When I first moved to Kelowna, I spent a lot of time sulking.
There were many great reasons for my move to the interior but I missed my friends and the big city where you could get authentic fresh bagels at 3am. I missed the art shows, riding my bike along the sea wall and the endless shopping options. It felt strange not to hear the buzz of downtown and the whirring of the sky train going by. Like old friends, I had my favorite spots in Vancouver developed over years of wondering the streets. I knew the underground bars, secret beaches and niche markets and it was hard to give up that familiarity.
But I found that most of all, I missed the civic pride and comradery that comes with being a Vancouverite. Because even though it rains for months on end sometimes, living costs are damn near unaffordable, people are aloof and it takes hours to commute anywhere, Vancouverites will always proudly wave their city’s flag. That pride is not just something claimed, it’s something that’s felt.
And it’s something that’s missing in Kelowna at times. There is a sort of disconnect that lingers here.
I think many tourists come to visit Kelowna in the summer and get caught up in all the events and sunshine and draw the conclusion that it’s paradise. But sadly, the locals will tell you a different story.
In an awkward teenage city still fighting its acne and deciding who it will become, locals seem almost embarrassed to admit this is their home. They complain about the poor traffic planning, love to hate the tourists and grumble about how favorite artists don’t perform here.
In my first year living here, I noticed how quickly everyone could bond over what they disliked about Kelowna instead of connecting over how lucky they were to live here.
Yes, Kelowna is in a transitional phase. Not quite big enough to be a metropolis but certainly not a small town. At the rate we’re growing it’s only natural to feel a bit displaced. Old locals are unhappy about the changing city and new arrivals are unhappy it’s not adapting fast enough.
The solution to improving our civic pride does not lie with the city. It lies with us.
This should be an exciting time to get into this city and help to shape what’s it’s going to become. We should be encouraging the things we love about how Kelowna is developing, nurturing a culture of growth and working to discourage the behavior we dislike. We have an opportunity to make Kelowna a great city.
Let’s connect local small business owners who are excited about the future of this city and encourage a personality to start surfacing for Kelowna. Let’s promote our interesting events, passionate artists and skilled citizens. Do you want Kelowna to be known as a foodie city? Then get out there and help to promote the chefs who are passionate about being a part of that. Do you wish there was more support for music in Kelowna? Then find the events that are already happening and offer to volunteer, spread the word however you can. This is your town, get involved!
Did you know that research suggests that civic pride is directly related to our happiness level? Our community needs to understand the value of civic pride and it’s benefit to not only our city but ourselves as individuals. When we grow a strong sense of civic pride, that’s when we can start seeing the community come together and make real things happen.
A shift from focusing on what we dislike to what we love and want to grow is vital. What do you love about Kelowna? What does civic pride mean to you? What do you want Kelowna to become?