Everything You Need to Know About Living in Calgary

Posted Country Guides / February 25, 2020
Jane Davis

Apart from being a freelance writer and moving expert, Jane is also an art and museum lover.

What is the first thing that crosses your mind when you hear Cowtown? Probably everything opposite of what Calgary really is, but we’ll get to that a bit later. Living in Calgary is pretty much like living in any other modern and prosperous city, except the fact that here you can find free pancakes for breakfast. If that does not sound tempting enough, we have more facts in store for you.

Welcome to Calgary, Canada

Located in the province of Alberta, this is the largest city in this province, and fifth in Canada, with around 1.3 million residents. Calgs, as it’s often called, lies on the confluence of two rivers, Elbow and Bow, and it is well known for its two nicknames: Cowtown and Stampede City. That is mainly due to its rich history in farming and agriculture, while nowadays it is mostly known for Calgary Stampede, a vast rodeo festival which happens every July. In 2018, the city ranked high on the list of most liveable cities in the world, which is not a surprise since the citizens here are used to good quality of life. Calgs is also recognized as one of the cleanest places in the world, according to Forbes. The Rocky Mountains are just 50 miles away, and there are plenty of options for outdoor activities and sports.

Alberta is home to some of the most popular tourist destinations like Banff, Sylvan Lake, Drumheller, and as many as six sites form the UNESCO world heritage list. In the south, Alberta borders the US, so if you live close to the border, you can quickly go back home to visit friends and family. One of your concerns could be language. This province has the fourth largest francophone population in the country, but in Calgs, around 70% of residents consider English their mother tongue, and only 1% of them are French. Forget about the fear of overcoming the language barrier, because in this global city, the chances are high that you will hear Chinese and Spanish more often than French.

The Cost of Living in Calgary Is Affordable

Unlike other major Canadian cities like Vancouver or Toronto, Cowtown is not one of the richest cities in the world. It is an excellent option if you are moving on a low budget, and especially if you are relocating from a bigger city in the US. For example, if you are moving from New York to Canada, you’ll be surprised by the prices. According to Numbeo, a single person needs around 850 USD per month for expenses and approximately the same amount for renting a one-bedroom apartment downtown. The cost of living in Calgary, Canada, is affordable, especially if you seek housing outside of the center. That is what makes it one of the best places to live in Canada. In comparison to cities that are more popular for immigration, like Toronto and Vancouver, life in Calgs is more than affordable, mainly due to lower gasoline prices and the competitive housing market.

Pros of Moving to Calgary

If out of entire Canada, you’ve chosen Calgs to settle down, then we assume you are pretty much aware of all the perks of being there. On the other hand, if you are hesitant about relocating here and you need more facts to convince you, we found some advantages that you can’t ignore. A robust economy, vibrant energy sector, pleasant weather (not just for Canadian standards), and a young population are just some of Calgary’s selling points. Of course, at the end of the day, it is up to decide if the so-called “Texas of Canada” if something up your alley.

A Canadian Province With No Sales Tax

Alberta doesn’t impose a provincial sales tax, so if you move to Calgs, you will only have to pay 5% for federal Goods and Services Tax (GST). Unlike in Toronto or Vancouver, you will spend less on groceries, entertainment, gas, and clothes. The idea behind lower taxes is to encourage entrepreneurs and investors to start their businesses in Alberta.

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Is Calgary the Cleanest City in the World?

Since Cowtown topped the Forbs’s list of cleanest cities in 2007, it has earned a good reputation in this regard, and it is trying to maintain it. The air pollution is low, they recycle a lot, water is drinkable and available to everyone, and the city uses clean sewage systems. But what brought back the “order” and forced people to change their behavior are high fines. If you drop a cigarette on the street, you can get a penalty from $500 to $1000. It’s no wonder the streets are sparkling clean.

Great Public Transportation

A network of buses and trains works like a clock to help people get around, and not just that. Calgary’s C-Trains are powered by electricity coming from wind farms. It is the first place ever to use wind-powered systems for public transportation in North America. This has contributed significantly to the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. And what is even better, in Calgary’s downtown, C-Train rides are free along the 7th Avenue, known as the free fare zone.

Calgary’s 15+ Walkway System in Downtown

Here is something for those who are afraid of Canadian winters. This ingenious solution consists of numerous enclosed bridges across the downtown, and it is the most extensive indoor system of this kind. The number in its name refers to the height above the ground. These bridges allow pedestrians to go around downtown without freezing to their core. Many residents use them year-round, but especially during winters.

The Canadian Health Care System for Newcomers

Although it might take some time until you become eligible for the Alberta Health Insurance Plan Card, it will enable you to get a lot of health services for free. During this waiting period, you can rely on private health insurance. Speaking of health, there are now more family doctors per person than the national average, and the majority of them are accepting new patients.

Affordable Housing

Not only is the rent here affordable, but the market is also very welcoming to those who are looking to purchase a property. The majority of residents here live in their own homes. So if becoming a homeowner is a plan of yours, you can turn it into reality sooner rather than later here in Calgs.

Young and Educated Population

Because this could easily be one of the cheapest places to live in Canada relative to its size, its ecological awareness, and cleanness, it is no wonder that this place attracts so many young people. The median age is 36.9 years, which makes Calgs very attractive among younger generations. Young professionals come here to find a job and raise a family in a safe and clean environment.

Festivals and Free Pancakes

There are so many things to do in Calgary, but one is at the top of every list: the Stampede. It all started in 1912, and nowadays it is one of the biggest rodeo shows in the world which attracts around a million visitors each year. But the delicious part of this is that during the festival, you can find places all over the town that offer free pancakes for breakfast. Besides Stampede, there are more festivals and events in this city:

  • Calgary’s Folk Music Festival
  • Hot Chocolate Festival Okotoks
  • Winefest
  • International Blues Festival
  • Chasing Summer Festival

Sunniest Major City in Canada

Yearly, Calgs gets around 2,300 sunny hours, which is more than any other major city in Canada. Perhaps this sunny weather is the reason why people here are in such a good mood and friendly towards newcomers.

Cons of Living in Calgary

All places have some downsides, and often they are not the same for everyone, or they don’t affect everyone in the same way. For example, if you don’t have kids, or they go to college, overcrowded elementary schools are not a problem for you. However, the government is constantly working on improving the standard and livability in Calgs, so we have no doubts that all these “issues” will be resolved as soon as possible.

Business Opportunities and Unemployment Rates

At one point, in 2016, the unemployment rate was 10.2%, which was higher than anywhere else in the country at that point. The oil industry reigns supreme here, so when the oil prices went down, it affected everyone. Luckily, the situation has been steadily improving, and there are enough good jobs. But we still recommend searching for jobs before you move and coming here once you’ve secured a position.

Schools Are Overcrowded

Suburbs have always been a favorite among families and those who prefer a slow-paced lifestyle, but lately, Calgary’s suburbs and schools have become overcrowded. So your child might not be able to go to the closest school. In some of them, class sizes are already above provincial recommendations. At one time, certain schools held lotteries, because they didn’t know how else to determine who can get a place. The government promised to build new schools, and luckily, the situation is improving.

Traffic Jams Are Just Like Everywhere Else

The situation with traffic here is far from ideal, but it is still not as bad as in Toronto and Vancouver. Traffic jams are a nightmare for any driver, so it is better to use public transportation whenever possible. The government is investing in improving roads, but until then, you have to work with what you have.

What’s the Calgarian Weather Like?

Usually, when someone mentions moving to Canada, one of the main concerns is the weather. Although this is not the North Pole, sometimes it can be really freezing. But luckily for those who are going to Cowtown, it’s not that cold here. The weather is usually sunny, even during the cold winters. You can expect to get a little bit of rain during the summer, and that’s it. The climate is a prairie-steppe type, so it can get windy from time to time because there are no natural barriers to the wind. There’s also the famous “Chinook,” a warm wind blowing from the Pacific that is known to raise the temperature by a couple of degrees in a matter of seconds.

Summers here are dry, there is no humidity like in Ontario, for example, and summer nights can be chilly. Some people like to say that if you stay in Calgs long enough, you will have the chance to experience snow every month of the year. The weather is unpredictable, but besides minor surprises, you will be just fine.

How to Prepare for Moving-Related Activities?

We understand that balancing finances when moving abroad is essential and that every box you pack with your own two hands counts. However, sometimes it is much easier to hire professionals who offer international moving services and let them take care of everything. In case you are job scouting or house hunting, you can dedicate your time to that while someone else takes care of packing, boxes, and auto shipping.

Any Further Questions?

We hope we gave you enough information about Stampede City and the perks of living in it. With or without pancakes, Calgs is a great place to be in because it has a community that takes good care of it, and that is the most important thing. Polite and welcoming people make a foundation for even better things to come. If you are wondering where to find the best pancakes, or in case you have any further questions, you can consult the official website of Calgary.

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