Living in Vancouver: views across Stanley Park at sunset

Living in Vancouver: Two Years in the City

Tomorrow marks two whole years of living in Vancouver. I honestly cannot believe how quickly time’s gone. At the same time, I feel like I’ve achieved a lot. I’ve previously written about moving overseas, as well as how liveable Vancouver really is. Moving to Vancouver isn’t for everyone, but I thought it would be helpful to share my experiences of living in British Columbia, Canada. Below, I’ll cover some key lessons I’ve learnt about the city, including the good and the bad. It’s famous as one of the world’s most liveable cities, so here are my reflections after two years in Vancouver.

The best things about living in Vancouver

Vancouver’s a beautiful city

This isn’t a secret at all. It’s actually a truth universally acknowledged that Vancouverites pay a high price to live in such a beautiful city. Vancouver’s incredible scenery is ultimately what attracts so many expats and tourists. Interestingly, it was announced last year that 2017 broke records when it came to tourism. During that year, there were a whopping 10.3 million visitors. Not bad for a city with a population of only 675,000. The ocean, characteristic turquoise skyscrapers, and looming blue mountains are unparalleled by other cities. Even after two years, I still can’t stop taking photos, cycling the seawall, and enjoying the incredible sunsets. Let’s not forget Vancouver’s beaches too. Essentially, move to Vancouver if you’re after the great outdoors, city living, and a beautiful backdrop to match.

Living in Vancouver: views across Stanley Park at sunset
Sunset over Vancouver from Stanley Park

Vancouver offers excellent travel opportunities

Travel always appeals to me and this was a major draw for moving to Vancouver. Since, I’ve certainly tried to capitalize on it. In British Columbia alone, there are so many incredibly beautiful and remote places to see. From Tofino on Vancouver Island to the wine region in the Okanagan Valley, you don’t need to leave Canada for your vacations. That’s something that’s a little harder to do back in the UK, but the weather in Vancouver is awesome in the summer. Further afield, the airport is easily accessible via Skytrain from downtown Vancouver. From there, it’s easy to explore the rest of Canada and the USA with affordable and frequent flights. Longer haul, Asia, Europe, and Australasia are within reasonable reach of Vancouver. You’ll often find that because of Vancouver’s geography, many workers travel for business, which is another perk of the city.

Whistler, British Columbia
Whistler is a short drive from Vancouver

Vancouver summers are incredible

Having long believed that Vancouver had a relatively similar climate to the the UK, its summers have since blown me away. While the winters can be cool, in summer the city comes into its own. Most days are long, hot, and sunny. You can pretty much predict good weather from June to September. This always makes me, and everyone else, happy. It feels like the entire city comes out of hibernation. Suddenly, everyone’s at the beach, outdoor pool, or swimming in a lake. Patios are bustling with people making the most of Happy Hour, joggers line the seawall, and staycations are in abundance. For once in the year, the palm trees at English Bay finally look in place. There’s really nothing quite like a summer in Vancouver.

Living in Vancouver in the summer
Pool time in Vancouver

Vancouver’s a healthy city

If you weren’t aware, Vancouver has a reputation as an incredibly healthy city. You’ll often hear jokes about the city’s affinity for kale and yoga. It’s also the birthplace of health and wellness brands like Lululemon and Saje. Since moving here, I’ve become a little better at making healthier choices. It’s easier when there are so many healthy eateries and juice bars. The same goes for exercise. It’s such a part of Vancouver culture to be either at the gym, cycling or running the seawall. There’s a great range of cool fitness studios too, from barre to boxing. This year, I’ve been to a spin class pretty much every day I’ve been in the city. I’m also really feeling the benefit. Mindfulness is a key staple of the Vancouverite culture too. It’s not uncommon to see people meditating outside throughout the summer.

Living in Vancouver: Quarry Rock at Deep Cove
Hiking Quarry Rock at Vancouver’s Deep Cove

Vancouver offers a good quality of life

It’s true. There’s something behind the claim that Vancouver is one of the top cities when it comes to quality of life. Not only is it very health conscious, but it has one of the best work/life balances a city can offer. Perhaps it’s the relaxed reputation of the West Coast, but cities like London and New York leave a lot to be desired. Many companies allow employees to finish by around 4pm. Some even offer Summer Fridays. British Columbia already has a stat holiday almost every month. Holidays like ‘Family Day’ also put an onus on this healthy balance. Ultimately, in Vancouver, most people truly appreciate the outdoors. Vancouverites make the most of it, and businesses follow suit. As a bonus, there are so many apartments downtown that many people benefit from a walkable commute.

Kitsilano Beach
Enjoying time off at Kitsilano Beach

The worst things about living in Vancouver

Vancouver’s a small city

This appeals to different people in different ways. With a population of 675,000, it’s not surprising that Metro Vancouver is relatively small. For this reason, if you come to live in Vancouver from a bigger city, you’ll need to adapt. While it’s perfect in terms of getting around, it means there isn’t as much to do compared to larger cities like Toronto. It’s nice in the sense you get a community vibe, and it’s not overwhelming. Some people do nickname it ‘the boring city’, but you could argue everyone needs to make their own entertainment. The nightlife is pretty much done by 2pm, and there aren’t the bars or clubs you find in party cities. It does also mean, however, that the city isn’t a business hub. Vancouver may not offer the competitive corporate salaries you find in other cities, so be prepared.

Living in Vancouver: a view of the city
A view of Vancouver from False Creek

It rains a lot in Vancouver

Raincouver by name, Raincouver by nature. Having survived my second winter in the city, I can vouch that it rains an awful lot here. Living in Vancouver in the winter when the rain seems unstoppable can be depressing. Especially when it’s dark while arriving at work, and dark when you leave. For this reason, as such an outdoorsy city, it can be tough to find activities when it’s rainy. There aren’t a bunch of indoor activities in Vancouver, so you need to get creative. There are three upsides to the rain. One, you’ll get very well acquainted with Netflix. Two, rain in the city means snow on the mountains, so your skiing/snowboarding skills will likely improve. Three, it makes you appreciate the long dry summers like never before. The silver lining exists, and for this reason I’ll always say Vancouver is best enjoyed as a summer city.

Living in Vancouver: the rain
A rainy day in Vancouver

It can be challenging to meet people in Vancouver

Before moving to Vancouver, I remember freaking out while reading articles on how Vancouver’s a lonely city. Determined to defeat this reputation, I’ve managed to do fine since arriving. I’m lucky to have met some great people, but it can take a while to get to know people in any depth. Vancouverites are reputed for having cliques and being sceptical of newcomers, but give it time. It’s a transient city and people will naturally move around. You’ll also often hear how Vancouverites are famous for being flaky, and wait until a better offer comes around. Stick with it, but I guess that’s why there are so many expat communities that excel in the city. Dating can be a little difficult also. There isn’t quite the ‘chat while getting a drink at the bar’ vibe here thanks to table service. Hang in there – you never know who you’ll meet.

Living in Vancouver in spring
Spring in Vancouver

Vancouver’s an expensive city

This really can’t be contested. Living in Vancouver is expensive. Rent isn’t cheap, and buying property is extortionate. I dread to think how many thousands of dollars I’ve thrown away in rent. This is why you need to make the most of your time in Vancouver. Last year, the city was ranked the most unaffordable in North America thanks to its dire real estate situation and foreign investments. These expenses extend to insurance (British Columbia is the only province to charge a medical services plan), buying cars, and so on. Typically, groceries are much more expensive than in other cities, and the Canadian dollar is weak against our American neighbour. You win some and lose some, however. Some travel is cheaper, and dining prices are fairly reasonable in comparison to other countries and cities.

Coal Harbour, British Columbia
Vancouver’s ultra wealthy Coal Harbour neighbourhood

Vancouver’s not without its issues

Vancouver is a bizarre city in some senses. There’s a huge juxtaposition of incredible wealth versus desperation. For instance, in Yaletown, you could quite easily see a luxury Lamborghini with a ‘N’ plate parked next to a homeless person begging on the street. The city’s opioid crisis is out of control, and the Downtown Eastside area never fails to shock me with its accepting approach to drug taking. You can walk along East Hastings and witness open drug usage, prostitution, public defecation, nudity, and needles scattered all over the sidewalk. I’m not sure it’s something I’ll ever get over, and I find it extremely upsetting and worrying. Every city has its problems, and sadly this is one of Vancouver’s greatest.

East Hastings near Gastown
Vancouver’s troubled East Hastings Street

So, how long will I remain in Vancouver? That’s hard to say, but I’m enjoying my time while I’m here. No city is perfect, and Vancouver has a lot to offer. My two years living in Vancouver have gone incredibly quickly, so currently I’m making the most of each day I have to spend in this beautiful city.

What are you experiences of living in Vancouver? Perhaps you’re moving to the city? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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  1. I miss Vancouver so, so much, for all the reasons you’ve listed! I agree with the downsides too though, and the rainy winters are why I left, so I’m glad I got a whole summer there. I wish I was back again this summer. The drug problem on East Hastings is honestly probably the worst I’ve ever seen, and I feel like it goes hand in hand with the unaffordability of the city. That said, I think it’s worth it for the most part! Just on a permanent basis I don’t think it’s feasible – you could NEVER buy a house there any more. It’s crazy. But definitely a lovely city to spend a couple of years or more!

  2. Are you still there?

    It’s home in addition to a prairie city where I work. My blog..if you type in Vancouver, you’ll see what I think. I also lived and worked in Toronto for a long time.

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