Vancouver, Canada Report of what it's like to live there - 06/16/10

Personal Experiences from Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver, Canada 06/16/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, Florence, Geneva, Kyiv, and Brasilia.

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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?

Michigan - about 12 hours with connections.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Singles usually find an apartment downtown. Families with kids usually find a house outside of downtown in a surrounding suburb like North or West Vancouver.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

The cost of living is very, very high. Beware.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

None, everything is available here.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Everything is here.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

If you live out in the suburbs, you will need trash cans with lids, and bungee cords to hold them shut. Raccoons and other animals frequently invade garbage cans and make a mess.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

US post through the consulate.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Very, very expensive. Live-in care is a minimum 2000/month (full time) and using day care for kids under 2 is about 1200/month (mind the hours, kids under 2 have restricted hours when they can be in daycare). Children 2 and above cost, on average, 800/month for daycare outside the home.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are gyms all over the place, but they are expensive.

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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?

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

All.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

All are available. Standard cable, phone and internet is about 100/month.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None, English is spoken.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

None.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

All are safe, but pricey. The minimum cost for 1 zone crossing is 2.75 one way.

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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?

Any.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Enable your US phone so it is compatible, otherwise you will have big roaming fees. Otherwise, get a local plan.

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Pets:

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?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Awesome vets and lots of them

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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?

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business at work, and people around town are generally fashionable.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

If you are here with diplomatic status and have a family, I strongly suggest that you invest in the local MSP CARE card system. Otherwise, you have to pay up front and file for reimbursement. If you have special-needs kids it is a great system because there are a lot of great community health programs for behavioral therapy, speech therapy, and other needs. If you have a medical emergency, you won't have to pay thousands up front and wait to get paid back. There is no MED unit here, so you have to use the local system or drive over the border, which can be time-consuming and not practical in a real emergency. Local insurance for a family of 3 is CAD 114 month. Dental is not covered, but annual eye exams for kids under 19 are covered by the CARE card.

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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.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

There are basically 2 nice months out of the year, July and August, of which you will be hard pressed to find any house or apt. with central AC. Rainy and grey most of the year.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are so many quality public schools to pick from that schooling really depends on where you select housing.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

There are several preschools in Vancouver and surrounding area. Average monthly cost is about 150-200/month.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Community centers offer every sport you can think of.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

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2. Morale among expats:

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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?

Lots of great restaurants, concerts, theatre, museums, and outdoor opportunities.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Vancouver has great restaurants, and there is so much to see and do. It is good for families and singles.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Living in Vancouver during the Olympics was a time to remember.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Anything outdoors. Local community centers are amazing!

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Vancouver is beatiful. Mountains and water, the best of both worlds. Outdoor types will love Vancouver.

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11. Can you save money?

No, you will need every penny of your COLA.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No. With small children, (non-school age) it makes this a severe financial hardship post for me.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

expectations of low-cost of living. The cost of everything here is not a laughing matter... get ready to pay double and triple for everything!

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3. But don't forget your:

umbrella.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Do you have any other comments?

If you are coming to work at the U.S. Consulate, it is a living quarters-allowance post. You find your own housing, pay your bills, and deal directly with your landlord. You need to come with at least $10,000 for start-up money, and you cannot get an advance until you have signed a lease. Signing the lease generally requires first month's rent, security deposit, and pet deposit if applicable. Security deposits are also required from the gas and electric companies. You are exempt from local taxes, but you have to save all receipts and send them to designated tax offices to get your refund. It can take up to 6 weeks to get refunds. Many people shop over the border to save a bit of money. Border line-ups can be long, so in the long run, you might stop making a run for the border. I think this is a good post for couples without kids or single people. Otherwise, families that have one parent staying home will also enjoy this post. Families that need childcare will find it the expense crippling, especially given the high cost of everything else.

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