Living in Vancouver, British Columbia

Living in Vancouver:



Vancouver’s Location

Environment – Transport – Where to Live – Business – Jobs – Pros and Cons

Vancouver:

Is Canada’s third most populous metropolitan district.
Has a population of 600,000.
Has a metropolitan population of 2.4 million.
Sits in a known earthquake zone.
Has warm, sunny summers.
Has wet, overcast, and mild (relative to other Canadian cities) winters.
Regularly comes near the top of worldwide ‘best city’ studies.
Has Canada’s most expensive housing market.
Is one of the world’s cleanest cities.
Is a 45 minute drive from the border with the United States and 2½ hour drive from Seattle, Washington State.
Is an English speaking city.
Has about 700,000 residents who speak languages other than English in their own homes. Chinese languages account for about 280,000 and Punjabi 125,000 of these.
The USA border is the southern limit of Metro Vancouver.
The Economist Intelligence Unit found Vancouver had the highest cost of living of any city in North America in 2013.

Geography and Climate

Olympic Ski Slopes
Olympic Ski Slopes

Vancouver sits on the Pacific west coast of Canada.

It is the largest city in British Columbia and, as a result of its Pacific Ocean location, is a very important port, exporting Canadian goods to Asia and the USA’s west coast.

Vancouver’s climate is incredibly mild by Canadian standards; its winters are easily the warmest of Canada’s big cities.

The mild winters are a result of the combined effects of the mild Pacific Ocean and the Rocky Mountains, which block cold winter air moving in from the rest of the continent.

Snow falls in Vancouver on an average of eleven days a year, rarely reaching depths of more than a few centimeters.

Summers are dry, sunny and reasonably warm.

Character

Beach Vancouver West
Condominiums and Beach,
Vancouver West and English Bay

Chinese New Year, Vancouver
Chinese New Year, Vancouver
Photo: Bobanny

Vancouver is an ethnically diverse city.

About 50 percent of the city of Vancouver’s residents and about 44 percent of Metropolitan (Greater) Vancouver’s residents don’t speak English as their first language.

Vancouver takes pride in its status as one of the world’s best cities to live in; it consistently ranks in the top three of the world’s most livable cities.

The city is renowned for its innovative programs in the areas of environmental sustainability, accessibility and inclusivity.

The city’s people are friendly and polite, but a number of newcomers have found that Vancouverites are rather reserved and difficult to become good friends with.

According to Forbes, Vancouver is the 10th cleanest city in the world.

Comparisons are often made between Vancouver and Toronto. In general, Vancouver comes across as less hectic than Toronto, with a more relaxed feel.

Commercially it also has a more white-collar, service-oriented, less industrial feel than Toronto.

Gang violence – usually drug related – has been a concern in Vancouver. The number of violent crimes has been high compared with other Canadian cities. Crimes involving firearms have been among Canada’s highest – these are usually gang-on-gang offences – and burglary rates are also high.

Vancouver’s police have been targeting violent gangs and, as a result, say that since 2010 shootings have dropped drastically and the murder rate has plummeted.

Violent crime affected 8 per thousand residents in 2015 down 11 percent from 2014, according to police figures. Police advise that the east-side corridor of downtown Vancouver should be avoided.

Business and Jobs

British Columbia, with Vancouver as its commercial hub, has one of Canada’s most prosperous economies. The city is one of Canada’s largest industrial centres and has a highly diversified economy.

Vancouver has Canada’s largest port, handling $200 million of cargo a day.

Port of Vancouver
Port of Vancouver
Photo: Bobanny

The port is ranked number one in North America for exports and, according to InterVISTAS, generates $6.1 billion in wages via 130,000 Canadian jobs it supports and 45,000 regional jobs in Greater Vancouver.

Vancouver is also home to a variety of other industries including biotechnology, alternative fuels and software development.

Electronic Arts employs one thousand people in Burnaby, making it their largest games studio.

QLT Inc., a global biopharmaceutical company, is based in Vancouver, employing 350 people in research and technology.

MDA (MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates) employs over 1,000 people in Richmond, working in satellite and information systems technology.

Ballard Power Systems, which develops fuel-cell technology, has about 700 employees in Burnaby.

Foreign technology companies in Vancouver include Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Kodak, Microsoft and Nokia.

HSBC Canada has its headquarters in Vancouver, as do a number of mining and forestry companies.

Shops in Vancouver
Shops in Vancouver, credit: Arnold C

Vancouver, however, has fewer large company head offices than Calgary or Toronto.

A vibrant, growing, film industry has developed in Vancouver – or “Hollywood North” as it is sometimes described – which produces the second largest number of television shows of any location in North America.

Vancouver’s scenic location ensures that the tourism industry is healthy too.

Both Vancouver and British Columbia have been hit by the global recession. Despite growing numbers of jobless, British Columbia’s unemployment rates tend to be consistently lower than the Canadian average.

Vancouver hosted the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic winter games.

With the Olympic related projects completed, fewer construction jobs are anticipated than in recent years. The service industries are, however, expected benefit from the games for some time.

Vancouver’s economy is projected to grow by 3% each year from 2016 – 2018.

Education

UBC Life Science Building
UBC Life Science Building,
photo credit: Arnold C

Vancouver has two major universities: The University of British Columbia (UBC) and Simon Fraser University.

Newsweek ranked UBC 2nd out of Canada’s universities (behind the University of Toronto) and 31st in the world. Simon Fraser University ranked 10th in Canada.

The British Columbia Institute of Technology provides polytechnic education and offers degrees in various fields.

Vancouver also has several community colleges and the Emily Carr University of Art and Design and Vancouver Film School, a private entertainment arts school.

Government funded elementary schools and high schools generally offer students a high quality education.

Unless you opt for private education, the school(s) your children attend will be determined by where you live.

Magee High School
Magee High School, Vancouver: Arnold C

It makes sense, therefore, to avoid some inner-city schools and schools in poorer areas where issues associated with poverty make it harder for children to perform to their full ability.

The publicly funded high schools with the best academic performance in Vancouver and its surrounds were:

›› University Hill, Vancouver
›› Lord Byng, Vancouver
›› Sentinel, West Vancouver
›› Rockridge, West Vancouver
›› Prince of Wales, Vancouver
›› Langley Fine Arts, Fort Langley
Townhouses in Richmond
Townhouses in Richmond

These schools outperformed many fee paying schools.

There is also a wide variety of independent (fee paying) schools available. The following independent schools were Vancouver’s absolute top academic performers:

›› York House, Vancouver
›› Crofton House, Vancouver
›› Little Flower, Vancouver
›› St George’s, Vancouver
›› Collingwood, West Vancouver
›› Southridge, Surrey
›› West Point Grey, Vancouver
›› St John’s, Vancouver
›› Vanouver College, Vancouver

Where to Live in Vancouver

Vancouver Map
Vancouver District Plan, credit: TastyCakes

Vancouver is an expensive city to live in.

It has the most expensive housing market in Canada and is ranked by Demographia as the third least affordable major city in the world, behind Hong Kong and Sydney.

The city has attempted to introduce strategies to reduce housing costs, including co-op housing, increased density and legalized secondary suites. (A secondary suite is a subdivided single home. Secondary suites, or granny flats, usually have their own entrances, living areas, kitchens and bathrooms.)

A large number of people also live in high-rise condominiums.

High density housing is more of a consideration in Vancouver than other Canadian cities because any expansion of Vancouver is restricted by sea and mountains more so than elsewhere.

In mid 2016, the average home in Vancouver cost $1,008,000 – much more expensive than in Toronto, $710,000; Calgary, $469,000; Ottawa, $374,000 or Montreal, $349,000.

Houses in an older suburb
Housing in an older Vancouver suburb

Houses in a new suburb
Houses in a new Vancouver suburb

Vancouver Waterside Condos
Waterside Condos

Real Estate Board statistics of Vancouver summarizing September 2016 found that purchasing a townhouse would cost:

$436,000 in the North Delta ; $900,000 in North Vancouver; $700,000 in Richmond; $500,000 in Surrey; $700,000 in Vancouver East; $1,500,000 in Vancouver West; and $1,300,000 in West Vancouver.

For condominium apartments, prices were:

$240,000 in the North Delta; $380,000 in North Vancouver; $600,000 in Richmond; $350,000 in Surrey; $450,000 in Vancouver East; $800,000 in Vancouver West; and $600,000 in West Vancouver.

Most rentals in Vancouver are unfurnished and come with 12 month leases.

Estimated the monthly rental prices for standard condominium apartments were:

$1,100 in the North Delta; $1000,in Surrey; and $1,100 in White Rock/South Surrey.

Vancouver’s best neighbourhoods are situated in the city’s downtown, to the west of the downtown, and over the bridge to the North Shore (West and North Vancouver).

North Vancouver has one of Canada’s lowest crime rates.

The west end of the downtown core is the most expensive area, while downtown’s east side is a more impoverished area, with higher crime rates.

Some parts of the eastern city are very run down with some of the worst drug and homelessness problems in Canada.

Moving a little farther out, to somewhere like Burnaby, will be cheaper than the North Shore or downtown and there are plenty of more affordable, family sized properties in areas such as Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Delta, Surrey and Langley.

Each of these areas have some poorer neighbourhoods that families moving to Vancouver might prefer to avoid, but they also have plenty of great places to live too, with lots of amenities that families will find are ideal.

Environment and Getting Around

Vancouver is clean and livable; this results from a combination of its beautiful physical surroundings and the government’s strong environmental policy.

A rapidly growing population (doubling in the last 20 years) has resulted in an even more rapid increase in vehicle usage. Despite this, peak levels of major pollutants have been trending downward, a sign of successful environmental policies.


Vancouver offers a variety of options for public transit, from buses and ferries (SeaBus) to commuter rail services. The Coast Mountain Bus Company operates throughout the Greater Vancouver area and the buses in the city are completely electric.

Vancouver from Cypress Mountain
Vancouver from Cypress Mountain

Pacific Boulevard, Yaletown
Pacific Boulevard, Yaletown
Photo: Arnold C

The Sky Train is an extensive rail system that loops around the city, offering an efficient, frequent service.

The West Coast Express commuter rail system is the interregional railway system of British Columbia, linking downtown Vancouver to various cities in the province.

Vancouver has just one major freeway, Highway 1, passing through the north eastern corner of the city.

There is a city-wide network of bicycle lanes and with the moderate weather all year long, the use of bicycles as a primary mode of transportation is more than viable. More people walk or bike to work in Vancouver than in any other Canadian city.

What to do in Vancouver

Vancouver has a popular and growing art scene, distinguished restaurants from a variety of nationalities, opportunities for year-round outdoor activities and a variety of sporting events.

Vancouver is a major centre for Canadian music, the Vancouver Art Gallery is a staple of the art scene, and the Vancouver museum is also popular.

There is a prominent performing arts scene as well, with a multitude of theatre companies. Vancouver is home to an annual Fringe Festival and an International Film Festival.

Despite these attractions, anyone looking for serious cultural activities would be better advised to head for Toronto.

Water Recreaction
Kayaking in Vancouver’s Sounds

Walking and Cycling
Walking and Cycling

On the other hand, Vancouver easily beats Toronto for climate, proximity to the ocean, mountains, rivers, lakes and beaches.

Vancouver is a world-class destination for year round outdoor recreation. Cycling, golf, sailing, hiking, canoeing, skiing and snowboarding are very popular.

The result of all this furious, year round, activity is that Vancouver has a low adult obesity rate – 12% compared to the Canadian average of 23%.

There are over 3200 acres of parks in Vancouver, with Stanley Park being the largest.

Vancouver is home to six professional sports teams, including two ice hockey teams, a baseball team, football and soccer.

Summary

Vancouver is a metropolitan city offering something different from most cities. Its large downtown core offers an affluent arts scene, diverse foods and sporting events.

On top of this, Vancouver is surrounded by ocean and mountains that result in a moderate climate allowing outdoor recreational activities all year round. The housing market in Vancouver is the highest priced in the country, and crime rates are higher than in “competing” Canadian cities.

Vancouver’s Negatives

Expensive house prices: the highest in Canada (Renting is more affordable)
The highest cost of living of any city in North America
Higher crime rates than Toronto (about 30 percent higher) or Calgary (about 70 percent higher)
Wet, overcast winters
Rapid population growth

Vancouver’s Positives

Lower than average obesity rates
Lowest smoking rates in Canada
Best health and longest lived people in Canada
One in six people walk or bike to work – much higher than typical for Canada
A growing film industry
A strong economy with a wide range of industries and opportunities
A very moderate climate, rarely any snowfall
Moderately warm, dry, sunny summers
Spectacularly beautiful land and seascape that permits a huge range of year round recreation options
An extensive transit system that is primarily electric
Very clean air quality
Consistently ranks in the world’s top three most livable cities


Comments

  1. I lived 10 years in Vancouver. Worked in the social field. The word has been that Vancouver is one of the loneliest cities. To meet deeper people is difficult. The city is very clicky. People are friendly and polite, just the way Canadians are, but to meet people is very hard. Because of that it is very transient. I met a couple of good people there, but they all left because of that. Vancouver’s Woman have a reputation of being “Gold Diggers”, and the homeless population averages 1400 People per night. Normal Income people share their housing, because to afford an average flat is impossible. Vancouver has become trendy and chick, superficial and unaffordable. The City is concrete and glass, the surrounding very beautiful. And you forgot to mention, the summers are short, and the sunny days are few.
    I moved back to Germany because the standard of living is simply higher.

    • Hey Joseph,
      I am thinking of going to Canada for 12 month with an open work permit you get as long as you are enrolled in a university in Austria and you need to be under 30. I successfully finished a “Lehre” in Austria and started studying. I’m not done yet but I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to work in Canada and since you need to be enrolled I’m not even able to finish university first. Do you think one can get along with this kind of experience for a year? I’m asking you because you might be able to compare the European with the Canadian education system and might be able to tell what Canadians think of it. Thank you.

    • I just moved here since 1st January and there is plenty of sun shine, even in two winter months you get average three hours of sun a day. That is the same as in Europe. Rains come and go and I like the rain.

    • I note that everyone who moved away from Vancouver has nothing but bad to say about it, which seems reasonable: if they were doing well, why would they have left? So when you read the sour grapes…

      Vancouver is far from perfect and has two major flaws in my opinion: First is that too many of the people who live there act like they personally built the mountains in order to have them as a backdrop to the awesomeness that never ceases (which is not true, it’s a place, like any other, where good things happen and bad things happen). The other is that way too many people don’t understand that being friendly doesn’t mean bonding with you. In this culture, people are almost always upbeat and friendly, especially in shops or casual conversation, but it means nothing… it takes a lot more than that to become friends. In other cities, if you speak to someone, you’re BFFs; in Vancouver, that’s courtesy and should be taken as such and nothing more. Friendship builds over time, and lots of people are only passing through here, so most people won’t invest much in newbies.

      So what are the reasons to live in Vancouver? That totally depends on who you are. If you like what they call ‘big city ambience’ (dirt, traffic, noise, crowding, bars, clubs) you won’t like it.

      Vancouver is clean, unpolluted, beautiful, spacious, and whenever you turn a corner, you do get a fabulous reminder of the greater glory that is nature–and that’s missing from so many cities. But if you like wide open spaces, well designed living/working areas that are user friendly, an active vibrant outdoors based life (not required to be sporty, but going for a walk is a local pass time shared by all), and enjoy having your big occasions celebrated with awesome food, rather than by pouring alcohol down your neck, you’ll like it in Vancouver.

      The restaurants are abundant and many are super-inexpensive and they’re in every neighborhood. The Asian community is huge and there are so many types of food available from those cultures that it boggles the mind. And people can afford to eat out a lot. Vancouverites eat between 1 out of 3 and 2 out of 3 of their meals away from home.

      People are pretty well off, financially, for the most part. The wages by and large match the expenditures. The arts are so-so, but certainly no worse than Toronto, which gives itself more credit than is really due unless you really like very mainstream stuff. Montreal is a much better arts scene by far.

      There is a good reason why you don’t see so many fat people around here–people can and do walk EVERYWHERE. All along the sea, there are walking and bicycle paths, you can take your bike anywhere. And people are food and fitness conscious in a day-to-day integrated kind of way. People do yoga at work.

      As well, you can look any way you want, pretty much anywhere. The dress code is so relaxed it isn’t even there–got piercings? fine. Got sleeves? Fine. Got green hair and leopard skin yoga pants on today? You’re probably the accountant. Not much of that Business-Black-and-Boring around here unless you like that look.

      Would I live somewhere else than Vancouver? Of course I would, and I have over the years, but I’ve always come back to Vancouver. It works, and it looks good doing it. Not too many other places can make that claim. But it’s not for you if you don’t have a good skill set (no market here for factory types) or you’re looking to spend a year or two and make oodles of friends and then go home again (if that’s the case, stick with transients like yourself because they’re all eager to be friends, too. Everyone else sees *millions* of visitors come and go every year.)

      • Wow, I so disagree with you about Vancouver being affordable. Unless you are a doctor, a lawyer, or some other professional you will struggle to survive on one income. The salaries here are absolutely lousy and DO NOT match the cost of living – I believe I can speak from experience as I have lived and worked in NYC, London, and Sydney, Australia. In fact IF you are lucky enough to get offered a job with an actual salary and benefits you should take it ASAP. I came here and thought I had done my due diligence regarding employment opportunities but after I had been offered one too many ‘salaries’ of 40k per annum ( I have a B.A and several other post graduate qualifications), and turned them down I quickly realised that the 80 – 140k jobs I had been used to in Europe and Australia were incredibly thin on the ground. There are few HQs here and over 80% of business’ are family run with the inherent stinginess that comes with that. They don’t want to pay their workers – I know many many people who work commission only type sales and marketing roles that are incredibly stressful to manage. The few companies that offer decent salaries are usually staffed by people in their 40s and above who have literally been there for 20 years and would have to be brought out feet first in order to leave. I would really consider moving to Vancouver very carefully. We spent our 100k in savings in one year before finding decent work.

        • I’ve been living between Los Angeles and Vancouver for over 5 years now – I received my Permeant Residency a couple of years ago.

          Meeting good solid people here was tough – most of my friends are from other provinces. Personally I laugh when people say that LA is full of superficial people. Vancouver is by far the worse… and other colleagues of mine feel that exact same way.

          I work in the film industry and make a substantial living doing so, own a place in Garstown, and I can tell you without a doubt that most people on average do not make enough money to get ahead.

          A good percentage of the population that lives in the Lower Mainland are considered working poor. Stats Canada even published figures supporting this. Remember the “poverty line” for a family living in the GVA is roughly $64,000 CAD.

          Bigest reason for the soaring costs has been from massive foreign investment – increasing property values. Primarily from mainland China.

          Remember there is a reason that the Canadian government recent put an end to the immigration policy allowing people to immigrate who have over $2,000,000 CAD to loan to the government.

          I find it interesting how a lot of younger people think everyone living in Van are making a $100k or more a year… which couldn’t be the furthest thing from the truth.

  2. Lived In Vancouver 15 years, moved away in 2005. Wonderful location but the character diminished every year. When I first arrived it was after expo and Vancouver Real Estate was cheap. It was also a very fun place to be. The craziness didn’t take hold until the 90’s. As Real Estate soared the city lost so much in all other respects. More and more “residents” were rich foreigners. Nothing wrong with this except they tend to not care about community. The character in Vancouver was displaced by Starbucks, GAP, etc. When the 2000’s came in Vancouver was getting pretty bad for being just another city full of large chain stores. A shame as their were several interesting districts in Vancouver now its just GAP district 1, GAP district 2 etc. The only area left is Gastown which has become a cesspool of homeless drug addicts. Gastown was always edgey but it was also fun and normal people could still go there. Not now. They will sell you $500,000 condos down there but its an absolute nightmare. You car will get broken into every night and prepare to escort your wife/girl 24/7 or she will be mugged. They have been calling that area “up and coming” forever. The drug addict population is MASSIVE and they have no fear.

    I used to enjoy Vancouver very much. Beautiful surroundings for sure. But as mentioned it became very corporate and very expensive. Even the cafes. Their used to be neighborhood hangouts all over now its foreigners jangling together to hang out with their ethnic group and not immerse. Never understood that. So if you have a few million dollars you’ll do OK as an introvert. But if you do not you are in trouble. Meeting people is indeed difficult. People absolutely do hang out in cliques. Its extremely strange this way but 100% true. I think its because of the expense. May people are on the take and looking for something out of people so everyone has their backs up. If you are a guy and get hit on strolling in Vancouver she’s looking for rent $. If you are a woman, he’s looking for rent $. OK that sounds bad but … its quite true. Lots of leeches in Vancouver. They sold their city to rich foreigners and rich foreigners don’t do anything but hold property. They do not add any community so the natives are left struggling to pay rent to them and find their entertainment. That’s why I left. The vibe of living was gone. I had no desire to lay out 400,000 for 500sf of condo and then sit at Starbucks talking with my clique about how that condo is going to be my retirement one day.

    Job wise Vancouver has one of the highest post secondary education rates and the lowest salaries. That guy selling sweater at the Bay probably has a bachelors in Political Science. The Macs store clerk may be an engineer is his home country.

    I miss Vancouver. But my Vancouver is in the past. The current Vancouver is still a lovely location but uninteresting as a city to me.

    • Other than the crime aspect about being mugged I totally agree with you comment. Gastown in the last 5 years has become hipsterville – the irony in which is most people who live here can barely afford it and are living on borrowed time. Eventually it will catch up with them… it always does.

  3. I agree that Vancouver is very expensive in comparison to salary. It is definitely filled with superficial locals and foreigners. I’m in my mid-twenties and have a bachelor in business but only making barely 50k after 4 years post-grad. I commute to dt Van to work everyday from Burnaby. I always tell myself it’s work the sacrifice of living here rather than Calgary for example, where I heard you can easily make $16-18 just serving at McD’s! But maybe I’m giving Van more credit than it deserves. I do love this city but now I’m wondering what I will get out of it in the long run. I don’t necessarily want to buy a house, but I do want to own my own properly let it be townhouse or something smaller than a stand alone house- but I want to live in a good location that’s close to the Van core and that’s pretty expensive. So I’m wondering, what would be my other choices of location in Canada that would offer similar natural scenery and a city vibe that Van does? I guess not much right. A lot of my friends moved to Calgary, but what good is making 70K if you can’t enjoy life after work? Maybe I’m ignorant and there’s lots of things to do ( I have been to Calgary briefly in the past). Where else could I go?

    • FInd a place in Lakeview or Altadore South West Calgary, you get Vancouver trees, lakes, parks, opened skies. A house in the upper middle class area is fr $500-$700K. My high school niece makes $30/hour working in restaurants. You get pay roughly 15-20% more for the same job, 10% less in tax, no sales tax,cheaper gas. Most high school kids do drive to schools and they drive better cars than teachers. LOL.
      Winter has Chinook wind brings in warm air every other two or three weeks and lasts for a week which is a nice winter break, yes, you can walk in T-shirt during the Chinook. WInter is not so bad in Calgary. I would say from experience, make money in Calgary and come to Vancouver for vacation with lots of cash in your pocket or buy a $200K house in posh Country club in Palm Spring desert for Winter retreat. It’s only three hours away.

    • Seriously? I used to live in Calgary and the minimum wage is lower than the majority of provinces. Not to mention it’s hard to find jobs. I would never go back… The hype about Calgary is a myth. You’re only making money if you want to work your ass off in the oil industry.

  4. I want to thank the people above here that gave such a realistic account of what Vancouver has become. I lived there from 1982 to 2001 untill moving to Europe. I often wonder about returning because my teen and twenties were spent there and my parents still live there. I still feel a strong association after all these years.
    But when I read this I should just completely forget about this idea and accept my future here in Europe.

  5. Hi everyone, After reading these accounts regarding Vancouver, it’s definitely got me slightly confused and thinking. I’m currently looking at moving out to the Greater Vancouver Area in the next few months once i land a job. I’m in Construction Management. When i visited Vancouver and surrounding areas, it was a place i really wanted to experience living in. But hearing the stories above, i’m in two minds. I do understand the cost of living there is more, but are we talking about high cost of living in Vancouver it self or are we also including areas such as Surrey, Langley and Richmond? While i do know the cost of certain things are more, such as groceries, gasoline etc, i found from research that rent is slightly less, auto insurance is way cheaper as well as income tax. I’m from Mississauga, just west of Toronto and to be honest, i’m bored of this city. I just need a change. I’m originally from London, UK so i know any city in Canada is most likely not as exciting and large like London.

    • Like SuperR we are from Mississauga, GTA – Ontario. After 14 months here, we feel bored – with a 4 year old our considerations include the comparative quality of education, and value for dollar. Do like the outdoors – and the 4 seasons with plenty of sunshine in Toronto are great. My job will pay the same but employer wont cover any relocation costs. If we do move then would wish to take out a mortgage in say South Surrey / Langley rather than rent and from the web comparisions houses cost the same in Mississauga vs South Surrey (give or take). Any thoughts?

    • @Superr- I’ve lived in Vancouver for 40 yrs. It is the most expensive of the metropolitan area (or “Greater Vancouver” as it’s also referred to.) The property taxes and utilities are higher. Gas stations offering lower prices are found more often in the metropolitan area (gasbuddy.com.) BUT if you’re patient, creative, motivated & realistic, you can live a very healthy, “rich” life in Vancouver despite the increasing prices. I know many are probably shaking their heads but if you & others are like me, you will agree. Food- don’t shop at Safeway, IGA, Whole Foods, Nester’s, and the like. Buy your organics on the “Drive”, your fruits and veggies from your nearest local produce store, buy gas outside of downtown Vancouver on a weeknight & in the evening. There are also a number of outlet stores within the city. You don’t have to drive across the border all the time. Try the Roots and Champion outlets on Boundary Road, to name a few. For access to community centres, Kerrisdale Community Centre is still the cheapest. For transportation, one really doesn’t need a car to live in Vancouver. This is where you can get creative. Choose your mode: bike, bus, sky train, taxi, car co-op/car-to-go, or simply walk (our mild weather allows us to do this). Lastly, to satisfy your social cravings, I think this is pretty self-explanatory: Spend within your means. This is where living in Vancouver “benefits” you. You don’t have to incur debts to have a good time. I hope I’ve been able to shed a new & different perspective of how one can afford and enjoy living in Vancouver.

    • I had lived in London for 5 years. Vancouver weather is way better. It’s very similar to Living in london. Enjoy what it has to offer and don’t think about saving like I did in London. If you want to get rich, move to Calgary. I moved here from Calgary and I pay auto insurance 50% more in Vancouver plus everything else that you pay to live here is more than Calgary.

    • Living in Surrey is cheaper rent, sure. However, the crime rate is horrendous with stabbings, shootings, etc. I am originally from Windsor, ON and boy do I miss home sometimes. Difficult here to make friends unless you happen to be Chinese or East Indian. The only two reasons I stay here and I mean the Only Two Reasons I stay here is because my son lives here in New Westminster and my boyfriend has a good paying job in Langley. Other than that, I probably would’ve packed it in by now. But believe me, I will be moving back home someday. I don’t plan on growing old here or especially retiring, won’t have enough money that’s for sure with the housing costs forever increasing. Soon there will be no affordable housing period.

  6. I’ve lived in Vancouver all my life. And now I am at the point where I can’t afford to find a roof over my head. The real estate market is absolutely insane. Not to mention that salaries remain low, taxes are always increasing and with increased immigration that keeps driving the real estate market up, it’s becoming almost impossible to live for an average person. Mind you, the ones with the money love every bit of it. Vancouver is a prime example of the rich getting richer and the poor becoming poorer. It seems like there will be no hope for the upcoming generation to own houses. Someone had previously mentioned that degrees do not get you very far. That is a fact I would like to agree with. I figured in order to get my foot in the door, a degree in Business Management would be ideal but after applying to god knows how many jobs, I’m lucky to be stuck at my current one making less than $18/hr. Vancouver is a naturally beautiful city, lots of greenery and cleanliness but if I was offered a steady well-paying job out of province, I would take it. I dread my future will be me working 40 hrs/week just to cover my rent for the rest of my life.

    • Make lots of money in Calgary and come to Vancouver for vacation with lots of cash in your purse. An average waiter makes $30/hour. I think min wage is $15/h, no one will work for less.

  7. I have lived in Vancouver for the past 20 years on and off (couple of years here and couple of years somewhere else). After 20 years, I have to say that it was a mistake to waste even a minute of my life in Vancouver. It is socially cold and drug infested, the surrey neighbourhood is the drug capital of north America; the climate is 9 months of the year rain; even the summers are cold, cloudy and rainy; people are suspicious, cold, and fake; commodities and housing are expensive; food is expensive and out of nutrition; unemployment is high and finding a descent job is impossible; the population demographic is old and most of the people are over 50, you can easily get depressed by watching many old folks with their walkers, scooters and power chairs sluggishly moving in malls, streets, and public places; hospitals are crowded and the waiting list to get a specialist or surgery is longer than most European countries; the craigslist jobsite is full of ads for nanny, janitor, house work and care giver; government the most corrupt in the country; basically I can’t think of anything positive about this Canadian city. If you want to move anywhere, just forget about this city.

  8. Me and my family are living in Cape Town, SA, but we are thinking of immigrating to Canada. I am a office administation manager and my one daugter a restaurant manager turning air hostess. The eldest is still studying towards a degree in civil engineering, although she has lots of experience working in the architectural and civil engineering field. We are looking for a place we can make a good living and be safe. Any suggestions?

    • Calgary. My neighbors is from SA and they love everything about this city. Clean, safe, lots of jobs any types of jobs. high salary, less tax. You will have with 15% extra cash saving in a year.

    • I know quite a few South Africans in this area (loads of them out in the Fraser Valley) and most agree that if there are twin cities in the world, they are Cape Town and Vancouver. I have, myself, lived in Seapoint and I do find the resemblances uncanny.

      BTW, when people talk about ‘dangerous’ in Canadian terms, it means “don’t worry about it, the chances are excellent that the worst crime you will ever personally be involved with it is having someone steal the grocery trolley off your back porch”. The whole ‘gang’ thing is pretty much over, and if there is all this major drug dealing going on, they’re being super discrete about it. The ‘bad part of town’ is two blocks long by three blocks wide and it’s not even that bad–I’d walk through there without thinking twice about it.

    • MillennialMe says:

      You’ll do better staying in Cape Town with the beautiful climate there and
      better standard of living. Canada is not what it once was as far as a place
      you would want to emigrate to.

  9. If you like people, Van will change that.
    If you feel hopeful for the future of multiculturalism, Van will change that too.
    And if you trust and believe that your community is their to provide support, help to those who need it, Van will absolutely destroy you.

    Unless of course, you have money and dont have to worry about things like that.

  10. This page truly threw me off balance. I’m 16 years old with solid grades and planning, like most people my age, to go to UBC, take my courses and live here for the rest of my life. I realize the cost of living in Vancouver is astronomical. Admittedly I have a fairly poor perspective of the housing market as my family is relatively “well off” but only because of my parents lifetime of very hard work. The part that threw me off is the coldness comments. I moved recently to West Vancouver and I do understand where the hard to fit in thing comes from it can be, where I live it’s a 100 meter walk to get to my neighbour’s house and there really isn’t a “welcome to the neighourhood” committee. That’s where I begin to take a different path than the others on here, I honestly think the greatest thing to have in Vancouver is kids. I have made a number of very good friends at school, and almost invariably my parents and their parents have struck up really strong friendships. People say that Vancouver is cliquey and closed, I just haven’t seen that. When my parents first moved into our first house in New Westminster they were greeted well, they still spend time with their friends there even though we have lived 45 minutes away for 4 years now. I have never seen a struggle for our family to fit in, between the three schools and two neighbourhoods I have lived in we have always found it easy to dig in and establish ourselves. If the unfriendly aspect is what you are worried about it is simply location. In my experience downtown Vancouver and West Vancouver are very closed, downtown for reasons unknown and West Vancouver simply because of the distance between houses and the general tendency of laziness of the mostly upper class that lives there. Other than that there are plenty of great places to live, Burnaby and New Westminster for example. I don’t think the above comments do Vancouver justice, monetarily my mind might change once I’m on my own but I don’t think the problem of having friends will ever be a battle for me.

    • MillennialMe says:

      Yes but you grew up with affluent parents, still are a student (not yet working full time with little time to socialize outside of that), and adult life is different than what you are experiencing.

  11. I grew up in Vancouver during the late 50’s and 60’s.

    We lived in East Vancouver a few blocks from Broadway and Fraser. We never had much money because my dad loved to drink and we lived in rented apartments.

    A detached home in my neighborhood at that time was probably around $50,000-$60,0000.

    East Vancouver at the time was the poorer side of town.

    I went to Mount Pleasant Elementary that used to sit on the corner of Broadway and Kingsway, and then went to high school at Vancouver Technical Secondary further down Broadway.

    I remember endless Summers with day after day of clear blue skies and countless days spent at Stanley Park and my favorite haunts, English Bay and Second Beach.

    Our after-grad party included a big bonfire at Third Beach.

    I remember playing soccer in the rain every Saturday during the Fall. I loved it and was at peace with the rain.

    I can remember raindrops so big in the Winter they would bounce a foot in the air when they hit the pavement.

    I remember how four inches of snow would paralyze the city and people would drive around with chains on their tires.

    I especially remember the apple trees and wild blackberry bushes that seemed to grow everywhere and I think I climbed every one of those trees within an hour of my home.

    The city was my oyster and I knew it inside out. I spend entire Summers walking through it, busing through it, and biking through it.

    I went to China Town, to skid row, down to Hastings Street and Main to the museum, you name it. I was a fearless and curious as a kid and nothing bad ever happened to me.

    At 16 I left home. Like most people I wanted to see “what else was out there” so drove to Expo “67” with a friend in his ’55’ Ford.

    I never returned to Vancouver for a few decades.

    Eventually I lived in Toronto for five years.

    I loved it for the amazing camping and lakes just a few hours to the North.

    I loved that I could go into a beer hall with no cover charge and watch The Platters perform live and in person.

    I loved Maple Leaf Gardens.

    But it was just took big. I didn’t like driving 110k an hour for 40 minutes on the 401 in order to get to work. And then have to do it again after work only this time in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

    I have lived in Calgary for over 30 years. I own a condo by the Elbow River that I bought for $64,000. It’s probably about $220,000 now.

    I really have nothing bad to say about Calgary.

    It is however growing very fast and there are traffic jams everywhere and I don’t really see it as a great place to retire.

    The winters can be mild or bitterly cold. Every year is different. Summers are usually very short and the nicest months are normally September and October or what we call “Indian Summer.”

    I was amazed when I went back to visit Vancouver twenty years after I left.

    The city had matured so much. The street I lived on is beautiful and lined with big tall trees for block after block.

    It’s been transformed into a trendy area and the same house that was around $60,000 when I was a kid is around $750,000 now.

    As soon as I got to Vancouver the smell of the ocean and the warm Summer breeze brought back so many great memories.

    Now as I get set to retire, I would LOVE to be able to live in Vancouver again, but it’s simply beyond my means.

    I would Love to live in the very same neighborhood because I know that from there I could walk downtown if I wanted to.

    I could walk up Fraser, Kingsway, or Main Street, or walk down Broadway and pass so many great shops and restaurants along the way.

    I live a quiet life and know how to live inexpensively if only there was a place to call home.

    You can meet great people in any city in the world.

    I disagree that you can label a city as unfriendly.

    We all have it within us to see the best in people and to share a smile and those two attributes alone can get you so far in this world no matter where it happens to be.

    If someone said to me………”I have this place in East Vancouver you can rent for as long as you want at a fair price you can afford as a senior”, I would probably be back in Vancouver in a heartbeat.

    While I’m waiting, I keep buying those lottery tickets………..you never know.

    • Good comment!!

    • That is a very fine piece of litterature. Very moving and well written. It is as much about Vancouver than about Human nature and life. Great job my friend!

    • Lovely post Ray. There is truly no place like home. You are right in stating that we can choose to see the good in others and the positive aspects of a city….wherever that may be! 🙂

  12. Hi,

    I am living in Vancouver and of course it is expensive but you don’t have to live in Kitsilano and downtown Van. There are many good places to live…I am not a big fan of Surrey but still hoping it will change one day because there are many beautiful townhouse for a good price..
    I love Vancouver and you know, how many friends you need in your life? I made very nice people and my kids enjoy living here.
    We are even planning to move to Squamish where is cheaper and not that far from Vancouver.
    Maybe people are not that friendly than people from Montreal but they are not that bad.
    And a big plus to move to Vancouver is they kick out John Tortorella from the Canucks team 🙂

    Move to BC and enjoy!! When I am tired of the rain in winter…I drive a bit and the kids and I are going riding snowboard. Anyway, I will not move back to the East Cost.

  13. I moved to Vancouver with my family as a teen and have been part of the work force for 5 years now after graduating with a diploma program. My family is not particularly well off but we all have jobs and were able to buy our first home together as a family which we later sold when the children wanted to live independently. The real trick in living in Vancouver is living within your means. If you can’t afford decent space in downtown Vancouver then choose to live outside. I live half an hour commute away from downtown, I don’t drive and choose to use transit with my monthly pass. I get to eat out at least 3 – 4 times a week, more if I choose to but wise grocery shopping is the way to go. There’s a lot of ethnic based grocers around in Vancouver that sells a wide array of produce and goods that allows for one to bring home food from all over the world. In Vancouver, one can be spoiled for authentic Asian cuisine without leaving the comforts of the west and lately local cuisine has been flourishing as well affordably.

    My yearly salary is around $30k as a hotel staff, I get to eat out, shop and watch theatre shows and concerts with friends and family. Arts although not as extensive as other metropolitan city is still growing. A lot of artist do make Vancouver as one of their stops in their tours and local offerings are not too shabby too, enough to keep one occupied if you’re not snobby. With my salary, I’m also able to afford a trip outside the country once a year. Weather is mild most of the year compared to the rest of the country. All in all, it’s not bad for me as a single person.

    But if one has a family, that’s how things can be a little trickier. Education in BC is not particularly its strongest suit. The system is almost treated as a baby sitting service especially the publicly funded elementary and secondary schools. Proof can be noted with the on going battles between the government and the teacher’s union. Transit is not quite as friendly to families using strollers. After school services’ availability is meagre and expensive. I know this because I’ve baby sat for a lot of friends with little to no option when the family has to work late or on weekends.

    Aside from expensive housing market another common gripe about the city is the difficulty of finding friends which I personally thing is true. The population is polite but breaking the ice takes time with Vancouverites. Most of my friends in the city are from my school days and new ones are usually foreigners moving in to the city. Befriending another local sure is challenging that meeting a new implant is a much easier choice, besides I understand their plight more anyways. Having a group of friends is hard but not impossible.

    Despite the gang and drug issues that is often brought up to topic, unfortunately I don’t have much experience about it which can be a big tell about it. I know that bike theft is high but that’s the extent of my local crime knowledge. I find that there’s drugs and crime everywhere these days and some ignore it while some magnify it. One thing I know though is that it’s so not as prevalent that you’ll see it everywhere but not inexistent that you’ll never be able to say you’ve never seen one around.

    Gentrification will be a word you’ll hear often and it’s a double edged sword. I personally think that BC and Canada as a whole has a deep root of being a socialist but this can be just based on my background from a developing country. Never the less, Vancouver (Canada) can be only bad or good depending on where you’re coming from. One can love it or hate it depending on what your priorities are. What drives your choice in moving?

  14. It is not impossible to live a good life in Vancouver, but this city is not for everyone. You have to have good qualifications or skills in an area that is in demand. I suggest those of you making a big decision to move halfway around the world to a new country, do your research very carefully as your quality of life will depend on it. No use of having a degree if there are no jobs to match it. Foreign degrees are difficult to have accredited in Canada, to begin with – I came with a teaching degree 24 years ago and after 10 years of low wages and menial jobs I got a Canadian degree that finally opened up doors for me. I purposefully chose a vocation that I knew was always in demand with above average wages (social work). There are similar occupations that are in demand, such as nurses, doctors, long term care aids, child psychologists, etc. etc. Unfortunately, when it comes to a city like Vancouver, where a lot of people want to live in and rich people move to by the busload driving up prices, you might not have a choice how you earn a living. I’d rather choose gainful employment and good quality of life where I want to live than the occupation of my choice where I don’t want to live.

    I heard many newcomers complaining about the difficulties in making friends in Vancouver. People say folks in Montreal are more eager to make friends and I know for a fact that “Prairie provinces” are the same. Unfortunately Vancouver and area has a lot of people coming and going and people won’t invest in superficial relationships – to build a meaningful one, you need time. My advice is to join some kind of a smaller community to make friends. There are multicultural societies, clubs for your home country, clubs for every activity and hobby under the sun as well as lots of volunteering opportunity. I made friends by volunteering at various non profits. I disagree that Chinese and East Indians are “cold” as I have met some wonderful people in Vancouver who opened up their homes to me and even helped me when I needed it. In fact one of my mentors who helped me get a degree was Chinese (and I am European). In general, immigrants do make friends easier with each other, so you won’t feel alone, because Vancouver is full of immigrants.

    I totally agree with those above who state in Vancouver you must live within your means. You got to find an area that is within your budget and work your way “up” from there. This is normal in every other city in the world as every city has preferred areas that are especially expensive.

    As for the crime rates, Vancouver unfortunately does have a drug and gang problem – as does Toronto or Montreal. Due to lenient (uhmm “socially progressive”) attitudes and mild climate, Vancouver “attracts” a lot of destitute and homeless people. Why they are allowing people to live on welfare in one of the world’s most expensive city when there are much cheaper places for poor people is beyond comprehension. But this is Vancouver for you – tolerant, laid back, or as people in the Prairies like to call it “land of the lotus eaters” – LOL.

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