Vancouver, Canada Report of what it's like to live there - 03/15/12
Personal Experiences from Vancouver, Canada
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
Lived in Glasgow, UK; Saint Petersburg, Russia; and Oslo, Norway.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Rome, Italy, 2 hrs to major european hub and another 9-hour flight to Vancouver (or 11+ hours from Frankfurt, Germany.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Flats downtown, detached houses Westside, multiple-unit houses Eastside. Construction quality is very poor, considering the rent they charge.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Good choice, not as great as in the States, but you can find pretty much everything except for very local produce that you have to look for (but that you can nevertheless find after thorough searches).
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Bottled water from Italy.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
All cuisines are represented. Italian is a bit tacky, but other traditions, of which I am less expert, seem well represented. If you exclude the wine, which has a ridiculously high price, the food is inexpensive.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
All special-needs have someone catering for them.
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
None that I am aware of.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Mail to Europe is very slow.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Most downtown buildings have their own gym. There are many gym clubs around, also for special needs (older people, moms, and so on). Yoga is very popular.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Very popular and ubiquitous.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Lots of churches around.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Only English and Mandarin, it seems.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
A working knowledge of slang is useful, as English is perverted with heritage languages.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Just getting along with the persistent rains and some steep streets.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Transit is well-run and on the inexpensive side.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Just concentrate on Asian brands; they are popular and almost considered local.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
High speed service costs about 30 CAD a month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Do not use them. The pricing system is designed to rip you off. Internet works far better.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
I imagine so, given the number of dogs and cats around.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Only if you have a working visa, in which case it's no holds barred.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Shabby, I would say.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Break-ins happen, also better watch out for your possessions on transit. Never leave anything valuable on display in cars. Cars are rarely hijacked, but thefts from inside are common.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Doctors are very good, but they sometimes tend to be overwhelmed by the number of patients. Do not expect anything thorough or complete. A cursory visit is the best you can get.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Good if compared to Italy, but at traffic junctions it can get greasy.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
It rains a lot, and the temperature rarely rises above 15 Celsius, but also rarely go under the freezing point, except on January mornings.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
I use the private local system. Montessori is popular. Lots of language classes for Asian and Latino children -- to keep up with the mother tongue of the parents.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
I am sure there are arrangments, as special needs are very well addressed in this city.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Lots of preschools around, a bit expensive, but well run.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Plenty of them, from ubiquitous soccer to ice-skating, hockey, and gym classes and swimming. Every neighborhood has a very good community center with first-class gyms, swimming pools, and sport facilities available for small fees.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
High to medium because of poor weather.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
It seems the usual ragtag of drinking and senseless dancing. Lots of gigs in town coming from Europe and US, though.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Great for families, especially in the suburbs, with lots of greens, activities, and family restaurants. Downtown seems to cater to the more worldly type, but I cannot really feel any special vibe.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
It's seems to be a haven for same-sex relationships; the lesbian community is very prominent.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
All minorities have their place and their voice here.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Biking in the morning from the suburbs to downtown, looking down the amazing skyline on three sides.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Hiking, sightseeing, skiing, visiting outdoor areas not far away.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Scenery. Wherever you look, you see special skylines, horizon, beautiful skies. Lots of wild animals inside the city: racoons, coyotes, bald eagles, even black bears (on the north shore).
11. Can you save money?
If you are careful, you can save for travelling. It is mandatory in winter months to spend some time on the sunny side.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Most likely, yes.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
very warm clothing.
3. But don't forget your:
taste for European things. This is really on the other side.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
Most Hollywood movies are shot in Vancouver, even if they are set in New York, LA or Miami. You can spot some glimpses of downtown Vancouver, as a game, in every major recent US blockbuster.
6. Do you have any other comments?
Though a city kissed by a world-class setting, it tends to be a little heartless, as no one can really call it home, and many things seem imported or copied from far away places. The melting pot is awesome, but it does not create much of a feeling, rather a fragmented kaleidoscope of disconnected sensations. It is a real blade-runner city, and in this, a likely picture of things to come.