots” or “rain boots”.
Thanks to Victoria’s high annual rainfall and the fact we’re completely surrounded by ocean, gumboots are an essential item in every wardrobe.
We wear them when it rains, when we go for walks by the ocean, and when we’re working in the garden… and they also make a great fashion statement.
The blue bridge
The blue bridge refers to a bridge that connects Vic West to downtown Victoria at the mouth of the Gorge river. If you live in the south part of Victoria, it’s the first place you can access the west side of the Gorge. The only problem: the bridge is gone.
From 1924 to 2018, the Johnson Street Bridge had been painted blue (on purpose) and was affectionately referred to as the blue bridge. But in 2018, the blue bridge was replaced by a more modern, grey bridge. But nobody calls it the grey bridge. And nobody calls it the Johnson Street Bridge either. Victoria residents simply continue to call it the blue bridge.
You’ll often hear people describing the locations of restaurants, pubs, and attractions in relation to the blue bridge, even though it no longer stands. Will it ever change?
* Although the new bridge is grey, blue lights shine on it at night. So… it’s kind of blue.
Drizzling, spitting, pouring, pissing, or really coming down
You may have heard that it rains in Victoria… a lot! And since rain is such a big part of our daily lives, we like to use a variety of expressions to keep it interesting.
If it’s drizzling, there’s a constant rain but it’s so light that it’s almost like mist instead of rain. (You’d look silly if you used an umbrella while it’s drizzling, because it’s not really raining, but gumboots are probably a good idea.)
If it’s spitting, the rain is sparse but the droplets are big.
If it’s pouring, this is real rain – it’s coming down continuously and in large droplets.
Pissing is actually a vulgar word that means “urinating”, so we usually say this when it’s raining hard (see pouring) and we’re annoyed about it.
And finally, if it’s really coming down, then it’s raining really hard and there’s no end in sight. This explains why we sometimes call the “West Coast” the “Wet Coast”.
Thank your bus driver
One of the first things you’ll notice on public transit is that almost everyone says thank you to their bus driver. It’s one of the most endearing habits you’ll witness among local residents. We say this as we exit the bus.
It doesn’t matter if you’re leaving through the front or back door, it’s always polite to call out to your bus driver to thank them for the ride. Nobody really knows when or why this habit started, but it’s become the norm on city buses across the region.
Bonus: English accents in Victoria
One more thing for the well-trained ear is that you may notice Victoria residents pronounce some of their vowels in a non-standard way. It can only be heard by the most perceptive ear, but it is distinct.
You’ll often hear other English speakers teasing Canadians for the way we say words like “about”, “house”, and “out”. To some, it sounds like we’re saying “a-boat”, “hose”, and “oat”, with an extra long “o-o-o-o” sound instead of an “ow” sound like in the words “owl” and “power”.
Although Canadians would argue that our vowels are very normal, linguists have actually recognised our funny vowels as a regional accent called Canadian Raising. It’s called “raising” because the tongue is placed slightly higher in the mouth than standard American English vowels. Although this feature can be heard in Canadian English accents across the provinces, it’s particularly common around Victoria.
You’ll sound like a local in no time!
If you’re planning take English courses in Victoria, these tips will help you sound like a natural English speaker. Master even one of these tips and you’re well on your way to sounding like a local here in Victoria.
If you’re from Victoria and have other tips for sounding like a local, please leave us a comment!
If you have questions about this topic, ask us in the comments section below!
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