Versions of this article appeared in The Province, Huffington Post, and Megaphone Magazine
When I first moved to Vancouver, it felt like living in the future. Hell, a lot of TV shows and movies set in the future use Vancouver as their backdrop. It just feels like a place where so much is going right–the buildings shine, the water glistens, and the grass is green year-round, and there’s a progressiveness and thoughtfulness that permeates everything. The city cares about social justice, about the environment (Vancouver aims to be the most environmentally-friendly city in the world by 2020), about the day-to-day lives of the people who live in it.
It’s not just beautiful. It’s beauty overkill. You can stand on the Seawall and watch the sun set gloriously over the mountains while otters play in the water next to you. After living here, so many other cities just feel flat and lifeless (ironic, considering some people have dubbed Vancouver “No-Fun City” because of its relatively tame nightlife–but I bet those people haven’t walked Granville Street at two in the morning to take in the hilarious procession of the drunken, disheveled 19-year-olds in ill-fitting clubbing clothes).
For six years, we lived in the West End. I loved it there. We had an apartment overlooking English Bay–it was tiny, but I grew to love that, too. I could walk to work, and grab groceries on my walk back, and then eat a hot dog on the beach. It was great. I wanted it to last forever.
I love Vancouver.
There’s only one problem.
Vancouver doesn’t love me.
The first thing to really bite us was the reality of how hard it is to make friends here. It’s a problem that plagues everyone. Growing up in Manitoba, it took a lot of effort to get from place to place, so plans were never tentative. In Vancouver, you have options. It’s so easy to get from place to place, and always so much going on, that social commitments are tenuous. People bail all the time. You can plan a party, have a dozen people RSVP, and then have every one of them cancel an hour before the party. That exact scenario happens often enough that we have a term for it: getting “Vancouvered”. And yes, I’ve been party to it. I’ve cancelled on people at the last minute only to find out later that they spent their evening alone. On their birthday. It’s one of those memories I try to keep buried.
I’m sorry I did that to you. Me and a dozen other people.
It’s hard to make friends when everyone is so noncommittal. But another factor is an oddity we discovered over the years–because space is small, and people spend so much time out in the city, no one invites people over. Having friends over to your apartment isn’t something that happens casually, which makes it really hard to play 4-6 person board games.
Ask anyone about this stuff. They’ll confirm it. Socially, Vancouver sucks, and almost no one here has particularly close friends. Just a selection of good acquaintances.
Okay, so I miss having a really tight-knit group of friends. That alone hasn’t been enough to make me want to move away. I’m an introvert. I’m doing just fine. And, after seven years, I’m making some headway in the friends department. Just in time to move away from them! Great job, Aaron.
No, these were issues we could power though. We could still make this relationship work. Or so I hoped.
It was about a year ago that the city calmly told me it didn’t love me any more, and wanted to see other people. Younger people, I’m sure. That asshole.
You see, when it was just my wife and I, gallivanting around the city, things were great.
Then, we decided to have a kid.
To the surprise of no one, Vancouver has top-notch facilities and resources for this sort of thing–we had two excellent midwives and, when our daughter was born, we spent several days in a beautiful private room at one of the best women’s hospitals in the world. We never saw a bill for any of that, by the way. Not even for the midwives. I’m fervently Team Socialism.
When we returned home, the three of us crammed into our tiny (about 450 square feet, I think) one-bedroom apartment, knowing that our love affair with the apartment couldn’t last. Alas. We loved the West End, and tried to find a place nearby, but six months after she was born we were still coming up empty.
Do you know how many two-bedroom apartments are available downtown right now for under $1500 / month? I just counted. There’s one. And it’s spam. If you can manage $2000 / month, there are eight to choose from. But not many families can float $2000 / month on a single income.
“But this is 2016,” you say. Yeah! Problem solved! Dual-income is the way to go! My wife had been in school for a few years and was itching to get back to work. We could double our income, nuke our debts, and live like goddamn royalty, complete with an heir. It was a brilliant plan, and one that would have worked flawlessly if it had any basis in reality.
We’ll get back to that five paragraphs from now. For now, just assume the plan has a fatal flaw. So, no, we’re dealing with one income.
Pursuing a cheaper place to live, and hoping to finally get our daughter her own room, we ended up moving to Oakridge. If you haven’t had a pleasure of visiting Oakridge, don’t. Yes, it’s technically still in Vancouver. Yay! We managed to be one of those families that kept their claws in the city proper, and didn’t retreat to Burnaby, or Richmond, or worse.
But Oakridge is the opposite of the Vancouver dream. It’s endless rows of giant houses owned by foreign investors, devoid of playgrounds or groceries or anything of interest. There’s a mall, if that’s your thing. There is Queen Elizabeth Park, which is lovely in summer and has a nice little duck pond, but there’s no Seawall. I mean, good lord, you can’t even get a decent cup of coffee without hopping on a bus. And any place where you can’t find decent coffee shouldn’t be allowed to call itself Vancouver.
As for social justice, progressiveness, environmental awareness–in the previous election, Oakridge voted Conservative. Our MP made the news when she declared (in front of a church) that she thought the government should have the right to spy on its citizens, and detain them indefinitely without cause, because it’s what Jesus would have wanted.
(Thankfully, she was booted this last election, and replaced by the Minister of Badassery. Yes, the one you’re thinking of.)
Anyway, fine, we had to leave downtown. Vancouver has one of the highest standards of living in the world–it makes sense that the city core is a little inaccessible. But the truth is, it’s hard to find a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the city limits. They just don’t exist. People have claimed that there’s a three-bedroom apartment out there, somewhere, but it’s only accessible to those who possess the key.
Okay, so then we decided to look for a daycare for our kid, and I can tell that you’re already laughing, and I don’t appreciate it.
We put our names on the waitlists for fifty daycares. Oh, how I wish I was bullshitting you. The number was actually fifty. We could show you the spreadsheet. In two years, slots became available for us in two of those. Asking around, it seems the average wait to get into a daycare is two to three years.
This presented two problems.
Number one: Vancouver doesn’t have enough daycares to keep up with demand. If you want to have a dual-income family after you’ve had a kid, you need to wait a few years before that’s even possible–which means you’re trying to survive on a single income in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
But we did get a slot. Remember when I told you that you could get a two-bedroom apartment if you’re willing to fork over $2000 / month? Well, that’s how much daycare costs, too.
Just let that sink in.
Yeah, if you do some digging you find that there are cheaper options. $2000 is definitely at the high end, but if you want anything cheaper than that, you have to wait for years to get a slot.
We took the slot and put our daughter in daycare, for a while. To be fair, this ended up being a great decision, and did so many amazing things for our daughter. But in order for it to afford it, my wife had to be working–and in order for her to work, our daughter had to be in daycare. Which meant that we had to eat $2000 / month while she looked for a job. The job market here is tough, especially for a new grad, and our window to make it work quickly vanished. We had to give up daycare before my wife could find a job.
It’s a terrible one-two punch. There aren’t enough daycares, so you have to spend years trying to get in. And when you get in, they cost money you don’t have, because you waited so long to get to this point. Even maternity leave won’t save you, because you can’t go back to work if you don’t have childcare. The reality of Vancouver is that the average family with a young child isn’t going to survive.
Just to be clear: yes, our own decisions brought us to this point. We decided to have a kid, and assume all the responsibilities that came with that. But the moment we were no longer a couple, the moment we became a family, the city spit us out. And there was no way around it.
Living in Vancouver is like living in the future, but it’s a future where families don’t exist.
Each year, the Vancouver public school system loses between 600 and 700 students as families leave the city–and these are only the children whose parents managed to make it to kindergarten before throwing in the towel. Living in the city as a young family is just a game of trying to see how long you can hold on while the city tries to kick you off. Some last for quite a while. Some even emerge grinning and toothless from the other end. But these are the outliers. For almost everyone, your first ultrasound photo is also your eviction notice.
A lot of people try to stay close by, to stay part of the Vancouver zeitgeist–Burnaby, or Coquitlam, or New Westminster, or Richmond. We’re going further, to Vancouver Island. It’s a stunningly lovely place that, in many ways, is Vancouver’s opposite–a place that’s quiet and steeped in history (versus Vancouver’s shiny-new gleam). But it’s also a place that retains a lot of what we love about Vancouver. It has mountains, and ocean, and I think–I hope–I’ll do some of the best work of my life out there. Affordable daycare and rentals that include a studio space mean that my wife can start her own business. It’s an oasis of Vancouver expats, and they brought some of the best pieces of the city with them–including, thank god, decent coffee.
Most importantly, it’s a place that wants us to be there.
Maybe, one day, I’ll have my ten million to buy a penthouse in downtown Vancouver, and I’ll return to live as a god among Vancouverites. Maybe I’ll even retrieve the key to the three-bedroom, then do a backflip into my glass-bottom pool while sipping a craft beer.
But even if I could, would I want to? Do I really want to spend my life trying to win the affection of a city that doesn’t love me back?
I don’t know. All I know is that I gave it a shot, and now it’s time to spend some time apart.
You were the best. I loved you.
I just hope that, one day, you’ll learn to love in return.
So, this post has been getting a lot of attention, and there have been a lot of interesting and insightful comments. I’m hoping to respond to a number of them soon, but being in the middle of a move, I don’t have a ton of time or a ton of internet at the moment. If you’re hoping for a response, or your comment is stuck in moderation limbo, rest assured I’ll be giving it the attention it deserves soon. Thanks!
Interesting article, you’ve made a lot of good points. I’m curious where on the island you moved to. My perspective is that Victoria (where I live) is not much different of a situation than what you found in Vancouver.
Sure, it’s smaller here and so our outer regions are closer to town than Vancouver’s outer regions, but when compared with our size it’s about the same. Places may seem closer to town, but you’re still outside of the city centre living in suburbs.
I think you will find a similar situation in almost any major city centre. They just aren’t designed for kids or families. Some can make it work, but they cater more to young couples with high incomes to spend on amenities such as eating out often and high rent for less space. That’s the lifestyle. Admittedly it’s one I currently enjoy with my girlfriend, and I know how privileged I am to enjoy it. We do not currently have kids.
Of course, Vancouver is also one of the most expensive real estate cities in North America, and Victoria isn’t far behind. We pay a higher premium for all that West Coast beauty you mentioned. Many want to live here and that drives the price up for all of us. The cost of living here is very high. So ya, that sucks but it’s the price we pay for all those great things you mentioned.
Hopefully you manage to find a better quality of life in your new home. And if you’re ever around Victoria you should hit me and the local Game Dev scene up! 🙂
Victoria is a beautiful city, and since we’ll be on the island, hopefully we’ll get to spend more time in it (and by “it” I mean Russell Books). But yeah, it’s still so expensive. We’re moving to Cumberland, a small village in the Comox Valley. It’s where Hinterland is based. It’s also absurdly family-friendly–in pretty much every cafe and restaurant, there’s a play area and toys for kids. Even the local brewery is kid-friendly.
But yeah, Russell Books and the Blue Fox Cafe will probably make trips south a regular thing.
Ah yes, I should have guessed Cumberland since you work at Hinterland with Rafael (although I understand most of your team works remotely). Cumberland is a very nice and quaint little city. My girlfriend’s sister lives there and she loves it.
If you do travel to Victoria and are interested in checking out one of our game dev meetups let me know. I help organize Victoria’s monthly IGDA meetups.
Cumberland is cute as. City it is not – not a little city, not a tiny city, not a blossoming city… It has 2671 people.
Quaint it definitely is.
Thankfully not a city.
Friday night roast at the pub is bloody brilliant.
Welcome to the northern end of the island. Best decision we ever made was to move here.
Comox valley is still afordable. Great place to raise kids. Good choice in my opinion. I never felt the draw to live in Vancouver myself. Much too big and overpriced as you say. All the best!
By December 2017, I would categorically say Cumberland and Courtenay and
Comox are no longer ‘affordable’. Nor is Nanaimo or Parksville, or Qualicum Beach.
Port Alberni is sort-of ‘affordable’ — but in the middle of nooooo where with bad shopping (1 local Walmart) and huge poverty & drug problems. Our family moved to Vancouver Island 11 years ago from metro Vancouver in search of ‘affordable’ housing but now in 2017 we will be on the move again to somewhere on the lower mainland outside of metro-Van (not saying where). Rents on Vancouver Island are now on a par with places on the mainland and NO LONGER cheaper at all.
Victoria is so insanely expensive in 2017 that it might as well be what Vancouver was in 20012 re: prices. Your article, by the way, is well written. It is very true that in BC that once you procreate well ‘good luck with housing’. We had TWO children and getting a large dining room to use as a 2nd bedroom OR a 3 bedroom place is hard-going. The only conclusion one can come to is that only rich people should have kids in BC because the housing situation becomes worse the more kids you have.
I LOVE It there. I have friends in Comox and my family lives in Nanaimo so I definitely see myself out there one day. Just another note about the decrease of children in Vancouver proper. I am currently setting up to foster Children in Vancouver and they are DESPERATE for families who can do respite or foster in the city. This again relates to all you’ve said around there not being any room for your own let alone an extra kid. But you’re right, it takes damn sacrifice if you are trying to stay here with a family.
I just read your article and completely agree. I’ve been here the last 20 yrs and am hanging on by the skin of my teeth. Every day I wonder if it’s worth it.
I grew up in Cumberland. Such a great place to raise a child. Good luck to you and your family!
Maybe you can help me, Aaron. My husband was succonded to Poland from Victoria and after living here for six months, I’m truly trying to figure out why we should move back. We have many good friends there and a beautiful house but the city always seems to be floundering in eddy of its own making; wanting to be fresh while keeping a strangle hold on the past. I offer the recent Bengal Lounge fracas as an example. The bar is half empty at the best of times but God help the owner if he wants to change it. What, other than the climate, makes Victoria so great?
Cumberland is the best, I just moved back to this valley after sad last attempts at trying to live in Vancouver and Victoria. Already after less than two months my sense of community, and thus happiness levels, have greatly increased. There is always amazing live music or some weird community event going on here (tonight is week 3 of a live improvised soap opera series).
It is, however, becoming more and more difficult for people to find suitable housing here as well. The rental market is pretty brutal here and decent places get snatched up immediately. It’ll be interesting to see how the Comox Valley changes as more people get pushed out of the bigger cities.
Welcome, and see you around Dodge! You must be the one running your business out of the old patch store, that’s such a great space.
We just moved from Coquitlam to Comox last summer. Priot to having kids we had lived near city hall then East Van. We managed to stay there for kid #1 but after kid #2 headed to the burbs. Things were going well there for the first couple years then suddenly we discoverd we had somehow deviated from our original plan; my wife had suspended her studies to complete her Masters and had returned to work and I was always working or on call. We were one of those families managing to make it but the sacrifices on my family became more than we were willing to accept. I had a job offer in Campbell River for the same money i was making working on the Mainland with way more time off off. That plus the lower cost of living and housing made the decision for us. I miss many things about living in Vancouver including our friends but 6 months in and we believe we made the right decision for our family. Welcome to the Valley!!!
Oakridge neighbourhood is not actually owned by foreign investors. It is owned mostly by recent (2005-) immigrants, who actually live there. Way to hop on the blame-the-foreign-investor bandwagon.
Vancouver has one of the cheapest rent out of all other major Canadian cities (maybe except for Montreal). I don’t think you’ve seen rent prices of college towns in Kingston or London, Ontario. It also has one of the lowest rant-house price ratio, so why are you suddenly bringing up expensive house price, when you are only renting?
Times have changed. If you go to any other metropolitan cities around the world, owning a DETACHED HOUSE in the city is a LUXURY. Vancouverites need to stop feeling entitled to owning a single detached house. What we need is more 3-bedroom apartments being built.
I think you moving to a wealthy neighbourhood for middle-aged people with their high school aged kids and complaining about lack of coffee shops is a little absurd…
I should mention that, yes, Vancouver is hard/impossible to live in if you’re a young family, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s not that Vancouver’s expensive–it’s that even if you’re making a relatively good amount of money, the lack of infrastructure benefiting families makes it impossible to stay.
If the daycare problem alone was solved, staying would have been an option. There needs to be more daycares, and they need to be cheaper. That’s easy–Quebec went all the way to a $5 / day system. And the money you’d sink into subsidizing daycare would pay for itself, because it would mean less young professionals leaving the city. It’s not just doable–in the long run, investing in childcare is one of the best things you can do for the city.
The housing problem isn’t quite as simple, because the property market in the city is insane. People shove as many tiny one-bedroom apartments into buildings as possible. If this was better regulated so that a (much) higher percentage of new units had to be two- and three-bedroom, rent would eventually drop to reasonable levels. They can still be small–I’ve been totally happy living in small places. Right now we’re in a two-bedroom that’s about 650 square feet, and it’s been fine.
But that means new buildings will be generating less revenue per square foot, and I have absolutely no idea what effect that would have on things. It’s a world I know very little about.
My point being, Vancouver’s losing all of its families, but it doesn’t have to. If childcare alone was addressed, so many more people would stay.
Make sure you find Kevin Flesher in Cumberland, The areas Poet Laureate.A wonderful person with a beautiful family.
This was a really insightful piece Thank you!
I just wanted to let you know that on the Quebec side of things, I’m from Montreal and for the $5/day daycare (which is now $7.15 and is supposed to be moving to an income-based sliding scale to a max of – I think – $20 a day), I still don’t have a spot for my 2.5 year old after putting her on the list when I was 20 weeks pregnant. No joke, I was told that I should have registered her at conception, and I know enough people whose kids were already in school before a spot opened up.
Sadly, we do have a long way to go in our own right on the daycare front, though it’s far from the level you’re describing, especially since you can find reasonably-priced multiple-bedroom apartments preeeetty easily.
You are being dramatic and looking at everything from a parent of a toddler perspective. Vancouver is not losing ALL of its families. Most stay. Yes. I was one of them.
One thing that you are completely ignoring is a teenager/young adult situation on the island and in smaller communities of BC. Sure, it is great to raise a toddler or even a bigger kid in a small town.
Once they are a teen… good luck. Lack of opportunities, lack of good high schools with academic programs, and the necessity of moving away for a college.
But the worst thing that I see on the island is the teen culture- how primitive, pot/beer/pregnancy oriented it is. How limited small towns of BC are. There is no human nor economic capital there.
Enjoy your coffee in the meantime.
You made choices and you sacrificed something. Fair enough. But dont make it the ONLY choice you had. And it wasn’t necessary the right choice.
I take a bit of umbrage with your view of teen culture. I grew up on the island, and can vouch that yes small towns can breed boredom and foster delinquent behaviours, but so do cities. Just because cities have more after-school programs and etc, doesn’t mean your kid will want anything to do with them. City kids can be just a bored and drawn to drugs and alcohol, it’s a Teen Culture thing. The key to dealing with it is good parenting. As best you can, and even then kids will put all kinds of shit in their bodies, and test all manner of limits. It’s part of growing up. Back to my youth on the Island—I chose not to experiment with drugs and alcohol, much to the chagrin of my peers, but they respected me for it, and didn’t pressure me into it, they were good friends. I don’t feel like I lost out on any ‘crazy days of youth’ I wasn’t a normal kid either, I had no interest in afterchool bullsh*t. I was full on subculture—Hip-Hop, Punk Rock, Heavy Metal, Skateboarding, hanging out being a kid, etc. Some of my best friends from Highschool went to Jail. It happens. It also happens in cities, don’t fool yourself thinking it doesn’t. As for opportunities, well that’s a different story, especially if your kid wants to go to College or University, or wants to become an electrician or whatever, of course they won’t be able to stay in Comox, or Port Alberni, or Courtney, or even Nanaimo or Victoria.
What they wrote about small towns on Vancouver Island and teens is very very true.
Once the kids turn 18 then most of them want to leave the smaller towns for
Victoria or beyond. Many of the subsidized housing places on Vancouver Island (if you are lucky enough to get into one) boot out whole families once the eldest ‘child’ turns 18. Then you are forced into market-value expensive housing. AND the monthly Canada child benefit also stops.
Our family found we blazed through savings to pay for food/clothing etc when our children each turned 18 because that monthly Canada child benefit gob of $$ stops…..and try as they might, it took our kids a bit of time to find job(s) on Vancouver Island.
Most parents of young ones do NOT know that that year between when child benefits STOP and their kid finds a job are SUPER hard financially for parents. Why? Because you end up supporting the young adult until they find a job and can’t exactly turn them out on to the street. Once your kid turns 18 the shit-hits the fan IF they don’t have a job by then. Benefits STOP to the parents.
It is at least some small mercy that the Canada child benefit plan is there until the child turns 18 (when it stops) because at least it lightens the housing-angst-problems for awhile. That is helpful.
Our family decided to forget daycare as couldn’t afford it anywhere in BC. Raised our kids on 2nd hand clothes, home-cooked dinners, and next to no vacations, & 1 income. It can be done. But really BC isn’t making it easy for families due to the exhorbitant prices of housing. Better to remain childless or move to some other province ????
Great article. We live in Squamish. We love it, but it is also devoid of places to rent as many families squeezed out of Vancouver are moving here. Housing prices continue to soar. Luckily, my husband decided to switch jobs after 30 years to (drum roll , please… ) real estate. Maybe it will give us a leg up.
Vancouver definitely doesn’t love us and our three kids back. We did start out in Vancouver, then Richmond, now here. Three years holding. Tough to struggle, but Vancouver has ruined every other city for us too. You did touch on another reason Vancouver seems to hate us in your own attitude. We are Christians ( gasp!) Apparently, that is not hip here and we have to deal with a lot of that hypocritical, one-way street tolerance that doesn’t extend to us.
Good luck on the Island!
Prime example of our current governments failings. Their campaign platform of “families first” sure doesn’t seem to apply to anyone who is actually in the trenches of raising a family or isn’t independently wealthy.
I live in downtown Vancouver and it is chock full of kids. There are some schools in the district – east side, some south Vancouver – that have low enrollment but there are also catchments that have a lottery system because there aren’t enough spots (Yaletown, Kitsilano, False Creek). The VSB is building one new school near BC Place with another planned for Coal Harbour. Families aren’t fleeing downtown – they’re moving in.
Having just spent four years abroad I understand your frustrations with this city. The prices are ridiculous and the local economy has not scaled to the COL increase. The daycare situation just plain sucks.
But, after time away and a lot of travel I know there’s no other place I’d rather live. Of course, millions of other people feel the same way. Hence Vancouver’s issues.
Here’s where I agree with you: if you can’t make it work downtown or in Vancouver proper get far, far away from this place. For my family, if we can’t make downtown work we’ll consider somewhere on the island or the sunshine coast and skip even looking at the suburbs or the Fraser Valley. Not worth it to be stuck in your car for a few years of your life.
Houses within 20 minutes of downtown Victoria can be had for less than $400k. Like….actual houses, often with large yards, double garages. When you look at what a house costs in Vancouver and suburbs? Not even remotely comparable. I’m not sure how you could suggest that Victoria isn’t much different.
But, that 20 minute commute becomes 1 1/2+ hours if you have to drive in rush hour and it’s getting worse. Also, food, gas and other living expenses are very high (island tax). The living wage in Victoria is about $20 and in Vancouver it’s around $20.68 so not a huge difference. Unfortunately, the actual wages paid in Victoria are also much lower compared to other Canadian cities (like up to 30% lower). If you compare wages to housing costs Victoria is ranked second least affordable housing market in Canada (After Vancouver). It seems better, and if you can get a high paying job I guess it is, but the actual experience of most people living here, it isn’t that much different.
In one word: Bravo.
Very accurate description of life in Vancouver
That was a great article. We’re going to need a lot more of them before we see any real change. I’m curious, what are you doing for work out in Victoria? I commute from Abbotsford to New West for web developer job myself.
I work on visual storytelling at Hinterland Games (in Cumberland). Right now we’re hard at work on the game The Long Dark (which is on early access for PC, Mac, and Xbox One).
Cool! Do you guys maintain an office or do you telecommute?
We have an office, though a large portion of us work remotely. I was working remotely from Vancouver until now.
Aaron, thank you for the article! So true! As for your work – you must know the artist Warren Hiese?! A friend of mine from art school.
Yes! Warren’s great. Super talented guy.
This is totally inappropriate and not at all to do with the blog post at hand (which was an excellent read, by the way). There are three players of The Long Dark in my household, who have been part of the alpha testing since sometime around September last year. They have wondered if there is a way for them to provide more direct feedback, and I’m just going to take this opportunity to ask that exact question. Thanks!
I know it’s been a while but I just ended up on your blog post today.
I’m a web developer working remotely, me and my wife are currently moving from Montreal to the Comox Valley (we don’t know yet exactly which town, we have a rental between Courtenay and Campbell River but we plan on buying sometime in the next 12 months).
First of all, I’m a big fan of the Long Dark, it’s a great game, I always assumed it was made in Montreal (because Montreal has all the gaming companies), so I really love that it’s in fact located in the Comox Valley !
I have one question for you: my biggest worry in our relocation is that we’ll have a hard time making new friends and that I was going to be a bit removed from the tech world (in the sense of a community not really versed in computers, no local programmers meetups, lack of coworking opportunities etc.).
I love my remote job but I also like being able to discuss tech in person with people who I share this interest with, so mainly yeah, from your experience (and the fact that hinterland studio is in Cumberland already is reassuring), is there a community in the Comox Valley around technology / programming ?
Vancouver is tough. It’s one of the reasons I ultimately left for San Francisco. Here the cost of living is lower, more jobs, higher wages, better transit, better medical and it’s STILL the most expensive city in the USA.
The cost of living is lower in San Fran? I thought the opposite was the case?
I had heard the same thing, but that was a few years ago.
San Francisco is way more expensive than Vancouver. And far worse traffic.
Not according to devs I know who moved there. The thing is, the same job pays 40% more. Before exchange. Vancouver is ranked the second most unaffordable after Hong kong by the economist.
Ready for it….even Hong Kong is more affordable than Vancouver. We moved to HK a year ago after living in Vancouver most of our lives to have a bit of adventure and travel. We just couldn’t see a future in Vancouver. She is still a teacher, and I took a “lateral” position within the same company. She simply applied online. I had internal job postings to look at (global organisation). We have no elaborate expat packages. Rent is insane, but salaries are higher, taxes much lower, and we are actually saving money.
I love Vancouver, and miss the work/life balance, fresh air and mountains, but I just can’t see how I can return.
It’s the most unaffordable place on the planet.
Even people who had lived in Hong Kong, but lived in Vancouver for years, have said it’s easier to save up money in Hong Kong than it is in Vancouver. The income tax calculates a lot more than Hong Kong, so people actually can save something.
How does one get to up and move to SF? I am stuck here or leaving for small town BC. I can’t imagine having that option.
They have marketable skills that are in high demand
Truly great writing! May you and your family enjoy much happiness on the island. It’s a loss for Vancouver.
We left Vancouver almost a year and a half ago. And we bought 1.4 acres of southwest facing high bank waterfront on Salt Spring Island last September for the price of a studio apartment in Vancouver. It’s been a tough adjustment and I miss Vancouver a tiny little bit every day. But this morning I stood with my chickens foraging around my ankles watching eagles play in the wind while the rising sun kissed the mountains across the bay, and … well … I’ll head into the city to binge on dim sum and sushi and walk the seawall when my book goes into the editor at the end of Feb. And that is just perfect for now. Thanks for the article!
My husband and I are very close to making the same move, so it’s great to hear you did it, and don’t totally regret it. We are wanting to start a family soon and Vancouver just seems totally unrealistic. We have saved money for a downpayment and could afford a 1 bedroom condo in Vancouver (since we have to factor in Strata etc.) or a small house on Saltspring. Even if we are making far less money living on Saltspring, it still seems like a better option. I grew up with a summer house on Hornby and love the summer island life, but I’m a little bit nervous about the Winters. If the housing market follows what’s happened on Bowen Island, soon Saltspring will be unaffordable for us too. I imagine there’s a great community of people that make it worth it, especially for raising a young family. It seems every option has a downside, and you just have to weigh your priorities.
This is actually a serious problem. Vancouver can’t exist forever as a playground for the rich, unless there are people to wipe their bums.
The thing is everyone thinks that they have to live IN Vancouver and that’s part of the issue. There’s the Shore, Bby, New West, PoMo. Yep, that would be part of the ‘burbs, but do you want to live here or not?
No – if you are used to being in-the-city the ‘burbs count for nothing.
We still own our house in Strathcona, but are living in a rather small apartment in the ‘burbs of Yokohama (right – in Japan)!
Thing is, there is amazing public transit here. Between Yokohama & Tokyo there is about the population of all Canada.
The problem with Vancouver is it is just too small – I lived there about 35 years. Both our kids were born there, we are in our 10th year here & the kids don’t really remember it. Our 1st child went to a great daycare close to Oppenheimer Park – I don’t know how we managed that!
I seriously miss dim sum.
Excellent article, Aaron. You’ve perfectly described the issue. We recently moved our family (2 kids under 4) to Kelowna. I work remotely for my job in Van and my husband found a job here. It’s fantastic. We live in a great neighbourhood with many kids, on a half acre- 5 min from the lake and 5 min from hiking trails. Our house cost about the same as a 2 bed condo. I grew up in Vancouver and never planned to leave, but it just wasn’t worth it any more. We love our new life and keep hearing of others with kids doing the same thing. Best of luck in Victoria.
Thank you for sharing this article. Having grown up in Calgary, AB, and moved to Vancouver at the age of 16, I must say that I enjoyed living in Calgary much more than I enjoyed living in Vancouver. As you pointed out, it’s difficult to make and keep friends here. People are quite “flakey” – they say they will show up and then change their minds at the last minute. Rent is highly unaffordable for families and small businesses alike. The job market is tough, too. In all, I can’t wait to move back to Alberta some day.
Great article. It seems you have an aversion to Surrey (“…or worse”), however? A lot of younger families and artists are moving to Surrey/South Surrey/White Rock and they’re only 30-45 minutes away from downtown. Why weren’t they options for you? There are some great and pretty areas in that region, with great transit, better job opportunities and low crime (and good coffee). It’s not the same old Surrey. PoCo, Port Moody and Coquitlam are also good choices.
I think that the fear of Surrey is a local kids issue and not one meant for the people coming into our province/area to take on. Yes we say Surrey (etc.) sucks, but we grew up here, of course it sucks…you gotta leave the town you grew up in, man!
I was bummed out to come back two years ago, but I wanted to get rid of my student loans so good bye ‘city living’. Suddenly, my career boomed (I’m a coffee roaster- believe me, there IS good coffee in Surrey) My dog gets walks in HUGE forest parks with open trails and plenty of other dogs. There’s miles of beaches to walk. There isn’t something to do on every street corner and yes I dreaded that at first but hell, I got real good at my guitar being home in the last couple years! We’re a 10 minute walk from the skytrain, my loans are paid off and my living expenses let me buy awesome food and keep fuel in my car. I can still see my friends in Vancouver whenever, but I’ve slowly made some excellent ones out here too.
‘or worse’ …ha!
I think it says a lot about Vancouver’s perception of Surrey that I didn’t mention it in my post, but still have people jumping in to defend it 🙂
Surrey? OMG – no way!
Vancouver’s perception is hilarious 🙂
All I can say is I grew up in Surrey and I now live in Victoria. I would never dream of trying to raise a child downtown Vancouver. At the time, Surrey was great for me, but I wouldn’t want to stay here.
These were all options. We actually lived in White Rock for a year shortly after we got married and liked it a lot. The decision to move to the island instead of another city in the lower mainland was purely personal.
You have just described my life, almost exactly, right down to leaving the West End for Oakridge (ok, technically Marpole) after having a baby. And this fall we made the move to Nanaimo. My husband and I like it fine, for the most part, but we’re still a little bitter about being evicted from a city we loved. And we really were almost literally evicted – our landlord made us move because they had decided to sell the house as a tear-down (though the reason they gave was that they were taking the house back for their own use, even as they were measuring walls and taking pictures of the gas lines).
Anyway, it’s nice to know we’re not alone. Maybe all of us Vancouver expats should get together and hang out! But then I guess we would probably all end up flaking.
Did you not consider north vancouver at all? I have a 3 bedroom apartment for less than you were paying for a 1 bedroom in the west end. we have our own seawall, river and forests. We dont have a view of the mountains cause we are the mountains. A quick 15 minute seabist to downtown. Child amenties galore. Daycares are abundant aswell as parks.
Not to downplay but it seems like you only were willing to live downtown and didnt consider other areas of vancouver at all.
Well I am glad someone mentioned North Van. It is a 15 min ride by bus or car or seabus to downtown. I have a mountain view and a view of the city skyline. I am 3 blocks from the high street Lonsdale Avenue where coffee shops and sushi bars are on every block. It is quieter then downtown but I prefer that. I don’t feel removed from the city as I see it out my window. Housing costs are not cheap but less then downtown. We have beaches, a seawall, mouton biking, skiing, golf. Daycare is available when my kids were small around $1,200 a month. It is a great place to live.
I was thinking the same thing. Lived in Kits for years and my wife and I needed something bigger as we were expecting. Way back when, I laughed at the thought of the Shore, (the ‘burbs!) but I love it now: nearby amenities, daycare, schools, I live at the base of a mountain (!) and it takes me 35 mins to bike to work DT. My priorities changed for sure, but having a kid will do that.
Excellent article Aaron. I couldn’t agree more, Vancouver has always been hard in terms of making the social circle stick; and now it is unfriendly to people without money, as you describe. The Island is a complete treasure, and I hope you find everything you want there. Jamie and I lived near Cowichan Bay for several years, and it was a soothing change of pace.
Could not agree more. I wrote an insanely lengthy comment on Facebook when the 2.4M crack house was circulated among friend. Now, I clutter up your comments with the same comment:
If you are thinking of moving to Victoria (as we did) here is what you need to know (as a parent): 1. Everyone is white. You will experience culture shock for the first 6 months and then desperately search for elementary schools with more diversity because you know it’s not a reflection of the global population. 2. People actually say hello when you walk down the street. 3. Everyone is either underemployed (PhD bus drivers/gardeners) and/or there is only one parent who works 4. Dinner parties are usually potlucks unless your friends grew up elsewhere. There isn’t the same kind of obsessive reciprocity as the Vancouver dinner party circuit. 5. Anyone can be an actor. My husband got an agent, auditioned and made the union (ACTRA) in one month with no prior experience. 6. There is either a parade, a festival, a fair or a kids’ activity planned every weekend. If not, there is the petting zoo, RBCM and loads of other stuff to do. No Science World or fabulous aquarium, but more things for kids to do year-round. 7. Almost every school is French immersion and there are more than five competitive private schools that do not have 100 kids on the waitlist. 8. Parents talk to each other at pick-up and drop-off and arrange for coffee dates. 9. No issues with booking cool birthday parties (e.g. skating parties at Save-On Arena, Heritage Acres and Galey Farms (both farms have trains) 10. Good luck finding a doctor in Victoria. It is a clinic culture. 11. Private clubs, if you are into that kind of thing, are amazing. Except for the fact that there are no private tennis clubs, the Victoria Golf Club and RVYC have tons of family-oriented events. OK not tons, but enough to justify membership. And old school clubs like the Union Club will host lavish themed parties that you can actually dress up for and bring friends and dance to good bands and you will think, this is the most fun I’ve had since well, kids. 12. Your friends will probably be from elsewhere as the born and bred Vic peeps have their own circles. Kind of like if you moved to Vancouver and tried to make friends. However, your new ex-pat friends will pick up your kids from school if needed and text you to ask about your kid’s stomach flu. Similar to Vancouver – if you have lived there for 30 years. 13. No one will visit even if you have a swank spare bedroom with a fireplace because the ferry is a drain on resources. 14. You can buy (or rent) a massive house that is 100 years old and the kids will have hallways to ride their bikes, much like The Shining. This house will be under 800k. And on the ocean. ‘nough said.
My parents lived in Victoria (Saanich really) – it’s much better than it used to be (the buses now run late enough to get you home from a movie)! It isn’t as multi-cultural as Vancouver, so finding good Asian food is not so easy.
Awesome comment, thanks! We’re thinking of making the same move. The things that are important to us sound very similar to what you’re saying — good schools, friendly community, easy access to community events and outdoor activities. I looked up the private clubs that you mentioned, and they sound great. Compared to something like the Arbutus Club in Vancouver, which I think is $55,000 entry fee plus high annual fees, they sound like a bargain too!
Did you find it easy to meet people in Victoria? I’m British (maybe you are too, looking at your writing?) and my wife is Canadian. We’ve found it unbelievably hard to make good friends in Vancouver. It always seems like its such an effort to meet up because people are so busy, most families have 2 jobs etc.
We’re lucky enough to run an online business and we can take it anywhere. So the idea of buying an amazing beachfront house for cheaper than that Vancouver crackshack is REALLY appealing. Especially since we have 2 young boys and extra space is becoming very important to us.
Such an interesting and insightful article. I was lucky enough to grow up in Victoria, and heard enough similar stories from friends moving in and out of Vancouver that my wife and I never developed a strong urge to leave the island. This is an amazing place to live, and raise a family. The quality of life is unparalleled, and the culture here really supports that. To an earlier poster’s comment, many people are ‘underemployed’ simply because they value their lifestyle and leisure time more than a 60+hr/wk grind. Never going to leave.
I have met some great people in my real estate business who are thinking of cashing in their chips in Vancouver and making a move to the island. I’m totally biased, but if you ever want to talk about it, drop me a line!
We moved to Victoria from LA about three years ago. Bought a lovely home in Rockland for next to nothing compared to LA. We are a five minute drive to the Empress and five minutes from Oak Bay. (Okay, seven minutes if it is the height of the rush hour–nobody in Victoria seems to really understand grid lock; trying living in LA for a few months. A super little plaza with everything you need from groceries, to a pub, to even a shoemaker is just down the hill with the most helpful hardware store I have ever been in.
Not only are people friendly but we regularly rotate dinner parties and barbeques with our neighbours (that way no one has to drive and my wife can take me home in a wheel barrow). There always seems to be at least one or two events going on in or near the city every weekend. There are coffee shops on virtually every corner but the difference is that people really do entertain in their homes and gardens. Speaking of gardens my wife is loving gardening here; rich soil and a wonderful summer. With a 26,000 square foot lot in the heart of the city for the price of a two bedroom condo in LA–what a bargain (I know prices have gone up since but still fairly cheap). The ten foot ceilings in the house along with three working fireplaces are a delight. At 7,700 square feet of house we have room for that grand piano that my wife plays so well. Best of all the house is bright and sunny with great views of the ocean from all five balconies. The high stone wall surrounding the house gives it a sense of tranquility that some days make me feel like I am back in a more gracious Victorian era.
I love Victoria for so many reasons and I hope you find it as welcoming as I have.
Having also lived in Vancouver I enjoyed my time but did not love it. What was once a pretty city like Victoria is now a mini-HongKong with little class or character and where it does exist, superficial.
Too much rain, too much wind, too hard to make friends, far too many beggars hassling on every city block; too expensive and really, compared to the cities of home where the sun shines and there really is great coffee, food, wine and a lot of fun, Australia, just a pleasant modern city with beautiful mountains, no longer seen behind the skyscrapers, and too much rain and too many beggars.
And also a mini-America with the chains holding sway whether bookshops or coffeshops…. the style of Vancouver died long ago.
Have you been to HK or lived there for a long period of time? It is a grand place and please don’t use it synonymous to something “no class” and “no character”; and “mini-America” is just not a very fair or nice way to critique constructively. Vancouver has its charm and challenges, just like HK or NY or LDN. But boy please don’t put down places you don’t know well to put Vancouver down. This smells…ignorant.
Typical complainer Ross= anti Asian _____, of course if he doesn’t like Asians he wont like Vancouver. But if you love Asian foods and realize asians are what makes vancouver great its almost unbeatable. Many see this and that’s why it is one of the top places in the world. To guys like Ross of course it is not his cup of tea and unfortunately too many like him vocalize it constantly revealing their true character easily for everyone to see
Agree with some of this (too much rain) – lived in Oz for a couple of years (long ago) – that is where I want to be.
Not sure if this is something you’ve tried, but East Van has a lot of young families here and still has good coffee 🙂
Being lucky enough to get into the housing market early, we rent a 2 bedroom basement suite for approx $1200 and find that is pretty much the going rate for rent in my hood. It’s a vibrant community and I feel like a lot of folks in the west end don’t even consider the east side.
I’m in my early 40s, but have found some of my best friends through my daughters school in East Van. Which is very weird, because I would say for about 15 years I stopped making new friends.
Anyways, just sharing my experience which may help others see hope in their quest for a life in the city.
Absolutely Miles – walking distance to DT! I used to live in Strathcona.
Walking distance to Storm brewery too!
Good thoughts. But I have to ask: did you ever consider that maybe your position is a bit entitled? Downtown Vancouver is small, and there is a lot of demand to live there. There are a lot of people in your position and not everyone like you will be able to live there. It’s a scarce resource, and people will compete for it, and market mechanisms sort out who can afford it.
The solution in this case is to keep building up and expanding the city outwards. All, or most, of the single family housing on the outskirts of downtown will need to become highrises.
I totally understand that this all can sound entitled. I mentioned that in my post–the downtown being pretty inaccessible makes sense. The problem is that the things that make the downtown inaccessible apply to the entire city. If you want a two-bedroom apartment and access to childcare, you’re forced to leave the city limits, and that’s horribly counterproductive for the city. It’s leaking young professionals at a rapid rate, and it doesn’t need to–if the childcare problem alone was addressed, people wouldn’t have to leave.
Its not entitled for a senior dev to be able to afford a house. Its *normal* everywhere else…. Sigh
Not to say it’s not an expensive city and childcare is not also expensive but I think your prices are off. If you are willing to look at licensed family daycare it is generally considerably cheaper than 2k. And there aren’t normally long wait lists–you just start calling/interviewing about 3 months before you need it. For the benefit of those still looking for daycare here: west coast family resources publishes a list of licensed facilities, licensed family and unlicensed family daycares in the city with vacancies. I pay $750 for my 3 yr old and $950 for my 18 month old. Full time. Monday to Friday 7-6. With ECE instructors. A great program. Ok and so we live on the east side not on the pricey west side. But near commercial. As vibrant and fun as you want.
Obviously, everyone only has their own experience to go by. It’s awesome that you managed to find affordable childcare, and quickly. It’s probably like how I get confused every time people tell me they’ve had a horrible time trying to find a family doctor–when I’ve moved to a new city, I’ve never had to look for more than a day.
The stuff I’ve written about, though, has definitely been the experience of me and the other families I’m friends with. Different people have had different solutions–one finally managed to find daycare for $850 / month, but it was only after three years, and they had to move to another neighbourhood in order to make it work. Another split a part-time nanny with another family, so they at least had care for a few days a week (and this ended up being cheaper than any daycare). Another decided to quit their career and stay at home full-time. Actually, I can name a few people who ended up ending their careers to stay home, just because they had no other choice.
We’ve been on wait lists at just over 50 daycares of every sort. Two years later, only two slots have ever come up. One we took, the other was a daycare that, upon inspection, we weren’t super comfortable sending our kid to. We tried very hard for a very long time to find childcare, and have the spreadsheets to prove it.
I couldn’t claim that anything I’ve said is some sort of universal truth, but it’s been the experience of the families I know personally.
Great article & great comments, the current mass exodus from Alberta will make these types of situations start getting even worse!!! So sad Van is so beautiful.
Metropolitan downtown hubs have always been a place for the career-oriented, anti-family, successful, and driven bunch. If you wanted to have kids and a family, move to the ‘burbs with the rest! I grew up downtown and I have to say, it is NO place for children to grow up. I could never have friends over, night time drunks prevented me from playing outside after sun down, and the overall environment was not child friendly.
This post seems to lament the fact that you and your wife were not able to have your cake and eat it.
Great read indeed. Me and my spouse are in a bit different situation – we moved to Van two years ago from Europe in search of a better life. After just those two years we came to the exactly same conclusions. This city is a playground for the rich Asians and it makes it more and more uninteresting and devoid of any personality. We’re already thinking – which I’m sure will become planing very soon – of changing it for something else. It’s just not worth it. It’s such a shame because the beauty of it and the surroundings is just breathtaking.
If you dont like Asians there’s plenty of other people around. I found that you could make friends here with many types of people. There is too much anti Asian sentiment around but its actually a shame because alot of Asians are good friends and good people that actually make Vancouver great. It could be worse, we could be in Detroit. The food is great here and I think the Asian flavour is interesting. Sorry to say, if you dont like Asians or have hang ups to begin with you will find it hard to suppress your negative feelings around Vancouver for sure
Thank you Aaron for writing this. Everytime someone dares mention the dark side of Vancouver life they get skewered, but I think reality is beginning to sink in even for those wearing their rose coloured glasses. This is a hard town to live in for families unless you are bringing in healthy double incomes. We rent on the very edge of the city and find we do more in Burnaby than Vancouver. Burnaby has more family focused and affordable infrastructure than Vancouver does. Our son goes to school in Burnaby now. Our Premier talks about encouraging more tech companies to settle here and grow but how can they encourage talent that can afford to live here? Sure when they are young and single, but when they start to follow the path Aaron did, then they are hooped. And lets get real, not ALL of Vancouver is pretty. Kingsway is not pretty. Marine Drive is not pretty. DTES is not pretty. There is a LOT of ugly here….we just ignore it and look out away from the city towards the sea and the mountains and pretend the ugly isn’t there.
Yes, there is Alot of ugly! I married a man who lived in Vancouver, I moved up from LA. He lived on kingsway and boundary in a two bedroom townhouse style apartment. It was around 1000 a month. So we stayed for five years. Kingsway near boundary. Omg ugly. Was so glad when we could move back to Los Angeles which was more affordable!
So sad your Vancouver experience, residence-wise, was not so pretty along Kingsway. I’ve lived Marpole (ugh) but also prettier parts of Vancouver, which lifts the mood. I hope your impression was softened by seeing other greener, nicer neighbourhoods. But, yes, insanely expensive. Vancouver tear-down crack shack: $2 M. Nice family bungalow in Red Deer, Alberta, with a two-car garage and decent yard: $350,000. But then, Red Deer isn’t a playground for overseas billionaires.
Well-written. I grew up in East Van, went to UBC and got married. Moved to Delta. Got pregnant. Moved to small-town Alberta, where my mom grew up. Missed Vancouver for a while, but it’s all about the weather! I am used to being outside all the time, an extra layer in winter. Winter activities that are different from summer ones was unheard of for me. I love raising my children here instead of along skytrain. The air quality is better too. Friends I made many more of in Vancouver. I think it’s because you expect everyone to be a stranger so you just talk with anyone and the strangeness vanishes. In a small town most people grew up here or near here and have family roots going way back (farming) so unless they recognize my last name they are unwilling to add someone so unfamiliar into their group of friends. My husband and I are still planning on moving back to the coast if possible…to Vancouver Island as well. I do not long for a big city but the climate and laid-back coastal attitude can’t be beat.
Hi Aaron. What an introspective and sensible piece. I work for provincial government initiatives (Success By 6, Children First & Early Years Centres) that focus on community development around the early years. This type of article is the exact “real life” story that we try to portray to our policy makers and city planners across BC. I would love to share it with our provincial offices to get it some more ground and into the hands of people who truly need to read it. We have the statistics and the research, but it is honestly well written anecdotal stories like this that put it all into perspective. There is also a lobbyist group called ‘Generation Squeeze’ that is the first of its kind in Canada that is garnering more and more attention that I encourage you to check out and share among your social circles – http://www.gensqueeze.ca. Thank you for sharing your story and voice Aaron, all the best to you and your family.
One point I think is missing is that we as a society do not seem to be able to look forward a few years and imagine what our needs might be. Which means that most of us don’t advocate for affordable housing before we find ourselves priced out, few of us imagine getting involved in the fight for fair and affordable daycare before we get ourselves in the family way, and few of us care much about issues around transportation (like bridges, tunnels and rapid transit) until we’ve already moved to the burbs. It is the lack of this corner of the narrative in this, and so many other societal issues, that fills me with despair.
In Vancouver, for example, there is a segment of society that has long been advocating, while everyone else is standing each other up for parties, climbing the Grouse Grind, and (now) swiping on Tinder. But we are such a small segment of society that we makes barely a ripple on the water.
I am a third generation Vancouverite. I have elders in Vancouver, which makes it less simple for me to simply move on as I believe they become my responsibility as they age and this is and always has been their home. For a very long time I loved this place, mostly because it was familiar and dear. My stories are here. But first Expo and then the Olympics came and “put Vancouver on the map” and now I, my husband and my children are displaced even though we’re physically in the same place we’ve been for so long.
I believe the easy transience of Canadians is hugely to blame for the shortsightedness of our society. I hear so often, “Well, if you don’t like it, just move.” Since the 1700s, my ancestors moved away from their elders within a generation, and sometimes two. And that is the norm for so many of us (outside of Quebec, perhaps). Most of us have no clue as to what being rooted in a place and caring deeply for the health of that place, both societal and environmental.
It hopefully goes without saying but is important to note that I’m talking about settler culture here, and not Indigenous Peoples upon who’s unceded territories we all have the privilege of living.
For a time (6 years) I lived in Hong Kong. Vancouver has turned very much into an “expat-ish” kind of place socially, with money and connections at the core, and an ease with blowing people off when something better comes along and moving on when it is no longer fun. But underneath that, if you look, there is a layer of people who struggle to remain in place, who still remember when this place seemed human and continue to look for that in our interactions and expectations of each other.
To be clear, I appreciate what you are saying and wholeheartedly agree in your premise that the city does not love the very people who occupy it. And I hold primarily to blame those who operate the smoothest in our capitalist system. I just want to poke at some of the corners of our collective need to push for a society that is healthy and safe for our children, and I think we’re going to have to start thinking ahead rather than constantly trying to triage when it is too late to do anything else.
While I appreciate the writing and humour of this article. I think it’s really exaggerated. I have lived in and around the city since I was 19 and going to UBC. I have made so many amazing friends here I can’t begin to tell you. Most of them true vancouverites who grew up here and would honestly find a lot you say in this article offensive. I did the whole living in the heart of kits thing and then moved to the east side when my partner and I wanted a bit more space. We had a kid and then moved a bit further east. We rented the top floor of a house for a few years – three bedrooms, huge balcony, backyard for $1500. The family daycare next door had space for our son. She is the most amazing caregiver I have ever met. People pass over family daycares for the glitzy group daycares with a “I wouldn’t send my kid there attitude”. My daycare is $1000 per month and includes all food. When my daycare provider knows I am busy at work I often arrive to pick up my son and she has a to go meal ready for us to take home…..no charge. I honestly am so sick of all the whining and complaining about how snobby pretentious and expensive my city is. I have been here 17 years and have experienced none of what this article refers to.
People who have established roots in Vancouver do have an easier time. But 1500 for a three bedroom is unlikely to be had these days.
It depends where in Vancouver you want to live.
What a well written article…… We have never lived in Vancouver but my husband spent most of his days and nights either in the city or commuting to it. So we packed up And moved to Courtenay and will never look back. Love the Comox valley
One of the best and most honest posts about Vancouver I’ve ever read!
Interesting read. I have found that Vancouver people have established cliques which can make things difficult when trying to make “good friends”. My experience changed after having children. Having a common interest helped me and my wife establish a group of friends which we are very happy about. I have to say that I don’t share your experiences about the oakridge area. Raising a child in this neighborhood has been a blessing. Yes there are less coffee shops than downtown but having lived in the west end in my bachelor days, I can’t imagine raising children there. Our neighborhood is very walkable, the schools are good and being in such a central location gives us great access to what the city had to offer for families. Science world. Aquarium. Plenty of parks with playgrounds. Community centres.. The list goes on. As for group day care, I’m not a fan of it. Our child goes to a family day care and the experience is nothing short of fantastic. She’s flexible, caring and above all dependable. Costs less than group too. Vancouver is an expensive city but knowing where to spend your time and money helps move things along. Coffee can be an expensive habit anyways… I’ve lived on the island before and it’s a beautiful place with great people but not compatible to this city.
Aaron you’ve written a masterpiece about the daily Vancouverite’s struggle. I grew up in Vancouver and witnessed the changes the city but not the roads. Like you, I loved the city and like you, the city spat me out (without the family part). I couldn’t agree more about the snobby attitude to the housing issues that most of us face. Connection and network is extremely valuable in Vancouver. It is the only way to get that key. I’m glad someone like you who can really express in words to share what Vancouver is really like. It’s a great place to retired not so great for young professionals.
Well, good luck making friends on the island. We just moved back from the island because it was so cliquey and hard to find people who did things. Now back in East Van and it’s awesome!
We left Vancouver to move to New Westminster, and then three years ago we left to Boston.cost of living here is also expensive but it’s way more affordable than Van. We used to live in a two bedroom apartment in N.West and now we own a beautiful antique house, which we renovated, and only a 5 minute drive from the subway, twenty minutes from downtown Boston. Daycares are not cheap but affordable, jobs pay much more than in Van, universities everywhere, young families popping up everywhere, of course not perfect but we now have friends, and we are much happier here. Vancouver is beautiful but it’s too superficial.
I hate to be negative, but this is exactly the kind of hand wringing that makes Canadians from other cities cringe. In my opinion it boils down to wanting “everything”. You’re correct that Vancouver is a world class city and guess what, living there comes with the high cost of living and competition for services that the author laments. I moved to the prairies ten years ago and guess what, there’s no sea wall, fresh sushi or year round green grass. What we do have is affordable housing, daycare options and some of the nicest people in the country. Thats the trade off and it is what it is. I can’t imagine what kind of snide comments you’d have for my city given your obvious contempt for this poor Oakridge community. To be honest, outside the like minded bubble of similarly “oppressed” Vancouverites no one else really cares.
I read through this because my husband and I are going through a similar situation on the sunshine coast. Expensive housing, elitist daycares, and little to no work . It is an employer’s market , with a three month probationary period where they can decide to let you go for not reason, no severance and no notice to shop around for other options of the many looking for work. Since I have a big family out east he sent my daughter and I ahead to stay with our family while saving up for the actual move out east with our dog ( which makes it even harder to find housing anywhere) and minimal belongings. Well it’d be easy enough to save you would think with the extra room for a roommate and the lower grocery bill, but with rent high and cycling through the limited minimal wage jobs he can find I’m afraid I won’t see him for months yet. I love the west coast so much. First tried living on salt spring Island which can be even crazier in its expenses. I will miss it greatly and hope we can go visit someday. But with a family it can be super difficult. Thanks for writing this article. It’s nice to not feel alone in these challenges.
Great read, I could relate on so many levels. I was born and raised in Vancouver. I have lived in downtown Van for 25 years now and am now married with a 9 year old child.
I too have been cancelled on and feel the frustration of people cancelling at the last minute. One thing I’ve noticed is that the people cancelling are not true Vancouverite’s. They are from other provinces and from other parts of the world! Although I will say, the more “new” they are to Vancouver (Or Canada) the less likely they are to cancel. I make friends with them and then they have to move to the suburban cities (or return to their original homes or move out of country) so hardly see them anymore.
You are so right about people not having get together because of the small size of their apartments and lets not forget the lack of parking available. However that said, I have invited people over not from downtown and the daunting reply,”Downtown?!! Oh no, I can’t go downtown.” Really?!! I am fortunate to have visitor parking in our building so that is not the issue. So I think it’s a mixture of people just being generally ‘busy’ working their butts off to afford living here (and taking care of their children) then when they do have energy or time they wait for the ‘best option’; therefore non-committal.
Oh and I wouldn’t hold your breathe about it becoming less expensive to live in Vancouver; at the rate that foreigners are buying properties and the high price at that this will not change. We rent a 2 bedroom apartment (900sq ft) and it took me 3 years to get used to the noise on Georgia street; sirens and car traffic; used to live on quiet Comox Street. My husband loves the area and we are fortunate to have go this apartment at the price (now $2074) when we did and that it needed new carpets and a paint job and other cosmetic touch ups; which also hinders me from inviting people over as I’m a bit embarrassed by the carpets and walls.) We couldn’t rent anywhere else in this area now, the exact same apartment below us or higher starts at $2500 and up! We were hoping to buy something else but this isn’t looking hopeful with the inflated real estate price. The location is convenient for me to get my daughter to her school and for my husband to get to his office. We love having Stanley Park as our backyard but sometimes I wish we lived in a neighborhood I could let my daughter out to play or run next door to play at the neighbours. It really has effected her with her friendships, thank goodness for Skype. So I either have to bring her to their houses (not downtown) or they Skype; very few come to our home even when invited. Anyway, I didn’t mean to write this much but hope in my sharing others will feel a connection as I did with your article and all the other replies to it. Wishing you and anyone else reading a pleasant day! 🙂
I grew up in Vancouver, and when it was time to move back to the west coast from Toronto after starting a family, we chose the Island, too. Since I would likely have ended up working downtown Vancouver (or at least in the city), I just wasn’t willing to put up with the long commute that would be required given our limited housing budget. We’ve been in Saanich for almost a year now, and it is great!
We go to Vancouver every couple of months to visit family, and when they come to see us they say feels like a vacation. We have access to world-class kids’ stuff like the Vancouver aquarium and Science World on our visits, without the exorbitant housing costs. And you cannot beat the locally-grown/raised food, and easy access to beaches and forests on the Island!
As I read my comment I think it comes across as unintentionally harsh. We all have our unique concerns and problems and I don’t mean to minimize your experience. That being said, there’s an air of entitlement in this piece (and many others I’ve seen) that seems to be representative of many people living in Vancouver.
Last stop Poco and now separation as I’m not going back east.. Where low cost homes can be found. It’s not fun making hard decisions that include your child who you may rarily see again. I imagine lawyers are faring well here except family ones may have to relocate too.
Was born here and spent two years Toronto years ago to know I don’t care for -30
Vancouver is going to be gutted at this rate. I’m not really pro or con as New York prob did it at one time changing into towers from homes. It’s the speed that is shaking things up. Ask why u pay taxes for something you will not benefit from.. Why bike lanes that there may be no one to use. A green city that is unsustainable and u realize the mayor is a pawn of developers.
I’ll stay but for how long remains to be seen. The daycare thing is true so people don’t try to make a bad thing seem unreal. We have a spot in Poco that costs us $900/mo in the end being unsustainable.
Your piece is amazing and really captures the challenges faced by those who want to make Vancouver home.
**”no one here has particularly close friends. Just a selection of good acquaintances” — it’s different for those of us who grew up here — we do have our circle. I really try and add newcomers to this, but it’s often a challenge.
**When it comes to moving somewhere child-friendly, why did you not consider Renfrew-Collingwood? Is it because it’s in East Vancouver? I find a lot of newcomers to Vancouver idealize the West End or Kits, then never venture east of Cambie, thus missing the best family-friendly part of the City. I’m typing this at 9am on a Sunday and already I can hear the laughter and shrieks of kids in the playground across the street, even though it’s raining.
**Although you lament this whole story as someone who moved to Vancouver after growing up in Manitoba, I must admit that it’s not any easier for those who grew up here when it comes to housing. Imagine this: your family settles here in the 70s, you grow up in Vancouver, go to school here, get a job here, and then you find out that if you want to move out of your home city just to have a family. It may be easier for those who inherit a home or land, but if you come from a family with several kids, none of you can keep the family home going. Vancouver kicks out those it raises, too.
** One more — and Vancouver erases your history if you grew up here. Every landmark in town that had significance in your youth is demolished and replaced with a highrise of bachelor suites. And the few residential blocks of houses that remain are just vacant (save for the caretaker in the lane house).
Sorry if my response sounds negative — I keep trying to remind myself to be thankful for the time I did have here.
Quite well said, Rania. I tried to say this last point above, but I didn’t get it hit it quite as eloquently as you do here.
One of the most painful part of the explosion of a city that is our home is the way that people come in, “love it” and then try to change it to work more like “x”. In the city council and the parks board that would be “Toronto”. All the planning and GM jobs at both places have gone to people from a professional network of “planners” and “managers” who are truly from away and bring anonymous city ideals with them. They serve developers not community and create an endless series of losses that leave us displaced in place.
And I am painfully aware that 100 years ago it was the Squamish, Tsleil waututh and Musqueam who would have been saying these exact same things about us.
I have lived in big cities. I loved Vancouver as the sleepy place people used to make fun of, and regret that I can’t bring my kids up in that place. But I also get that change happens. But the changes here, including the filling in of the one neighbourhood pool that was packed with neighbours from East and West Vancouver, the demolishing of community centres that served families and seniors and the building of monuments to city workers that “you can see from space” even though you can no longer hold a 40 year old swim club’s race events there for lack of starting blocks, or seniors activities because this is now a “destination centre” (the word community removed).
But what pains me the most is that a city that held the huge and game-changing Walks for Peace in the 70s and 80s (50,000 + people! in the rain!) struggles to respond with even basic human connection now. That is the gutting of a city.
Thank you for putting that so eloquently. I completely agree with everything you said. I feel like he was way focused on having “everything”, and not even really understanding the good of some of the other options that’s out there.
When I first moved to Vancouver I lived in the Oakridge area. Loved it. We bought our first house in the Killarney area.
Downtown was a place to go when we had the patience for the crowds. Having said that we loved the crowds an atmosphere at Expo 86.
Later we moved to Langley and found it to be a wonderful place to raise a family. With clear 20/20 hindsight I would not change that decision.
Although my dad moved away after being raised in East Van both my wife and I have family roots going back generations in Vancouver. This never led me to believe that we were owed anything. It seems to me that some newer residents have a different set of expectations.
In Stockholm residents can put their names on a list and it takes over ten years for “Team Socialist” to offer a rent controlled apartment which may or may not meet the need or even be in their preferred neighbourhood. My son has a friend there and he is currently trying to immigrate to Canada—Langley in particular. He’s done an analysis and figures Sweden has better social programs, but there is more opportunity in Canada.
It makes me wonder: is stagnation better? Should Great Grandpa have built a Trumpesque fence?
Now try that as a single parent in Vancouver. Not fun.
Added to that I tried to live in Vancouver for 20yrs with my kids and last June finally bite the bullet and moved to T-town.
Interesting… I just don’t really appriciate thoughts like “…moving to Burnaby, Richmond, or worse!”
I live in Surrey and LOVE it. We have a beautiful modern home, great backyard in a quiet prestigeous area of the city with great schools, 15 mins to the ocean and the U.S. border.
Surrey offers great amenities, sports facilities, community centre’s, libraries and all the conveniences a family could ask for… from specialty stores, college and university campuses, to one of the most beautiful shopping centres in the Lower Mainland.
All this, approximately 30 mins from downtown Vancouver.
You don’t have to move to the Island to keep things affordable, 30 mins is all it takes.
I commiserate with you. Having raised two kids in Kitsilano on one income over the past 20 years (we managed to buy a small duplex 12 years ago), I feel no real affection for Vancouver having been raised in small town Ontario.
I think that Toronto would be similar to Toronto – no real love, lots of cars, expenses and people. I will say however that Vancouver may not love me, but it will pay me!
When I do leave in a few years, that lil duplex will pay for a nice spread in Ontario (Huntsville? Muskoka?) – hopefully lakefront, nice people & neighbors.
Well put, Aaron. And, yes, what’s up with the nearly zero 2-bedroom (let alone 3-bedroom) apartments (old and new) in this town? Prairie cities and towns have multitudes of 2-bedroom apartments.
Great article, thanks!
I am from Manitoba and agree that VANCOUVER is not a friendly city. That is why I live in the suburbs. I agree it is expensive to live there. That is why I live in the suburbs. As for the rest I am a conservative. Other peoples money only takes you so far. What do you do when that well runs dry?
Very well written and I agree 100% with everything you said – about people, friendships, family, and the city.
But I also disagree with the widespread notion of a certain standard of life that most Vancouverites think they must have – downtown life, 6 figure salary, a family. Financially, this cannot be a reality for many people here and many have to accept it and make sacrifices.
Reading your post, I can only envy you (in a good way) that you enjoyed the beauty of living downtown for at least a short while. Despite doing graduate studies downtown, there is no way I can afford to live there, so I have no choice but to live with my family in a rented townhouse, an hour away (on good days). On top of that my family cannot afford my moving out anyway, as we will not be able to afford our rent.
At my place of work I hear people who make way more that my household and live 2 minutes away from work complain about how tough it is for them, how poor and miserable their lives are, and how much they need to get paid more, while I listen to them and nod to stay polite.
I think people should accept the fact that unless you are millionaire, you can forget about having it all, and, instead, enjoy what you do have, without letting society pressure you into excessively materialistic values. I think this never ending chase for money and luxury lifestyle leads people to forget what is really important and brings a great deal of dissatisfaction and the feeling of unaccomplishment.
My family, just like many others, makes a lot of sacrifices to live in the Greater Vancouver area. There is nothing wrong with living in Oakridge, or Surrey, or Richmond. Yes, it is not downtown life, but there is more space, exposure to nature and it is more affordable.
Only the wealthiest can truly enjoy Vancouver to the fullest, while the rest of common folk should just forget dreaming about downtown life, or perhaps even Vancouver life, and should just be happy that we live in proximity of such a beautiful city, and just focus on and cherish what they have.
I am not saying drop your ambitions, I just think being focused on what you don’t have is unhealthy and is a roadblock to balance and happiness.
Curious how many private, family run day cares you explored? I know the public ones are all over subscribed, but there are several more private ones with a fairly high turnover and spaces available.
I have lived in Vancouver for decades, and have always found this odd dichotomy between beauty and the willingness of people to engage, even to say hello. I DO say hello to people; sometimes they respond. That’s about it. As for apartment living and inviting people over–I had an open invitation for anyone in my building to come over to my place one Sunday a year ago, to celebrate the coming of spring, invites placed underneath EVERY door (that’s 40 apartments). I purchased cheeses and meats, alcohol and Perrier and juice, fruit and buns. I did a super cleaning job, put on some nice jazz, and waited. NO ONE SHOWED UP. Not one. So that’s one aspect of living in the West End that sucks.
Great article Aaron. I moved to Vancouver 13 years ago from Winnipeg, and just recently moved back to The Peg. I transferred here from CTV Winnipeg to CTV Vancouver. It was a great opportunity to live in a bigger city that had mountains and an ocean around it. My friends said you were moving to God’s country. Yes, it was wonderful working in downtown Vancouver,… and living in the West End was a dream come true. But reality sets in…this city is not a friendly social city. Coming from the prairies where people are not afraid to say Hi to a stranger on the street and have parties for the new kid in town…I found it very cold here. Most of my Vancouver friends were transients from other prairie cities…and they still remain my close friends to this day. I guess that’s what prairie people do. Being single in this city and trying to make rent, pay bills and trying to have a life is also a struggle..there’s not much left at the end of the day. The wages here do not reflect the earnings you need to have a life. Yes, it was nice to have conveniences at your beckon hand, and the sushi is out of this world…but at the end of the day, I decided to pull the plug on this city and return to a normal lifestyle where I will have money left over at the end of the day to enjoy it…..do I miss Vancouver…yes…parts of it I miss, you can’t argue, it is God’s country, but you can have the high rents, the designer stores, the yoga crazed yuppies, with their Gucci & LV bags, and Jimmy Choo shoes, I’m back living a simple life, freelancing for FOX Sports during the winter, and enjoy having my summers off at cottage country.
You were stronger than me… I couldn’t take the non-comittal ‘friendships’ and the cancelling. I tried to love it but after 2.5 years, I moved. It is pretty, but so are MANY other cities in the world…. Only they offer more than the seawall and coffee and the rain??? By the time th tulips finally appear in February, you forget what colour even looks like.
Based on what you wrote, it might make you feel better to know that London would hate you, so as Paris, San Francisco, Seattle… As for daycare, $2000 a month!!! I’m sorry but there are way cheaper options in Vancouver. Same thing for the waiting list of 3 years. Are you sure you really looked everywhere? I’m sorry don’t take it bad but I think the key point is that you’re not willing to compromise. You want everything close to where you live. You want to be able to commute by foot to work, to daycare, to your friends place… Me too I want the same but I can’t because I’m a normal person like you. So what do I do? Well I compromise and I spend some time commuting to work and other places and it’s ok. Where do I live? East Van. I rent a 2 bedroom apartment for $1000 and my son goes to a daycare close to Boundary for $1000 and my wife and I commute to work by car. And all my friends – except maybe the few more well off – have to do the same. I wish you good luck in Vancouver Island though. Maybe you’ll find more happiness there.
I will agree that living in Vancouver “core” can be prohibitively expensive especially on one income, but there are many communities outside of the Vancouver core that are clean, family friendly, and way more affordable.
I lived in various areas of Greater Vancouver but when it was time to settle down and start a family, my wife and I chose Surrey because of affordability, value for money, and, generally centralized location within the Greater Vancouver region.
We purchased our 760sq-ft Surrey condo for $180k with the 5% minimum required downpayment, and it’s costing us less than $950/month in mortgage and strata fees. It is newer (12 years old), larger, and cheaper than the apartment we were renting in Marpole before we moved here 6 years ago.
If you don’t want to buy, then there are plenty 2+ bedroom homes for rent here for $1000-$1500/month in family friendly communities surrounded by parks, and good schools. Child care space is also plentiful here, for around $1000/month, with immediate available spaces. The reason that childcare is double the price in Vancouver is generally because of the higher rent businesses have to pay there.
Here in Surrey we are within a 10 minute walking distance from shops, restaurants, parks, our son’s school, and my work. We are within a 30 minute drive to most Greater Vancouver areas, parks, beaches, and attractions, including downtown. Family friendly areas and attractions are not just located in downtown or in Stanley Park, they’re all over the map, literally.
You’ll have more friends here too because they don’t have to pay for parking when they come visit you, parking is free and plentiful on all residential city streets.
Although Surrey may sometimes get a bad rap, tell me which metropolitan city in the world is immune from crime or violence.
You can get by without a car living in the suburbs as there are shopping centers and plazas everywhere. If you must own a car, plenty of manufacturers are offering brand new economy cars for $200-$250/month. With insurance and gas you can fit your transportation costs in under $500/month.
So tell me again why would I want to pay $2000/month to rent a tight Vancouver apartment, and another $2000/month for childcare, when for under $2500/month you can have that and more by moving just 30 minutes outside of the Vancouver core and still be able to enjoy everything the city has to offer.
We are a working class family but even if we had the option of living in downtown or the West End, we’d choose not to because of the congestion, noise, traffic, and pay parking everywhere you turn.
I would encourage those who think living in Vancouver is unaffordable to open their eyes and minds and explore the suburbs a bit. You’d be pleasantly surprised.
This was a well written article and these are definitely issues facing young people today. However I believe there is a deeper issue. Expectation. The reality is Vancouver is not comfortably liveable unless you are wealthy. It makes sense. People want the best and people with the most money get to choose. So for those who have become accustomed to this spectacularly progressive and chic lifestyle, it is unfortunate that maintaining it becomes virtually impossible. But hey, that is life. Maybe it is unfortunate that young North Americans have grown up with the expectation of a certain lifestyle they would like to maintain, when the reality is; most people simply cannot. It sucks, but unless you want to break your back to develop a highly successful business, which is more unrealistic than finding a 2 bedroom apartment in Vancouver, than you simply need to adjust your expectation of what raising a family looks like for our generation. Maybe it’s time to move to Saskatoon.
Excellent article that I relate to 100%! I live Downtown and often feel like I work simply to pay for childcare! I was one of the fortunate ones able to get my child into daycare after “only” a year on a waitlist – it cost me $1200 a month, and that was 8 years ago. Since then, I have had another child so still paying that cost (lucky me, child #2 had priority due to a sibling being in daycare!). What has been just as hard is the lack of schools Downtown – only one elementary school in the West End means that there are always more children enrolled than there is space for. When my first child graduated from daycare and I rejoiced that I no longer had to pay two sets of childcare fees, I was met with a new challenge – no room at the school! We didn’t make it in via the lottery and were assigned a spot on the waitlist – #37….for kindergarten…in a public school…not cool! So now I live Downtown but my kids go to school and daycare in East Vancouver.
It seems by the comments you are either supported or chastised for your personal experience. The bulk of the comments tend to agree. There are always options with compromises to be made but often the compromises come with a price. No one can argue your desire for a greater sense of connectedness. Having a family is obviously a huge part of that and requires you to assess the needs of all in it as a whole. I think it harsh for some to say you have a sense of entitlement or your whining because you desire to live in a community that that recognizes a minority of a different sort, the family. A community that might consider options to resolve some of the housing and day care issues to those with families. In the end affordable solutions will not resolve the disconnect that the bustle of all cities have in common. I think your article is you coming to terms with what you have and what you really want. It is the struggle between quantity and quality and where that lies for you. I was a successful photographer, but my desire for a connected family out weighed anything that my career could offer. I made great money could afford childcare, mortgage etc but I made several radical choices and I have no regrets. One I left it all and moved to Mexico to work in orphanages. Two this meant I would have to homeschool both my sons. I left a career but the essence of it, the creativity just shifted gears. I left a city full of people and gained the connectedness of my family the most important community of all and new communities as well.
One son is just finishing an associate degree in Theology at 18. He is a well adjusted, socially popular, artistic writer, musician, adventurer who just returned from a whirlwind 3 months in Europe. The other a technical wizard in robotics at 13 and comedic genus. I am biased. My point is that in the compromises and choices I have made I lost nothing. The financial adjustments became rewards of a life well lived.
I’m currently a home owner back in BC living with the mountains in view dialled into the pulse of living with a close knit family with no regrets. Just saying it is possible to have it all and a great cup of coffee too. It is your life. All the best in your journey.
Thank you Cindy for offering such a balanced reflection.
Everyone’s truth is different and in the end, we must all live a life that is honest for ourselves. I am inspired by your courage to make a decision that was guided by your resolve to seek what you wanted. In the end, we all get the life we create for ourselves.
Welcome, from a Vancouver expat! You will love it here, no place like it. And you will probably never want to move back to the city that spat you out!
Great article, a mutual friend of yours/mine sent me your article! having grown up on the Island and living in Victoria for several years before moving to Vancouver. I will say that Victoria especially pioneered second and third wave coffee before Vancouver did. Yes, the whole
Starbucks thing, but there were people in Vic doing what Gene, Matchstick, Elysian etc long before those places even existed. Mid-thirties for age/time reference. Wife and I received an opportunity to live in the US where we live in the south east (not florida!) and although miss parts of Supernatural British Columbia, do not miss the weather (it’s 15 degrees and mostly sunny here right now). I think the most difficult thing to get used to was how open people were, how loads of people would just start chatting you up on the street, or in the pub. People say Hi as you pass them on the street. They make eye contact. Of course the politics here are laughable, but there is always a trade-off.
There are two types of child care services:
registered ones, and regulated ones.
You can get licensed care, no waiting list.
See here for contacts: http://www.wstcoast.org
You, Sir, are generation entitlement.
“Look at me, being hip and urban! I Deserve to live in Canada’s equivalent of Manhattan.”
If you want a fancy coffee when in Oakridge: they are there. And if not: $2.10 gets you downtown and back, as Oakridge is right on top of a SkyTrain station.
This is the writings of a spoiled brat, with white-people problems.
Despite the fact that my english isn’t very good yet, I’ll give it a try because there is something I want to say.
I feel exactly the same. I just loved to read your article and I kind of felt better, because that means I am not “alone”. And you know what is the funnest thing about it? I’m an educator with a four year bachelor degree who tried so hard to open a daycare and couldn’t because that also demands a lot of money.
I do not have kids yet, but I’m an immigrant. I hope I don’t sound disrespectful, but it sucks sometimes. To be seeing with suspicious eyes when you say you’ve studied outside even if you already proved equivalence.
And about friends… How I miss them!
Thank you, Aaron, for making me feel not so alone. Me and my husband are still trying to figure out what to do, but it’s good to now stories like yours.
Hope things are doing great now!
A lot of whining. First, you complain you don’t have a close knit group of friends. Your fault, not the people who live here. People are able to make friends here easily, if you yourself want to. Don’t blame the city for having an attitude. Then, you move out of downtown because of how expensive it is and then complain about having to move to Oakridge?! Are you kidding? A lack of facilities – day care and coffee? More so, being unable to afford it. If you can’t afford it, move to surrounding cities or back to Manitoba where you could. Moving into one of the most expensive areas in Vancouver and your complaint is that you have to take a bus to a coffee shop? That area is not all foreign investment either. In fact, it’s mostly populated with hardworking third- or fourth-generation families. Yes, everything is spread out, but nearly every household is a car-owner. If you don’t like Oakridge, move to east Van., or even Killarney. They’re all conveniently close to trains that can get you to downtown. If you couldn’t afford to live in Vancouver, why would you move here or not consider the burbs – but no. You consider yourself above all that. Stop acting like the city owes you something. It doesn’t. It’s always the people from buck-nowhere Canada that have the most to complain about Vancouver, whether it’s the housing or the goddamn weather.
I recently moved from New West to Nanaimo to be closer to my family. I like Nanaimo. It’s a nice little city. And cheaper for housing than New West.
I have my one bedroom on the market in NW for 165, and I bought a nice single wide in a quiet, clean, beautiful park for 55,000 in Nanaimo. I’ll never live in condo again.
Other cities I’ve lived in: LA, Las Vegas, Brooklyn, Reno, Victoria, Saskatoon, Prince George, a small town in NJ. Sydney, BC, Saturna Island, Edmonton. This place and that place.
Trailers have a stigma but then again you seem like the typical Vancouverite to me. Kind of like a “Hank.”
I had friends in Vancouver, guys from the boxing gym. Why even have friends when they are as stale as you are?
Addendum: Surrey is getting to be less affordable all the time. The entire lower mainland is getting to be out of reach. When My sister and brother in law wanted to move back here from Nova Scotia they explored their options and wound up with a five bedroom, three bathroom house in Nanaimo with an ocean view for 375,000.
Good article. Holy crap long comments section though.
Anyways, why didn’t you move to Langley or Cloverdale to be near Vancouver. Even Chilliwack.
People like to poke fun at these areas but surely it isn’t as bad moving to isolated island with low population or a place like Merritt.
Some people left for Alberta or Ontario ??? I dont understand. Maybe for a job but it still wouldn’t be worth it for me anyways to deal with that weather lol
Well written article and I sympathize with a lot of what you said. But why in gods name did you trade the West End for Oakridge? I can’t think of two more opposite neighbourhoods. My wife and I also loved the West End before we had kids. When we had kids we moved to East Van, where we have made tons of genuine, like minded friends that show up to our dinner parties. We also have top quality full time daycare downtown for $1050/month. I do sympathize with your experience but feel you may have had some tunnel vision when you left downtown for Oakridge. Main Street, Fraser St., The Drive, Strathcona, and Hasting-Sunrise are all vibrant, urban neighbourhoods full of young familes. Why didn’t you try any of them?
Im a single mom whom left Edmonton and headed to Vancouver Island in hopes of a better life for us.
Started on Salt Spring Island (rent was the same as Edmonton but NO work, higher food costs and extremely transient place), and ended up on Gabriola. The people are somewhat friendlier there and housing (if you’re lucky enough to find ANY) is ridiculously cheap. But you have to go to Nanaimo for any large groceries or things to do (like a movie or a coffee after 4pm). And your children have to go to Nanaimo for Jr high and high school as there isn’t one on Gabe. Meeting people is hard (especially being from Alberta!) and people aren’t very open to letting you into their circles.
It’s quite unfortunate, as I am an islander at heart and Alberta hurts my soul (no one composts, artists are “hippies”, and unless you’re in the oil industry forget about people understanding you.)
The beauty of the Island and less violence wasn’t enough to keep us there, unfortunately. It’s just not doable as a single mom renting.
So we’re back in Alberta and missing the ocean and rainforest and calmness we had there. Its brown and cold here. But there is work and housing and child care and I can actually feed my child here.
I’m not happy to be raising him here but I just found it too hard there.
Have you thought about taking a US detour? We lived in Vancouver then purchased a house in south Surrey. My husband found so many opportunities in SF (nothing says housing unaffordability like that city) and landed a job with a great company. He transferred to another office in Seattle as the housing was more affordable, there’s no state income tax and we are able to be close to our home, family and friends in BC. We are in BC often. So often that we’ve contemplated purchasing a house in Point Roberts just to be closer to the lower Mainland. We’re not ready to move back because the opportunities for devs in the west coast are incredible. If my husband moves back to Canada he will have to take a pay cut to market value (which is 1/2). I do not work as we are waiting for green card status. Our toddler keeps me busy as well as my online Canadian college courses. With your background, you have many options. I challenge you to take a look.
Well you picked the right place to move to, IMO.
My partner and I moved to the island last summer and we don’t even have the excuse of having a child making us leave Vancouver. That said, I feel as you did about the city – Vancouver has and always will have a very special place in my heart, but it is changing and it is changing VERY quickly. Unfortunately for Vancouver it is losing a LOT of very talented young people who can no longer afford it (and it was expensive before, but we all made it work… now it’s just insanity). I expect we will see a very different city in the next 5-10 years as the effects of this mass exodus takes hold. I know many, many, many people leaving in the past 1-2 years and many more planning it this year. It’s a sad state of affairs.
Enjoy island life! 🙂
You had me up until your snide remarks about Christianity and Conservatives all in a single sentence. You know you could’ve just called her out by name, instead you sought to paint all Conservatives as kooks. And now for reality, you complain about the cost of living, okay… But because you choose to be single income it’s of your own doing, if the job market sucks for your wife you move! If you love Vancouver so much you would make the sacrifices to live here. Which means yes, shocker, perhaps moving to the suburbs. I guess your “green” mayor has let you down and you don’t recognize it. Dirty developer money donating to his campaign and empty condos rising all over the city. Your sense of entitlement as a non-native Vancouverite is staggering. I’ve lived here my entire life (30 years), and I realize I have no right to live here if I don’t have the money, as such I’m planning to leave in the next few years. That’s the way things have worked for hundreds of years, for you to suggest it’s unfair leaves me wondering if you have an understanding of reality. You complaints come across as “life is hard in the 3rd least affordable city in the world”. Like really? Shocker, tell us something we don’t know.
Apart from the children and claims of night life, this is something I can attest to.
I’ve never been any where as lacking in social fabric and genuine friendliness as Vancouver. As for all the claims of “greatest city in the world to live in” … I can only think they were bestowed by someone – not from here – who was visiting, not anyone to moved here to live and put the years in.
As for the night life, there isn’t really any, a collection of 20-somethings getting drunk on 4-5 blocks of Granville Street isn’t exactly my idea of mature entertainment.
Agreed —Vancouver doesn’t have the social cohesion of other cities. It’s more like a series of ghettos, racial and income-wise (and that comes from its history).
It’s so obvious if you visit scattered grocery stores. I’m white — I went into a Chinese shopping centre (Richmond) and everyone stared at me like I was a freak. In Kerrisdale and Dunbar all the shoppers are dressed and coiffed like they just came from the country club; a rather low-income look prevails in a lot of East Van stores.
By contrast, in Red Deer or Edmonton you’ll see all walks of life in every supermarket. I think such mixing (or not) has implications in how citizens understand each other and how well immigrants integrate. Social cohesion seems greater there. Calgary has a great sense of community pride, which also indicates social cohesion.
As for Vancouver night life, well, yes, it’s obvious to me the “no-fun-city” label is propaganda spread by bar owners and 20-something drunks who want to serve booze or be drunk and disorderly at any time and anywhere. Not my idea of fun, and a rather limited view.
Thank you, thank you, Aaron. Reading your post this morning made me feel that I’m not alone. Readers describing your opinion as “entitled” are missing the point. Not feeling connected to the place is what’s making me rethink our move here, 14 years ago. Your writing inches me closer to finally letting go of the “dream”.
Sorry for your struggles…not fun to have to leave the city you love. For many of the reasons you state, I really don’t love Vancouver. Nice beaches can only sustain me so much….at the end of the day, nice beaches are not as important as having great friends, owning a home, living in a vibrant and inclusive place, etc.
I now live in Montreal, which is super amazing…I have a charming 1,600 foot 100 year old granite row house (2 bathroom, 3 bedroom) in the Plateau, which I bought for the cost of a one bedroom condo in one of those awful glass towers in Vancouver. I walk to work and there are dozens of restaurants, bars and coffee shops blocks from my house. It’s easy to make friends as well…just two years in and I have a circle of francophone and anglophone friends I regularly hang out with.
What I’m getting at is that there are other options beyond Vancouver. Having grown up in Vancouver, I know so many people who have drunk the Kool Aid and assume it is the best city in the world, or at least the country. Each city has a different thing going on and while every city may not have beaches everywhere, there are special and unique features to so many cities beyond Vancouver. Personally, I find Vancouver a bit sterile and cheesy – it’s mostly suburbs or condo towers with not much in between. I enjoy the history and funkiness of the east, but that’s me.
Good luck to you – the Cowichan Valley is lovely. Consider Montreal….we have universal daycare here, which costs $15 per child per day!
Montreal vibrant? Yes. Inclusive? Absolutely not. It’s probably one of the least inclusive places in North America. New immigrants leaves as soon as they can. I went to McGill and enjoy the city but it’s a city on a serious multi-decade decline and is certainly no place to make home.
It’s bitter sweet I’m not the only one. I thought I was a misfit. I was depressed since I arrived here, specially during winters. I found out I was affected by the seasonal mood disorder. but is not only that, is also about the interaction with people, is so difficult, so cold. I’ve heard many times: “what are you doing here if you are not happy then?” and they are right. I ask myself: does it hurt enough to keep complaining or enough to do something about it? I’m focused on doing something about it. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life with a hole in my heart. so I’ve decided to move away to another place, however I’m going to embrace Vancouver as much as I can, I’m grateful with the city and the country for all what it has given to me and what has withdrawn from me since all has been huge experiences.
I can relate 100%. I lived in the West End for 12 yrs (and I still miss it). Once child number two was born we ended up leaving the province actually. Childcare was a huge part of it (mostly the lack of and expense). Working was not fulltime but contract to contract and our rent continued to go up and up and up. We wanted to be stable for our kids and not have to move every few years when we were priced out of a rental forcing them to be switching schools. For me all my work was downtown so not ideal to commute out to Surrey when working 12 hr days. Basically quality of life was gonna suck, so we left. I miss it everyday. 22 yrs in Vancouver, it was my home but its a tough place for a family of four.
Cumberland is supposedly awesome and artsy. There is a wonderful chiropractor in Courtenay (Debbie Wright) who once practised in Kits/Granville Island. She had a lot of clients who were digital artists and sat for way to long in front of the computer. She worked wonders for all my computer strain.
Enjoy the island! I lived there for a while and loved it. Would love to move back … I am so fortunate to have close friends here that I grew up with (and I know that’s not the norm). We are struggling with the home and childcare issues as well. It saddens me greatly. I too love Vancouver. There has to be a better way though, there just does …
If it’s any consolation, and you may have figured this out, but the Island loves you. The Island will take you. Even though you sound and smell like someone who is from Vancouver, and who seems to want to go back there like some life-long quest of conquer, the Island knows you’re from real Canada. Because the Island hates Vancouverites.
It is tough to have a family in Vancouver these days, but wasn’t it always? Like everywhere and anywhere else on the globe, some people can make it and some people move on. Most people live beyond their means and Vancouver almost makes you live within them, if you want to survive the courtship.
I love Vancouver. Vancouver loves me. But it’s the kind of relationship where you have to be independent and not co-dependent. So really, Vancouver is perfect if you enjoy being alone and want to be selective about who you include.
They may call Vancouver a “melting pot”, but it’s more like a pot of stew – lots of great individual flavours coming together, but each ingredient still clearly distinguishable.
Vancouver is not the pot of chocolate fondue that many small communities embrace – lots of amazing individual flavours, letting go of their supreme uniqueness and coming together as one blended creation.
I love all the flavours Vancouver has to offer. Sometimes I wish there were more chili flakes, but for the most part, I’m okay with eating my chocolate fondue alone, in my tiny apartment, with a few close friends…or maybe not.
Born and Raised, in the Pot
Well written article addressing the difficulty making friends in Vancouver. Vancouverites are an insular bunch. I grew up in Vancouver and agree, my friends’ basket is full. A newcomer must be offer a fantastic personality to break into my circle.
However, I did some school out east and appreciated the easy friendships made in the Maritimes and Boston/NYC areas. People are truly friendlier out there. So I have tried to include new people. With varying success.
You see, I’m Asian. The newcomer Caucasians, aren’t so interested in being my friend. I speak English with no accent, I ski, I play soccer, I drink at happy hour, I watch hockey ….. But I’m still Asian. I suspect you’d ditch my dinner party invite at the drop of a hat if a better dinner invite came along. You likely want Vancouver friends that look like you.
But that’s ok. That’s expected. So my dinner invites to newcomers decrease in frequency. My friends basket is full.
I express no anger regarding the above scenario. Just an explanation from one Vancouverite’s point of view.
I do disagree with your lament that finding a place to live is terrible. Moving to the Oakridge area is not a step down. That part of town is high end! Of course it’s unaffordable. As for its lack of child friendly facilities? I disagree. Oakridge is close to parks, community centres, libraries, and eateries. Sky train runs through it. It’s not an empty shell of a neighbourhood. Lots of Asian people live there. The houses are not empty.
Perhaps you looked in East Vancouver? I grew up on knight street. Lots of friendly immigrants there. Perhaps you tried Fraser or Victoria Streets? Perhaps Commercial Drive? Loads of personality there. Much cheaper rent. More families. Lots of diversity. Lots of people who speak English as a second or third language.
But it’s not the West End or Kitsilano, the “dream” neighbourhood. And so you cannot live there. Instead, you moved to the island, where you can afford the rent and you can live in tranquility and beauty. Fair enough.
Just please don’t make it seem like Vancouver spit you out. You want the section of the store that you cannot afford. You don’t want to go to the cheaper aisles. I hope people realize this when they also lament that they can’t afford to stay in Vancouver.
So you’re saying someone needs to “prove” something of themselves just to break into your circle of friends? Sounds a bit judgmental and cliquey. I’m born here and Asian myself, but the reason why I don’t have a group of Asians as friends is because of this cliquey-ness.
This makes me sad to read this. I grew up in Richmond until I was 19 and moved to Australia where I now have 3 kids and a hubby. Yes in Sydney there are plenty of complaints about high rents and limited childcare but at least there are more opportunities to make money here. We luckily got into the property market here and have amassed a pretty hefty portfolio. I always have dreams of taking the kids back to Vancouver for a few years but I worry that it’s not what it was growing up. Most if my school friends and family have all moved out of Vancouver because of the prices and not many job opportunities. It’s funny my 7 year old wants to have her own childcare centre when she grows up…maybe moving back will be a good idea one day.
I still love Vancouver, I don’t think it love me back either, and I move to Burnaby, they’re ok. But we will have to move soon too. The prices been catching up with Vancouver. Anyway really nice article, thank you, I enjoyed reading it.
Wow! You are delusional! You worry about coffee shops when you have a child-look at yourself in the mirror and stop being so selfish. There is so much more to / in life than location!
Awesome article. We moved to Vancouver 5 years ago and haven’t made many ‘real’ friends here. We are both doctors making good money and can just about afford a mortgage for a house on the westside. But do we really want to to pay all that money for an old house on a small lot when we can have a much higher quality of life somewhere like Victoria?
My point is.. its not just people who are struggling with daycare who are considering leaving Vancouver. Its also people who make good money and still just can’t afford the lifestyle they want for themselves and their kids.
Spot on Aaron. However if you play soccer there’s a nice bunch out there. I ski and sailed there a ton, I built my own Vancouver with crazy Canadians and Italians and Spaniers. But Van can be weird that way. Then I made a career decision and left for Boston. I move a lot
I’ve lived here all my life. Born and raised. It wasn’t always this way. At one point Vancouver was the “friendly city” the opposite of what was happening (and maybe still is?) in Toronto. Everyone would comment on how great we are here, as people, as a city. Then Expo 86 came. Was this the point where everything changed? Yes.
Most of my friends have moved on, and the ones that are left are like me, alone, hiding in our tiny unaffordable apartments. Living hand to mouth. The market is a joke, I will never own a place of my own unless I win the lottery. People don’t say hello or good morning, even if you say it first.
Vancouver is a beautiful city on the outside, but unfortunately there is an ugliness on the inside that is hard to penetrate. Someone once told me it’s a rich man’s playground. I think this pretty much sums it up.
Beautifully written, absolutely true. It’s as if you were reading my thoughts.
God I miss Vancouver. I grew up in the burbs and moved into the city as an adult (after living all over the place, Ontario, the UK, etc.). Loved it. Unlike people here I found I made very close friends, some I grew up with, but also friends from UBC and various hobbies. I knew my neighbours. I loved having family near. I was outside all the time, had an active social life (didn’t find this cancelling thing an issue – my friends were pretty reliable). I was in East Van – so there was less keeping up with the Joneses.
I left 3 years ago for work. And my heart aches for Vancouver, for the people, for the weather (rain makes me homesick), and for the natural beauty. It’s amazing how much you can miss trees and mountains. I love the island too – sadly in my line of work there’s currently nothing in BC. I hope someday I can go home.
Dear Aaron, Thank you for sharing your story. I also feel better knowing that I’m not alone, like some other readers. But, how I wish that I have red this article in January, before moving here from the other side of the globe with my husband and 3 years old daughter, which was in March. Maybe I will reconsider my decision to move here… I couldn’t even imagine that here in Vancouver is such a bad situation with Child Care, probably the worst in a whole world. Of course, I’m on a number of waitlist for group Child Care, and cannot find space in FCC also. Beside of feeling stuck here, I’m considering it very discriminative for children and especially women – mothers, they doesn’t even have a chance to work, due to lack of child care spaces, that is really sad.
Vancouver is a beautiful city, and this is something to comfort with…
Wishing you and your family all the best!
Thanks for sharing your story and experience Aaron. I lived in Vancouver from the mid 80’s to early 90’s. It was still moderately affordable in the 80’s.
I was a postie for 5 years in Van … Downtown ….then station F on Commercial drive, Station D on 8th and Pine & Depot 32 on Mtn Highway. A year of my time was spent as a full time relief carrier so I walked a LOT of the city and saw many nooks and crannies that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen. My first full time route was a downtown business route. I’d often finish before noon and end up going to the beach or Seawall for the rest of the day. I have great memories of those long lazy summer afternoons.
Four of us rented a four bedroom house in Kits one block off 8th and Arbutus for $700 a month. In 1989 I had a beautiful one bedroom apartment on E 1st one block off commercial drive for $390 a month!! But that was an exceptional deal even back then. I lucked out with a lot of places.
My first year was lonely in Vancouver but then I did two things that changed my Vancouver experience. I took two night school improv acting classes, and I also started volunteering for festivals …. Fringe, Folk, Jazz, Film … many one-offs. I met tons of people. Volunteering at festivals made it affordable or free to see shows. There were a core group of us who were just festival junkies and we ripped up the streets and clubs. We were young and as foolish as foolish is. Several of us had motorbikes – a great way to see Van and the coast. Dangerous but fun and very affordable – especially taking the ferries.
I didn’t have a family or kids so it was probably much like you and your wife’s pre-kids era living in the West End.
I live now in Nelson BC – another beautiful BC spot. I’ve been back to Vancouver several times and the areas I knew are hardly recognizable. I was sad to see the Yale had closed down as well as my other favorite haunt the Rose & Thorne.
I often pine for Vancouver and those days, but I know I’d never be able to live like that in the current iteration of Van. I’m content with the memories 🙂
Vancouver is a doomed dump and here is why. Economics, too many people, not enough quality jobs, prior to the oil downturn, Vancouver had 2? companies that were in the billion dollar exporters club. Teck and West Fraser which are companies that have limited workforces in the city. On the other side of the rockies, Calgary with 25?, it is simple economics, we spend more than we have in BC, so we import dirty money and hold our nose. Everyone knows the rich foreigner that seems to have way too much money, and no visible means of support, as in a job. Being that I have lived and worked in both BC and Alberta, I can honestly say I prefer Alberta, not so cliquey, real industries, real profits, real companies, not government owned institutions that seem more like bloated soviet bureaucracies propping up the employment numbers when we are heading to elections, not so many strange Asians walking around with undeclared briefcases full of money, seriously why are there so many callgirls in this city? The amazing thing about Vancouver is how people justify and rationalize the amazing crap they see everyday, does a $2 Million dollar home that was built in 1957 and has a stucco exterior seem normal? Vancouver has been turned into a speculators paradise, more money would flow into Seattle etc, except the IRS actively watches moneyflows from abroad, and demands to know about offshore sources and our pathetic Fintrac system is useless. After living in Alberta and seeing how well people do from an early age, owning, saving etc. To hear you lamebrains, be content with paying huge rents, even into your thirties and forties amazes me. Seriously, do you think you will live forever and work forever? You are wasting the prime earning years of your life and usually as I have seen happen with many people I know, you will be downsized when you start to look too old and replaced with yet another eager young cheap UBC grad! You need to wake up, anyone can live in a paradise, take Fiji or Argentina, there are plenty of wonderful places in the world that are poor! As a child of Vancouverites, I have heard stories about how wonderful commercial drive and other such places used to be, but those days are gone, the world has changed and Canada is way behind in so many ways and too many naive urbanites cannot see it, remember, in less that a year due to the dollar you are now 30% poorer than you were just a little while ago and house prices are still rising! Do yourselves a favour, wake up to the reality, money and resources are scarce and the longer you rationalize your wonderful city, the futher behind you get, move to Ontario, or anywhere, cause there is no future in Vancity!
I agree with Cobak.
I was inquiring about life on an island, and Vancouver popped up. I live on an entirely different type of an island in Hawaii. Been here for over 30 years, have a successful business, but my wife and I are no longer happy living “island style”. It was pure heaven for the first ten or fifteen years, then friends retired, left the island, died, etc. Our best friend just left for a three month excursion around the USA in a new car. We are still grinding away at the same job, at the same level of income for the last fifteen years. We haven’t visited a beach in years (our fault). We got “old”, but still grinding away. Next of kin mostly dead, retired, or not speaking to us (except for four wonderful siblings, one of whose husband is now demented at age of 66). Thinking of moving back to the mainland, but not excited about that either. Any suggestions?
I just moved back to Vancouver from Ottawa after many years. In one month I found reasonable rent in North Vancouver, getting lots of work self employed and see happy people on the street every day. People say hello and smile a lot. Regular nice working type Chinese people everywhere too(not all billionaires…lol) I think we create reasons to leave a place. No place is paradise. Yes, the writer is biased. We all follow are own path and create reasons to do so. And that’s OK too.
Very interesting article from Business in Vancouver about Rossland
I love Rossland and Rossland love me.
Thank you for your heartfelt post. I just came across it and decided to share my many sentiments. (I agree with you about Oakridge. It’s a nice area of homes but not really a destination area for the younger folk except for the mall.) My husband and I were born and raised in Vancouver. It was always a multi cultural city with people arriving from all over the world. Maybe a bit more working class back then. Not a huge amount of wealth like now.
I remember one night when Expo ‘86 opened. A group of us twenty somethings were on the roof of our apartment building in Kits watching the fireworks. Everyone was silent and bummed out. We all knew a special time and place was coming to an end. That happens when you invite the world to your little swimming hole……like the beautiful bay in Thailand where Leo DiCaprio starred in The Beach. Look at it now.
Moved out to the burbs when the kids were born. Hated it but here we are years later. The commute in or out is a huge pain even with the single lane highway now spanning six lanes or more. Also childcare sucked; is that a BC thing? The landscape changed quickly as other young families arrived from Vancouver and further afield. Many green spaces got subdivided, warehoused and paved over with strip mall after strip mall. This area is highly transient and also franchised. It looks exactly like the towns to the west and to the east of us. You make friends then they move on. Start again. And again. Sigh.
Yes, our affordable house is paid off and we have barely enough to buy a dump back inside the city limits but what we loved has long disappeared. Our school and childhood homes were torn down along with the rest of the neighbourhood within ten years of Expo. Even the local stores and theatres. Plus we don’t know anyone. They all moved away too. There are little pockets of the magic here and there but corporations and franchises will destroy those soon enough too. Robson Street is an example. 4th Avenue also. The Drive still feels a bit like it used to and while it’s nice walking the tree lined side streets we won’t move back ‘home’ just for that. Home is gone. Where to go now?
We spent many summers roaming around Vancouver Island – Victoria to Tofino to Comox but way too much has changed there too. Nelson is wonderful but isolated. No buses, trains or flights and an eight hour drive. I might be the first member of my family to emigrate outside BC. Montreal and Ottawa sound great. Lots of native BC’ers heading out to the Maritimes but reviews on quality of life remain quite mixed. There’s always the bush. Head north to Yukon perhaps.
I remember reading that in the 70’s less than half of Canadians had ever been on an airplane. Now people fly around the way they used to take the bus. So the entire planet has been impacted by high mobility, instant information, AirBnB and access to money, not just Vancouver. Globalization growing pains I guess.
Thanks for reading.