This just in: Calgary has no culture

Posted on April 7, 2009

I think we've all said it before: Calgary has no culture.  I've been guilty of this before and sometimes I'm still guilty of it, but consecutive snow storms on the very precious weekends we get can make even the best of us a little jaded.  Sometimes it even feels good to say it, like it's a battle between you and the city and you're getting the upper hand.  Somehow, somewhere, someway, I realized I didn't get the upperhand cursing at Calgary.  Infact, I realized by saying Calgary has no culture, I was criticizing myself.  It's all of us together that make up Calgary's culture.  So what kind of culture do we have?

We've probably all unwittingly taken part in the many cultures Calgary has to offer, even if only through food. Hot pot? Oh hells yes.

Well, a lot of people ask what our culture is - the Calgarian culture, the Albertan culture, the Canadian culture.  No one really seems to have an answer.  A lot of people argue we have no culture, which is a statement that on some level comes remotely close to offending me (but not quite, you'll have to try harder than that).  I'd argue we have lots of culture, with a big catch.

I took in the light display at Parliament Hill in Ottawa once and it had a really cheesy voice over mentioning how Canada's "spirit is the land!" or something equally as lame (I'm sure they still repeat the same voice over to this day, so a prize for someone who knows the exact quote). Cheesiness aside, after a summer of hiking, I realized that voiceover might have been on to something.

Snowboarding to salsa dance, bubble tea to bhangra. Hockey, hookah, hip hop, hiking.  Curling then clubbing.  Maple syrup to montreal smoked meat, dim sum to donairs... okay, I realize now I'm just talking about food (this happens more often than it should).  The point I'm trying to make is that we are absolutely blessed with a multi-cultural society that has ALL cultures.  Everything I mentioned is something you can be a part of (or something you can eat a part of) on any given day in Calgary, and it's easy to take that for granted.   The catch I mentioned earlier is that you have to opt-in.  It doesn't sound like a much of a catch, but it stops far too many of us.  Sometimes when given the absolute freedom of choice, it's easy to choose nothing, and sadly, a lot of us in Calgary do.

Calgary or Mumbai? If you aren't Sikh, get a Sikh friend. If you are Sikh, keep on having amazing weddings :) In all seriousness, this is a part of Calgary's cultural fabric, no more of these us & them attitudes!

So why are we criticizing Calgary's culture if there's really so much of it?  Is our city's cultural libido stuck in some sort of chicken and egg scenario, where people won't contribute to the culture because it's not readily there, and the culture won't readily be there because people aren't contributing to it like they should?  Well, we Calgarians make up our culture, so be the egg... or the chicken?  Whichever one gets things rolling.  I guess that'd be the egg.  Eggs usually roll.  Metaphors aren't my strong suit so I'll just skip to the point, or a point anyhow: if there's a reason Calgary appears to have no culture, it's due to our own apathy, which is always a terrible excuse to not get involved. If you aren't willing to contribute, why would you expect anyone else to?

I'm wondering if there's a correlation between those who call Calgary boring and those who don't go to the Folk Festival.

Calgary has so much potential to be regarded as a cultural city, but in this 'driving friendly' city of ours, its all to easy to pass everything by.  Too many of us fall into the driving home to work, work to home, home to grocery store, grocery store to home, home to work, rinse and repeat lifestyle.  If that's all we do, we should expect our city to be culturally lacking.  Fortunately, there are a lot of great things constantly going on in the city, it just might take a little more work than other cities to find them, but the effort is worth it.  So my advice is to take the time to a do a little homework, get involved, and be a part of making Calgary the city you want it to be.  That's the reason I made CalgaryUrbanite (as well as to shove a green agenda down your throats!), and I'm hoping you all do something cooler than me to contribute to this city of ours :)