Why we’ve chosen Calgary

Canada is such a huge country and there is such a great variety of options when it comes to deciding where to live. We’re fortunate to have permanent residence without being tied to a provincial nomination, and we therefore have the choice of living pretty much anywhere we want in this great country.

We’ve spent months researching the different cities and what they have to offer. There is so much to look at when it comes to what makes a city great, and each person has their own ideas of what they’re looking for. For us, the criteria we’ve been considering include the lifestyle, cost of living, amenities available, schools, accommodation (especially property prices), and the job market.

It’s all quite overwhelming to narrow it down to one place, but we have finally decided that Calgary seems to be the best fit for our family and we can’t wait to make it our home.

Here are a few of the reasons we’ve decided to move to Calgary:

The lifestyle

There are loads of public parks, playgrounds and community centres in Calgary and the city seems very geared towards families and building happy, healthy communities. We love camping and hiking and there appear to be endless opportunities to enjoy these activities in Alberta. Calgary is located close to the Rocky Mountains and some amazing national parks, such as Banff and Jasper, as well as the beautiful Moraine and Louise lakes, so we’re really looking forward to weekend family road trips, exploring the great outdoors and weekend camping fun. We can’t wait to get out into nature and get fit as a family once again.

The cost of living

The cost of living in Calgary is lower than other major Canadian cities such as Toronto and Vancouver. According to Mercer’s 2019 cost of living survey, the city is the fourth most expensive city in Canada, and falls behind Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal on the list. Overall, salaries appear to be higher, while taxes are lower, and the general cost of household goods and property is lower in Calgary than these cities. We took one look at the housing prices in Toronto and Vancouver and soon realised we’d never be able to afford to buy our own home in these cities and still maintain a good life. We want to simplify our lives, reduce our costs and get rid of all the material things South Africans seem so obsessed with, but at the same time, we still want to be able to enjoy a comfortable life.

A small town feel

Having lived in Somerset West for the last few years, we’ve gotten used to living in the countryside and have loved the peace and quiet, the more relaxed lifestyle and the beautiful scenery around us. Located 40 minutes from Cape Town, it’s been the perfect balance of small-town life while still having easy access to the big city when we needed it.

From what we’ve seen, Calgary is a city with a definite small-town feel – the CBD looks all shiny and busy and modern, but the outer suburbs appear to be contained communities within themselves, offering everything you could want or need without having to contend with the hassles of big city life. We still want to be in or near a big city and enjoy all the amenities that it has to offer, but also be close to nature. With awesome parks like Fish Creek within the city limits, it appears that we can definitely have this.

Job prospects

The job market in Calgary is difficult to gauge. While there seem to be plenty of opportunities, we didn’t really feel up to applying for anything specific until we had our confirmation of permanent residence. But we’ve certainly been networking as much as possible and look forward to finally being able to tell prospective employers that we are indeed eligible to work in Canada. We know Canadians are quite stuck on finding candidates with solid Canadian work experience, so it may take a while for us to find something in our line, but we’re prepared to stick it out, even if we have to take a few steps back on the corporate ladder. The business culture in Calgary seems a lot more relaxed than other Canadian cities, especially Toronto, which is much like the work culture we’re used to in Cape Town.

Education

Education is a big factor for us. After having to spend a small fortune on private schooling in South Africa, we are looking forward to an excellent public schooling system where our kids will learn in a free, diverse and solid system. Calgary has some of the best schools not only in Alberta, but, according to some ratings, in the whole of Canada, and we will be spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a good school for our children. There are also a number of excellent universities in Calgary and this is a big plus for us in terms of the long-term prospects for our children. Education also plays a big role in choosing the neighbourhood we want to live in, and we have been narrowing it down to some of the areas with the top-rated schools.

The South African community

Whether there was a large South African community in a city had no bearing on our decision on where to move to, as we are moving to Canada and are certainly not looking for a mini South Africa there. However, I think it’s worth mentioning that, so far, we have encountered a wonderful SA community in Calgary that has already been so friendly and helpful in offering advice, a place to stay, a lift from the airport, insights on neighbourhoods, schools, transport, jobs, and social gatherings. We are quite amazed at how helpful everyone has been so far and we look forward to meeting them all. It will certainly help to meet up with people from “home” to begin with to ease the transition, and we also look forward to paying it forward once we are established in Calgary.

The climate

We know that the climate is likely to be the biggest adjustment for us. Coming from the Western Cape where we have long, hot summers and mild, rainy winters, moving to Alberta is certainly going to take some serious getting used to, especially for our kids who are used to running around barefoot most of the year. Even though the winters are going to be harsh, Calgary is known as the Canadian city with the most days of sunshine per year, and with the chinook winds bringing some warmer days to the winter chill, we’ll just have to make the most of it. Fortunately, Canadians are geared for the winter, and we’ve heard many South Africans share how they’re actually warmer in Canada than they were back in SA during the winter, thanks to the buildings being properly insulated against the elements – South African houses are definitely built for summer, not winter.

All the above factors are why we’ve chosen to move to Calgary. I guess once we are there, then only will we be able to experience all these for ourselves and know if our assessments where correct and the move was worth it. Either way, we are so excited for this new adventure and we plan to make the most of it no matter what.

If you’re in the process of moving to Calgary or are already established there we’d love to hear why you’ve chosen the city and what you think makes it great, so please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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