By Eric Wilkins
Odessa, Ukraine; Yokohama, Japan; Edinburgh, Scotland; Guangzhou, China; and Los Angeles, United States. Upon first glance, seemingly the only commonality shared amongst these cities is the utter randomness with which they have been mentioned. However, despite each appearing to be completely unique, they all share one bond: they’re sister cities of Vancouver.
Sister cities. What does that even mean? These cities neither stay up on the phone all night with each other nor borrow one another’s favourite outfits. As with actual family members, the relationship can be a bit more than that. Cities can designate each other as such for any number of reasons, whether they simply share the same name—as is the case with Toledo, Spain and Toledo, Ohio—have a number of similarities, are bound by historical events, or share interests and goals. There is no set definition or qualifier.
The concept of sister cities, also known as twin towns, is not a new one, with records indicating that the first instance of them occurring was in 1836 between Paderborn, Germany, and Le Mans, France (though only officially since 1967). Vancouver entered its first sister city partnership in 1944 with Odessa in a relationship born out of the hardships of war.
And while the cultural benefits are often quality results by themselves, an increasing trend has seen sister cities become so for economic reasons. Continuing with the theme of our own city, Vancouver and Guangzhou are two such cities to have strengthened their bond in recent years. In 2013, the two established a five-year agreement between Tourism Vancouver and Tourism Guangzhou, under which, according to Metro, they will “share research, compare best practices and provide mutual support for continued tourism efforts.” The agreement came about as a result of a large Vancouver delegation visiting some prestigious company in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and of course, in no small part due to their relationship, Guangzhou. With China accounting for a significant portion of Vancouver’s tourism industry, some might suggest that such partnerships are elementary, but in a highly competitive economic climate, sometimes it just takes a little bit to make one preferable over another.
With cities being bound by the past, culture, economic reasons, and name alone, sister cities are aptly named as such. Involvement can be as much or as little as the two parties desire, but, just as with family, the two will always share a relationship for better or for worse.