What makes the largest city in British Columbia and the most densely populated city in Canada so darn liveable?
It could be the beautiful landscape. Vancouver sits on a finger of land between the Burrard Inlet to the north and the Fraser River to the south. The city is overlooked by the green slopes and snow-capped peaks of the North Shore Mountains. On a clear day you can see right over the Strait of Georgia to Vancouver Island. Stanley Park, taking up almost a whole peninsula of its own, includes Beaver Lake and the Lost Lagoon and is one of North America’s largest urban parks.
It could be the diversity. More than half of the city’s residents speak a first language other than English. The most popular are Punjabi, Cantonese, Chinese, Tagalog and Korean. There’s a large European influence in the city which has plenty of Aboriginal, Spanish and British heritage, not to mention a large gay community.
It could be the culture. Vancouver has a flourishing theatre scene, is a hotbed of innovation in the visual arts and is jammed with night clubs, music venues and bars from where the party frequently spills out onto the streets.
Or perhaps it’s just the laid back, tolerant way of life in this western seaboard city that keeps Vancouver's residents some of the happiest in the world.
Vancouver’s job market is quite competitive. On the other hand, it’s so lucrative people just can’t stay away.
One of Canada’s largest industrial centres, Vancouver has a diverse economy. Its prime location made its port into the largest in the country. Since imports and exports are key to the area’s economy, many mining and forestry companies are headquartered in Vancouver.
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Vancouver’s technology sector is noteworthy. Other important economic sectors include telecommunications, television and film, aerospace, biotechnology and health care. Corporate giants like TELUS, Teck Resources, BC Hydro and Goldcorp Inc. employ thousands throughout Vancouver.
The Canadian unemployment rate is presently 6.8 percent. Vancouver’s rate is lower at about 6.1 percent. It’s a great city for many expats to find work. English is the official language of the city and main working language.
Cost of Living
Vancouver is likely the most expensive Canadian city to live in. Residents have lower purchase power than other major cities in the country, largely due to the prohibitive housing costs.
What do daily living expenses look like in Vancouver? Restaurant prices average $13 per person at inexpensive restaurants, or $30 for a three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant. Add about $5.50 to order a draught with your meal. At the grocery store, a dozen eggs costs about $3.50, milk about $1.89 (1 litre) and a loaf of fresh bread will set you back about $3.10. Need to pick up alcohol? A bottle of wine costs $18 (mid-range) and domestic beer averages $2.17 per bottle. The average monthly disposable salary is $3,281 after taxes.
With Vancouver’s sky high housing prices, many residents choose to rent instead of buy. But rent isn’t cheap either. For those who prefer to live within the city’s centre, a one bedroom apartment costs on average $1,480 per month. A three bedroom unit costs twice as much at $2,973. Outside of the core, average rent is $1,043 for a one bedroom, or $1,950 per month for a three bedroom apartment.
As for real estate prices, one of the hottest markets in Canada isn’t showing signs of slowing down. Sale prices continue to go up year after year. According to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, The MLS® Home Price Index for detached properties is up 9.7 percent from a year ago. It was calculated at $1,026,300 for a typical single family home. The index price for all types of residential properties, which include detached, semi-detached, row houses and condos, came in at $649,700.
Not sure which part of town is best for you? Here are a few of the most popular neighbourhoods in Vancouver.
- Family-Friendly: Hastings – Great for families with its many schools and parks. Found on Vancouver’s east side, this neighbourhood offers gorgeous views. The area is mostly residential, with many single family homes.
- Upmarket: Shaughnessy – Likely the most expensive neighbourhood in Vancouver. It’s quiet, green and largely residential. The area is comprised of many mansions and heritage buildings. The average house price in Shaughnessy is just over 3 million dollars.
- Hip & Trendy: Yaletown – This downtown neighbourhood has undergone major rejuvenation. It’s become the cool place to live with its loft and condo buildings, trendy boutiques and exciting nightlife. It’s historic, eclectic and densely populated.
- Up & Coming: Lower Lonsdale – An area undergoing ruthless gentrification. Located in North Vancouver, Lower Lonsdale is a historic waterfront neighbourhood. Originally home to shipyards, new public spaces and condos are going up.
Cost of Moving
For those thinking of relocating to Vancouver, here are a few estimates for the cost of moving. Numbers below are in pounds, based on an average household move.
|London||£2,397 GBP - £2,562 GBP|
|Paris||£2,855 GBP - £3,052 GBP|
|New York City||£2,156 GBP - £2,304 GBP|
|Sydney||£1,661 GBP - £1,776 GBP|
|Dubai||£6,015 GBP - £6,430 GBP|
|Beijing||£2,519 GBP - £2,693 GBP|
Schools and Education
In Canada, education falls under the jurisdiction of the provincial governments. All Vancouver schools therefore follow the curriculum created by the government of British Columbia. Local schools offer different programs, including English, French Immersion, French, International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement.
The majority of parents send their children to Vancouver’s publicly funded schools. Students attend school from kindergarten through to grade 12. Most are divided as primary schools (up to grade 5), middle schools (grade 6 to grade 8) and high schools (grade 9 to grade 12).
Vancouver has over 100 schools. Many are public, therefore free to attend; others are independent and may require paying tuition. Students must earn 80 credits and pass provincial exams to receive their high school Certificate of Graduation.
As for post-secondary education in Vancouver, students can attend one of five public universities. Simon Fraser University is one of the largest in the city. It ranked 222nd in the world according to QS World University Rankings, and has been named Canada’s best comprehensive university several times by Maclean’s Magazine.
The University of British Columbia recently ranked 43rd in the QS World University Rankings. Also known as UBC, it consistently positions itself in the top universities in North America and Canada.
Ranking against the World
Vancouver has repeatedly been named “Most Liveable City” by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Since 2002, it’s an honor they have received a total of eight times. The city has successfully hosted many international events, including the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The city is currently taking on an inspiring environmental initiative called Greenest City 2020. They are challenging how natural resources are being used, and are working towards creating a more sustainable city.
Vancouver is one of the most multicultural cities in Canada. Over 50 percent of residents speak a first language other than English. The city is known to be quite inclusive, accepting of everyone regardless of their race, religion or economic background. The city has a number of ethnic neighbourhoods including Little India, Chinatown and Little Italy. Multicultural festivals are celebrated throughout the year.
Vancouver is beautiful. It has a much nicer climate than most of Canada with its mild winters and little snowfall. For expats looking for a clean, green place to live, Vancouver should top their list.
A Day in the Life
What’s it really like to live in one of Canada’s largest metropolises? It all comes down to where you live. If close to the core, you can start your day with a short walk or bike ride to work, perhaps strolling by the waterfront. You may wander by several downtown landmarks including the Gastown Steam Clock, the Vancouver Lookout or the Gaoler's Mews. You might also see the Vancouver Public Library; with its interesting architecture, you might recognize it from numerous television shows and movies.
Speaking of TV, if you’re lucky, you can catch a glimpse of your favorite Hollywood stars as you stretch your legs during your lunch break. Many of the biggest movies are filmed right here in the city. But beware: it rains a lot in Vancouver. Don’t forget your umbrella!
After work, grab the kids and head down to Stanley Park. It’s one of the most famous parks in the world and the most popular with locals. Hungry? Why not head down to the legendary Granville Island Public Market and grab a bite to eat.