- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Vancouver Guide (PDF)
Vancouver is considered one of the best places to live in the world, and for good reason. It is a city where the ocean meets the mountains, offering natural beauty, a mild climate and an amazing array of outdoor activities. This all makes for an enjoyable expat lifestyle in this wonderfully cosmopolitan Canadian city.
A thriving local music scene, world-class events and great dining options make Vancouver a tantalising option for expats. Vancouverites embrace a work hard, play hard attitude. This often means spending long hours at the office, but then making the most of time off.
Vancouver is ethnically diverse, making for a vibrant multicultural lifestyle that encompasses many different types of foods, fashions and traditions. Immigrant groups tend to live together in particular areas and suburbs. So, there are areas where mostly South Asians live, like South Vancouver and areas of Delta and Surrey, while over 50 percent of the population of Richmond is of Chinese descent. However, this is changing. Neighbourhoods are becoming more ethnically diverse, as newcomers are spreading out more.
With a thriving expat community in Vancouver, many different organisations and community groups are catering to foreigners in the city. Many of these groups specialise in helping expats in Vancouver find their way in their new home.
Shopping in Vancouver
Shopping in Vancouver is characterised by a diverse range of quality products which cater to all of an expat's needs. Shopping malls can be found across Vancouver, with popular ones including Pacific Centre in downtown Vancouver, Metropolis at Metrotown in Burnaby and Richmond Centre Mall.
Downtown is also full of famous and popular chain stores. Expats looking for independent shops will find these in either the pricey establishments of Yaletown or Kitsilano’s West 4th Avenue. Alternatively, Commercial Drive in East Vancouver is home to counter-culture shopping.
Restaurants in Vancouver
Both fine-dining restaurants and inexpensive eateries are plentiful in Vancouver. Thanks to the ethnic diversity, expats will find every possible combination of cuisines. Chain restaurants are highly popular among locals in Vancouver, with Cactus Club, Earl’s Kitchen and Milestones being the most prevalent.
These places are moderately priced, have great atmosphere and service, but generally serve average food. They are consistent and predictable, but expats may find much better food for their dollar at the numerous independent restaurants across the city. Sushi restaurants are also prominent across Vancouver, often proving more popular than chain restaurants and usually offering better deals.
Upscale dining in Vancouver is mostly found in the centre of downtown, as well as Coal Harbour, the northwest corner of downtown, and Yaletown, the southeast corner of downtown. The old district of Gastown is a very touristy area where the prices are high but the quality is not as good as the other areas.
The West End, along Davie and Denman Streets, is where expats will find good-value food. Outside of downtown, the Commercial Drive in East Van also offers some really good deals. Other popular dining areas with a mixture of price points include Main Street (around Broadway) and Kitsilano’s West 4th Ave.
Nightlife in Vancouver
Nightlife in Vancouver is an area that many expats may consider a weakness of the city. Often referred to as the ‘no fun city’, Vancouver has long had the reputation of shutting down at night. Archaic liquor laws, noise bylaws and a history of riots after major sporting events have kept Vancouver behind other major cities in terms of nightlife.
However, things are changing. The local music scene has taken off in recent years and excellent venues attract musical superstars from around the globe. Old liquor laws are being rewritten and noise bylaws are being relaxed to allow more outdoor patios to open.
Nightclubs are concentrated in downtown, on Granville Street, while bars can be found around town and along West Broadway. Outside of these two areas, it is unusual to find a true nightclub or bar. Most drinking spots are more like casual restaurants where locals go for dinner and a drink.
►The Kids and Family in Vancouver page offers some ideas for family-friendly outings
►For an overview of annual events see What's On in Vancouver
"Vancouver is an incredible city that has something to offer everyone. There is a tremendous amount of outdoor activities available, clean air, great restaurants, friendly people and safe neighbourhoods."
Read more about American expat Cyrus's experiences in Vancouver.
Are you an expat living in Vancouver?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Vancouver. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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