Every month when we pay our rent…
On a more serious note, moving to a new country or city always has its ups and downs at first and there are days where one would wake up with a sense of gratefulness for being where they are, and others when regret and frustration mar the day. A couple of years in, we can honestly say the we feel settled in and at home. We occasionally feel homesick but it’s more related to seeing family and friends rather than the way of life.
An article that describes the four stages of culture shock as the honeymoon phase, the frustration, the adjustment and acceptance is a good way to summarize what one goes through. This will happen to anyone and everyone regardless of which country and city one is in. Knowing that will make for a better ability to get over the phase where one is at their lowest as one will get to that end stage. There is a lot of frustrations that come with living in Vancouver (more on that below) but letting it take over your life will not make things better. We don’t however want to dismiss the negative experiences a lot of people had and there are always unavoidable circumstances. There were days where we also considered packing it all and going back home or moving elsewhere, but with time and patience, managed to better adapt to the way of life.
Landing initially in Vancouver can be a surreal experience depending on where you’re coming from. After leaving the airport and the suburbs and getting closer to downtown, the number of high-rise glass buildings and towers can be overwhelming.
We didn’t really get to experience a honeymoon phase in Vancouver however, as we were hard set on finding housing and work at the soonest, but living close to English Bay allowed us that ability to go for walks at the beach or in Stanley Park, to appreciate the diversity of the restaurant and food scene and to start exploring the various neighborhoods of the city.
We did a lot of reading and watching before moving and everything seemed to hype the city as one of the best places to live on Earth and that we would be truly fortunate to be there. One thing we forgot to focus on is that more often than not, those vloggers and article writers weren’t making a long term move and always knew their stay would be short lived. They weren’t trying to establish themselves, build careers or start families necessarily and the focus was more on the positives than the negatives.
The high cost of living in Vancouver combined with a hiring process that takes forever can seriously affect morale. Coming as a permanent resident meant bringing along a certain amount of money, or proof of funds, that would enable you to live for a few months. Unfortunately, it may be barely be enough to cover the first three months in Vancouver. Watching your hard earned savings go down in a freefall can launch all the alarm bells in your head and make you question whether you made the right call.
We have indeed found the hiring process to be unusually long. By the time you get your first interview for a job, it can be a couple of months since you applied to the original posting! And hoping you passed that first interview, it could be another month or more for that second interview. We even had a company apologizing for not having made it to the third round almost four months after the first interview! Needless to say, my partner had completely forgotten he ever even applied there!
Having little to no income combined with having to, well, live, can put an additional weight on one’s shoulders with savings being drained. Fortunately, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Another common reason for frustration is not having had the time yet to establish a support system of neighbors and friends who would help guide and direct you during that phase. Loneliness, especially if you move alone, can take a toll on your mental health. One of our first shocking moments was going out on a Wednesday evening and not seeing anyone in the streets. In our home country, pubs and clubs would be full any day of the week and feeling as we were the only people outside was not a good one! Vancouver can be a lonely and unfriendly city making it even more difficult to build a network in those first few weeks.
Had you asked us when we were during that stage if we regret moving to Vancouver, the answer would have probably been yes.
After spending a lot of time alone doing nothing but job hunting, we were fortunate enough to start making friends and income. When we landed, we only knew one person beforehand who didn’t have the best experience. One thing they had said to us was that we couldn’t go anywhere without a car and to not bother getting a monthly pass until we needed more than a dozen bus rides a week. This lead to us not bothering much with trying to go anywhere and with no monthly pass, not taking transit. We would just walk around the West End and downtown at the start. However, as we started making more acquaintances and friends, we were given more tips and insights about things we could do. That was when we started exploring more and learning more about what our possibilities were… and they were many! From exploring other cities in Metro Vancouver, to transit accessible hikes, bar hopping in the many craft breweries, there was a lot to do instead of limiting ourselves to our small neighborhood.
Finding steady work as well was great as we had a better idea now of expenses versus income and we were able to plan better around our budget, be able to go out and enjoy our time more without worrying about whether we would have enough for rent in a month or two. With proper budgeting and management, daily life in the city may not seem too unaffordable anymore once purchasing power becomes clearer.
Meetups and small events allowed us to meet more people, find hidden gems such as free open mic standup nights or 5$ improv shows and we were able to dig deeper around what’s happening inside the city.
Frustrations were still there but were being replaced by genuine fun and enjoyment that is not based on a Youtuber’s advice!
We would say it took us around six months overall to be fully in that last phase and at the end of our first year, we were both making steady income, made friends, took on hiking (unavoidable in B.C.!) and settled into a routine. We knew what the good restaurants were, where to shop for what at a lower price and had genuine relationships and great memories. We truly feel settled in and at home.
However, it is truly saddening when we learn about people who even a year in were still at the frustration stage. The city can be merciless in that regards but there are ways to overcome that initial difficulty with an open mind and dedication. It is not easy, but it can be done by knowing where to look and is the reason we decided to start this website!
So do we regret moving to Vancouver?
No, not at all. We truly enjoy our life here which is far from being perfect. However, around two years in, we feel at home when we return to our apartment, we know how to budget around two weeks pay instead of a month in order to cover all our bills on time, we know when to leave the apartment to catch the bus that’s coming in late on time, we’re not bothered by the rain and so on. We still however encounter the stress of potentially losing a job or an income source, not being able to immediately drive and having to carry groceries for a distance but those are frustrations that don’t cause a damper on life on the larger scale and are inconveniences we would experience anywhere.
I would say it’s important to add that while our current situation at the moment is good, we’re not yet entirely convinced we would live here forever. As a couple with double income and no kids (also referred to a DINKs!), we are able to cover our basics and needs and allow ourselves a few extravagances but it may not necessarily be the case when we start a family.
That being said, it is up to each person to make their own lives and yes, it may be more difficult in Vancouver than in other places, but it’s not impossible. With the right attitude and state of mind, it can be a great experience.