Vancouver has changed tremendously over the last 150 years: From a small settlement around a logging sawmill, the city has grown into an international metropolis. Over 2.4 million residents are currently living in Vancouver and its surroundings.
What is it about the city that attracts scores of expats every year? A major factor probably is the top notch quality of life there: for more than a decade, the city has ranked among the top ten of the Mercer Quality of Living Survey, ending up fifth in the 2015 edition. Factors such as healthcare, education, safety, and infrastructure all contribute to making Vancouver so attractive.
The city itself is characterized by its multicultural atmosphere. In recent decades, people from all over the world, particularly Asia, have shown great interest in Vancouver. Today, close to half of the population speaks a language other than English as their first language. Neighborhoods such as Chinatown, Punjabi Market or Little Italy make living in Vancouver a highly multicultural experience.
While the high population density is similar to that of other North American cities, an escape into the wild is never far away in Vancouver. The city’s surroundings offer countless opportunities for leisure activities — from alpine skiing to whale watching.
Living in Vancouver, you will experience a much more temperate climate than in the rest of the country. Sheltered by the mountains in the east and tempered by warm ocean currents, the city has very mild winters. Snow is rare, especially in places close to or at sea level.
Basic medical care for people living in Vancouver is covered by the Medical Services Plan of British Columbia (MSP). The MSP is financed by taxes and transfers from the federal government. In addition, there are monthly premiums to be paid by every insured person, based on family size and income. For example, for those with a net income of 30,000 CAD or more, monthly premiums range from 72 CAD for one person to 144 CAD for a family of three or more.
Expatriates living in Vancouver are also eligible for MSP-coverage, provided that their work permit is valid for more than six months. However, there is a three-month waiting period for newly arrived residents before they can be included. It is therefore important to (1) apply for the MSP immediately after your arrival and (2) get private healthcare coverage for the first three months.
For expats covered by the MSP, basic medical care is free. This includes general practitioner and specialist treatment, diagnostic x-ray and laboratory services, surgery and maternity care. Physicians are normally paid directly by the MSP. If a physician has opted out of the MSP, patients have to pay for medical services, but can claim reimbursement for benefits covered by insurance afterwards.
However, patients must pay for additional treatment such as dental care, prescription medication, physiotherapy and chiropractics. Many employers, however, offer extended healthcare benefit plans to expat employees. These may cover some or all of the abovementioned treatments.
One of the many benefits that come with living in Vancouver is the high standard of healthcare. The city has some of the province’s best hospitals, including British Columbia’s most renowned children’s hospital as well as the BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre. The latter is devoted primarily to women’s health and newborns.
While you are living in Vancouver, your first contact in case of illness is usually your family doctor. To see any type of specialist, a referral from a general practitioner is required. Word of mouth from other expats is usually the surest way to find a good family doctor. You can also check the family physician finder provided by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia.
In addition to regular family doctors, there are quite a few walk-in clinics. These basically provide the same care as family physicians.
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