Calgary is often over-shadowed by Toronto and Vancouver when it comes to expat living in Canada, but this is a thriving city in its own right and an increasingly popular destination for European expats moving abroad to North America. This is mainly thanks to its status as the 5th most liveable city in the world, a booming economy (with the job opportunities that brings) and position on the edge of the Rocky Mountains, making it a great gateway into Canada's natural expanses.
The main reason many expats have moved to Calgary is due to its upwardly mobile economy. The city is the main hub of the Alberta province, whose vast reserves of oil are supposedly only second to those of Saudi Arabia, a fact that many experts believe will keep Calgary's economy stable far into the future. This booming economy means a huge number of job opportunities for anyone who can work in the oil industry, as well as electricians, plumbers and similar skilled workers, with additional opportunities in the healthcare industry.
The growth in the economy is not just confined to the oil industry. Low taxes of 14% and zero payroll tax has encouraged many other businesses to set-up in Calgary, and burgeoning districts such as International Avenue, packed with ethnic restaurants and boutique shops, reflect this trend.
Quality of Life in Calgary
In the Economist Intelligence Unit's 2012 report for quality of life, Calgary ranked the 5th most liveable city in the world, positioned only behind Melbourne, Vienna, Toronto and Vancouver. This survey is based on crime levels, availability of healthcare and education, freedom of speech and quality of food, services and other factors. It is therefore safe to say that Calgary scores well in all of these, in particular receiving top marks for education, healthcare and stability (i.e. low crime levels, little civil unrest).
Calgary gets top marks as an environmental city – it was ranked #1 by Mercer in a survey of eco-cities carried out in 2010 – with pioneering water treatment and waste removal techniques, as well as the clean air, among the reasons for this status.
Weather in Calgary
Calgary is known for its agreeable weather with lots of sunshine, clean air and general lack of rainfall. Sitting on the same latitudinal position as London, Paris and Berlin, it also possesses long summer days and just-as-long winter nights (you can't have it both ways!). For many expats, this similarity in the seasons, twinned with better air quality and less rain, makes Calgary a top expat city for Brits looking to move abroad.
Cost of Living in Calgary
One downside to a booming economy is how that's reflected in real estate, which has seen an increase in recent years. It's now no longer feasible for British expats to exchange their UK property for a “mansion” in Calgary, but house prices are still a lot cheaper than in the UK, and it's more than possible to up-size if you look at the market carefully.
From a consumer perspective, The Economist's Big Mac Index – which compares the price of a Big Mac in every country in the world – is always a good guide to the relative cost of food around the world. The bad news for Canadians is that their Big Mac currently costs a fraction more than in the USA and a good 30p more than in Britain, reflecting a recent rise in food costs. The good news is that eating out at restaurants, as well as the cost of going to the theatre or cinema, are considerably lower than in New York or London, making letting your hair down less of a money-draining experience.
It may not have the multi-cultural allure of Toronto and Vancouver, but Calgary makes up for it by showing a more traditional side of Canadian culture. The city is known for its high quality theatre productions as well as a tradition of marching band music. Throughout the year it hosts a number of festivals, ranging from the Calgary Stampede (see below) to more art or folk-related events, such as the free-to-attend Lilac Festival on 4th Street or the Calgary International Blues Festival. A new addition to the entertainment calendar is the growing Calgary Fringe Festival, which spreads art, theatre, music and comedy across the city for 10 days of each year.
The Calgary Stampede
Hailed as the "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth", living in Calgary will give you the chance to attend The Calgary Stampede, a rodeo festival that happens every July, and shows how Calgary is a lot closer to its North American neighbours, with their cowboy traditions, than other Canadian cities.
The Calgary Stampede is also the perfect chance to try the local institution that is a “pancake breakfast”. A Calgary tradition for over 85 years, a pancake breakfast features a stack of pancakes (often called “flapjacks” in Calgary) served with sausage, juice and all the trimmings. It may not be healthy, but it's the only way to start the day if you're at the rodeo.