Meet the expats – Conrad and Nicky

Conrad and Nicky moved to Canada at the end of 2019 and share their thoughts on starting a new life in Calgary.

When did you move to Canada and what made you choose Calgary?

We came in November 2019 and moved to Calgary because of the lifestyle and living costs of Alberta compared to other provinces. Calgary has lots of sunshine and we had some connections here, prior to moving.

Where do you live in Calgary? What do you like best and least about your neighbourhood?

We live in the SE, where homes and properties are mostly nicely kept and in good condition with lots of greenery, and it’s close to the Deerfoot Highway. Unfortunately, the NE and NW are a bit far to drive and take a while to reach with public transport.

If you could live anywhere in the city where would it be and why?

We would prefer to stay exactly where we are or otherwise live in Marda Loop, due to the older style homes with good character and more diverse architectural flavour.

What do you love most about Calgary?

We like the amount of sunshine hours and the lifestyle which demonstrates family orientated values, and people are generally polite and respectful, and apparently more so compared to places like Ontario or Quebec. Calgary is also great in close proximity to the US, especially Montana, Idaho and Washington.

What do you like least about the city?

It was interesting to see how flat Calgary is compared to the photos one sees prior to coming. The mountain pics are from the outskirts and not really contextual. There are some limitations to public transport due to the routes and how they are designed. The city does not have a very old history meaning there are less architectural gems and points of interest compared to cities like Vienna, Cape Town or Rio de Janeiro where you have a wow factor.

What has been the most challenging part about moving to and living in Calgary/Canada?

Some of the biggest challenges are first world problems where the food tastes different because of the simplicity of the spices and flavour in North American cuisine. We miss family, relatives and friends, and it is a challenge to be here as a newcomer as the economic challenges took shape for Alberta and the whole of Canada as 2020 began.

What do you miss most about your home country?

We mostly miss warm weather all around, food from home, family, relatives and friends, the smells of African nature and the sounds of Africans birds, insects and the countryside. Conrad misses his old Mercedes, but will adopt one as soon as he can!

Have you found it easy to meet new people and make friends?

It was easier than we thought, and we joined in at activities organized through the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society who are funded and mandated to help settle newcomer professionals. We made good connections through some of the contacts we had here already, and by doing the Alpha Course.

What’s the general lifestyle like in the city?

The general lifestyle is nice since people mostly have a balance between work and home life, being sporty and outdoorsy.

What are entertainment options like in the city? Any great nightlife spots, restaurants, bars you like to go to? Any hidden gems you’ve come across?

Entertainment options are typical for an urban space, including movies, coffee shops and restaurants, libraries and shopping options, the bars and clubs on 17th Ave, public parks and the close proximity to the Rocky Mountains and smaller towns like Okotoks.

Is Calgary a family-friendly city? Do you have any suggestions for great things to do with the kids?

Calgary is family orientated and once we have kids, we will surely find the to dos with children in and around the city.

How easy is it to get around in Calgary? Do you need a car or does the city have a good public transport system?

It’s fairly easy to get around once you know how the highways work. Public transport is great for what it can offer but the routes are often such that it takes a long time to get somewhere, so having a car in good condition is a must!

How have you found the cost of living in Calgary compared to your home country? What do you find expensive or cheap in particular?

The cost of living is fair, and depends on your lifestyle and choices. For some things you get better value for money, like general healthcare and fuel. Dentists are horribly expensive and it is depressing to see what they are allowed to charge people. Alcohol and some types of meat can get pricy, but otherwise the basics are similar to what we paid back in South Africa, keeping in mind that we don’t eat and cook extravagantly and we don’t smoke.

What’s the economy and job market like in Calgary? Did you find it easy to find a job?

Due to the stubborn dependence on oil and the volatility of this global commodity, the economy is currently not great, and furthermore compounded by the impacts and cautious choices due to Covid-19. Nicky found work quite quickly whilst we stay true to ourselves and focus on the reasons we wanted to make life in Calgary a success.

How have you found the corporate/work culture compared to back home?

Compared to South Africa, the work culture is so much better. There are some specific things that Canadians prefer in the workplace and how to interact. Nicky has found the work culture to be better in leaps and bounds, and I can vouch for the values of better respect, more politeness and less politicization of everyday activities compared to South Africa. Of course, there are some Canadians who don’t fit into this mould, but generally we have met and interacted with people who are well mannered and professional.

Do you have any other tips or insights you’d like to share with someone planning a move to Calgary?

Our advice would include to come with sufficient savings to ensure there is some cushion for unexpected costs like a dentist or expenses outside of Alberta Health Services general free care. It’s important to do your own research and to prepare mentally and psychologically for the move and to associate with like minded people, whether South African, Canadian or other. Avoid the negativity of some newcomers or some Canadians who are not in tune with your goals, excitement and aspirations.

It’s so great to hear what expats have to say about life in Calgary and we love hearing from other expats. If you’d like to share your insights, please contact us!

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