Around three years ago, when we decided to take the jump and apply for immigration to Canada, we weren’t entirely sure what to expect. Everything we read online was either extremely positive or devastatingly negative.
After settling and living in Vancouver for almost a year and a half now, we get asked a lot by friends and family about whether the move here has been worth it and if they should be considering a move too.
Is a move to Vancouver worth it?
When deciding about a big decision like moving, the factors to look into are not the same as when deciding to go on vacation. While BC has great scenery, hiking trails and vacation spots, those don’t go into consideration when thinking about leaving everything behind and moving across the globe. However, after having been here for over a year, I would say yes, it’s definitely worth it to consider moving and living in Vancouver.
No regrets whatsoever?
While we do have a good life, that’s not to say there were not days where we completely regretted our decision and considered other provinces or even returning home. There are major downsides to life in Vancouver and they can negatively affect the experience of relocating. It’s very important to be aware of most of them but without letting them discourage you.
If you’ve researched anything about Vancouver, the first topic that will come up will be the cost of living. When relocating as a new immigrant and if you haven’t had a steady source of income, it can easily eat through your savings which means as you watch them dwindle, you might start worrying about being able to afford food and shelter. Vancouver has a serious homelessness crisis that unfortunately seems to have no solution in sight and there were days where we wondered if we might have to end up on the streets ourselves.
Why move there then?
There are a lot of downsides to life in Vancouver, some that made us question our life choices in the first place, especially every time we pay rent. However, one must not forget that this would be the case wherever you move around the world. There is no perfect place and yes, the grass will always look greener on the other side. While the cost of living is expensive, if you have a solid set of background and skills, you are absolutely able to get a job paying enough to cover those costs.
Once you get over the financial barrier, your day to day life will be pretty comfortable and routine and it won’t take long until you start feeling at home. That being said, it may not happen overnight. Another point that’s important to bring up is that no two people we met have had the same experience. We’ve met people who almost ended up on the streets and others who found jobs and got started as soon as they moved. It’s therefore important to learn about other people’s stories and experiences, but don’t automatically assume you will go through the same problems.
How long would it take to get settled after moving?
The answer is: it depends. It depends first of all on the reason you’re moving. Are you planning a permanent move? Are you single? Do you have a family? Are you planning to move on a two-year visa, have an extended sabbatical and go home? Do you know anyone already living in Vancouver who can help guide you around?
The most essential thing to do after moving is finding a job and developing any source of income. It is relatively easy to find what potential immigrants call “survival jobs” such as working in a supermarket as a cashier for example or as a dishwasher or waiter in a restaurant or in construction. They don’t necessarily pay much overall but will help starting to have some income while searching for a job that matches your skills.
How long does it take to find a regular job?
When it comes to finding a “regular” office job, things may take a bit longer as Canada and especially Vancouver is notoriously slow at recruitment. For reasons I don’t understand, it can take months and several rounds of recruitment before companies choose who they want to hire. Unfortunately for those companies, this means that if they don’t find a good fit, it may take them a full year of hiring procedures before they find a good candidate. This is why you will often see the same posting by the same company over and over again.
On average, it takes four to six months to find a job. Job hunting itself can end up being a full time job. It is also made easy here through networking which you can’t do without meeting people or putting yourself out there. LinkedIn is a big thing over here so set your profile up and start creating those connections.
There are also settlement agencies that can help introduce you to the job market in Vancouver. However, it is important to know that there is often a confusion about these agencies as they do not find a job for you but they will provide you with training, workshops and guidance about the job market itself and things like writing a Canadian style resume, interviewing, career guidance.
On the other hand, recruitment agencies will help find jobs for you and we have had nothing but positive experiences with them. There are several out there and you can work with all of them at the same time. A lot of big companies recruit through those agencies. Jobs can range from one day gigs to short term contracts all the way to part time and full time work.
Any other factors to take into consideration?
Most importantly, make sure to have enough money saved before setting foot on the plane. Regardless of whether you are coming as a student, immigrant or just on a work visa, having a solid piggy bank can reduce the stress if it ends up taking you longer to find work. Optimally, you should have enough to cover six months of living and the costs do add up indeed.
While people usually talk about moving to Vancouver, they are actually referring to Metro Vancouver which encompasses several cities that don’t have the same cost of living that people usually dread. Cities like Burnaby, Richmond, Surrey are also all transit accessible if you’re not planning on driving and there are also plenty of job opportunities there. You have more options to consider than just downtown Vancouver.
On the other hand and despite what all the blogs you’ve read said, the beautiful scenery images that you see are not all in Vancouver itself! Some of the larger parks are still transit accessible but in most cases, you will actually have to drive for several hours!
That being said, if you’re not an outdoorsy person, you may be in shortage of activities when it comes to entertainment. Going out frequently can sometimes be unaffordable and events are a rarity compared to other cities in Canada and around the world. You can sometimes find underground theater and comedy shows but the options are limited. Most free public events are food related or parades that showcase the diversity of cultures in the city.
Another reason people usually prefer Canada’s west coast is the weather. While the rest of Canada has a lot of snow and sub-zero temperatures that can put off people moving from more temperate weather, Vancouver tends to be more on the warmer side. That being side, it does rain a lot. It may at first seem like a minor inconvenience, however the constant gloominess even in summer months can start to take its toll.
Most of the complaints about life in Vancouver, besides the cost of living, is the loneliness and inability to make friends or legitimate human connections. That is sadly a big problem but is also not always the case. It will on average take you longer to get settled than in most other places but just like anywhere else, making friends depends on how much you put yourself out there.
One of the positive sides of Vancouver is the tolerance and acceptance. There are less incidents of racism and great acceptance of minorities and LGBTQ2S+.
Other things to consider for example would be the schooling system, availability of daycare if you’re moving with small children or planning to start a family.
I’m in! How do I move?
While I’ve tried to provide an overall view of some factors to think of before deciding to move, there are of course many more depending on your own circumstances. Vancouver is a nice city to live in once you overcome the initial hurdles of settling down, which are there wherever you move.
Once you’ve made your call, look into the various immigration and visa streams available (or plane tickets if you’re already in Canada) and start the process!