Opinion: Vancouver nightlife is not a vibe

How do you feel about nightclubs?

If you’ve ever been to Celebrities or Twelve West or the Roxy, you probably have a pretty good idea of what the nightclub scene in Vancouver is like. You may have heard that Vancouver is known as being a ‘sleepy city’ in terms of its nightlife. Compared to most major cities in Canada, Vancouver seems to be ranking on the lower end of the scale in terms of the overall quality of the experience. People generally have very mixed opinions on nightclub culture in general.

Vancouver at night.

First of all, let’s talk about the principle behind nightclubs. Why do people go there? Nightclubs have captivated the human spirit for years, providing an opportunity for vibrance and social interactions. In theory, there’s an undeniable allure to idea of a place where people from all walks of life can go to leave their worries behind and have fun. Nightclubs have been around since the early 20th century, but back in those days they were pretty much exclusive to the upper class. They were characterized by live music, upscale décor, and an elite, refined clientele.

Over the decades the culture behind nightclubs has transformed and adapted into one which is more inclusive and diverse in terms of self-expression. Nightclubs serve as an opportunity to see and to be seen. People who are interested in fashion often appreciate any occasion where they get to dress up and experiment with different trends. Since a lot of the clubbing experience is visual, you have a great opportunity to express yourself in ways that you may not in your everyday life.

Unfortunately, that is a bit of an idealistic description of nightclub culture. It’s not exactly a utopia, and there is an undeniable dark side to the experience.

As previously mentioned, clubs offer an opportunity to put on a visual show for other people. That’s great if all you came to do is show off your new outfit, but there is an overwhelming superficiality to the experience. Due to the nature of clubbing, it’s not uncommon to feel objectified in this environment. You’re in an arena full of strangers, and the music is so loud that you can’t hear yourself think, let alone speak to someone else. It’s nearly impossible to attract people with your personality. People who tend to seek deeper and more meaningful connections often leave this environment with a feeling of emptiness.

The nightclub culture normally promotes an image of endless excitement and carefree socialization, but it doesn’t necessarily feel that way. The experience revolves largely around grandiose displays of wealth and status, and with that it breeds an unspoken pressure to measure up. People will spend exorbitant sums of money on things like tables and bottle service and sparklers and signs with custom messages on them; these things are obviously unnecessary, but they send a message to observers that you’re wealthy enough to have money to blow on ridiculous things, so you must be important. If you take these grandiose displays of wealth too far, it’s easy to look like you’re seeking attention. And that doesn’t exactly project an impression of confidence, like, why are you begging for approval from strangers? It’s weird.

On top of that, it can get to a point where it just feels forced. People are forcing attention and forcing an image that they’re having the best time in the world, even if they’re not. It’s fake.

In my opinion, that’s the overall energy of nightclub culture right there. Fake.

Once you spend enough time in nightclubs you start to get a decent read on which types of people frequent these environments. They tend to be individuals with good social skills and large networks. If you read my previous article on social chameleons, this will sound familiar. Club people are usually masters at curating and projecting an image that is acceptable to large groups of people, but isn’t necessarily in alignment with their true character. In many cases, it’s hard to determine what their true character actually looks like. They’re at the club for one reason, and it’s not to find deep meaningful relationships.

The physical environment itself can also be very draining. With all of the flashing lights and loud music, it’s not hard to understand how substance abuse is normal in this culture; you basically have to numb your senses to the point that you dissociate from reality in order to stand it. The external stimulation can be completely overwhelming for some people, to the point that it causes full-on sensory overload. The atmosphere of escapism and hedonism can also encourage the use of drugs and alcohol, as many individuals are looking to enhance their experience… or to numb their emotions. If people are using substances as coping tools this can begin a dangerous cycle, which in worst case could lead down a road of addiction.

People sometimes come into nightclubs and abuse substances when they’re fighting inner demons, and that can manifest in really undesirable ways as well. It’s not uncommon to witness instances of fights, sexual assaults, and other criminal activity. Drugs and alcohol can impair people’s judgement and fuel their repressed aggression; this can turn the club, which is supposed to be a fun place, into a very dangerous environment.

In general, the social landscape in Vancouver has a reputation for being cold and difficult to navigate. I personally feel that this sentiment is reflected in the energy of its nightlife. When you go out to the club, you’ll usually find groups of 4+ friends attending together, and then not speaking to anybody else outside of their group. It really defeats the purpose of going out, which is supposed to be to socialize. But in Vancouver, it seems more like everyone is just there to look cool and maybe make out with a stranger. In a very loud obnoxious environment. While drinking overpriced low-quality alcohol.

This observation is coming from someone who spent a year as a university student in Calgary, and I found that my experience there was vastly different. Every time I went out in Calgary I had a great time with complete strangers, because they were friendly without having ulterior motives. It truly felt that everyone was just there to have a good time. The darkness of the nightlife culture was still present, as it always is, but it felt like a more genuine experience overall.

In contrast, the darkness of nightlife feels amplified in Vancouver. The venues can be quite exquisite, but it seems like the negative sides of clubbing are intensified here. The experience is reflective of the city’s overall vibration: beautiful and uninviting.

But I mean do what you want.

Love you.

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