The history of Vancouver begins with the building of Fort Langley (near modern-day Langley) around 1827. From there, fur trading, gold rushes, logging, and farming contributed to the settlement of the area. The town site of Vancouver was laid out in the mid 1880’s, and the name “Vancouver” (formerly called “Granville” but renamed after Captain George Vancouver, famed Pacific Northwest explorer) was in use by the late 1880’s. The population at the time was around 400, but exploded after the arrival of the railroad in 1887 to 13,000. According to 2009 figures, the current population of Vancouver is over half a million, but the total metro area population is over 2.3 million. The diversity of the area is demonstrated by the high percentage of immigrants; according to current figures, English is not the mother tongue of over 50% of the population. This diversity is one of the most delightful features of living in Vancouver. And although English and French are the two official languages of Canada, nearly everyone in British Columbia speaks English.
British Columbia is in the Pacific time zone (with the exception of some regions closer to the Rocky Mountains on the eastern side of the province), and most of the province observes daylight savings time in the spring and summer, beginning on the second Sunday in March and ending on the first Sunday in November. Vancouver’s climate is generally mild year-round. Summers are typically warm but not hot with average temperatures hovering around 23ËšC/73ËšF, and are usually fairly dry. Winters are mild (considering this is Canada), with average temperatures around 5ËšC/41ËšF. Record highs for Vancouver include 34ËšC/93ËšF in the summertime, with record lows reaching -14ËšC/7ËšF in the winter. June marks the beginning of summer, with the hottest month typically being July. August begins to cool down and feel more like fall as the leaves of the trees begin to turn and the nights get colder. Winter is the rainy season in the lower mainland. You should expect rain and overcast skies every day, and the occasional sunny break will be a pleasant surprise! Because it rains and is cold and grey for most of the winter (when it isn’t snowing), most Vancouverites take advantage of every opportunity to get out and enjoy the sunshine during the spring and summer months. There are many things to see and do in Vancouver when the weather is nice.
The official system of measurement in Canada is metric, but many people use both metric and imperial, or one or the other. It is a good idea to learn the imperial system if not already familiar with it as you will likely come across imperial measurements from time to time. Distances and speed limits are metric, as well as gasoline and temperature.
The currency of Canada is the Canadian dollar (CAD). There are many automated teller machines (ATM) or automated banking machines (ABM) around the city where it is possible to withdraw money from your bank in your home country, or from a credit card. These machines typically dispense twenty dollar bills only, as larger bills are sometimes not accepted at stores and restaurants. Canadian units of currency are: $100, $50, $20, $10, and $5 bills, the two-dollar “Toonie” (bronze and silver two-toned coin), the one-dollar “Loonie” (gold-colored coin), the twenty-five cent quarter, the ten-cent dime, the five-cent nickel, and the one-cent penny. The Toonie and Loonie are rather amusing nicknames, but that is how these coins are referred to by nearly everyone. The Loonie takes its name from the picture of the Common Loon on one side of the coin.
The electric current in Canada is 110 volts, the same as in the United States and Mexico. If you are coming to Vancouver from outside North America and plan to bring your 220 volt appliances with you, you may need to purchase a transformer and/or converter in order to convert the electricity to the appropriate voltage for your appliance.
When placing telephone calls from Vancouver to other parts of the world, you will need to first dial 011 (exit code for the U.S. and Canada), then the country code of the country you are calling, then the city/area code, and finally, the phone number itself. For example, to place a call to the U.K., you would dial as follows: 011 + 44 + area code + phone number. Information on how to call virtually any country in the world can be found at the following website: http://www.howtocallabroad.com/.
Vancouverites are among the friendliest people in the world, and are glad to help when asked. Because many of them originally came from other countries, they are welcoming to newcomers and understanding of the challenges of settling into a new country. Government offices are staffed with friendly and kind people, and signs are clearly marked, making it easy to navigate the system. The slogan of British Columbia is “The Best Place on Earth,” and you will likely agree once you arrive and acclimate to the area. From mountains to beaches, bridges to cobblestone streets, skyscrapers to quaint heritage homes, and countryside to urban cityscape, there is truly something for everyone in Vancouver.