Vancouver least friendly of Canadian cities: survey

Vancouver was ranked the least welcoming Canadian city in an HSBC survey released Thursday that polled immigrants about their relocation experience.

While 73 per cent of survey respondents said they found Vancouver a welcoming city, it placed last behind Montreal (89 per cent), Calgary/ Edmonton (84 per cent) and Toronto (79 per cent).

The findings reinforce Vancouver's reputation as a relatively cold and unfriendly city, which was highlighted in a survey released by the Vancouver Foundation in June. It found that about a third of Metro residents find it difficult to make friends, most of us don't know our neighbours or participate in community activities and over a third of us have no close friends outside their ethnic group.

While making friends was cited as a challenge by about a third of Canadian immigrants surveyed for the HSBC study, it placed third after finding employment (62 per cent) and missing family (42 per cent). Adapting to the weather (29 per cent) and getting a credit card (24 per cent) were both cited as challenges more often than language barriers and finding a home (both 18 per cent).

Lifestyle and family were the most commonly cited reasons for moving to Canada, followed by professional, education and financial reasons. Survey respondents were most likely to move to Vancouver for lifestyle reasons.

Immigrants with families say they come to Vancouver so their children can have a better life and more opportunities, said Laurie Sing, manager of the Immigrant Services Society of B.C.'s mentoring connections program.

Quality of life topped the list of things immigrants like about Canada, at 78 per cent, followed by natural beauty and environment (73 per cent), people (42 per cent), education (39 per cent) and the ability to keep their cultural heritages. Pet peeves included cost of living (51 per cent), employment opportunities (33 per cent), housing (23 per cent) and economic opportunities (20 per cent).

When asked what shocked them about moving to Canada, 56 per cent of immigrants answered expensive real estate, which the Vancouver Foundation survey also found to be a big concern among Metro residents in general. Fully half were surprised by the extent to which their education and training were undervalued, 42 per cent cited expensive life in general, 26 per cent expensive gasoline and 25 per cent were surprised by the affordability of health care.

"The cost and scarcity of rental housing is often a surprise to new immigrants and they find their savings draining more quickly than anticipated," Sing said. "This increases the pressure they feel to find a job quickly, in a market where a job search of six or more months is commonplace even for locals with years of experience in Canada. " The online survey conducted by Angus Reid, which polled just over 600 adults who moved to Canada in the last 10 years, also included a category on culture shock by ethnic origin. Europeans were most likely to have moved to Canada for lifestyle reasons, cite "making new friends" as a feature of Canada they like and be shocked by the price of gasoline.

South Asians were most likely to have moved to Canada for their child's education and were surprised by undervalued education/training and affordable health care.

Chinese were more likely to have found language and making new friends a challenge and cite cost of living as something they dislike.

Filipinos were most likely to have moved to Canada for family or financial reasons and were also most likely to recommend immigrating to Canada to friends or family.

Africans and Caribbeans were most likely to have immigrated for professional reasons, find weather a challenge and cited education and the ability to retain cultural heritage as features of the country they like.

The online survey of 607 adults was conducted by Angus Reid in mid-August and has a margin of error of plus or minus four per cent.

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