Thinking of Moving to Vancouver? We've written up the good, the bad and the ugly.
We’ve lived in Vancouver for nearly our entire lives. Adapting to the rain (hush it’s not that bad!), disappointing hockey teams and an influx of weed shops taking the city by storm.
And don’t get me started on the house prices.
Only recently returning after spending half a decade working overseas. We later found the saying “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone” stands true.
Recent years have marked Vancouver as one of “The Most Livable Cities in the World”. Add the Olympics, a Hollywood reputation, a world-class backyard and you have a perfect recipe for a city.
But if you’re thinking of calling Vancouver home, keep in mind some the new woes our city is facing. Many of the issues stem from the population boom and foreign investment the city has recently been stifled with. These issues have become so serious, many long-time Vancouverites are wondering if it's time to break-up with our fair city.
A fresh start in a new city is a daunting experience for any family to say the least and knowing the good as well as the bad will help you decide if moving to Vancouver is the right choice.
Here is the Good and the Bad of moving to Vancouver:
1. Expect 4, very distinct seasons
I know what you’re thinking, “Four Seasons? Doesn’t every city on earth have four seasons?”
While true, there are few cities that host obvious seasons throughout the year. Our wet Springs set up unforgettable Summers and segways into a vibrant Fall and a white Winter (usually).
Wettest times tend to be later in the year while letting up in February and March. But don't count the sun out as you occasionally get a tease from behind the clouds, letting you know Spring is around the corner.
Eager Vancouverites have adapted to Mother Nature’s bipolar predisposition with events, festivals and activities that are becoming more of a norm.
2019 brings many new activities and attractions into the city. Both locals and visitors will find something interesting to visit and participate. I promise the seasonal bustle will quickly have you forget the torrential rain pore outside.
For example, check out this list for Spring:
- PuSh Festival
- International performing arts festivals
- Dine Out Vancouver
- Local restaurants toss away sense for pure indulgence that includes 3-course menus at discounted prices
- Craft Beer and Food Tour
- Iconic East Vancouver hosts the best of local breweries and food destinations
- Vancouver Hockey Games
- If Canucks tickets are a little out of the budget (reasonably so) then opt for catching the better performance by the WHL Giants
If Hockey or self-endured gluttony aren’t your thing during the cold months, take solace to know that the forecast has had a paramount effect on the city’s art culture as well.
Surrounding mountains and lush forests, we admittedly host some of the most picturesque landscapes on the planet.
Just ask Emily Carr or Robert Bateman.
2. Cleanliness goes a long way
Over the last few years, Vancouver has pledged to become a world leader in everything green. New bike lanes, recycling programs and iconic trails to name a few.
Although the city still has a way to go before it can rival current green leaders like Amsterdam or Stockholm. We haven’t backed away from the challenge.
Vancouver’s clean streets have also inspired locals to tend local wildlife, rivers and raise trail awareness.
More specifically, hiking enthusiasts and young families volunteer to promote green living and are the unsung heroes who maintain the epic paths that carve through the mountains and forests.
They also help maintain the pristine scenery by communal garbage pickups, estranged animal care and even organize neighborhood gardens and community vegetable programs.
We’ve always been proud of our natural beauty and hearing newcomers compliment our backyard never gets old.
A new wave to hit the city in recent years. If you’re a cyclist or interested in bikes, then Vancouver is the place to be. Emulating the neighborhoods of Barcelona, Vancouver has seen a shift to make bike lanes an everyday part of commuting around town.
The benefits to adding a bike trip to your day are limitless; which leaves you wondering why you didn’t start sooner. For example:
- Weight loss, increased appetite for healthier food options
- Enhanced endurance
- Beat the Vancouver Traffic on your commute
- Cut those fuel emissions
- A funner way to get around the city
- No parking meters
Bike options also mean those car expenses are kept on the low in a city notorious for high prices and overpriced gasoline.
Even if you don’t own a bike, there are many cycling apps that include public access to nearby bike stations. These are scattered around the city so you always have an option.
4. Public transit
The backbone of getting around the city. Vancouver’s public transportation system is an ever-changing network of buses, train systems and ferry services.
It includes our favorite sea taxi, the SeaBus and our above ground metro, the SkyTrain.
Although prices have seen a rise in recent years, transit between the north side of the city to the downtown core will take you less than 15 minutes on the SeaBus. Additionally, if you’re looking for a place on the outskirts of the downtown core, the SkyTrain skips traffic and is an easy option.
Buses have also seen service upgrades. Providing locals with safe accessibility, apps for updates, bike options and some late night alternatives.
5. Foodie Heaven
An immigration explosion also means taste bud paradise. With large Asian and Eastern influences, expect mouth-watering options for affordable prices around the city. Being near the water also means fresh fish and what some would refer to as, Sushi paradise.
Admittedly, we are missing traditional South American cuisine but there have been more restaurants opening in Vancouver during the last 5 years than ever before.
Recent food trends have also made way for vegan, gluten-free, lactose-free and sugar-free choices on our favorite menus.
All of these tasty options are available thanks to the army of food trucks that have taken the city by storm. Giving “cheaper” options to those looking to let their taste buds run wild.
6. A Stop away from The States
Vancouver is ideal if you plan on doing business on both sides of the boarder.
A stone throw away from America, there are different checkpoints for getting to your nearest American fix. Whether it’s food, shopping or seeing the sites.
Getting your camp face on is also a popular activity for any level.
Glampers and Bear Grylls fan boys included.
A fluctuating dollar also means driving down to Seattle on your days off and binging on more great food, cheaper petrol and exploring the American West coast.
The Not so Good
1. Ridiculous Expenses, Costs and Taxes
An influx in foreign investment has caused Vancity to battle an affordable housing crisis. In turn, renters are finding it harder to live in Vancouver as landlords quickly adapt high trends and inflated property value.
To buy a home in Vancouver will cost you an absurd 1.5 million at least.
Combined with gasoline prices and high taxes, many young people are opting out of purchasing a home in Vancouver, and moving to surrounding areas like Surrey, Delta and Richmond.
Even then, owning your own home is looking more like a distant fantasy.
Another cost to commuters were the unpopular bridge polls. The Port Mann bridge serves as the gateway into the US, as police enforcement constantly monitors those looking to skip the poll by creative means.
Don’t judge, but our tax dollars are going towards the police force cracking down on $2.00 fees.
Recently though, the poll is currently being dismantled after recent government promises.
Alcohol is still strictly taxed by the government, with tax rates sometimesmore than 50% of the original cost. This doesn’t include tipping either of course or mark up costs at your favourite establishment too.
And don’t get me started on parking in the city core.
To be compared to L.A. in terms of terrible traffic is a bit of an exaggeration, but locals are finding the commute more and more difficult every year.
Outdated highway lanes as well as bridges are becoming more of an obvious problem as locals are scratching their heads wondering how it got so bad.
Even 4 years ago, Vancourities seldom complained about getting stuck in traffic since waits were minor. Nowadays, a previous 20 minute ride across the Lionsgate or the Second Narrows Bridge may add an additional hour or two on top because of volume, accidents and time of day.
And those commutes aren’t the worst ones!
A decent guide to Vancouver congestion can be found here.
3. Did I already mention transit?
Oh transit, how we love and hate you.
Recent years have seen substantial fare increases as the city tries to modernize all public services. Higher prices have more stress on those struggling to meet basic needs like seniors and students.
New programs have been put into effect to help protect those who are struggling financially, but the system is overwhelmed with thousands going through a tedious and paper-orientated process.
Trying to use Translink support services over the phone is like waiting in line at the Roxy on Sundays – You ain’t getting through.
To add, bus times are not around the clock, giving less dense areas awkward bus times and headaches if you miss your bus. Delays also plague the city’s SkyTrain with obvious issues if the metro is your only option.
Getting around in a taxi quickly eats away at your wallet as you find yourself tipping on top of an already expensive ride across town.
Options like Uber are still being held up in litigation as there has been resistance from political parties in the same bed as worried transportation businesses.
Even before the 2010 Olympics, expats have complained that Vancouver is way too uptight, expensive and lacks the vibe you get in other Canadian cities like Toronto, Montreal and Calgary. The Gastown Steam Clock only gets you so far.
Backed by archaic liquor bylaws and red tape at just about every late night venue, newcomers to the city can be a little disappointed when they see the lack of fun on the West Coast.
Changes have been slow but progressive.
Yet, it’s unusual when you consider blossoming “medical” marijuana businesses or vaping at mom and dad shops while you get slapped a big fine for opening a bottle of wine at the beach.
A hot potato in both the media and local enforcement.
An epidemic in violent crimes both inside and out of the city is presenting law enforcement a very modern problem. Violent crimes are also linked to an increase of nasty assaults and drug overdoses in some of the city’s poorer neighborhoods.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s extremely unlikely that tourists or typical Vancouverites would be involved with anything remotely dangerous.
But take a walk down one of the shabbier neighborhoods and you’ll see mental instability, drug addicts, and traces of gang activity at the doorstep of thriving metropolitan center.
Vancouver’s criminal issues are as obvious as a throbbing pimple on the tip of your nose.
Moreover, if you turn to one of the rare segments in the paper, there are often recent trial discoveries, they unveil the city’s organized crime which include ties to other syndicate networks around the world.
6. What is Vancouver Culture?
I’ve had the pleasure of calling many cities around the globe my home. But unless you enjoy hockey or love hitting the slopes you are going to be hard pressed to find something distinct and unique in Vancouver.
Food culture and the housing market shouldn’t be things that define a city, but these are the impressions expats are getting when they visit Vancouver.
Reading comments, you find that visitors will mention the stark difference between the vibes Calgary and Montreal give compared to Vancity. Add a feeling of “detachment” many newcomers experience, and even locals can’t help but relate.
Vancouver will blow you away with it’s natural beauty and endless outdoor options. Far outdoing other Canadian destinations.
But like every growing city under the limelight, there’s always something dark behind the curtains. Comparably, the city has been referred to as a future Los Angeles, traffic and homelessness included.
The provincial government has stepped in to help combat many of the issues that have recently come into attention, but some say it is too little too late.
If you’re looking to thrive in Vancouver, your best bet would be to find your niche enjoyment. This could include the outdoors, sports, beer, food, hockey, business and much more. Your willingness to become part of something greater than yourself will determine how much you love or hate the city.