Moving to Vancouver

Parent Q&A

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  • Rockridge--in Canada?

    Dec 7, 2020

    Hi, we will be relocating to the Vancouver, BC, area from the Bay area in about a year. Because of the global pandemic, we haven't been able to visit regularly and browse neighborhoods in person. My partner is not concerned about where we end up renting, but after looking online, I am getting anxious that the city doesn't have what I want: a walkable, Rockridge-type neighborhood with a "high street" or main business district. Instead, from what I see, that only exists around high-rises in downtown and the West End. Are there no SFH neighborhoods with a traditional shopping street that families can walk to? (I'd be lying if I didn't mention I wish it could be as charming as College Ave. also.) Signed,

    My Heart Belongs to Oakland

    Hi there! I lived in Vancouver for 4 years and there are definitely little neighborhoods like you describe. Kitsilano has sort of an upscale Berkeley vibe (think North Berkeley) with quite little cafes and such, that's where I lived and I loved it because it's super close to the beach which is lovely during the summer. The commercial drive area feels more like Rockridge, maybe a bit busier, but is the most east-bay similar in terms of community and general earthiness. The area around Main street is also nice, it's a bit more modern and trendy feeling but also has a strong community vibe as well. 

    One thing I should say, as a Bay Area native I found moving to Vancouver to be a bigger cultural shift than I expected. The people up there feel a bit more buttoned up than your standard Oaklandite. But they are very sincere and kind, it took me at least a year to feel comfortable there but once I was I made friends for life. Best of luck in your transition! 

    I lived in Vancouver from 2009-2016 before moving to Oakland. Happy to chat with you about what neighborhoods might be a good fit for your family if you're interested! There are definitely a few options for what it sounds like you're looking for.

    It is hard to match College Ave, honestly.  The closest comp in Vancouver is likely Kitsilano near 4th and Arbutus.  Vancouver is wonderful though - good luck!


    I grew up in Vancouver and while I haven't lived there for almost 30 years, my mother does and tons of cousins so I'm there pretty regularly. You can definitely find what you are looking for there. My brother, who moved back to Vancouver last June, wanted exactly the same thing and found it along Main Street. Commercial Drive also has several nice neighborhoods. On the West Side, Kerrisdale and Kitsilano are also very nice as well as the neighborhoods out toward UBC. I found this website which seems to accurately describe what I remember: You didn't mention kids or other types of location questions (commute, friends and family proximity, etc.) but North Vancouver, West Vancouver (which is actually a separate city) and Burnaby all have neighborhoods with the kinds of characteristics you mention. There's a good bus system and Skytrain, like BART, makes the whole area quite accessible. Hope that's helpful! Happy to talk further.

    I’ve never lived in Vancouver, so others may be more knowledgeable. But my daughter attended UBC for undergrad, and I visited quite a few times. Neighborhoods that you might like are Main Street and Kitsilano.
    I LOVE Vancouver, and I’m envious. It’s such a beautiful city!

    I will also recommend my favorite cafe, Cafe St. George, in Riley Park, another charming neighborhood not far from Main Street. I wish there was something like it here! 

  • Moving to Vancouver

    Jul 25, 2016

    In anticipation of the possible worst-case scenario following this November's elections, and also just looking for a bit of a fresh start, my (Canadian) husband and I have begun to seriously contemplate moving to the Vancouver area. We have been before and could really see ourselves living there. We understand it is expensive, on par with the Bay Area, but feel like we would get so much more for our tax dollars there. I'm hoping that anyone who has lived there for any appreciable amount of time can provide their thoughts. What are the best neighborhoods for families? We would probably both work remotely, so proximity to downtown is likely not a huge factor. Is the weather completely depressing? How easy is it to make friends? We have lots of family and friends here in the Bay and don't know anyone there, so we would be starting from scratch. Also, we would be enrolling our son in kindergarten in a couple of years - where are the best schools? Thanks in advance for your insight! 

    I lived there for almost 2 years (before kids) so can't really comment on family-friendly neighbourhoods but I got the heck out of there so soon because the dreary weather was just unbearable. If it wasn't raining, drizzling or some variation of wet, it was gloomy overcast skies and summers were mild (compared to what I prefer and I'm used to living in Toronto and NYC).

    Also many people living in Vancouver grew up there so they all know each other and I found it hard to break into these circles.  If you poke around Google and forums, you will actually find articles written about clichey people.  The small handful of friends I made were transplants like myself.  

    On the plus side it's a beautiful city and the real estate market is softening there. After your USD conversion (and if you continue to make USD while living there) you will get more bang for your buck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Moving to North Vancouver

Feb 2014

Our family (with two kids, 3 and 8 years old) is moving to Vancouver, BC and we have found a house to rent in North Vancouver. I am looking for recommendations for: a dentist (for adults and kids), pre-school, orthodontist, family doctor, and any other places/activities that you may know about. We will also probably need to consult with a Canadian immigration attorney at some point. Please send any and all suggestions and recommendations. Does anyone know if they have a good parents resource like BPN? Thanks much! Cathy

we lived in N. Vancouver for 2 years before we decided we really rather be back in the US.

No group like BPN!!!

Family doctor: went through 4 of them - none of them that great. Very hard to find a good one - most are not accepting new patients and never even answer the phone or call you back. At the end of our time there we found one that was OK, very laid-back about children's issues (wait and see) which was perhaps detrimental in my 2.5 y.o. speech therapy issues...he was in W. Vancouver and had a degree from S. Africa, can't remember the name off-hand but if they are accepting new patients, there is a big online directory of them so it shouldn't be too hard to figure out...We almost considered paying to join a group like: and probably would have if we had stayed. We mainly ended up using walk-in clinics in Park Royal as it was convenient (whole foods and other shopping is in the mall too).

Dentists were different: had a bad experience with one who tried to get me to fill a nonexistent cavity on my 3 y.o. A good one (comparatively!) was: My husband tried this one downtown and found this advice: Best dental group in Van according the Straight: Good yelp reviews as well.

We didn't use an attorney, just went through the company and through all the websites provided by the govs.

I'd recommend getting a private mail box in Blaine, WA - we used and liked them. We also ended up getting a Nexus pass as I'd do most of my grocery shopping and gas fill up in the States, so much cheaper, so essential to zoom through the border.

We loved living in N. Vancouver to do the Grouse Grind, walking along the seawall in W. Vancouver.

We tried two preschools: one in N. Van that was super cheap and through the parks and rec dept. and had last minute availability: Really loved the second one we tried: a private nonprofit: Dundarave Preschool by the Sea in W. Vancouver -- 3s and 4s program and just awesome, on the beach! Play-based. Be aware of the Dec. 31 age cutoff for schools- as different than here. We started looking at private schools or switching to public schools in W. Van which is very possible (out of district transfer), as major test score and resource differences. The 'superintendent' of W. Van schools also seemed very cutting-edge and on top of things...also, fyi, schools are a lot less expensive than in the US!

The W. Vancouver two community centres are wonderful for activities for all ages and we literally camped out there all day.

Hope that all helps! Good luck! A beautiful place to live! ex-vancouverite

My family just moved back to the States from Vancouver - in fact my job was with the District of North Vancouver. While there we worked with an amazing immigration lawyer who helped us ensure that our daughter could enter Canada (she was born in the US). She is Marina Sedai from Sedai Law Office and is located in downtown Vancouver: 604.642.0842. I would not ever hesitate to recommend her - she was wonderful to work with. I'm happy to answer any other Vancouver/North Vancouver questions you might have. It's wonderful up there - although very wet. Good luck.

Possible move to Vancouver for job

Jan 2009

Hi there, We're looking for advice about a possible move to Vancouver for job. We are a multiracial family (African and Caucasian). We love the outdoors, need a tolerant/liberal environment that will truly be open to kids with dark skin growing up in the area. Rain is not as big a concern, but advice about weather, areas to live, general ethos, that would be great. Thanks for your help! contemplating canada

Hi! Congratulations on the new job offer! My husband and I moved to this area with our two kids from Vancouver (where we were basically born & bred). I am very familiar with Vancouver and can answer any of your questions off-line if you'd like. Vancouver is very liberal (like the S.F. of the north). That said, the truth is that there are very few African people there. I had a nanny who was Caucasian with an African husband. Her children, who looked African, were not discriminated against but they definitely stood out at school. Her husband occasionally complained about feeling a bit isolated from other Africans. However, they were happy there and chose to stay to raise their kids.

That said, Vancouver is certainly a multi-ethnic society. I believe that Vancouver is now about 30% Asian. In some areas this goes up to near 100% (Richmond, especially). We also have a large East Indian population. Canada prides itself in being a mosaic - not a ''melting pot'', and many ethnic groups have maintained their cultural traditions in various areas of Vancouver.

There are some areas that are better to live in than others. Depending on how close you want to be to the city, how ''up-scale'' you want your area to be, where your job is, etc., I could make different recommendations.

We love Vancouver. It is so cosmopolitan. The food is fabulous, the streets are clean, there is a lot to do, and the people are so friendly. I'm sure you will like it too. Ex-pat from Vancouver

Moving to Vancouver with 2 school-aged children

August 2006

My husband and I are in the process of moving to Vancouver, Canada this year with our boys. We have two children 6 and 10 years. We visited various neighbourhoods last year and loved the Commercial Drive area. West Van. which seems to have the good schools seemed really expensive. Does anybody know anything about schools in Commercial Drive? I have heard conflicting messages. I would also love some input about what neighbourhoods in Vancouver would be a good fit in terms of a neighbourhood and good schools for the children. Thanks heaps for your input in advance!

From a tourists point of view, we just came back from a trip to Vancouver and other parts of BC. I LOVED Vancouver...seems like a great place to live. We stayed at a hotel in North Vancouver at the bottom of Lonsdale, on the water. In exploring that area I was really was clean, attractive, people were friendly, saw lots of kids. Today I found out that one of my clients used to live in Vancouver at the top of Lonsdale (it goes WAY up the hill) and she loved it. She went to Jr. High there. I know this isn't much to go on, but an outsiders view. Can't wait to go back. Good luck on your move anon

Hi, I have just joined so I didn't get to read your original posting. Checked in the advice columns about moving to Vancouver, and felt that couple of responses there were pretty succint and useful. I have lived in Vancouver for a year, and although we didn't have kids then, I know of people who did, and they were pretty happy on the whole. Its a wonderful place really - except the rain, but you get used to it Sonya

Move to Vancouver for the schools, economy & politics?

Jan 2005

My husband and I are feeling discouraged about the high cost of living in the Bay Area and the low quality of life you get in return, i.e. at best, mediocre schools (at least in Oakland). We work hard and long hours and have been able to save so little that should either of us lose our jobs (my husband works in the tech industry so that is an ever present possibility), we have only one month's cushion to pay our mortgage and other bills. The current political climate has discouraged us even further. With much of our tax dollars going elsewhere, and not towards the improvement of our schools, health care system, infrastructure, etc, we are seriously considering applying for permanent resident status in Canada. We want our 13 month old son to grow up in a place that values education (and funds it!), where tax money goes towards improving the quality of life of the taxpayers and not towards war or the destruction of civil liberties. We believe strongly in these values and want him to grow up in an environment that values them also. Are we being rash? Disloyal? Are other people feeling as hopeless and overwhlemed about the direction this country and state are going in? Are other people seriously considering this? We are both native Californians and have deep roots here- my family has lived here for 5 generations. Leaving would be extremely drastic...

We also decided to move to the Vancouver area with our two kids, for the same reasons you stated. Political, educational, economical. In fact, we've already processed the papers going to the Buffalo immigration center. I recently made a trip out there to check it out and was pleasantly surprised with what the area had to offer: wonderful people, incredible scenery (I thought the Bay area was beautiful), great political scene (liberal, green, etc.), culture. It'll be very hard to leave this area after 30 years but when I see the educational and political system here, local and national, I feel like leaving ASAP. Be aware, it takes forever to get a visa, probably from 1 to 2 years.. I strongly advice you to go through an immigration lawyer to cut a lot of red tape that you might encounter. It's tons of money but worth it! anon, of course

We are a Berkeley family spending the academic year in Vancouver; our daughter is in grade 7 and son in grade 9. A few things to be aware of: while we love the city and surrounding area, people, etc. it is not perfect. One big downside is the weather. It started raining around Aug 20 and we have probably had no more than 10-15 days of sun in the past 5 months. On those few days, there is no greater place to live. But winter short days and rain not for those prone to depression. Housing prices in the more desirable parts of the city (such as the westside, near UBC and between downtown and the airport) are comparable to Berkeley, not cheap. Schools: our daughter goes to a local public school for grades K-7, about 350 total. She's doing great; the only caucasian girl in her grade but the girls are friendly. She's also a joiner, and the local community centers have lots of classes. The school also has team sports and a daily running club after school, with about 80% student participation. Very involved parent group. Our son is at a large high school of 1700, again, one of the few non-Asian students. The boys there aren't nearly as outgoing and he's had a very lonely year. Many are recent immigrants (very affluent, from Hong Kong) and speak Chinese outside of class. Large classes, teachers overwhelmed, few clubs to join. Younger kids would probably adjust easier. Many of our neighbors send their kids to local private schools, with about same demographics. Their main reasoning is that the Asian kids in private schools have to pass English proficiency tests, and so the language arts classes are more advanced. On balance, still a great place to live. Am glad to talk to people serious about moving here.

Considering a move to Vancouver

Oct 2003

We are considering a move to Vancouver, BC and I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has lived there. We have two children under the age of 2. I'm interested in recommendations for good areas to live in, things to do, and any likes or dislikes you have about living in Vancouver. Thanks.

Vancouver is a beautiful, family oriented city. There are many great parks and beaches (Stanley Park, Queen Elizabeth park) and it is only a 20 minute drive to pure wilderness. The rain can be tiresome but if you equip yourself properly you can have fun outside in the rain. If you have the money, Kitsilano is a great area to live but can be a bit snooty. North Vancouver is a little more affordable but not as much of a community and a little farther from the city. East Vancouver used to be the artsy fartsy low income area but has become a real family community over the years, it is a lot like Berkeley. You can still afford a house in this area and there are many alternatives for children. You should visit Commercial drive to get the feel of the area, there are many interesting shops and people from all different backgrounds. Regardless of where you live, you will love Vancouver! old vancouverite

Thinking about moving to Vancouver

Feb 2003

We are starting to toss around the idea of a move, and Vancouver has come up. We know it is beautiful, but not much nore about it. Any thoughts from those of you who know it better about the many factors that go into making a place livable? Housing? Schools? Cultural life? And any recommendations on especially nice areas to live? How about how easy/difficult it is for an American family to move to Canada? Thanks! Kathleen

I lived in Vancouver for 9 years, before moving to the Bay Area 8 years ago - and my husband grew up in a Vancouver suburb. By Canadian standards, housing prices are expensive. But they are reasonable compared to the Bay Area. In general, there are a lot of parallels between Vancouver and here. It is fairly laid-back and liberal, with an ethnically-diverse population. Public schools are generally good, especially on the west side of the city. However, with the recent provincial government budget cuts there, that may change. There is good public transportation, a good arts and cultural scene, good opportunities for recreation. The weather can be grey and dull in winter, with lots of rain. But it rarely snows, and the summers are usually beautiful. I'm not sure how easy it is for an American to work in Canada, though. I know the universities give priority to Canadians for academic jobs, unless they can prove that there are no Canadians who can be hired. It might be different if you are sponsered by an employer. I am working in the US on a NAFTA visa, and there might be an equivalent visa for working in Canada. Barbara

We are twice-yearly visitors to Vancouver, Canada, and are seriously considering retirement there, one day.

The city is gorgeous (the way the mountains meet the water), the American currency is somewhere between 30 and 40% stronger there than the Canadian, the eating is world class, and the people are very nice.

We've some dear friends who live there and know that the houseing prices are as expensive, if not more, than the Bay area. (hard to believe, I know.) Our friends paid 760K American for a what is, really, a glorified townhouse (1700 sq ft on three levels) with a postage stamp yard, and this was 6 years ago. As well, our friends use private school for their three children; the private school choice may be because they are Jewish and want their kids in a Jewish school, however.

I find Vancouver proper much like a very clean, European capital. Very cosmopolitan--the shopping is wonderful, as well. Did I mention that Grouse Mountain and Whistler are very nearby for skiing, as well. Stanley Park, in the city proper, is a gorgeous park with an aquarium, bike-riding paths, train, public beach, teahouse, public swimming pool, sailing, rollerblading, you name it.

Finally, if you should need ideal medical care (which you can find in Vancouver for a price), it is just a short jaunt over the border to Seattle with its world-class med center at Univ. of Washingto LOVES, Loves, loves VANCOUVER