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With a huge assortment of separate areas, each with their own unique history, character and flavour, expats certainly have a wide choice of neighbourhoods in Vancouver. It makes for a tough decision when looking for accommodation in Vancouver.
The city was founded by English, Scottish and Irish settlers. Nowadays, it displays a truly international make-up. In particular, the city has seen an influx of immigrants from China in recent years.
There are many areas and suburbs in Vancouver to discover and explore. As such, expats should not rush the process and should rather spend time doing some research and finding the right community to suit their needs, family situation and lifestyle.
The city of Vancouver is divided into four general areas: Central, West Side, East Side and South Vancouver. There is also a number of surrounding smaller cities in British Columbia that form part of the greater Metro Vancouver area.
Areas in Vancouver
The most popular, thriving neighbourhoods are found in the downtown Vancouver area, which features an enviable blend of high-rise residential and commercial properties and a lively and trendy feel.
The neighbourhoods just west of downtown, and in the North Shore, which is over the bridge, are also highly desirable. The West End, not to be confused with the West Side, is the most expensive and exclusive area in Vancouver, while downtown’s notorious Downtown Eastside is a high-crime-rate, high-poverty pocket.
That said, gentrification is slowly transforming parts of Downtown Eastside around Main and Fraser streets, and historic Gastown, which is popular with tourists disembarking from cruise ships docked at the adjacent port.
Coal Harbour is a central area that has recently been transformed from a business and harbour district to a more residential one, with many high-rise condos catering for young professionals.
Naturally, the further away one travels from the downtown core, the lower the housing prices and cost of living. Vancouver’s extensive public transit system ensures that getting to and from downtown is relatively easy.
Vancouver’s West Side has a number of well-established neighbourhoods. Granville Island is a popular market and tourist destination, ten minutes from downtown Vancouver. But it isn’t primarily considered a residential neighbourhood. Nearby, South Cambie and Oakridge are the same distance from the city centre, featuring far more choices in terms of housing.
Housing is particularly dense in Kitsilano, which is known for its beaches and mountain scenery. For those with bigger budgets, Shaughnessy and West Point Grey are affluent neighbourhoods with older, more luxurious homes.
East Side is made up of many diverse and multicultural neighbourhoods. Strathcona is one of Vancouver’s oldest residential neighbourhoods and is popular with Chinese families. It offers mostly rental homes and apartments. However, its proximity to the high-crime Downtown Eastside may make new residents hesitant to move in.
Very close to downtown, Mount Pleasant is a mix of residential and business properties typical to the city of Vancouver. Meanwhile, Commercial Drive, known locally as 'The Drive', in Grandview-Woodland, reflects the city's wide range of cultures in its restaurants and residents. These areas place particular importance on the arts and green living.
Kensington-Cedar Cottage and Hastings-Sunrise are two other multicultural, family-oriented communities on the East Side. Densely populated yet safe and friendly, Main Street in Riley Park is known for its antique shops and easy drive to the heart of Vancouver.
South Vancouver is home to a well-established community.
Dunbar-Southlands features quaint, tree-lined streets, parks and homes, built mostly in the early 1900s, which are geared towards more affluent professionals.
Quiet yet only a 20-minute drive from the centre of Vancouver, Kerrisdale is home to many families and retirees who appreciate its cosy community feeling. Marpole is another of Vancouver’s most multicultural communities, where many newcomers take advantage of its relatively affordable rental housing.
Sunset and Victoria-Fraserview are home to many of Vancouver’s Indian families, a fact reflected in its restaurants, markets and other businesses. Renfrew-Collingwood and Killarney tend towards lower income families of diverse backgrounds. So expect a mix of service businesses and rental housing.
Nearby communities of Vancouver
If newcomers want to live in the Vancouver area but not in the city itself, there are many nearby communities to choose from. This is because they are more affordable but are still within commuting distance.
These communities together are known as the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) or Metro Vancouver, which is made up of 21 municipalities.
Some of the places to consider in the Metro Vancouver area include:
New Westminster (the old provincial capital)
The Tri-City area of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody
Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows
Richmond (an industrialised area near the airport with a large Asian population)
Surrey (one of the fastest growing cities in British Columbia)
Are you an expat living in Vancouver?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Vancouver. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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