Look up most lists talking about the best places to live in, the friendliest, the most wonderful and Vancouver will almost always rank in the top ones. But when you ask Vancouverites or newcomers, most will probably scoff and disagree. The reason for that however is not necessarily that it’s not a good place to live overall, but those lists do not necessarily include all the factors that would make a city a good place to live overall.
A better question will be….
Is Vancouver a good place to live in?
As a person making a stable income enough to cover the basics and doesn’t have any debts and who enjoys the outdoors, then yes, Vancouver would be a great place to live indeed.
When choosing a place to live in, one must not just look at the positives as you can find hundreds of articles talking about how awesome a place is, but also consider the negatives and what would your tolerance level be for them. Instagram, social media and blogs usually only reflect the good side of a place and are carefully curated to remove from the frame anything that could affect the image.
There is a big difference between going on vacation somewhere and completely relocating to a new country or city. Things like commuting, the job market, rent versus income, grocery shopping and so on are not a concern when on a short stay.
What makes Vancouver a good place to live in?
While Vancouver itself is just like any other city, its at a prime location to access some of the most gorgeous natural scenery around the world. You can work in the city during the week and on the weekend go North or East to some of the largest parks you can find.
That being said, you don’t even have to drive that far to go on a hike or find a trail as some of them are within Metro Vancouver itself! You can even take transit! The amount if natural scenery within the city and its immediate surroundings itself is more than enough to satisfy your outdoorsy appetite.
Being originally from a warmer part of the world, one of the first reactions we’d get when telling people we are moving to Canada would be “How will you live there? It’s so cold all the time!”. The ensuing conversation would be how not all of Canada is covered in a blanket of snow 365 days a year and that each area has its different climate.
One of the reasons that had Vancouver on top of our list when moving was the fact that it was one of the warmer part of the country and we thought it would be a great place to ease into the cold. Ironically enough, winters in Vancouver were milder than ones in our “warm” Mediterranean country.
In the two years we’ve been here, it snowed less than two weeks total and the snow maybe stuck one or two days only to be wiped by the rain. Surprisingly however, the whole city goes into a halt as they never are prepared! Not the Canadian winter everyone fears for sure!
As a new immigrant, Vancouver is a good place to get started as there are large numbers of international students and immigrants. This makes it easier to not necessarily feel like an outside and overall racism is not as prevalent as one would fear moving to a new area. Walking the streets or being on the bus, you would hear a variety of languages being spoken!
According to the 2016 census, half of Metro Vancouver’s population is a visible minority. However, it would be important to mention that cities within Metro Vancouver are divided by ethnicity. Richmond for example has a larger Chinese population and Surrey is where most South East Asians would go to live and so on. It is not necessarily easy to integrate those communities if you’re a newcomer. One of the big benefits however is all the restaurants and varied cuisines one can find anywhere.
What makes Vancouver a not so good place to live in?
The cost of living
If there’s one big reason that would make us leave Vancouver would be rent and the cost of living. Depending on your family status or size, this can be a big obstacle or a minor one.
If you’re moving to Vancouver temporarily for a couple of years as a single person, you would be able to save a lot of money by renting a bedroom in a shared apartment with a few housemates. Your income would be enough to cover your basics. However, you would sacrifice some of your privacy, such as your exclusive use of the washroom.
If you’re here for the long term though and have a small family, the cost can immediately creep up especially if you have children that would need daycare. The further from downtown you are the cheaper it would be to rent but what you are saving in rent may lead to the added cost of a 3 zone transit pass or the need for a car.
Increased cost of living doesn’t only affect newcomers from other provinces or countries but locals also complain of the difficulty of earning enough to have a decent life. After all, it is important to enjoy one’s life too and not work to cover the bare essentials.
The social life
Most of the complaints about living in Vancouver have been about loneliness and the difficulty of making friends. People are often surprised at that especially moving from abroad due to the stereotype of Canadians being nice and polite. However, someone who’s polite to you will not necessarily end up being your friend and one must actively and constantly seek to make friends before managing to find their small social group.
There are a lot of pubs and restaurants however, that is the extent of social activities one can do. There is not much of an art or theater scene, most festivals are food related and it often can feel like there is not much to do besides the outdoors.
While the overall climate may be decent and milder compared to the rest of the country, the weather itself isn’t for everyone. It rains for most of the year, most often without any thunder or lightning. The constant light rain becomes such a part of the daily life that one often wouldn’t bother getting non-waterproof clothes and shoes. Even people coming from London, notoriously famous for a similar weather, complain about Vancouver’s rain!
Unfortunately, the depressive nature of the constant wetness and gloominess can end up being too much and seasonal affective disorder is rampant.
The opioid crisis
The opioid crisis is not a topic you will find on most blogs talking about how amazing life in Vancouver is. Ever since 2016, BC has declared a public health emergency with no visible end in sight to the crisis. Some parts of the city are affected more than others but there isn’t really a place in Vancouver that is sheltered from this crisis. It is a difficult topic to approach and any conversation on social media will quickly become heated.
The homelessness crisis
The combination of the increased cost of living, opioid and mental health crisis as well as the mild climate led to a serious homelessness problem in Vancouver. When we first moved, we were shocked at the fact that someone seemed to be living in every corner. While there are shelters in place and the initial thought would be: “well why don’t they just go there.”, truth of the matter is, there is a lot of red tape, curfews and rigid requirements.
The sad and really unfortunate truth is that, with time, you get used to it to the point you may not even notice you are walking by real people who don’t have a roof over their head.
One can also easily forget that, with the increased cost of living, everyone can be a job loss away from having to end up on the streets, which can be a really humbling thought.
Is it the best place on Earth?
No, Vancouver is definitely not and probably wouldn’t be close in the rankings for young adults wanting to get settled.
But is anywhere really is the optimal place to live in? There will always be good and bad everywhere and there will always be something to criticize or that needs improvement. After all, the whole world is a work in progress. The question that is more suited when deciding where to move is: am I okay with those negatives and can I live with them?
So that being sad, we have been living in Vancouver for two years, and while it’s far from perfect and can be really frustrating, we still have a good life.