This is a memorandum for myself to remember what Vancouver was like and what I felt during the visit.
I visited Vancouver and stayed there for a week. This was my late summer vacation. I have always wondered about what living in a foreign country would be like, especially an English-speaking country. This trip is kind of an experiment about what living in Canada is like.
Last Friday, my husband and I were in a rush to finish all our work for the week and had to prepare for our first long journey since the pandemic. We successfully finished work and quickly packed our luggages, and next afternoon we headed to the airport.
A ground staff who took care of us said that we had to show our eTA approval screen for check-in. We said “What is it?”. We did not know we needed to apply eTA before departure, nor did we know about the existence of the document. We were so focused on the Japan/Canada COVID restriction, that we missed the basic permission we had to take to enter the country. That’s our lack of preparation. The ground staff was with worrying face, watching us applying eTA with a low-speed airport wifi. Finally, we got approval just 30 mins before the deadline.
We successfully flew out from Japan. It was the start of our first journey in these 2.5 years.
I’d like to describe what I experienced in detail, but it’s going to be too long with my log-style diary. Instead, I’ll point out something memorable.
Location and geography
First of all, Vancouver is one of the few cities with a unique geography, with oceans and mountains nearby. You can reach beautiful mountains within an hour and can chill on the beach in a few minutes from residential areas. I really liked this about Vancouver. One of my friends living there said he likes 'being there'. He said we don’t have a lot to 'do', but it is good to 'be' there. I thought that’s well-described.
On top of that, the city is very bike-friendly. Vancouver is the most bike-friendly city that I have visited. They mostly have bike-dedicated lanes, and bike parkings everywhere. People are used to bikers, so they drive gently in residential areas.
Culture and people
It is my favorite part: culture and people. I stayed only for a week, so my experience is very limited. From my point of view, the city is multicultural and has a lot of space for accepting others. I could see many ethnicities/nationalities: Canadian, American, Australian, Chinese, Korean and more. It is almost impossible to guess their cultural background from their appearance. Literally, it is a mosaic-shaped culture in the city. I saw a lot of Asians who may have been born in North America and grew up here. On the other hand, I spotted many Asian people who might have came here a few months/years ago. I can’t tell where they came from and why they came there, but I felt the city accepts all those people who live in the city regardless of why they are in the city.
My visit was too short to understand if the culture is mixed well and creates Vancouver’s unique culture, but at least, I didn’t feel anxiety or vulnerability of being there as a random Asian woman.
Cost of living
Cost of living is definitely higher than in Tokyo. It is mostly because of the recent currency exchange rate. Before the JPY got weaker, the price wasn't too high for Japanese tourists. From my observation, some items are more expensive, but others are not.
Dining out is much more expensive here/there. It costs $20-30 per person for lunch. Price for groceries are not too bad, so it’s better to cook at home if it’s not for a special occasion. Grocery stores here offer a variety of goods, so If you like cooking, you can enjoy the lifestyle.
Price for rent is much higher than Tokyo, but the room sizes are bigger and most of the rooms are furnished there. I think it is acceptable. If you live in the center of Tokyo, you won’t be surprised with the price to live in Vancouver.
Personal comments about English
It is off topic, but there is one point that I want to leave in the diary. Regarding language, obviously English is a common language in Vancouver. On the first day of the trip, to be honest, I couldn’t catch what people were saying well. I felt a little sad and felt it is harder than I expected to live in another country (Excuse: because I was born and grew up in Japan, especially since I grew up in a countryside where there was no one to speak English in my town). I was about to lose confidence. But fortunately, I got used to being in the English environment in a few days since I talked with people at stores and restaurants. I imagine if I stayed here/there longer, I would've definitely got used to English more and could live with less obstacles. Through this visit, I gained the confidence that I can at least survive in this country as long as I don’t lose the persistence to communicate with people.
Overall, I believe Vancouver is a livable city for me. I can understand why so many people immigrate to Canada, especially Vancouver for Asian people. As a starting point, a multicultural society and openness seems attractive for people who want to live in a English speaking country. Some people move to other North American cities, and the others stay in Vancouver and enjoy the laid-back lifestyle. I’m not sure if the path of the city and I would cross in the future, but I could roughly confirm that the city is livable enough for me.