MoneySense recently named Calgary as the “Best Place to Live in Canada” based on income, employment, housing, weather, crime rates, and medical access. This prompted me to write my own piece on why I love my city.
My parents immigrated from Vietnam to Hong Kong to Calgary when I was two years old, and we’ve lived here ever since. I lived in Lethbridge for four years while attending university, and I also lived in Edmonton and Gold Coast for a brief time. However, no matter where I lived or where I travelled, Calgary has always been home, but it didn’t really feel like home until I moved back almost three years ago. Upon moving back, I moved in with sister, settled into a new job, and re-established my lifestyle (read more about the transition here). You could say my decision to live in Calgary happened by default (I grew up here, and my parents live here), but over the past few years, I’ve grown to really love my city, and I couldn’t be happier with the decision to continue living here.
Calgary is a very young and transient city. Especially in the past few years, we’ve seen tons of people from across the country flooding here for work. Unemployment rate is below the national average (currently at 4.02%), and there are still a lot of job opportunities for young people. I’ve been very fortunate to find work in my field and to be doing something I love. Times are tough for new grads who are trying to find work in their related fields, or just work period, but I would also argue that it’s not that bad. In any case, it’s comforting to be living in a city with good job prospects and career opportunities.
As for climate, Calgary gets all four seasons, which is something you love, hate, or have to deal with. Those who hate it tend to complain about it all the time, whereas I’m in-between dealing with it and loving it. Some days, I absolutely love the snow (especially when it looks like this), but there are days when it makes driving conditions dangerous and when it’s just so freakin’ cold. I’m talking -30 Celsius cold. According to some sources, Calgary is the sunniest place in Canada. I’ll take that over rainy, gloomy, overcast weather any day. However, Calgary is also a very dry and windy city, and we get some severe hail storms in the spring and summer. All things considered, the weather here isn’t so bad.
Another plus of living in Calgary is being close to the mountains; perfect for those who enjoy winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. I’ve never been much into that, but I love the mountains for summer hikes and weekend camping trips. As for the city itself, the Bow River area provides a lot of trails for runners and bikers, and it’s great for those who like water sports such as rafting, canoeing, and kayaking. There’s also a lot of great parks like Prince’s Island Park, Fish Creek Park, and Pearce Estate Park for summer activities, picnics, and barbecues. I don’t think Calgary is the most bike-friendly place, however this aspect seems to be changing (read here). In addition, Calgarians are starting to care more about “walkability,” which I think is excellent in a city hit hard by urban sprawl.
For a big city, Calgary has a strong sense of community. As someone who works in the nonprofit sector, I have to say, Calgarians are quite charitable. That altruism may be merely for tax benefits, but I like to believe it’s also coming from a good place. There’s a strong sense of voluntarism, both on a cooperate and personal level. Furthermore, there are a lot of great nonprofit organizations working together to target social problems, such as homelessness, poverty, addictions and mental health, and domestic violence. There are tons of programs providing support for children, youth, and families. I believe Calgary is doing really good work to help improve lives and build stronger communities.
Some might say that Calgary is lacking in art and culture, but I would have to disagree. I think the city provides ample opportunities for people to engage in the arts; just not enough people know about it or care for it. I think venues like the Epcor Centre of Performing Arts and the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium are always putting on great music, dance, and theatre shows. In particular, I’m really impressed with the work of Theatre Calgary. The city has plenty to offer in terms of art. You just need to know where to go.
Last but certainty not least, the food scene here is A-MAZING. Admittedly, food in Calgary is expensive compared to other major cities, but if you’re willing you pay the price, it’s totally worth it. New restaurants are popping up all the time, thus making it hard to visit the same restaurant more than once. This is not an entirely bad thing if you like checking out new places. I’m all about great tasting food, and I have to say the food I’ve eaten at the many restaurants here in Calgary is truly exceptional. Everything from savory brunch food to gourmet thin-crust pizza to the best steak of my life. The only thing we don’t have is good pho, but Basil Ultimate Pho will do. Read more about Calgary’s food scene here.
I don’t want to fail to recognize that there are a lot of not-so-good things about Calgary, for example, traffic, urban sprawl, and transit. Every major city has its disadvantages, whether it’s high taxes or unaffordable housing. What’s most important is whether the city works for you and your lifestyle. Honestly, I wouldn’t say I have huge Calgary pride (I don’t even cheer for the Flames), but I think it’s important to at least like where you live. So often, people move to new cities for work, for school, for someone, and they absolutely hate it. That’s no way to live. Instead, take time to learn about your city, and embrace what it has to offer.
In conclusion, I have to say Calgary is pretty great. It’s grown a lot in the past few years, especially in size, and it’ll be interesting to see what it will be in five, ten, years. There’s so much to explore and experience here that no one can say it’s a boring city. Only boring people are bored. Right now is a good time to be in Calgary, to be working, to buy a house, to eat good food, and to create a life that works for you.
Thanks for reading, folks.
Sources: moneysense.ca, raptitude.com, thewalrus.ca, theglobeandmail.com, bikecalgary.org, calgaryherald.com, calgaryunitedway.org, and avenuecalgary.com