Scavenging experiences of an Indian ex-pat in Vancouver
By now, everyone and their dog knows that Vancouver is one of the most expensive cities to live in the world. Rents in Vancouver can start from approximately $1800 onwards for a 1-bedroom apartment downtown. Finding an affordable apartment to rent is like finding a spare kidney on the black market. DO NOT LET THAT DETER YOU. With a little perseverance, planning and judicious use of google maps, it is possible to find a perfect place without breaking the bank, especially if you are open to houseshares and co-living. Here are a few tips to get the best bang out of your buck. If you are paying anything above $650 per month for a single room, this article does not apply to you.
Go through Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist like your parents go through Shaadi.com. Do not settle on the first apartment you see. It may look good in pictures, but is it suitable for a long-term arrangement? If you are using public transport, as most of you will, how far away is it to the nearest bus stop or Sky Train station, especially in Raincouver?
House viewing appointments are a big deal in Canada – set up a time, be on time and be aware that between your visit to the apartment and back to your current shelter – the room may be sold to someone else.
Several online ads look for a roommate like an MBA grad looking for a bride. ‘One room available in non-party, non-smoking, non-drinking house. Must be pin-drop silence after 9 pm, no guests allowed, must be vegetarian, preferably Tamil, caste no bar.’
This is a whole new massive continent, where even with our reputation of procreating, it is going to take a while to establish your lineage. Mix it up! Most people are appreciative of LGBTQ-friendly and 420 friendly disclaimers in ads and communication. Of course, if you are friendly to neither, you may want to re-think your entire move to Canada. Also, mentioning the word vegan helps in Vancouver. Conversely, ‘I can cook butter chicken’ is the ‘Open Sesame’ to apartment hunting.
If an ad says, ‘only light cooking allowed,’ avoid that house like the plague. Even my chai ain’t light cooking, let alone ‘tadka’. It is an added bonus if there is a grocery store in the vicinity. Skip the Dishes, Door-Dash or UberEats will deliver, and yes, the Dabba-system has touched the shores of the Pacific – but the cost of eating out or ordering-in in Vancouver when your first paycheck is due can make you choose between buying food or, well, paying rent. Canadian Superstore, Walmart, Save on Foods & the Independent Store (which ironically is a front for a food brand called President’s Choice) are the go-to supermarkets; however, look out for the No Frill & No Name brands in these markets. Their packaging is big, yellow, unapologetically plain, cheap, wholesome and probably part of the Devil’s plan. (They have massive packets of chips for 99 cents!)
Your Seven-Elevens and Circle K corner stores are not the Canadian equivalent of the kiranawalla, who you will miss more than your mother. Especially when the days are cold and wet and you come back from work and realize all that there is in the fridge is half a lemon, some foil paper and a dal which has its own bio-dome growing on it, you will miss saying ‘bhaiya ek Maggie family pack bhejna please’.
Factor in the hidden costs into your rent. Is laundry included? Or are the machines pay per load? Apartments without washing machines cost much less. I suggest stocking up on adequate underwear and socks to reduce the number of laundry cycles per month and get one of those clothes drying stands for the room to avoid the dryer charges. It’s not being cheap; it is being energy conscious. :p
Canadian online scams are a bit more refined than the Prince of Nigeria. A few to look out for –
- Calls from very official-sounding people saying they are from the legal department and there are some outstanding warrants in your name WILL call you asking for your SIN number. Other than your employer, no one should have your SIN number.
- People who sign a lease for a furnished apartment and the day you move in, the furniture is gone.
- Beware of emails which say that the owners are not in the country and will mail you the keys to the house once you pay the security deposit. There is no house.
Second installment of living in Canada coming up next week, with more scavenging tips. Stay tuned!