10 Things That Are Very Vancouver

10 Things That Are Very Vancouver

I’ve been in Vancouver for around 15 months now, so I feel that I am now suitably qualified to list, judge, poke fun at as well as big up some of the traits that make this city, and it’s residents feel so very ‘Vancouver’.

1.  The Rain

rain

It’s very possible that this rant about the inevitable downside of living in a rainforest made it to the top of this list due to my very damp commute to work this morning.  This and the fact that the typical lifespan of any umbrella I buy is approximately 2.5 days means that I haven’t quite fully embraced the ‘some people feel the rain, others just get wet’ philosophy.  I have been told that I haven’t had it too badly, and to be fair it has been a relatively dry winter so far.  None the less, Vancouver is known for its rainy winters and the resulting attire…

2. Mountain Equipment Coop

Or MEC as it’s known as around here.  There are some BC based high-end retailers that will earn you major kudos for flaunting around Vancouver and most of Canada…maybe even some of the US.  However, try bragging about those threads in Glasgow City Centre and general assumption will be that your pay cheque couldn’t quite cover an American Apparel or Superdry purchase, so you opted for a cheap knock-off from the Barras instead.  MEC is one such tag.  They are an outdoor clothing and equipment store, and couldn’t be better placed in a city like Vancouver.  When the clouds gather and the skies open, every Vancouverite worth their rain boots will be zipping into their $400 MEC rain jacket with pride.

3. Lululemon

Lululemon

The other big brand name that is synonymous with Vancouver living, lululemon.  A self-described yoga-inspired athletic apparel company.  I dare you to take a public transit ride during rush hour and not come across at least forty people carrying their quinoa salad lunches in their little lululemon shopping bags.  Lululemon is the corporate pride of Vancouver, with their first store in Kitsilano they now have over 201 stores in North America, Australia and New Zealand.  The brand has yet to make it to the UK though, which may have something to do with the somewhat lack of nationwide obession with the brand’s key activity…

4.  Yoga

yoga

Outdoor, indoor, extra hot, extra cold, healing, restorative, medatative, traditional, ancient, contemporary, in water, on mountains…any variation of yoga you could ever think of has probably been done here in Vancouver.  And I daren’t mock too much, as only last week I found myself sharing a hot, sweaty room with thirty or so strangers as I took part in my first Bikram (hot) Yoga class.  As someone who has yet to be described as graceful or flexible, I fully expected to pass out in a puddle of my own sweat with my legs contorted in some ungodly position.  However to my complete surprise, my friend and I made it through the full 90 minutes and are even considering going back for more!

5.  Beautiful People

If you are a fan of the 1-10 rating system, or even the slightly more crude school of rating in pints e.g. ‘Nah, she’s definietly more of a four-pinter!’, you might find that you need to recalibrate your scale in Vancouver.  Not only is the city hotties aplenty, but the concept of aging seems entirely lost to some people here.  I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve guessed someone’s age in the mid-twenties only to find out that they are dancing around forty.

6.  Whole Foods

kale

Whole Foods is a North American grocery store chain that spawned in Texas.  Whole Foods differentiates itself from the rest of the market by aiming to sell only ‘natural’, minimally processed foods at seizure inducing prices.  Naturally, the brand found a very comfortable home in health-and-premium-price-tag-obsessed-Vancouver.  The store caters wonderfully to the quinoa (pronounced keen-wa by the way, you don’t want to go making that mistake around these parts!) and kale obessesed healthy high earners.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for clean eating and healthy living…but shop around and I’m sure you’ll find your organic tofu for less than $16/lb!

7.  Food

sushi

Food!  More specifically, eating out.  Even wiith an unlimited budget and the metabolism of a hummingbird, you would have trouble sampling all of the cuisine that Vancouver has to offer.  What’s even better, is that for a city known for it’s high cost of living, you can eat out relatively cheaply…often for less than cooking at home.  You can also eat out by remortgaging your home, so there’s definitely something for everyone!  There is no doubt that Vancouver is a food city, with some of the best chefs and restaraunts in North America.  My personal favourite cuisine, sushi, just so happens to be one of the cheapest eats in the city, with the average roll costing around $5.  There really is so much to choose from, but a few of my personal favourites are:

  • The Eatery. West Broadway – amazing sushi in a very funky, non-traditional setting, even if you don’t think you like sushi, you’ll like this place!
  • Cincin. Robson Street – out of this world italian cuisine, pricey so great for a special ocassion.  Apparently this is the place to go celeb spotting!
  • Dark Table. West 4th Avenue – everyone should definitely try this out at least once.  The concept is that you eat your meal in complete darkness, so dark that it’s like having your eyes closed.  All of the servers are blind or visually impaired, and so are able to help and assist you where needed.
  • Heirloom. South Granville Street – the tastiest, most satisfying meat-free meal that a non-vegetatrian will ever have.  The food here is simply outstanding.

8.   Coffee

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I’m not for a second suggesting that if you ever visit Vancouver, you should cut one of the locals open…however if you did, there is a good chance that they would bleed coffee.  It’s definitely a life source here.  You can barely walk 10 yards without coming across a Starbucks, Tim Hortons, Blenz, Waves or a little independant coffee place – so a cup of joe is never far away  In fact even in my office I need to bring my own tea bags if I want to make a brew, but coffee is pretty much on tap.  And if you speak ‘Starbucks’, you’ll struggle to find a barista who will even bat an eyelid at your request for an ‘extra hot half fat half mocha latte, two shots with soy milk and extra foam…but not too much…’

9.  Craft Beer

This is a phenomenon that I’ve been all too happy to embrace.  If you happen to visit a bar who specialises in craft beer, be prepared to take an extra half hour or so just to browse the menu.  There are more beer choices in this part of the world than I have ever seen – although it should be noted that I have yet to visit Belgum or Germany!  A craft beer is a beer that comes from a microbrewery, or a brewery that produces a limited amount of beer.  A lot of these beers are seasonal, and so will only appear certain months of the year…making the drinking process even more exciting!  Some of the better known microbreweries are Granville Island, Stanley park, Okanagen and Tofino…but there are many, many more in BC with new ones popping up each year.

10.  Dogs

cute-dog-drinking-beer

Vancouverites love their dogs!  Not only is the city filled with every size and breed of dog you could ever think of, but there is also a booming industry of doggy daycare facilities, dog walkers, dog spas, dog hotels, doggy boutiques and most stores will either happily let you bring your pooch inside, or provide a tie up area along a with a complimentay bowl of water.

So there you have it, the ten things that I consider to be oh-so Vancouver.  Comments welcome for any extra suggestions!

Boats, beaches and blue skies!

It seems that the longer I live in Vancouver, the more I grow to love it.  This may be the inevitable relationship  that a girl and a new city will nurture after spending many months together, or it could be down to the fact that it’s SUNNY!!  Yes!  There is a glowing ball of fire in the sky that definitely prefers to spend it’s downtime shining on the Pacific Northwest than in the wee bit hills and glens of Scotland…during the summer months anyway.  Vancouver does have it’s own temperate rainforest, so don’t get me wrong, rainy days do occur here and there.  And while Vancouverites around me wince and complain at the thought of ‘sunny with a chance of showers’ the odd day in June, I’m just forever grateful not to hear the familiar ‘showers with the slightest chance of 30 seconds of sun’ forecast which generally applies to all but a few glorious days of the Scottish summer.

941205_1000362568602_1478023328_nJust a dude and his dog on a paddle board.

So this is what I will choose to blame for my lack of updates in recent months, which I’m sure have been sorely missed amongst the bored and insane.

Visas

So my last post was complaining about the ridiculous jumping-through-firey-hoops-whilst-blindfolded process that is the IEC Working Holiday Visa.  In the following weeks the process proved even more ridiculous,  however I am proud to say that we were victorious in our quest and have been deemed worthy of sharing soil space with the likes of Michael Buble and Pamela Anderson for another year.

Getting Oot and Aboot

When we had to place our snowboards into hibernation for a few months, it was time to fill the void with some other activities, which I think we’ve managed to do pretty successfully so far.  Vancouver is such an active, outdoorsy city that it’s almost impossible not to feel compelled to get out there and do something.  So with cycling, climbing, camping, boating, hiking, rodeos, 420 day (worth a post all on it’s own!) beaches and the occasional alcoholic beverage we have managed to fill our time quite nicely.  On one of the long weekends (of which they have a fair few here), I had an extra day off so took myself over to Victoria for a day.  Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and is located on Vancouver Island.  The ferry ride over was pretty cool, and I even managed to spot a whale breach it’s tail!  Victoria looks a lot like some European cities, and is pretty small but charming.  So a few things ticked off, but still loads more to do.

217523_1000362359022_158329345_nI’m on a boat…

This Old House

You remember how excited I was when I found my house back in October?  Well it has been a brilliant house, with awesome housemates and I’ll always have some great memories there.  However a few months back the idea of moving to one of the more bustling neighborhoods was thrown into the mix.  A seed was planted and after weeks of Craigslist scrolling, discussions, viewings, phone calls and spending every day after work tag teaming around Vancouver investigating overpriced condos and cramped basement suites…we finally found an awesome place!  It’s a Heritage Home, which means that by local bylaw the property has to retain it’s original features.  This is because that by Canada standards, it’s an old house…around 100 years old.  It’s right in the heart of Vancouver, located around 15 minutes walk from the downtown core, a few minutes walk away from a Skytrain station…and really close to all of the vibrant, fun neighborhoods.  We move there at the end of June…the beginning of a new chapter in Vancouver!

houseOur new gaff.

Caledonia You’re Calling Me, Now I’m going Home

Only for two weeks mind!  Yup that’s right, I’ve chosen to forgo a small portion of the sparkling Vancouver summer for two weeks on yon bonnie banks.  I was quite hopeful that I might actually catch some sun when I’m back…it’s July after all!  However I have since learned that Scotland has already had it’s summer…it occurred around three weeks ago, on 21st May, between 11.20am and 5.15pm.  Oh well.

I joke, I joke.  It will be amazing to see everyone again, and I am actually really excited about the trip!  Two weeks lazing around at my parents?  Who wouldn’t be!?  And then when I return I have a whole new house to live in and wonderful summer ahead of me.

Until next time amigos 🙂

Rare sighting reported: The Elusive Canadian Working Holiday Visa!

Now people reading this who have never had and will never have the compulsion to apply for a working holiday visa in Canada may understandably perceive the subject as a bit of a dry one.  They await tales of sub zero temperatures, northern lights, killer whale sightings, bear attacks… Well I, as well as many people reading this I’m sure, can attest to the fact that the adrenaline, stress, fear, sweat and general sense of doom involved in pursuing one of these ‘working holiday visa’ cretins could take on the body’s reaction to being chased through the woods by a grizzly any day.

Firstly, a little bit of back story as to why I decided to take on this dizzy beast once again. In a previous post I mentioned how I was planning on heading south with my roommates when my visa runs out in October.  Well said roommates only have their current visa until June, and so needed to apply for a second year unless it starts raining gold between now and June.  So after working out that if I ever wanted to return to Canada in the future, I wouldn’t be able to participate in the program anyway as I’d be too old (happy days!), I thought I may as well get one as a back up.  Get one as back up, no problem… just like grabbing a copy of the latest Marie Clare.

No.  No it wasn’t like that at all.  Nowhere near it in fact.  If someone at working holiday visa HQ was employed under the title ‘Make-this-process-as-difficult-and-as-glitch-ridden-as-possible Officer’, then they did a fine job indeed.

Now I’m not going to bore the non-applicants (or induce PSD in the 2013 applicants) with the details of the process, however I feel that a little summary of the issues is in order:

  • Last year’s quota opened in December.  Some of us planning to apply for a second year ordered two police checks (at the recommendation of the visa people) which are valid for 12 months, so they could be used for the following year’s applications.  This year’s quota opened mid-February.  Police checks invalid.
  • Last year’s quota of 5,350 visas allocated within 5 months.  This year’s 5,350 visas were allocated within five hours!  Now there is a vicious rumour going around that BUNAC promoted the program to excess this year…for the sole purpose of broadening the horizons of today’s collective youth, whom conveniently are all required to pay £400 to BUNAC for said broadening.  This may be the reason for the increased interest in the land that spawned Justin Beiber…either that or Mr Cameron is screwing our great nation over wonderfully.
  • This, combined with 2013’s new and improved online system – which involved a website designed to handle traffic equivalent to the population of Craggy Island, meant that filling out and submitting a form which should have taken 20 minutes was actually taking a great chunk from most of our young lives.
  • The visas were released in three batches, presumably to stagger the processing of the paperwork.  However the crazy website traffic meant that many people hadn’t even completed half of the sections by the time they had run out i.e. three hours later.
  • The whole process was based in London, and so adhered to London times.  This meant that us Canadian based applicants had to be ready and waiting at 4am for the ‘word’.  The ‘word’ didn’t come until three hours later, which meant missed days at work.

The last batch was today.  All 2,350  visas were gone within half an hour!  On the lighter side of the news, I am very pleased to report that our whole crew managed to secure a foot in the door – with one of us just squeezing in on the last 15 visas….so all plans are a gogo!

A message to the government of Canada:  only the hardiest, most determined and downright boldest of our country men and women will be gracing your shores in 2013. They should be treated with the appropriate appreciation and respect.  Or given a $50 loaded Tim Horton’s card at immigration.

And for those who are up for a little PSD….enjoy 😉Image

“Work is the curse of the drinking classes” – Part II

So this is basically an update from my last post about jobs and finding work in Vancouver, which I’m sure you’ve read with fervor and enthusiasm… but just in case it slipped through your readings somehow, you can have another look here.

So after upping my alcohol intake as suggested by Mr Wilde, it seems that some misguided soul has decided to employ me!  This wasn’t without a few bumps and near misses along the way, but as things always seem to…it all turned out alright in the end.

So this is how it went…

Encounter 5 – The extended cut.

  • Organisation: Expert Recruiters – Recruitment Agency
  • Job Title: Receptionist
  • Interview? Yes
  • Job Offer: Yes
  • Outcome: I had a good couple of reception assignments with these guys, however work isn’t guaranteed.  I did almost end up with a permanent position with one of their clients, but I received my current job offer beforehand.

Encounter 6

  • Organisation: Teach Away Inc
  • Job Title: Teacher Placement Coordinator
  • Interview? Yes
  • Job Offer: No
  • Outcome: I was a little confused about this one.  They gave me a telephone interview, invited me in and asked me the same questions.  When I asked for feedback as to why I was unsuccessful I was told that I didn’t have enough experience teaching abroad…which they would have known from my resume before even speaking to me.  Never mind.  Onto the next one.

Encounter 7

  • Organisation: Enterprise Rentals
  • Job Title: Trainee Manager
  • Interview? Yes
  • Job Offer: N/A
  • Outcome: So these guys found my resume on monster.ca and gave me a call.  I passed the initial telephone interview, and found out that the job was basically a management trainee program for their rental stores and the talent finder had picked up on my sales background.  After the interview, I checked the company and program out on Glassdoor (a really great website for checking up on what it’s like to work for companies – not so big in the UK yet but pretty huge in Canada and the US) and didn’t really like the sound of the program.  Long hours, intense sales, below average salary.  I decided that I would go to the second interview if nothing else came up, but that same week Expert Recruiters offered me a decent assignment, so I cancelled the interview.

Encounter 8

  • Organisation: AppleOne Recruiters
  • Job Title: Office Layout Coordinator at BC Hydro
  • Interview? Yes
  • Job Offer: Yes
  • Outcome: Definitely the best recruitment agency I have come across out here (I’ll detail a few others later) – this job pretty much found me!  AppleOne’s online application and tests are a little more detailed, lengthy and difficult that other recruiters…so I started it, got half way though and decided to come back to it later.  A few days later one of their recruiters called me to arrange an interview the next day.  I went to the office, completed the application and tests, had my interview, and had word of a six month position with BC Hydro within 10 days.  During that 10 days, my recruiter was on the phone almost every day updating me with progress – extremely efficient!

So I arrived in Vancouver on the 18th October, and I started my new job on the 7th January – that’s eleven and a half weeks to find something long term.  I will admit, however, that I was being slightly fussy.  I declined a couple of jobs and was really holding out on having to work weekends unless my situation became dire.  It paid off though, now I have a sweet little job that pays over $20 per hour and gives me my weekends.  And temp work did keep me floating along in between.

As far as temp agencies go, most of my contact has been with Expert Recruiters and AppleOne.  However a few others I am registered with and have friends who work with are:

  • Miles – offered me an assignment which I declined, as I was already on assignment.  They do seem to be quite negative about the visa situation, giving the impression that you will only ever get temp work whilst you have Working Holiday Visa status.  This completely not true, and I get the feeling that they are just looking to have a decent bank of temps to choose from.
  • Executrade – I signed up with these guys as one of the clients I was working at for Expert Recruiters switched agency while I was there, and I wanted to stay at the job.  They were very good at getting me in for interviews etc and setting the job I wanted up for me, but I got the BC Hydro call before the assignment started.
  • AngusOne – My roommate has worked with these guys for the past 6 months and recommends them – I’ve not really had any contact though.

So that’s been my experience so far – I hope that it helps some of you guys who are planning on coming over in 2013.  My advice would be not to get too caught up in the line of work you end up in…as long as you are happy and you can pay your way.  Once you have been out here and working for a few months, you will see how easy it is to slip back into the work-home-sleep cycle.  So why bother living in a different country if you are doing exactly as you would back home?  You really do need to take the time to appreciate where you are and why you are here.  Luckily for me, the views from my work are a constant reminder that I’m loving every minute of life right now!

Enjoy…

My view from work 18 months ago.

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My view from work now.

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