Life in Vancouver

Subtle Differences (Part 1)

Since arriving in Vancouver  53 weeks ago, I’ve got quite used to all the subtle differences of living 4518 miles away from where I grew up.

However, a while ago Tom and I were noticing little differences, and I thought it might be fun to share some of them!


On our first night we arrived here we went to Nando’s – it looked just the same as the UK, the menu looked the same, and there was a lot of familiarity, but actually the food on it was totally different!


The first morning I noticed how different the dawn chorus is. There are some of the same culprits, but also some birds I’ve never heard before, I think the one that stood out was maybe a Jay?

Birds in General

I love how many different birds we get here. I’m secretly becoming a bit of a bird watcher. We get hummingbirds, bald eagles, stellar’s jays and all sorts!


All soft drinks are different here. Fanta is bring orange and tastes more like Tango. Dr Pepper is nicer. Sprite is the same. But I’ve not really seen a lot of cross over other than those.


Like Nando’s, it’s so very similar to the UK – the look, the layouts, the items for sale, but every now and then you’d come across something totally different. The prices are lower than the UK, they have a wider range of very low budget furniture, and the stoves are totally different!

Pedestrian Crossings / Traffic Lights

Pedestrians pretty much have right of way on the roads here. If there’s no zebra crossing or traffic lights but the kerb is dipped, pedestrians can just cross the road. Where there are traffic lights, most of the time they are pedestrian button controlled, and once you push them, the lights change very quickly! The traffic light pedestrian crossings also have different sounds for N/S and E/W roads – different types of chirp to let you know to cross.

Driving / Right Turns

So the obvious – driving on the right hand side. But other than that, the big thing that is different is right hand turns at traffic lights. Even if the light is red, if the road is clear, you can turn. Obviously you have to watch out for pedestrians though – see above!

Plug Sockets

To start, the voltage is different. The other differences, plug sockets don’t have switches, and because most plugs are two pronged they don’t have the same stability as three pronged ones, so sometimes plugs fall out. Some have a slightly larger prong and one regular one keeping plugs in the wall, and some do have the third prong like we have in the UK, but not many!


Supermarkets here, or at least the ones I’ve been in, tend to only sell food. Now this may sound stupid, but actually, all UK supermarkets have lots of home stuff, stationery, alcohol, etc. I was expecting to be able to get some basic home stuff in the supermarket but they just don’t really have it, at least not as competitively priced as the likes of Tesco!

Toilets & Cubicles

This may sound odd, but one of the things I have found the strangest to get used to is the toilet cubicles. The gaps around the doors are huge! Honestly, there’s like a 1cm or bigger gap around the door so when you’re sat on the loo you can see other people walking past and washing their hands, and obviously that means they can see you too. People tend not to look, but when you’re sitting there you feel very exposed! Also, the toilets flush really differently here to the UK. Don’t know how to explain that one…


Obviously we’re 4500+ miles away, so you expect the accents and words to be different to back home, but it’s hard to know what words are the same and which are not. Canada neighbours America, so the accents are north american (with occasional Scottish twangs I’m sure…), however, being “founded/settled” by Brits, the words switch between English and American. For instance, it’s apartment instead of flat, elevator not lift, cilantro not coriander, and washroom not toilet or restroom.

Rubbish & Recycling

Another different word too – garbage/trash! Here they are super hot on recycling. Our apartment building has bins for food waste, cardboard, mixed metals and plastics, glass, and general waste. There’s plastic recyclables attached to most bins in the city too for bottles. I know a LOT of people taking part in plastic free July, and working at Starbucks it’s nice to see so many people coming in with reusable cups.

TV/Netflix etc

There’s loads of different shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime, but we’ve lost some good stuff from the UK! We don’t pay for cable here so just don’t have access to any normal TV – when we’ve been in hotels or other people’s houses National Geographic and HGTV are my favourites for the house make over shows and nature programs! Weird thing with Amazon here is that if something isn’t on Prime there’s no option to buy/rent films/shows.

Bed Sizes

King and Queen size beds are the most common here. We decided to stick with a full/double size so that we don’t get too used to the extra room! It makes our bedroom look huge! Turns out the full/double sized bed here is actually a couple of inches narrower than the UK double bed, so ours back in the UK will feel luxurious whenever we do return…


In our apartment, and the one we stayed to prior to moving in, the windows were single glazed. I’ve seen houses and apartment blocks with double glazing but it certainly doesn’t seem to be the norm here!


In every house or flat I’ve been in so far I have only seen base board heaters. They’re these big chunky heaters at the base of the walls that pump out hot air. It makes placing furniture against walls pretty awkward as everything is about 4 inches in front of the wall… However, they are very effective and all our heating is included in our rent so I’m not complaining!

Bills Included in Rent

All the apartments we considered or looked at included heat and hot water in the rent. Turns out that generally in older buildings where the boiler is a central one they just charge the heat, hot water and water within the rent. They also call electricity bills Hydro here, because it all started out as hydro-electric power.


Both our mobile phone and internet accounts are open ended – we can cancel them any time with no fee!

Government Dealings

When we first arrived, we had to go down to a Service Canada Centre which is a government building to help people with forms and such, as we needed to get SIN numbers – the equivalent of NI numbers in the UK. We expected it to be complicated, a long wait, and then have to wait on cards in the post or something. However, we turned up and within half an hour we had been seen and given a piece of paper with our SIN numbers on it. Tom also had to call a government line about self employment tax information, again with the expectation of being on hold for ages and passed around numerous times, but had what he needed within minutes!


Again, I think this is because we are in an older building, but laundry rooms are on every other floor, and it costs $2.25 to use the washing machine, and $2.25 to use the dryer. The further frustration to this is that you need two $1 coins (loonies) and a $0.25 coin (quarter) to operate the machines, which we very rarely have due to paying for things on card, so sometimes I have to go to the bank just to get some coins for laundry!


Blue milk cartons are skimmed milk (0%), purple cartons are 1% and pink cartons are 2% fat and yellow are full fat (3.25%). They’re cartons too!

Adding Tax

Prices in shops and online are all before tax, so when shopping you mentally have to add extra to the costs of things. I still haven’t got that down.

Banking, Paying on Card, and Contactless

We went into a bank and set up our joint account one day and were given debit cards then and there. Amazing! When paying on card though, there are so many different options before you actually put in your pin or tap your card! You have to agree to the amount, then choose whether it’s a chequing or savings account, then if it’s a restaurant or coffee shop you have the option to add a tip, and then you finish the transaction. Also tapping your card isn’t called contactless.

Draining boards

They seem to be non-existent here! Not sure why. In kitchens, it’s literally just a sink. So when you wash up you have nowhere to put the dishes. If you use a draining rack it doesn’t have anywhere to drain to! There’s different options here, things like draining racks with a tray underneath that has a spout into the sink, there’s a special towel to lie underneath a draining rack or the option we got is a slightly tilted grooved tray with a plate rack and a utensil holder that fit onto it. It works pretty well to be fair.


I’ve written about Craigslist in previous posts, but it still astounds me how legit it is here! This week I used it for the first time to get rid of furniture, and within two days I had takers on both a desk and chair. I picked up an Ikea dresser and a Pottery Barn one seater so no longer had space for the desk or chair I had previously got from Craigslist. It’s such a fun way to get new furniture, save money and also makes furniture more sustainable!


I’ll post another blog with the rest of the list, I feel this is probably enough for one post. Hope you found it interesting, and feel educated for if you visit this fabulous country!

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