Vancouver is often seen on top 10 lists of best cities to live in around the world. Even Canadians living in other parts of the country, boast about the lifestyle and living conditions in the city. We don’t doubt the temptation to leave everything and move here is huge, the city is very well known for being the attractive destination for people looking for a healthy, eco-friendly lifestyle and the chance to enjoy the outdoors like nowhere else.
But we know that the decision to move to Vancouver is one that you shouldn’t rush into, and it pays to do as much research as possible.
We recommend taking a close look at how much money you need and bringing more than the minimum required, consider the expensive rent, the slow job application process and that the prices which are not exactly what they appear.
Vancouver is city in the Canadian province of British Columbia known in short as BC, and which is also nicknamed ‘Bring Cash’
If you’re immigrating, take this into consideration
When immigrating to Vancouver, we took a closer look at the forums and read a lot about other people’s struggles and issues they faced during their process. One common problem was the amount of money they brought with them.
The application defines a minimum amount to bring with you. Based on our experience, and the experience of so many others, we recommend bringing more than the minimum amount. You’ll definitely need it. Check out our blog post here to know what’s the minimum income needed to live in Vancouver.
Remember that the purchasing power is different, what seems expensive at home might not be expensive here. On another hand, a lot of people are used to the United States Dollar as a currency which is different from the Canadian Dollar.
In the first few months, your expenses and buying experience will be a mess, it’s normal not to properly calculate costs and payments. We got interested in meal kits a few weeks after our move, it seemed like it was helping us not think much about food planning and shopping. In fact, it felt so easy that we ended up trying several companies in a matter of weeks. But what we discovered later was that we were paying more money for the meals. Yes, we were not throwing food away, but we weren’t in full control either. This was all part of our learning process of how we can better integrate in the community and learn how things are done in the city.
The bottom line: bring more money with you, you will waste some of it trying to learn how things work and will definitely feel more financially secure in the longer term. Another reason you will need more money is the second point below.
Rent is expensive
Home prices in Vancouver are some of the highest in Canada. You will need to do some thorough research in order to find a suitable home. Some factors that come into play are the location, amenities provided by the landlords and if the house is newly constructed or an older building. A great way to start your research is to check on Craigslist and walk around the neighbourhoods in search of vacancy signs.
What to do when you find a suitable place? Have a deposit available and proceed with your application as soon as possible. Great units and houses disappear quickly from the market and securing a suitable location can sometimes feel like a race against the clock, so secure yours as soon as you find it.
Rent will be one your biggest expenses every month, and it’s the way it is. Truthfully, you can’t really do much to change it. What you can do is try to find cheaper units and rent options: some people will share a house with a number of other individuals and divide the rent on everyone. This makes it a bit cheaper. Another option is to look for basement units and one-room rent options. These are also available if you can adapt to it. Some of our friends don’t need much more than a bed to sleep at night and a kitchen area to cook some food so a small room and a cooking area is all that matters.
In short, find what matters most to you and stick to it, you can always upgrade with time, move to bigger and better conditions as your income grows and you adapt to the Vancouverite lifestyle.
Job search takes a long time
One of the biggest things to adapt to is the job market. In order to grow and have better living conditions you will need to be able to make a decent amount of money every month. There are a variety of basic jobs (mainly in the service sector) which are easier to get as a start. These will help get things going for you.
In the long run, you will need to be able to work in better-paying roles. But there’s one thing you need to keep in mind: these might take more time to work out than you’d expect.
In Vancouver, there are a lot of job opportunities, the city’s constantly growing and there are always companies opening new offices in the city. Some companies will have a 3-step hiring process, others have a 4-step process, and some even a 5-step process. This hiring process (no matter the number of steps you’ll have to take) is somewhat slow but methodical: first, if the company is interested, they will reach out via an initial quick (15 minute) phone call to get an initial feel of who you are and how you talk. After that, in a few days, they might reply and show their interest to move forward with your application. The following step will usually be a video call with a member of the hiring team and/or the company management. After that, you can expect to receive an offer if everything works out well.
Some companies, hiring urgently, will be done with this whole procedure within weeks, others within a number of months. So we highly recommend patience and always trying to work on several applications at a time. As you might expect, the money might not be coming in as quickly as one would expect.
The prices are not what they appear
In this article, we mentioned rent being expensive, but what about prices on everyday items? In an nutshell, the prices you see on all kinds of goods, in restaurants and at different venues are shown without including additional taxes. In reality, the price you will pay is a bit more and so you must always keep that in mind and take it into consideration when purchasing anything.
The main issue is the addition of different taxes that also differ between provinces and the goods and services being sold. These include: the Goods and Services Tax (GST), provincial sales tax (PST), and/or harmonized sales tax (HST – combined PST & GST). There’s a lot of talk about including the taxes in the final price shown, and why it is not the way things are done here, but it is what it is and you’ll eventually get used to it.
Keep in mind that when dining out, a restaurant has the option of including the GST (or HST) in the price of the food items (tax in) or adding it to the price that is shown on the menu (tax out). Menus must state whether the prices include, or do not include, the GST. You’ll also need to add a tip (starting at 10% to 20% depending on the service) when dining in a restaurant. So, as an example, let’s say you dine in a province with 12% HST, you need to remember that you will end up paying 22% to 32% more than the prices shown on the menu.
On another hand, some provinces such as British Columbia and Alberta have a recycling program for containers. So the prices of the containers you see on the shelves will not be the same as the price you end up paying. This is because of of the added container deposits ($0.10 each on small polycoated drink boxes) plus a container recycling fee ($0.02 per box), for an additional $0.60 for example. But once you return these packages, you will be able to collect this money back. In these two provinces, the return rate is over 75% which a great sign of a clean, environmentally aware society. On another hand, some stores charge extra for plastic bags as well, it costs around five to ten cents a bag, which can add up if you buy a lot of groceries.
So always remember to expect a higher price for whatever you buy.