Francois Roux was born and raised in France but has been living overseas for the past 7 years. He completed his Engineering degree at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver) in 2004 as a student on exchange, then spent a couple of years in the US and Australia before returning to the Canadian West Coast in 2008. Francois is currently the CEO and Founder of an online platform for expats and newcomers to the city of Vancouver.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I am originally from France, I was born in Bordeaux but raised in The City of Light, Paris.
Q: Where are you living now?
A: I live in Vancouver, British Columbia on the Canadian West Coast.
Q: How long you have you lived in Vancouver?
A: 4 years
Q: Did you move with a spouse/ children?
A: No, I moved alone.
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: I came to Vancouver to study as part of an exchange program between my French School – Ecole des Mines d’Alès – and the University of British Columbia. Then I moved to the United States and Australia for work, before coming back to Vancouver 4 years ago.
Q: What do you enjoy most about Vancouver, how’s the quality of life?
A: The fact that you can ski, kayak and go for a run around Stanley Park all in the same day.
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: The high cost of living and the lack of job opportunities are probably among the top drawbacks of the city.
Q: Is the city safe?
A: Yes, Vancouver is extremely safe but there is a lot of visible poverty and problem with drug addictions, especially in the downtown eastside.
Q: Describe an ideal way to spend a weekend in the city?
A: If the weather is with you, or if you don’t mind the rain too much, you can go on a nice long walk in Stanley Park, or bike along the Seawall. If the weather is not on your side, then you can visit one of the numerous museums and galleries of Vancouver or spend an afternoon at the Vancouver Aquarium. If you are more of a recreational shopper you can go downtown and enjoy the numerous shops, stores and malls. In the evening you can go out in downtown Vancouver or Kitsilano and enjoy hanging out with friends in bars, restaurants and clubs.
About living in Vancouver
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in Vancouver as an expat?
A: Expats and new immigrants tend to stay in neighbourhoods like the West End, Yaletown, or Coal Harbour all located in Downtown Vancouver. Students and young families will usually go south of downtown around Kitsilano or Commercial Drive to settle in.
Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation?
A: Prices are high, especially if you chose to live in the downtown area. Depending on the neighbourhood, buying a house in Vancouver can be quite expensive. But you can rent a good quality apartment for a decent price if you know where to look.
Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: Food and wine are generally more expensive in Vancouver compared to France. Education and day care is also relatively expensive compared to France or other Latin countries.
Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: Canadians are easy goers and they are welcoming, you won’t have any problems approaching them. Expats, like everywhere else, tend to stay together at the beginning, but if you practice activities in Vancouver, you will quickly broaden your circle of friends.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A: Meeting people is easy. Making friends is not simple and require some time. The key is to be part of your local community and be very open minded.
About working in Canada
Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?
A: No, the permanent residency visa requires some time but the process is very straightforward. You won’t need a lawyer or a consultant unless you are in a very special situation.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in the city, is there plenty of work?
A: If you are not picky, you can easily get a job in a restaurant or a store. If you are a qualified professional looking for a good career, it is going to be more difficult as Vancouver doesn’t attract a lot of the big corporations, as other Canadian cities do, like Toronto or Montreal. Vancouver has very few headquarters and tends to be a secondary city when it comes to business.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: I think it reflects how Canadians and particularly Vancouverites are. Relaxed. Coming from a country were hierarchy and work culture are very rigid aspects of the work place, it is quite surprising at first to call your boss by his/her first name.
Q: Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Join a club, volunteer, and get involved in your local community. If you are a young professional, it’s very unlikely that you will find your first job in Vancouver by emailing your resume, you are better off meeting real people in real life!
~ Interviewed December 2011