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Vancouver BC: Final Thoughts - Søren Ragsdale [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Søren Ragsdale

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Vancouver BC: Final Thoughts [Oct. 20th, 2010|11:43 pm]
Søren Ragsdale
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Returning to San Francisco after a week in Vancouver, the contrast was stark. SFO, BART, and the city all seem very grungy by comparison. Both cities have homeless people but Vancouver's seem fewer, healthier, friendlier, and less likely to cause problems. A friend living in vancouver for several years told me that in the States he'd always wonder where his taxes were going. In Vancouver there's no wondering - trash gets picked up, potholes get filled, community centers are open, health care is available. You pay more taxes, but you feel like you're getting something for your money.

For cost of living, rent (at least downtown) seems slightly cheaper than San Francisco and on par with LA. K says that groceries are not too expensive if you're a careful shopper. On the other hand if you just buy whatever's on the shelf you can end up spending a lot; prices can be quite high depending on where you're shopping. I also noticed that prepared food and drink (restaurants/diners/bars) is fairly expensive. A pint of beer that costs $3 or $4 in America costs $6 or $7 at the Railway Club, a not particularly fancy bar. It feels like most restaurants printed the menus in 2004 when the exchange rate was low and never bothered updating the prices.

For living, it's pretty unbeatable if you enjoy the outdoors. The air is fresh, the forest comes right up to your doorstep, and there's hiking/skiing/snowboarding literally 20 minutes away. People from the southwest coast might complain about the rain, but if you've spent time in places that have weather the frequent clouds and occasional to semifrequent rain seem easily bearable. If you're looking for a thriving metropolis or art scene it's a distinct second place behind big cities. There's good stuff going on, but less of it. In London, San Francisco, New York, or Tokyo you might decide which of four events to attend. In Vancouver you're more likely to decide between the event or something quiet. I find the San Francisco art and social scene occasionally overwhelming, and a somewhat simpler life seems appealing.

For work, it's a promising with a few caveats. On one hand there's a lot of work - a lot of companies either there or moving there. I also mentioned that experienced artists, particularly those with technical skills, are very rare in Vancouver. Unfortunately there's a reason for that. Salaries for experienced, technical artists seem to be lower in Vancouver than other places. A senior artist with a decent portfolio can earn a much better salary by moving south, and many do. In theory film tax incentives could push this the other way since companies can afford to pay Vancouver artists more if they're getting refunds, and that might be how things pan out in the long term. But in the short term, expect offers lower than what you can get from other places.

I had a much better time in Vancouver than I expected, and I'm looking forward to hearing the impressions from my colleagues after Siggraph 2011 next August. Siggraph says it's "a nice place to call home" and I think they might be right.
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