Emmanuelle Archer is a French expat entrepreneur living in Vancouver, BC. Seduced in '99 by a summer vacation, she's still in awe of her amazing new city.
For no-nonsense business and career-boosting tips for expats, visit her blog at www.winningaway.com/blog
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I’m originally from France. I was born and raised in Antibes on the French Riviera.
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Vancouver, BC, on the West Coast of Canada
Q: How long you have you lived in Canada?
A: Nine years.
Q: Did you move with a spouse/children?
A: No spouse and no children, but I did move with my cat, who seems to love Vancouver as much as I do!
Q: Why did you move to Canada; what do you do?
A: I visited Vancouver for a summer vacation back in 1999, and it immediately felt obvious to me that this was the right city for me to live in. I applied for my permanent resident status shortly thereafter, and moved to Canada as soon as my visa arrived.
I started my own business a few years ago. I help newcomers to the city boost their job search or get their dream business off the ground, and I help them build bridges between Canadian culture and their own cultural background.
Q: What do you enjoy most about Vancouver, how’s the quality of life?
A: Vancouver is well known for its great quality of life. Other than the stunning landscapes and the very mild climate, I really enjoy having access to all the amenities of a big city, without the stress, noise and pollution that usually comes with big-city living. And after all these years, I am still in awe of how helpful, tolerant, and community-minded Vancouverites can be.
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: Vancouver could be a little more dynamic when it comes to business. The city relies a lot on the tourism and movie industries, and it has not been able to lure big corporate headquarters away from Alberta. Other than that, I cannot say that I miss anything from home, really.
Q: Is Vancouver safe?
A: Yes, Vancouver is surprisingly safe for a city its size. I feel much safer here than I did back in France, or in any other country I have spent time in, for that matter.
About living in Vancouver
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in the city as an expat?
A: Vancouver is made of many different neighbourhoods, each with its own character. You are sure to find an area to suit your lifestyle and your personality!
Some of the most sought-after areas (by locals and expats alike) are the West End, Coal Harbour, False Creek and Yaletown in Downtown Vancouver, as well as Kitsilano, Mount Pleasant and Commercial Drive to the south of downtown.
Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation in Vancouver?
A: It is quite good, although prices are high. I pay as much in rent as I did when I last lived in Paris, but my suite is bigger.
Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: Although Vancouver is expensive by Canadian standards, my overall cost of living is lower here than it was in Europe.
Less expensive: utilities, gas, dining out. More expensive: real estate, wine, tobacco products.
Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: I find Vancouverites very welcoming toward foreigners. Many people you meet here are first- or second-generation immigrants, so the line between locals and expats is maybe more blurred than in other cities.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A: Yes, it was very easy. Even though I am not particularly sporty I knew Vancouverites were, so I joined a sports club right after moving here, and I started meeting people that way. I often hear people say it’s hard to make friends in Vancouver, but that hasn’t been my experience here.
About working in Vancouver
Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?
A: No. It was a long process (it took me 18 months to get my permanent resident status through the Canadian embassy in Paris), but each step was clearly explained and everything went smoothly.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in Vancouver, is there plenty of work?
A: There are plenty of entry-level retail or restaurant jobs. If you need to find work and you’re not picky, you won’t stay unemployed for long. However, qualified professional positions are much scarcer. Vancouver is not a city of headquarters, so it can be a tough market for those looking for corporate jobs in marketing, HR or accounting for example.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: The workplace culture is more informal, and the hierarchy is less rigid than in France. There is a greater emphasis on fitting in with the rest of the team – being well liked is important – and you frequently end up socializing with your co-workers or your boss.
Q: Did a relocation company help you with your move?
A: No. I find that it’s not the logistics that make moving challenging. What takes time and effort is figuring out how things really work in your new location – how people socialize, how to get the good jobs, these kinds of things.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Vancouver?
A: Quite good overall, but I’ve heard many stories about having to wait a long time if you need surgery or if you have to go to the emergency room.
Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: You move to Vancouver to enjoy the quality of life it has to offer, not to boost your career. It may take you several years to find a similar position to the one you had back home. Be aware that most expats go through this, try not to get too frustrated about it… and enjoy everything else this gorgeous city has to offer.
~ Interviewed August 2010