I have this grand plan to write a blog explaining the ins and outs of Vancouver to Irish people, but I keep running out of time.
Otherwise, I'd just link that.
Alright, here's the big pointers.
- Vancouver is expensive. Sort of Dublin five years ago expensive.
- Wages are actually pretty piddling. The reality is that everyone works two jobs. Even people with good jobs supplement their incomes with some other thing. Minimum wage is something like 8 or 9 dollars. Lots of places offer 12. I suspect the magic number for a living wage is about 18.
- There's a lot of money floating around (yay), but it may not float down towards you (boo)
- One of Vancouver's big mysteries is what everyone does. Everyone seems to be accountants, financiers or movie people. That's because everyone is - most of Vancouver's economy runs on big corporations putting their financial departments out here. Said employees buy condos - as do big Chinese business concerns - and drive property prices up.
- You will be living in East Vancouver. You can still find nice places cheaply (ish - very ish) on Dunbar, or in the grottier parts of Kits, or somewhere near Stanley Park, but the majority of places that are in any way affordable will be somewhere either east of Main or south of 50th.
- East Vancouver used to be the downtown. It's not anymore. Main and East Hastings is the place people think of when they think "downtown eastside" and its, as mentioned above, a ****ed up zombie apocalypse of cracked out head cases flailing around. Said flailing sorts wander up into Chinatown and into Gastown too. Neither place has a lot to recommend it after certain hours of the night. However, East Vancouver gets rather nicer anywhere ten blocks from Main and Hastings. Main Street was a tip 6 years ago; its now home to lots of nice shops, noodle places, coffee shops and young families. Fraser Street a few blocks east is following suit. There's a lot of nice cheap eateries and coffee shops and so on clustered here.
- Vancouver is a city of neighbourhoods. Downtown, like a lot of Canadian cities, is more like an open air mall than somewhere people might hang out too much. Often there's nothing downtown that can't be found closer to where you live. You could go all the way to the Winners downtown - or just hit the one on Cambie.
- Kits is nice, but rather overrated.
- Commercial drive, or The Drive, is a fascinating mix of too-expensive, too-pretentious and another tribe of flailing mad people. Oh and intense looking guys with beards and skinny jeans. Lots of expensive apartments thereabouts, usually right beside some crack house.
- If you don't like "all the Chinese" or "all them foreigners coming over here taking our jobs" you won't like Vancouver, since half the population is Chinese, and those foreigners are coming over here...giving you jobs.
- You will eat sushi. Other people go to MacDonalds when you have 7 dollars and need to eat really quickly. In Vancouver, you go to any one of the rather good and rather cheap sushi places.
- Use padmapper to find your apartment.
- You will need to pay half a month's rent in advance for a deposit. So budget about 600-700 dollars upfront.
- Get a bike. The city is full of bike paths, and its a darn sight cheaper than bussing it, or worse, getting a car.
- Get a ****ty bike, because a good one will be nicked. (Crime in Canada is pretty low-calorie, compared to, say, Dublin, but still. And bikes are a prime target)
- Try to live in the Zone 1 for public transit. Save yourself a fortune. Burnaby and Richmond are Zone 2 (and a big lump of Tallaght style bugger all in both cases) Surrey and the North Shore are Zone 3, and those are irredeemable Canadian nowheresvilles. Also, that low calorie crime I mentioned - it gets pretty high calorie in Surrey. You get news reports like "and finally 8 people were shot in a gang related drive by shooting in Surrey. Now here's Claire with the weather"
- It rains a lot. Except in summer when the sun wants to beam your eyes out.
tl;dr: Bring money, live in East Van but not the screwy bits and bring a rain coat.