According to The Economist, Auckland and Vancouver rank among the world’s most livable cities. New Zealand and Canada also rank very highly in the HSBC 2016 Expat Explorer Survey: New Zealand came second and Canada leaped from sixth in 2015 to third in 2016.
Both countries and cities are clearly very appealing, and consistently so. They have well-developed economies, good public infrastructure and an abundance of wildlife and natural features to enjoy. They also have well-educated populations and reliable healthcare systems.
For expats considering their next move, they both have a great deal to offer. Especially in terms of culture, social life, and health and well-being i.e. things that may not be countable, but which add immense value to life.
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Culture in Auckland and Vancouver
Something that makes Auckland attractive to expats is their rich sense of culture. According to the 2013 Census, of the overseas-born population in Auckland, 39 percent were born in Asia, and 17 percent were born in the United Kingdom and Ireland, making it a rich mix of people, but a mix which may still offer the Western expat a sense of familiarity.
As well as being influenced by British, Asian, and European custom, the culture is heavily influenced by Māori and Polynesian tradition. In New Zealand, Māori are “tangata whenua”, meaning “people of the land”. The Māori population was estimated at 723,400 in June 2016, equating to around 14 percent of the total population. Even though this number may seem low compared to the overseas born population, the Māori tradition is an innate part of the city’s and country’s culture; one which is celebrated frequently.
Expats who are interested in knowing more about the Māori’s diverse and fascinating traditions could visit the Auckland War Memorial Museum which regularly hosts traditional haka performances, giving locals and expats alike the opportunity to experience this ancient culture. The haka is just one aspect of New Zealand’s unique culture which might help expats moving here to feel comfortable and more able to adapt, quite simply because they recognise it. The familiar has an attractive power.
As well as offering familiar dishes like fish and chips, and succulent roasted lamb, expats can tantalize their taste-buds with the experimental style of cooking, known as Hāngī. A Māori tradition, Hāngī is a style of cooking where the food, usually fish, chicken, and root vegetables is wrapped in cloth, foil, and wire baskets and then cooked in a pit dug in the ground. A wonderful way to experience Auckland’s diverse culture, expats can have a taste of the familiar and unfamiliar.
Expats in Vancouver, Canada
Similar to Auckland, Vancouver also has a diverse population, making it easier for expats to integrate and feel at home. For instance, it was estimated in the 2011 census, that around 65% of Vancouver residents speak English, while 17% speak Chinese, which could be due to the influx of Chinese workers that contributed to the development of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1880s.
As well as English, Chinese and other nationalities living in Vancouver, the population is also made up of Aboriginal communities. In fact, after Winnipeg and Edmonton, Vancouver has the third-largest population of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
Vancouver’s city staff play an important role in helping the Aboriginal communities overcome barriers, gain access to services, and have a voice in civic government.
The city staff also unites these groups and helps them to explore opportunities, build networks, and increase cross-cultural understanding. Such a demonstration of understanding and involvement in other cultures should reassure expats that wherever their place of origin, this city is sure to make them feel accepted and at home.
Something which says a lot about Vancouver’s diverse culture is their food. Inspired by cuisine around the world, Vancouver offers delectable treats like Japadog, a Japanese inspired hot dog which is a traditional American hot dog combined with the salty, sweet, and spicy tastes of seaweed flakes, teriyaki sauce, miso, wasabi, and kimchi.
Vancouver also puts its own twist on seafood like salmon candy which are strips of smoked salmon glazed in maple syrup. These sweet and salty treats can be found at the Granville Island Public Market and across various fish counters in the city.
Natural diversity in Auckland and Vancouver
Another aspect that may make Auckland attractive to expats is the wonderful balance between busy city life and serene rural living. Like many major city centers around the world, expats will find a selection of shopping outlets, restaurants, cafés, pubs, theatres and museums.
But what makes Auckland really stand out is the fact that this busy city is surrounded by more than 50 islands. Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf Marine Park covers an area of around 1.2 million hectares, encompassing coasts, ocean, and islands. As well as being inhabited by exotic marine-life and sea-birds, it is also vione-thirdone third of marine mammal species found on earth, making it a truly exceptional place that expats will not be able to find anywhere else in the world.
Vancouver’s thriving city center also has its own city escape very close to home. Located on the northwestern edge of downtown Vancouver, lies the popular Stanley Park which attracts around 8 million visitors every year. Awarded first place in Trip Advisor’s “top 10 world parks” in 2014, this 400-hectare park is home to Canada’s largest aquarium. If that’s not a rural enough escape, there are the nearby mountains and the islands of the Strait of Georgia to explore.
Health and well-being
Another contributing factor towards Vancouver being an attractive place to expats, is its outstanding standard of healthcare. Being ranked 30th in the world by the World Health Organization (WHO), Canada’s healthcare system is ranked higher than the healthcare systems in the U.S. and Australia.
All Canadian citizens and permanent residents may apply for public health insurance. With this type of insurance, most healthcare services are free to use, although there are some services that are not covered. Services not usually covered include prescription medications, dental care, physiotherapy, ambulance services, and prescription eyeglasses. As such, many expats may want to ensure they have access to the right healthcare when they need it by using personal health insurance.
Ranked 41st by the World Health Organization (WHO), expats can feel assured that they are likely to receive high-quality healthcare in New Zealand too. But because New Zealand’s public health system is subsidized by the government, expats may find themselves paying out-of-pocket fees.
Generally only citizens, residents, or people holding work visas that are valid for two years or more – from when the person first arrives – qualify for subsidized care. As with expats in Vancouver, having international health insurance in place may be appropriate.
Which one should an expat choose?
Both Auckland and Vancouver clearly have a lot to offer expats with respect to culture, diversity, healthcare, and lifestyle. As such, the final decision of which country to choose may depend on an expat’s personal preference, instinctual feeling, and individual career aspirations and employment opportunities.
Auckland’s and Vancouver’s diverse populations have, over the years, led to an equally diverse present-day culture, one that is rich in tradition and offering native residents and newcomers a chance to feel heard, be included and celebrated.
Coupled with a wide range of social and leisure activities, spectacular wildlife and natural surroundings, plus high-quality healthcare, it’s easy to see why they appeal to expats and will likely continue to do so.
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