Yet Another Question About Moving To A Great City
October 6, 2011 1:10 PM   Subscribe

Which Canadian cities would you recommend moving to after graduating from university? I'm looking for a fresh start and exciting adventures.

Reality just hit me, I have come to the realization that I won't be able to just apply for American jobs in cities that I like such as San Francisco or New York City and move there right after university. The reason for this is because I am a Canadian and there are so many steps required in order to move from Canada to America. So, while it's possible, it probably isn't feasible to do that right after university and it would cost a lot money to move to another country.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about which Canadian city is right for me, but I'm still unsure about which city to move to. It would be great if people could recommend some cities that they like that fit my criteria. I just want to open my mind to the realm of possibilities that exist in Canada. I'm sure there are some great cities that I am not as familiar with, but might fit my criteria.

What I'm Looking For In A New City:
-Don't know anyone in the new city/can start fresh (as much as possible)
-A lot of public relations or communications based jobs
-Great public transportation and with various public transit options
-Affordable rent for someone in their early 20s (a lot of apartment options to consider too)
-Easy to make friends despite being in my early 20s
-A great arts and entertainment scene
-A lot of diversity
-Great restaurants
-Either something like New York or San Francisco (but not Toronto because my hometown is close to Toronto, a lot of people will be moving to Toronto after University and not Montreal because I cannot speak French and it's very difficult to get a job if you are not bilingual)
-A place with great weather (sunny days with a nice breeze)
-I don't want to live in some typical town or city, I want to feel like every day is a vacation because I am in love with the city so much and there's always something new right around the corner (exaggeration, but that's what I would desire)

Personal Facts:
-I'm 21 years old
-My family members live in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), I live a two-hour drive away from Toronto and a lot of people I know want to move to Toronto, so I'm ruling Toronto out as an option
-I will be graduating from university in April of 2012

Side Note:
-I'm sure I'm missing a lot of other criteria, but those are the ones that matter the most to me
-I have thought about Toronto but it's too close to my past and I desire to move elsewhere so that I can start anew (as much as possible) and feel excited about life again
-If there is any other information that you can tell me about, then that would be great. I think I might be missing some other questions or other criteria, so please let me know if there's anything else that I should consider.

Additional Questions:
-Would it be better to spend a year working in a city that I dislike? I'm currently in my college town, I earn $15/hour and can work close to 90 hours every two weeks so that should be enough to save up money during one year and pay off student loans (less than $10,000) and save up to move to a new city ($5,000 or more)
-Also, is it easier to move first and then look for jobs? Or, should I look for jobs first and then move?

P.S. If you live in one of the cities that you recommend, then please describe a typical day and what is special about your city.
posted by sincerely-s to Travel & Transportation around Canada (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Ummmmm.. if you are looking for "something like New York or San Francisco" and Toronto AND Montreal are out, then you pretty much have one choice: Vancouver.

That being said, I've lived in Vancouver for six years or so and it's pretty rad. The affordable rent might be an issue, but otherwise it basically has what you're looking for.
posted by jess at 1:32 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

I second what Jess said. My son moved to Vancouver from Edmonton for a couple years in his early twenties. It was a great experience for him.
posted by No Robots at 1:36 PM on October 6, 2011

What's your degree in? I know plenty of people who moved straight to the US after graduation. In the right field it's no harder and sometimes easier to get a job in the US.
posted by GuyZero at 1:41 PM on October 6, 2011

I think you might be doing yourself a disservice by ruling out Montreal so quickly, just because of the French. Did you learn a bit of French during your elementary/high school years? Are you keen to learn another language? I moved to Montreal from Australia, knowing as much French as I had managed to cram into my brain in the three months I had between accepting the position and moving. I would at least look for jobs in Montreal, to see what is available, since otherwise it seems to fit your criteria very well.
posted by unlaced at 1:41 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ottawa, maybe? I can't imagine that the climate is any worse that Toronto or Montreal, and there'd be plenty of public relations/communications type positions related to government or lobbying. The "high culture" there, in terms of museums and such, is pretty good too. The area did used to have a dismal reputation as far as entertainment & nightlife goes, but I don't know whether that still holds; and I don't know how life would be there as a 20-something.
posted by Johnny Assay at 1:51 PM on October 6, 2011

Ottawa has two universities and lots of young people there for entry-level civil service jobs plus the magical wonderland that is Hull At Night. I lived there after graduation and it was lots of fun.
posted by GuyZero at 1:54 PM on October 6, 2011

Well this seems like it could be an easy answer because there aren't that many cities in Canada. Oh, "A place with great weather"? Then you're kind of out of luck (joking, kind of).

Calgary kind of fits your requirements but winter there is brutal and summer isn't the greatest either. St. John's and Halifax are great cities in my opinion and have more culture than most anywhere out west (including Vancouver in some regards) but it is hard to get jobs there. Typical days in both of these places consist of fog, wind and drizzle but when one of those rare sunny days come around everyone heads outside to socialize and bask.

Vancouver? It's expensive though, and not necessarily the easiest place to make friends. Do you consider months of fog good weather? Or would you rather months of clear sunny days with temperatures of -40C.

I mean you don't have that many requirements but there aren't that many cities in Canada. If you took them point by point, you'd run out of cities by point #3 (good public transportation? ha!).

Look into getting a job in the US. It's not impossible and when/if you go back to Canada you may start to appreciate different things. And I say this as someone who has.
posted by hydrobatidae at 2:27 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: GuyZero: my degree is in Speech Communication

unlaced: I will definitely keep that in mind and look for jobs in Montreal too
posted by sincerely-s at 2:28 PM on October 6, 2011

I live in Ottawa. Ottawa is a collection of small towns kinda clumped around some federal buildings. I'm not saying it isn't a nice place to live, but it is definitely not a world-class city. You can't even begin to compare it to Montreal or TO.
posted by fimbulvetr at 2:36 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think you're sort of deluding yourself if you think there are some magical cities you haven't heard of out there with New York type experiences. I really think you should reconsider Toronto. It's a huge city - knowing people here will only affect your experience here if you choose to get in touch with them. (I've lived in toronto my whole life, and went to uni a few hours away, and other than the people i'm friends with, i've probably 'run into' someone from university or high school about 5 times in the last 15 years.) There's no reason toronto couldn't be a fresh start.
posted by Kololo at 2:36 PM on October 6, 2011

Ottawa has boomed in recent years; downtown is sort of suddenly crammed with condos, and there are all sorts of new restaurants and whatnot to cater to the condo-dwellers. The night life is not the deal it used to be (admittedly everything shutting down early, and t-shirts for sale with "OTTAWA'S NIGHT LIFE [picture of bridge to Hull Quebec]"). Lots of museums and performing arts.

The rents are still decent compared to most larger cities. If I was 20something I would look for a place near Elgin Street, or in the Glebe or Westboro; all those areas (and old Ottawa South, and and) have very, ah, young-adult-friendly pedestrian areas, and community whatnot to get involved in.

The other potential plus, for you, might be that Ottawa is far enough away from Toronto to rule out casual visits, but it's still not that far away; I grew up seeing Toronto relatives twice a year; reasonable drive, manageable bus trip, pleasant train ride. Montreal is wonderful for a visit and a pretty short drive.

But you may need to figure out the French thing; pure monolingualism would be a handicap here, I think.

I agree that you will not get "something like New York or San Francisco" without going there, and Ottawa is...not that, but, on the other hand, those cities have plenty of problems you may not be seeing (speaking as somebody who lived in the States for a few years in her 20s and did not like it at all); there are a couple of good previous threads about cultural differences, and with the US economy being what it is I don't know if I'd want to venture down there now, even with a job offer in hand. High rents + impoverished neighbours.
posted by kmennie at 2:45 PM on October 6, 2011

Honestly, this seems a little off. Your criteria mostly point to Vancouver (a generally great place; I lived there 6 years, but I prefer smaller, regional centres because they tend to have a lot going on culturally (being the only game in the region) without the hassles of huge cities), but really just apply for good jobs in cities all over Canada and go to where you find an interesting and fulfilling job. Most cities in Canada these days are ethnically and otherwise diverse, have a lot of great restaurants (if you bother to find them), and have a great arts and entertainment scene (again, if you bother to find it). How the transit is depends more on where you are within a city than what city you're in. Adventure comes more from your approach to things than where you are. I've had much more adventure and fun in Edmonton than I ever did in Vancouver, but that's mostly because I've become a more adventurous person.

FWIW, "World Class" is an utterly useless descriptor repeated by insecure boosters. Disregard it, and you'll be happier.
posted by Kurichina at 3:19 PM on October 6, 2011

Montreal and Vancouver seem the best options. I love both.

And hey, come visit Winnipeg. It's got hot summer, freezing winters, great local music and arts, a core area that's beginning to revive, a returned hockey team, and fun restaurants.
posted by iftheaccidentwill at 4:24 PM on October 6, 2011

I live in Vancouver. If Toronto and Montreal are out, then Vancouver's pretty much the only big metropolitan city you've got left. But great weather? If you like rain for months on end better than -30 for months on end, then I guess Vancouver's okay. How affordable the rent is depends on your salary, but be aware that Vancouver has the most expensive rent in Canada while salaries here tend to be lower compared to other major Canadian cities.

As for your additional questions, it's probably a good idea to keep working and save up some more money before you move. Unless you have a job lined up in your new city, $5000 is not going to go far at all.
posted by keep it under cover at 4:54 PM on October 6, 2011

When I finished my graduate work at McGill in '91, I moved to Chicago on spec. Got a job right away, and 20 years later I run the joint. But I was/am an American citizen.

As far as Canadian cities go, I lived in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Banff, Vancouver and Victoria. Vancouver wins hands down as the best place to llive. YMMV.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 6:36 PM on October 6, 2011

Best answer: Richard Florida has written a book called "Who's my city" which talks about how to choose the city that fits you the best. He has a version for the US and one for Canada. There is also a this this website that offers thoughts and answers about where to settle in Canada.

I've lived in loads of cities and towns in both Canada and abroad. I liked them all for different reasons and sometimes they all got on my nerves as well.

I don't know if it is just a fluke but I've always managed to find work easier in the west. Your needs seem to fit a mid to large city but that will push the rent up a bit. Perhaps consider ruling in the north. For someone recently graduating there are good opportunities working in government and other industry and quite an interesting and active bunch of people who come up to the north without many attachments.

Ottawa is also something that may offer up a lot of options at an affordable price but it is often beneficial to speak french.

You could also live in a number of cities to get a feel for them. Why not consider getting a working visa for London, England or Sydney, Australia or Auckland, New Zealand? As recall I was pretty much invincible at age 21. I just showed up in NZ and decided I liked it so much that I would figure out a way to live there and get a job - and that was exactly what I did.

This may be the best time of your life to do whatever you please. Be selfish, look out for yourself, don't commit, live everywhere. Have fun.

My favourite places to live and work;
London, England
Napier, New Zealand
Whitehorse, Yukon Territory
Nelson, BC - haven't lived there yet but it is on my list

Least Favourite city
Mississauga, Ontario
posted by YukonQuirm at 10:33 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Given that you're fresh out of university with no existing job weighing you down and looking for adventure, consider traveling out of North America. That you're looking for an American city seems to indicate you're actually looking for foreign experience.

Many, many friends have had amazing times teaching English in East Asia, namely South Korea and Japan.

But if it seems a little too far out culturally or in language, many commonwealth countries (ex-British colonies or the UK) extend visas to other member citizens with work privileges. It's typically called the Working Vacation Visa and terms vary amongst countries but typically allows for a young person to apply for a visa that allows them to work for a few years. For example, a Canadian can apply for this visa to the UK and the only requirement is to have a modest amount of money saved and be under a certain age. US doesn't participate but places like France, Hong Kong, and Australia in addition to the UK do.

The Working Vacation visa is just that - it allows full work privileges so you don't need your foreign employer to sponsor you or do any extra work. Many friends have done this and I regret not doing this earlier in life before I started a "career".
posted by artificialard at 9:57 AM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

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