So here is a run down of my first full week in Vancouver. After my arrival on Monday afternoon, I haven’t really stopped:
Today started very early, I got up and went down to the bar for the complimentary hostel breakfast – This wasn’t bad as there were loads of fresh bagels and fruit. After my stomach was full, I went out with Helen and another girl from our flight to the Sinclair Centre to pick up our SIN numbers. The SIN is the UK equivalent of NI and its is compulsory if you want to work. You get your SIN from a Canadian Service Centre and just need your passport and work permit. I had mine within 15 minutes, you only get your SIN on a piece of paper now (used to be a card) and it is temporary until the expiry date of your visa so make sure you keep the number safe and write it down, email it or send it to yourself in case it gets lost. Next item on the list was the bank account. I decided to go with TD as they were offering free banking for 6 months for newcomers from other countries. Generally, Canadian banks charge customers to hold their money in an account (bizarre I know!). This means you pay a monthly fee and get so many free transactions, this includes ATM (cash machine withdrawls), cheques, bank transfers etc. The more you pay, the more transactions you get or you can get unlimited transactions for a price. We were unable to open the bank account there and then but arranged an appointment to go back in the afternoon. This proved to be very straight forward and much more face to face interaction then in UK banks. I received my bank card, pin number, internet banking details and some cheques within that day. Mobile phone next. I had decided to get a new mobile (or cell phone) as mine was 4 years old. I looked at Fido and Koodo, which both run off, bigger phone company networks like Rogers and Telus. I paid for a brand new Samsung Galaxy S4 costing $500 + tax. I then went onto a contract for $45 a month giving me 500 minutes, unlimited texts (including international) and 500MB data. There is no 2 year contract (minimum term is 90 days) and I can get my phone unlocked for $35 when if I decide to leave the network. Note: you need to show proof of ID (passport) when purchasing a phone/phone plan I also managed to transfer my driving licence at ICBC in the Royal Centre near the Vancouver Art Gallery. This was pretty simple as you just need to show your passport and work permit (you need to have at least 6 months left on your work permit) and come in with your UK photocard and counterpart. The photocard and counterpart get taken away and destroyed but after having your photo taken for the new licence and paying a $31 fee, you get given a print out interim licence, which means you can legally drive. My licence should come through in 2 weeks time and its great as I can pick it up from ICBC rather then it being sent to the hostel and if I change my address they just put a printed sticker over the old address. If only DVLA worked like that! By this point, it was already getting towards the late afternoon but I decided to pop to Vancouver Public Library (VPL) to check out a few things. The library is pretty big and is over 5 floors. There are plenty of desks with charge points if you want to work on your laptop or charge your phone. I mainly went in there to use the internet but discovered you had to be a library member to use it so guess what – I signed up! It is free to sign up but you just need your passport and work permit to prove you are a resident. Initially as i don’t have proof of address, I am limited to taking out 2 books at a time and I cannot use the self service desk. To take the restriction off, I need to show them proof of my address but I am not too fussed right now. I ended up spending most the afternoon and evening in the library attempting to work my new phone (transitioning from Apple to Android is not fun).
My morning was spent looking on easyroommate.ca and craigslist, looking for rooms and houses to rent. I managed to get a couple of call backs with one viewing in the afternoon but I wasn’t holding my breath for this one. I then spent some time filling in one of my volunteer application forms for a position at one of the youth shelters in town, As it turns out, this shelter is just around the corner and as I had been in contact with the co-ordinator via email when I was back in the UK, I was hoping to finally meet her. Unfortunately she was not available so I left it with reception and sent a quick email to her, advising that I had handed it in. I did receive a nice reply back, saying that she looked forward to reviewing my application and meeting me :). I still had a few resumes for server jobs in my bag, so I quickly wrote my new cell phone on top of the. and handed these in to the only three places I went into. Each location was asked by myself if they were hiring and every place said yes. I managed to secure an interview at a coffee chain known as Waves although originally I was informed they were only taking on residents and citizens. I also handed my resume to a coffee/sandwich bar in Gastown that I went to when I was on holiday last year. The manager took my cell number and advised she would get back to me. After walking the streets and giving out my three resumes. I made the journey to Oakridge in South Van to view the property. The room and house were complete let down and really for the money that was being charged, this should have raised alarm bells. I decided at this point I didn’t want to be living in a house all with students in.
After heading to VPL in the morning to print out some resumes (very easy to do), I decided to do something touristy to take a break from job and flat hunting. I decided to go on the hostels trip to Lynn Canyon in North Vancouver. This meant a walk to the seabus station (15-20min) to catch the ferry to the North Shore and Lonsdale Quays and then another bus to the Canyon. It was good to see at the bus station that it was just as easy to get to Grouse Mountain as well.
Once there, it felt great to be outdoors and getting some exercise. Lynn Canyon has a suspension bridge rather like Capilano but for the latter you have to pay (around $40).I throughly enjoyed the walk and the bridge and will definitely be going again.
I started the day with my interview at Waves (the coffee chain). The interview process was definitely not what I expected and I found it slightly unprofessional compared to UK interviews (After a few interviews now, I have come to the conclusion that it was just this one that was a bit strange). The Manager basically told me that the job came first and didn’t seem particularly impressed with the voluntary work I was planning to do, he also said he didn’t just want someone on a working holiday visa staying three months as they would be putting time and money into training someone (seriously it doesn’t take that long to show someone how to make a cappuccino)! The icing on the cake during the interview was when he advised he that he didn’t care if I was tired or what was going on in my personal life, the customers and the coffee shop came first. I actually got offered the job as he felt I was a good person (shame the feeling wasn’t mutual) so I had already decided I wasn’t going to take the job. I had a trial shift at a sandwich bar in Gastown, this was the place I frequented in the mornings when I stayed at The Cambie Hostel last year, the manager had asked me to come in. I thoroughly enjoyed my trial, I loved the fact the place wasn’t corporate and it was very chilled out. There was no swanky dress code and the music was my taste. It did get very busy and I struggled with the till especially rounding the change up/down (Canada doesn’t use pennys anymore so change it’s rounded up or down to the nearest 5p) but issues aside, I loved the interaction with the customers. After my trial, I sent the Manager a text message to say how much I had enjoyed it and was really keen on the job. She then offered me another shift tomorrow :). I then went to check out two rooms, the first one was in Kitsilano (very sort after area in Vancouver). It was a room and ensuite in a basement suite with another two girls. The suite was perfect and the girls seemed nice but I wasn’t entirely convinced with the landlady. She advised that the washer and dryer could only be used every other weekend as she was running a B&B upstairs and when I asked her about having a friend over next year for a week from the UK she advised she would have to charge me extra for the utilities (f*ck that!). I came out very disappointed and fed up but I had another viewing in East Van. This turned out to be a modern house down Namaimo street, it wasn’t far from a sky train station (Namaimo) and was in a lovely, quiet suburb. I immediately liked the house and the room and advised the landlady that I would be interested, I even offered to send her a previous rental reference, which seemed to help. Like the previous room in Kits, the owner had other people viewing the property so I’m not building my hopes up but will wait and see.
I worked 8am till 4pm at the sandwich bar. It definitely wasn’t as busy as yesterday. I found out that I was entitled to 50% off all food (at any time) but if I made my own sandwich it would be free. They also have a free food shelf with day old salads and panini (they had been kept in the fridge though). I had a lovely sun-dried tomato, pasta salad. I finished my shift at 4pm (feeling very sweaty and yucky lol) and returned to the hostel. I decided as it had been a hot day to head to Kitsilano beach. Unfortunately this did not happen due to the buses not running properly but I did end up seeing the sunset at English Bay.
I finally got to Kits beach today 🙂 yay!!!!! It was completely packed but it was great to sit on the warm sand and see the views from the city and mountains.
I then headed over to Commercial Drive to take a look around before another house viewing at 5pm. Commercial is known as ‘hipster-vile’ and is fastly becoming one of the sought after areas to live around Vancouver. I had some time to kill so I took a small walk down the drive and treated myself to a falafel wrap (for those of you who don’t know, I am giving up meat – the pulled pork poutine on my first night was the last meat supper). The wrap was packed full of salad and vegetables on whole meal bread and at under $6, I felt full and healthier afterwards. After getting a bus from Commercial to 38th street ( no way would I walk that), I viewed the third place so far. The viewing was an apartment that had been converted from an office where 3 guys were living. The rooms were spacious (but unfurnished) and although the guys (Irish and Canadian) were very friendly and laid back, I felt it might be too laid back for my liking with beers cans and bongs all over the place. So after boarding a bus from Commercial to Gastown, I got my second glimpse (first was when I accidentally walked right into it last year) of East Hastings and Main. This is viewed as a notorious area as it is where all the homeless, addicts and those with mental health issues live. You could compare it to Skid Row in LA although from what I have been told, the majority of the homeless in Vancouver do not cause trouble to passer bys, however I wouldn’t want to walk about East Hastings/ Main at night by myself. It was strange to think that a wealthy city like Vancouver had this area only a few blocks from downtown and that people were living on the streets and selling whatever they could find. I was glad that I had taken the bus ride, it was a very sobering experience to see the other side of Vancouver without the rose tinted glasses on.
The evening was spent with the guys for the hostel in Gastown at The Lamplighter, which had so many draft beers on tap! I had a few of my favourite: Granville Island Pale Ale – a great way to end the week. Needless to say I have packed a lot in and been busy with sorting things out so I am hoping that I get a place sorted next week and then I can start enjoying myself a bit more (not that I haven’t already)! 😉