Help us decide if we should move to Edmonton?
October 1, 2012 7:47 PM   Subscribe

Edmonton, Canada! That's where we (me, husband, 13 month old daughter and our trusty dog) are considering moving. We currently live in sunny Perth, Western Australia. What should we know?

Husband has a work opportunity in Edmonton and we think we'd like to live abroad for a few years before the kidlet starts school.

I lived in Canada (Windsor Ontario) for a year when I was a teenager, so I do understand that it will be much much much colder than Perth. Much. But that's ok, we can buy appropriate clothing and find a house with central heating and lose our minds by February. I also understand that Canada is big, really big, and we won't be driving down to Toronto for the weekend.

The things I would like to know include what suburbs would be good for a young, active family used to living in a lively, walkable inner-city locale; availability of childcare places; things to do on weekends; cost of living and getting around etc.

But what about our dog? Is it really hard to find pet-friendly rentals? And the logistics of living with a dog in a cold climate also puzzle me - do they sell snow boots for pups?

I'd also really like to get a sense of what Edmonton is like as a city. What are its charms, its peculiarities and its flaws? What do we really need to know before we take the plunge and shift our whole lives to the other side of the world?
posted by jasperella to Work & Money (30 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Just making sure you're aware of the quarantine laws that will affect your dog when you return home. Can be long, stressful, and expensive-about $40 a day for a month, I think.
posted by purenitrous at 8:07 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I only visit the city, not live there, so I can't inform you on matters of suburb selection.

They do actually sell snow boots for dogs. Buy yourself some yaktrax or similiar if you plan on winter walking.
posted by Sternmeyer at 8:12 PM on October 1, 2012

CBC Radio 3 will let you catch up on the Canadian music scene, which I believe is pretty darn good in Edmonton.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:25 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, Windsor has comparatively "warm and balmy" winters. One issue I had in Alberta was allergies/asthma which are generally not a problem for me in my more humid, closer to sea level home province. I went from being completely unmedicated to needing anthistamines and nebuliser treatments as well as having to carry an emergency inhaler. This problem went away as soon as I left. Something to consider! Sorry I can't answer more specific questions, but I'm no longer local.
posted by sunshinesky at 8:39 PM on October 1, 2012


I grew up in Edmonton. I worked in the arts, near the university, and in queer circles. Everyone who can leaves, does. The winters are horrible. The population is unfriendly. The suburbs are wastelands and deserts, often hermetic, and almost impossible to make friends. Attempts to make it livable often fail. Drivers are aggressive. The architecture is soviet.

It's also a boom town. Expensive. Really Expensive, for almost nothing. Housing bubble, drug trade, violent. Money flows in, money flows out, and very few people see much of it--and those who do are thoroughly unpleasant people.

I go back every christmas, and I am almost suicidal at the end of it. I can name like 4 good things, and the two or three people I know who still live there are the most bitter people i have seen--except for my sister, and she works as an emt, so will have a career in 20 yr olds doing stupid things when drunk--and as long as the oil is there, then there will be almost none of those left.

Oh, and the government is both reactionary and runs in dyansties, parties have decades long rules here--this is the place where Harper got his start.

It's like Phoneix without the charm.
posted by PinkMoose at 9:02 PM on October 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

It will be so cold your eyes and nose will occasionally freeze shut. Also: pitch black.

Walkable is not the word I've use to describe it. Phoenix actually beats it in walk score.
posted by ead at 9:11 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Edmonton is very flat and sprawling, and public transit is pretty hellish in the long winters. The walkability of this city is about zero. You can't do without at least one car per household (you'll probably need two for a family), and you will have to have your vehicles in a garage or plugged into block heaters or both. You will also have to get used to driving in heavy snow. You will have a crappy-looking car. No one has nice shiny cars in Edmonton, because any new car will be destroyed within a winter.

Downtown Edmonton is completely dead outside of office hours. That's something that really surprised and disappointed me the first time I ventured downtown. And I mean dead. There is nothing to do downtown except work. If you want to enjoy a walk through a somewhat lively area with shops and restaurants, you have Whyte Avenue in the spring/summer/early fall - but don't go at night on a Friday or Saturday with your kid, because then it's chock full of drunken hooligans. I've witnessed much puking and public peeing and fist fighting on Whyte Avenue. And for winter, you have the monolithic West Edmonton Mall. Or strip malls. That's about it really.

I also second what sunshinesky said about the climate. The air is extremely dry in Edmonton. Humidifiers are a must for your home, or your skin will itch and crack and you will have never-ending dry coughs and nosebleeds all the time. Vaseline, you will need lots of it. Your hair will also get dry and static-y like you wouldn't believe. And the temperature regularly dips into the -30 to -40 degree Celsius range in winter. With every breath you take, the moisture in your nostrils will freeze into little icicles. It's really quite something to experience. Winters in Edmonton were really hard for me, because as much as you hate to be cooped up inside all day, it can be so. damn. cold. that going outside is even more unpleasant.

Oh, and the mud... it's so cold in Edmonton that salting the roads and sidewalks would accomplish nothing. So to make it (somewhat) safe to walk and drive, they sling dirt and gravel everywhere. If you were to describe Edmonton in a color, it would be brown. The buildings are mostly brown. As soon as it snows, the city puts down a good layer of brown, and keeps layering on the brown every time it snows. When the snow finally starts to melt in mid-late spring, all the dirt and dust gets left behind in the form of brown slush and mud. Then it dries into a crust of brown. Every pair of pants I had were stained brown at the hems and had to be thrown out when I left Edmonton. And get used to having rock chips in your windshield.

If we haven't scared you off of Edmonton yet, here is a comprehensive write-up I found about life in Edmonton, including information on the most family-friendly neighborhoods.
posted by keep it under cover at 9:23 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I grew up there! And now I live in Melbourne. It's been a few years since last I was back, so caveat whatnot and I can't speak to suburbs (I grew up in Malmo, right near the big family housing estate for the University, and it looked about the same when I went back in 2007.) Yes, they sell snow boots for dogs but I don't remember many dogs having special clothes when I was growing up. I think if you get your dogs used to going outside as the weather changes, their coats grow in and their pads toughen up. Mostly they'll be living inside with you, though.

Edmonton is almost manically active in the summer, with a ton of festivals. The winters are indeed long, long, long. Typically the really ghastly weather comes in snaps - a week at -40C with wind chill - and the rest of the time it's just sort of there. The way nearly everyone copes with the cold and the dark is by staying inside a lot, and by cultivating indoor hobbies. You will have cabin fever by February. Many people do participate in winter sports but Edmonton is a long drive from the hills, so alpine skiing is less common than ice skating (and real hockey, not this thing with the ball that little girls play) or cross-country skiing. You probably won't want to ski to work because the streets are usually plowed and your skis will be destroyed by gravel.

It is, as PinkMoose notes, a resource extraction economy, so it's a boom-and-bust town, but it's also a university town and an arts city. A lot like Perth, actually, and the reactionary/conservative nature of the politics falls somewhere between WA and Queensland.

I don't find the drivers aggressive compared to anywhere in California, or to Melbourne. The city isn't walkable but several of the neighborhoods are, if that makes sense, especially near the river valley. (But cost of housing rises as you get closer to the river and as you get closer to the UofA and have to compete with a gazillion students for limited housing stock.) Public transportation options are pretty good relative to cities in the US, but not as good, I think, as the big cities in Oz. But yeah, it can be pretty miserable and even dangerous to wait for the bus outside when it's well below freezing. (Buy your winter gear there, not here or online - it's cheaper and the selection is better than anything you'll find even in Tasmania, and you can get advice from people who actually know what you'll need.) The architecture is brutalist and the city is just ugly in the winter. But the sky is amazing, especially on clear winter nights and during summer thunderstorms.

It is interesting to find that decades after I left (yes, I couldn't hack the winters or living that close to my parents) I am still very defensive and offended when Easterners (usually from Ontario or Quebec rather than the Maritime provinces) are rude about Edmonton and Alberta.

Oh, I know one other thing that you need to be prepared for. Edmonton has mosquitoes like no other city I've ever been, even with a rigorous control programme. If you go into the countryside, you will find that the mosquitoes are even worse, there are also blackflies, and there are these vicious things called horseflies that will take an actual visible chunk out of your flesh and carry it away. You will become utterly lackadaisical about your exposure to incredibly toxic repellents, or you will be covered in massive welts all summer long after camping or whatever. Probably both.
posted by gingerest at 9:32 PM on October 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hey-o! I'm from Edmonton and proud of it! Haters can go suck eggs!

I recommend looking at these neighbourhoods: Riverdale, Westmount, Mill Creek/Bonnie Doon, Oliver, Forest Heights, Garneau (around the university), McKernan/Belgravia & Crestwood/Parkview- basically anything close-ish to the river valley between the Provincial Museum and Little Italy. I grew up in Riverdale, right in the middle of the river valley. There are tons of trails, parks and river-related activities to do near the water, even in the summer. It also makes it the most walkable and bikeable out of anywhere in the city- I could commute by bike for about 6 months of the year through the river valley trails.

Edmonton's winters can get pretty cold, but you'll still find people bundled up doing things outside. Just doing them for shorter periods of time. It can get dark in the middle of the winter- I'm talking sunset at 4:30 pm for a few weeks. Those months can suck, but it's kind of motivating to get outside and be active while the sun is actually out. Edmonton does have plenty of clear skies, and so avoids some of the gloominess that you find from perpetual clouds in Vancouver.

And as they always say, it's a dry cold- I find it much more agreeable than soaking/freezing/icy cold in more humid climates. -30°C is damn cold, but I find it kind of refreshing in short aliquots. You can either complain about it or make the best of it, I guess.

Edmonton has great, great summers. The lack of humidity is really nice-- 30°C in Edmonton is totally different than 30°C in Toronto. Edmonton has lots of festivals in the summer- the Folk Fest, Jazz Fest, Fringe Fest, Artworks, Taste of Edmonton, Food Truck festivals. They're all great. People make the most of the summers, definitely. There are two year round Farmers' Markets which are really good in my opinion.

There's also excellent music, food and drink over town, but perhaps not as densely concentrated as in a major city like Toronto or Vancouver. Check out this blog or this one to get a taste for the local food scene. I can send lots and lots of recommendations if you want!

Transit can be workable depending on where you need to commute to; living close to the LRT can get you downtown or to the university very easily, but the further you get away from the downtown core, the more and more you'll need a car.

Despite what other commenters have said, Edmonton has a solid progressive scene. Stephen Harper actually got his start in Calgary, which in my opinion is a completely different (and crappier) city (I will admit there is a weird sibling dynamic between the cities). I don't know where PinkMoose was meeting all of these mean people, but I find the Edmontonians I've met to be friendly and outgoing (moreso that Vancouver, where I currently live). And it's definitely less expensive to live than Vancouver or Toronto- there's no provincial sales tax and government taxes are much lower.

Lots of people drive to the mountains for skiing/sightseeing on weekends during the winter- you can get to Banff or Jasper national park in about 4 h. It's also a 1 h plane trip from Vancouver.

Edmonton's flaws: it suffers from suburb sprawl (so I'd stick to the core of the city for rentals), downtown gets empty at night (although they're working on it) and the weather isn't for everyone. It isn't Toronto or Vancouver, which I think some people wish it was. And we have a giant mall.

On preview: 2nding gingerest's comments- I find a lot of people tend to discount Edmonton without giving it a chance, which is really frustrating to me. If you put some heart into it, it'll love you back.
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 9:37 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I lived in Edmonton for 8 months, and I got the summer and the winter. Summers are dry and hot and rather sandy. Winters are, as mentioned above, quite cold. I did not have a car, ever, during my stay in Edmonton, and I survived. I did, however, had to wear ski pants over my jeans and 5-6 layers on my torso. Fashionista I was not, especially coupled with large grocery bags.

Transit is pretty terrible, in my opinion, but if you live along a couple of the more major routes it's...doable. Not great, but doable. I didn't find the drivers any crazier than it was anywhere else. I mostly spent my social time around comic stores and gamers and the rest of my time at home, so I can't speak to the social scene; it was fine for me because of my very limited demands.

Walkability varies greatly on where you live. If you live close to the university along Whyte it's actually not bad. I lived about a 15 minute bus ride west of West Edmonton Mall, which - while doable - limited my socializing abilities greatly because that bus always ended its route early, so I rarely got to stay out past about 7 pm on weekends.
posted by Hakaisha at 9:40 PM on October 1, 2012

I should have been more fair about the progressive edges of Edmonton. I have strong opinons about the Fringe, but the Folkfest is magical--a weekend of perfection. The river valley is often nice.

Thinking about this again. I know one writer who is still in town and seems to like it. I know two other people, who seem to have fun, and they are married with kids. If you are in the Uni scene, the uni scene will take care of you. If you are in the musician scene, the musician scene will take care of you. Because of the deep unpleasantness of the weather, much of the scene happens inside other people's houses. Often the house parties have a kind of passive agressiveness. People who are on the inside of those scenes are well taken care of. People who are not, are let ago in a very direct sense. It is a town that has maintained it's Presbyterian heritage.

I feel like I should say something that might not mean much to you, but In terms of mean--I have never had the level of homophobic violence that i did in Edmonton. If you aren't queer, (and there are major queer scholars now at the U of A, and the queer scene has the advantage of being really small, so they work together), this might not be a consideration. I spent time in small time Alberta and about 20 years in Edmonton, in the city itself, I have:

a) been hit
b) been spat on
c) been kicked to the ground.
d) had fag yelled out to me from pick up trucks.
e) had things thrown at me
f) been refused entrance at night clubs
g) been refused service at resturants.
h) been told by people to move on when kissing my then boyfriend.

as for agressive drivers--it is mostly being a pedestrian, and not feeling safe walking. I have been to a number of Canadian and American cities--Edmonton is the worst.

Also, the two big indie bookstores that I loved, are now dead. If I wasn't really interested in country music, and if my family, no reason to go back at all.
posted by PinkMoose at 9:58 PM on October 1, 2012

(PinkMoose, yeah, that's exactly how Melbourne drivers are aggressive, as opposed to Northern California drivers, who are fast and competent but will not let you merge if you're driving but who can at times be over-polite about letting you cross the street on foot. I know that there was a ton of homophobic bullshit including violence in Edmonton when I was growing up, but I wasn't positioned to judge during more recent visits, so I'm sad to hear it hasn't changed in that regard. Then again, a lot of Australia has a long way to go when it comes to homophobia, too, so it might not, sadly, come as much of a culture shock to the jasperella family.)
posted by gingerest at 10:04 PM on October 1, 2012

Also! You may find the website useful in looking for pet-friendly rentals.
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 10:27 PM on October 1, 2012

Best answer: Hi, current resident here! I've lived in Edmonton for over a decade, and have come to love the city.
I second beepbeepboopboop's recommendations for neighborhoods to live in. Those are the areas where you find the most independent businesses, places where there are sidewalks and tree lined streets. I live in Westmount so I am biased, but 124th Street has galleries such as the Bear Claw Gallery which features Native artists, the Roxy Theatre, the exquisite Duchess Bakeshop, and the child friendly Cafe Tiramisu. There is also a new weekly market, the 124 Street Grand Market.

Transit here is not great but they are improving it, and currently building new LRT lines. Busses can be a bit sketchy, as most people drive. I lived downtown for several years without a car and it was fine, but (and I say this as someone with a three-year-old) I wouldn't want to live here with a child but no car. The winters are getting warmer and drier, but it's usually below freezing for five months of the year, and chilly for another two or three months.

You can get doggy snow jackets and booties, and your pup will thank you for it in the winter. It's not just the cold, but all the sand and gravel people put down on the sidewalks, as well as whatever is in that ice melter chemical. And don't let your kid eat the yellow snow! ;)

The summers are great, there's a reason they call it festival city. Everyone's so happy it's warm that they party all summer! There's music and theatre festivals which are very popular, but there's something to do every weekend. The Cariwest parade, Heritage Days, Capital Ex, the Taste of Edmonton, and the Sourdough raft races.

There's tons of parks and playgrounds for the kids. The city's neighbourhoods each have their own community league, which builds and maintains local playgrounds and community halls. Many playgrounds have water spray decks, which is a great way to spend a summer day and to meet your neighbours. There's also several outdoor pools, such as the Queen Elizabeth pool in the river valley.

Other places that I would recommend in the city:
The Italian Centre Shop - east of downtown, it's got fresh bread, a giant deli counter, and a cafe attached, in the heart of Little Italy
Fort Edmonton Park - a large historical park, featuring a reconstructed fort, costumed imterpreters, a great little hotel, a steam train and a midway. It is open during the summer, but they have special events all year, like the Spooktacular near Hallowe'en and horse drawn sleigh rides at Christmas.
The Leg - this is the Legislature Building, where the provincial government sits. The grounds are great and host events in summer, and you can go wading in the fountains and pools. At Christmas there is ice skating.
There's also the Valley Zoo (small but expanding), the Muttart Conservatory (plants growing inside! Can get your greenery fix in the winter!), the Telus World of Science (the new Discoveryland is great for 1-5 year olds), the John Janzen Nature Centre (indoor play area, plus trails and ponds outside).
Cafe O'Play - can't forget this! Indoor play area for kids five and under, and coffee and paninis for mom. A bit pricey but there's no time limit on how long you can stay.

There's lots of parks and trails in the river valley. In the winter a lot of moms do stroller walks in the malls. I hate malls in general but they are useful in this climate. There's lots of recreation centres, although the big ones are in the outer suburbs. Most have indoor playgrounds, so the kids can burn off energy. For toddlers, O'Leary Fitness and Leisure Centre has a nice indoor play area.
posted by meringue at 11:20 PM on October 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I was going to add more, but I should be getting to bed. Feel free to ask anything though! Edmonton is a working city, a lot of it isn't pretty. And there has been a boom going on the past couple years, which means there's a lot of people here that aren't from here. But you just have to get involved. Having a kid makes a huge difference, as Edmonton is very family oriented. Yes, there's young guys with a lot of money who want to party on Whyte Ave. But there's a lot of hard working warm hearted people too.
posted by meringue at 11:30 PM on October 1, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the answers - the climate does frighten us, we'd be fools not to be frightened, especially as we don't have any experience with driving in the snow and ice.

We're undecided on bringing our dog or not, and the difficulty in bringing her back to Australia is a major factor, but I'm already pre-emptively heartbroken on the thought of leaving her behind.

@PinkMoose - thanks for your comments and I just wanted to say I'm sorry you were treated so disgracefully. It's very sad that the fabled tolerance of Canadians is lacking in Edmonton (we have similar issues where I live now, unfortunately).

@Meringue - thank you so much, this is very helpful.
posted by jasperella at 12:02 AM on October 2, 2012

Best answer: Hi! I'm from California, living in Sydney. We moved our two ozzie cats to California, swearing we' d stay til they died (they were two at the time) or re-home them. Well, it's two years later and all Four of us (me, hubby, kitties) are back in Sydney in one piece, and everyone is fine :-) . Having them with us was actually a HUGE help, emotionally. I would be happy to answer questions abouts vets, pet movers, quarantine, moving tips for pets, etc. me mail me! And good luck!
posted by jrobin276 at 12:37 AM on October 2, 2012

Best answer: If driving in the snow/ice frightens you (as it should!), take a few driving lessons when winter hits. It's not unusual at all for newcomers to Canada to take winter driving lessons.
posted by third word on a random page at 3:47 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I grew up in Edmonton, and my family still lives there. Edmonton is awesome. I just wanted to mention there are some great dog parks. Live close to the river valley if you can. The local zoo is small, but undergoing a huge expansion and update (it's great for kids), and West Edmonton Mall is an experience and a half.

I would use Kijiji or Craigslist to find a rental,
posted by blue_beetle at 4:56 AM on October 2, 2012

PinkMoose is not wrong. Don't dismiss the warnings lightly.
posted by sixswitch at 5:32 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Agree with sixswitch (thus PinkMoose): I was being a bit flippant above, but if you're still deciding: Edmonton is right near the bottom of my preferences for Cities in Canada. I'd recommend avoiding it.
posted by ead at 7:28 AM on October 2, 2012

I live in Edmonton, and I really enjoy it. I've lived in many other cities across Canada and a couple in the UK, and Edmonton is where I found I made friends naturally and very quickly found community.

But your experience will depend A LOT on where in the city you live. Until recently, I was in Bonnie Doon, an inner-city suburb that is quiet and fairly walkable but "long-walkable" for most of the restaurants and pubs (along Whyte Ave, and downtown). As long as you're within a roughly 30 block radius from downtown, you will not find transit to be a problem, and may not even need a car. (A friend of mine lives in Ritchie, car-free except for the occasional weekend rental and does not have any significant difficulty with that.) When looking for a place, you may want to look somewhere along the existing LRT line for convenience. Ritchie, Bonnie Doon, Argyll, Mill Creek would all be good neighbourhoods for what you describe your needs. (Also, they put you close to the Mill Creek ravine, which is prime dog walking real estate.)

The northside of the river is less expensive to rent or buy in than the south side, but is slightly further away from some of the cool stuff. However, if you like the idea of being part of an "up and coming" neighbourhood, with an emerging arts scene, strong community involvement and a great farmers' market, I recommend looking near Alberta Avenue (118th Avenue). Since you have a dog, that area may also be the most economical place to rent a house (as opposed to an apartment). However, Alberta Avenue is changing, so there will also be a contingent of reactionary working class old timers (much more so than Strathcona, university, etc). I think it going to be the coolest part of the city in 10 years' time, and I'm pretty jazzed to be buying in nearby Cromdale.

I have to run, but I want to say more, because I feel like the best parts of Edmonton are often hidden, even to people who live here.
posted by Kurichina at 8:00 AM on October 2, 2012

I'm not from Edmonton, but I wanted to pop in here and recommend the blog Girls & Bicycles for an idea of what life can be like in Edmonton. It is written by a youngish woman (her name is Sarah) and is all about her life with her city councillor husband and two young kids (a daughter who is a few months old and a three-ish year old son) in what sounds like a quite liveable neighbourhood of Edmonton. They live in Belgravia and she speaks a lot of how easy it is for her to get around without a car most of the time and features places that make me think that Edmonton isn't as terrible as I always thought it was. It sounds like there are people in Edmonton who are working to make things better.

Alberta is a conservative haven within Canada and the origin of our current political climate and Edmonton is no exception. But as with all places, there are some neighbourhoods in Edmonton that are going to be more progressive than others. It's worth noting that the federal riding of Edmonton-Strathcona (which Belgravia is part of) has the only NDP Member of Parliament in all of Alberta. It also has an NDP member of the provincial legislature.
posted by urbanlenny at 8:30 AM on October 2, 2012

Sarah's husband is Don Iveson, who I have worked with. The writer I know works on the revival of Alberta Avenue. Both are working on making Edmonton more livable. According to some measures they have succeded.
posted by PinkMoose at 9:23 AM on October 2, 2012

Best answer: I've lived in a few different cities, and Edmonton is by far my favourite place to live. The people can be lovely, there is always so much going on, and it has beautiful natural features.

There are many people here who are working really hard to make it a better place, and others [no offense, pinkmoose, but yours is an attitude I suffer through whenever I talk with certain acquaintances] who take every opportunity to bash the city and compare it unfavourably to their particular dream city. Any conversation gets steered to how they are above this town, and only putting up with living here temporarily.

Fair enough, Edmonton has some easy targets like weather, transit, sprawl, oil money... but there is so many completely amazing people living here making it better all the time, and it can be anything you want it to be.

I am a year-round bicycle commuter, and would rather do that here than in, say, Montreal or Vancouver. I would rather be new and trying to make friends here than in any other city of this size or larger. Friends in the arts who left for Vancouver, San Francisco, Toronto, etc have compared the scenes there unfavourably.

My wife and I just bought a house near Alberta ave, and are excited at how lovely this neighbourhood is, and the direction in which it seems to be going. If you do decide to move here, send me a memail and we can help show you some of what Kurichina rightly points out are the hidden best parts of Edmonton.
posted by Acari at 1:06 PM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone else who responded. It seems the city divides opinion quite drastically, which reminds me of where I live right now, (except for the whole six months of freezing cold winter).

It is a really hard decision and unfortunately if we do move over it'll be for at least two years - it would be awesome if we could come over for three or four months and see what we think before making the commitment, but that's not feasible.

At the moment we're thinking that if the job opportunity for my husband is compelling enough then we will give it a go, with the knowledge that Edmonton has its downsides - ie the crime rate, which is rather scary - and winters will be very hard. We will definitely want to live in a nicer neighbourhood and we will take winter driving lessons.

Also my parents have said they would happily take my dog, so we do have the option of leaving her in a loving home, which reassures me significantly.
posted by jasperella at 7:14 PM on October 2, 2012


This is not about me being bitter. It is about the fact that I cannot do the work that I want to do, and live in Edmonton. I spent a decade in Edmonton, showed in Edmonton, curated festivals, worked in galleries, wrote for publications, sat on boards--I went out of my way to make sure that Edmonton would be the best it could be. I was actively part of the scene that you describe. Edmonton drove me out. It gave me burn out.

The work is at diminishing returns, you love it, that's great; people are trying to make it better; thats fantastic--but one folk festival weekend does not make up for 363 days.

I am not some big city snob looking to piss on the town he grew up know, if the OP talked about moving to Prince Rupert, Prince George, Whitehorse, Yellowknife, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, or even Brandon--I would say go for it---in fact Whitehorse, Saskatoon and Winnipeg are places I seriously thought about moving. I ended up in Montreal, I wish I had chosen Winnipeg.
posted by PinkMoose at 7:15 PM on October 2, 2012

It's worth noting that the federal riding of Edmonton-Strathcona (which Belgravia is part of) has the only NDP Member of Parliament in all of Alberta. It also has an NDP member of the provincial legislature.

Small correction and addition: Edmonton has 4 NDP MLAs, not just 1: Brian Mason, Rachel Notley, Derron Bilous and David Eggen. While there's only one NDP representative federally, two other ridings (Edmonton Centre and Edmonton East) came quite close in the last election. If it weren't for those misguided, so-called "strategic" voting websites incorrectly counselling people to vote Liberal against the Conservatives, I am convinced that Edmonton Centre would be represented by the wonder Lewis Cardinal instead of the lazy and lackluster Conservative Laurie Hawn. The FPTP system distorts a lot and makes the level of Conservatism appear a lot higher than it actually is.
posted by Kurichina at 7:41 PM on October 2, 2012

I lived in Edmonton between sept 2008 and aug 2011 (2011 was also the year with that insane homicide rate - I lived downtown, I'm a small and generally defenseless female - I never felt unsafe, even very late at night).

I grew up in Calgary, and I moved to Edmonton to go to University there. I moved back to Calgary in Aug 2011 and I'm itching to go back there.

But anywhoo, Edmonton is not as bad as some people say.

Yes, it will be cold, but it's not as bad as you think. I know -30C sounds bad bad bad. But there is virtually no humidity, so unless it's super windy, it's not nearly as bad as it sounds.(honestly, once I went to halifax and it was like +5C and i was I nearly died because it was so cold because woaw humidity). Real winter is basically November to mid March. But inside that you will randomly have some really nice days. Yes, it does snow, and most of it doesn't melt until around April and yes, there will be a lot of brown. The nice thing about Edmonton is that the city (unlike Calgary), actually plows the roads on a regular basis. I can't speak for driving conditions because I don't drive, but one really nice thing about Edmonton, is that they number their streets and aves. Much harder to get lost and you don't have to pull out google maps every time somebody gives you an unfamiliar address. Transit isn't all that bad - buses are usually more or less on time unless there's a big massive storm going on. Not only that buses and LRT are more or less independent. If LRT shat itself (I can't stay this has never happened), you're not stuck on your end of the city. (In calgary, you basically are unless you want to take like 10 busses).

I can't speak for suburbs, but downtown, things are actually open late and there are things to do down there. In the summer there is usually something going at least on the weekends, and if not, I suppose you could drive to Jasper or something. Or some campground.

Eh, as for rentals, one thing I do know is that you should not rent with Boardwalk communities or whatever they're called. I've heard nothing but awful things about them. Another piece of advice I can give when looking for a place to live - go to that area at night. During the day it may look like a very nice street, but at night you may not feel so nice (107th ave is a good example of that).

Another cool thing about edmonton is that summer days are long long long. You get like 20 hours of daylight in June/July.

Also, on a side note, it is actually possible to walk from one side of edmonton to the other. If I so feel like it I'm pretty sure I can walk or bike from South Common to Clairview. Walking would take a good 5+ hours, but it is possible. (By contrast, once I tried to walk from chinook area to shawnessy area in calgary - this took 7 hours, I got stuck several times, had to run across many lanes of traffic and this isnt even half way across the city). i can;t speak for suburbs because I've only lived in Oliver and in some other area that I think was called Allendale, but generally, I think you will have a grocery(and probably a liquor store) either within walking distance or a short bus ride away.
posted by electriic at 10:37 PM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hi! I live in Edmonton now, and I've lived in several other cities in the past. Edmonton isn't the worst place a person could live, but for me it has been something of a struggle to learn to like the place. You've mostly been marking positive views of the city as best answers, but overall I think the most accurate views you've gotten have been from keep it under cover, PinkMoose and Kurichina. And yes, I have been trying to appreciate the city more: I usually try not to focus on the downsides!

If you haven't lived this far north before, you're probably underestimating the importance of latitude. Summer days are looooong, which is great (if you have heavy curtains to help you sleep), but the terribly short days in the winter are emotionally devastating, at least for me. I use a SAD lamp and take vitamin D supplements, and I'm outside a lot, but even with those supports it's difficult to tolerate the absence of sun. It's also really weird to have a late-afternoon shadow at 12pm, or to go home from work in the dark at 5pm. It seems romantic at first, but after a while I just want to scream.

Likewise, though you know to be scared of how intense the winters are, I'm not sure it's been emphasized enough how long they are. There's not much of an autumn or spring—just a brief, wild, stormy summer (which is awesome—but summer's pretty great most places!) and a long, cold, seemingly endless winter. It's only skin-will-freeze-almost-instantly cold for part of that time, but by the time the grass becomes green in the spring, I've already pretty much given up hope of ever seeing that colour again.

LobsterMitten claims the Edmonton music scene is “pretty darn good,” and maybe for some people it is, but compared to other Canadian cities I've lived in, I wouldn't say it's that great. Actually, the lack of a vibrant year-round arts scene is one of the things I like the least about being here. For a few weeks in the summer, there's a few big (kind of obnoxious) festivals, and that seems to largely exhaust the city's interest in cultural production. If you care about visual arts, especially, you'll be disappointed. There are a few great people working to change that, but I still stand by the generalization.

It is expensive here, and class-striated. The neighborhood you live in will matter So Much to your experience of the city. Old Strathcona, the Garneau, and Oliver are nice; if I lived out toward South Edmonton Common I would already have fled the city. Even the “nice” parts of the city are Ugly, and though I wish that didn't matter to me, and though I didn't expect it to matter to me, I feel such a relief whenever I get out of town. Also, if you're used to being near an ocean or other noteworthy body of water, you may suffer from a feeling of being landlocked. What people around here call “the beach,” I'd be inclined to call “the slough” or “the swamp.”

The people here seem unusually heterosexist for a Canadian city of this size, and queer and feminist circles seem much more tightly-knit and embattled. Racism is also a problem, particularly in the way a lot of people think about and treat First Nations and Metis people. This is of course not without exception, and there's one thing I like about that aspect of being here: I rarely feel like I'm preaching my politics to the choir.

I'm living here without a car, and I live close to my workplace, but I occasionally rent cars, and I don't think car-less-ness is feasible here for most people and in most neighborhoods. The city is made of squat, low, spreading buildings—except for part of downtown, YEG would rather grow wide than tall. Drivers are kind of clueless, and lots of them have great big scary trucks. electriic's statement that “it is possible to walk from one side of edmonton to the other” seems inconceivable to me. There aren't impassable freeways, but only the core is walker-friendly.
She also says that she never felt unsafe there, but there have been unprovoked attacks and killings here, and this summer many women were being randomly attacked on the streets. I could tell you more stories, but you can also research it yourself.

Things I like about living here: the aurora borealis is not uncommon, there are pretty good fireworks a couple of times a year, the mountains within driving range are lovely, I have met some great friends here, and the summer thunderstorms are sublime.

Two things I am ambivalent about:
1) The mall: it's horrific and handy. It's awful and awesome. Mostly I hate it, but I'm also overwhelmed by it and kind of grateful for it. If I was crazy-rich (and not opposed to wasteful consumerism), I'd probably really like it.
2) Being so close to the tar sands development in Northern Alberta. It's absolutely horrific, and seeing and thinking about it is disgusting, terrifying, and deeply depressing. It's odd to have one of the worst things happening on the planet right next door. On the other hand, I'm grateful to have it in my face: I'd rather confront and work on such an immense problem than ignore it. It's hard to get too idealist and abstract about issues of consumption when I see how people I know justify their involvement, and it forces me to think about my own imbrication in the situation.
posted by Edna Million at 2:25 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

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