Making life more bearable in a province/lifestyle we hate?
August 19, 2013 11:40 AM   Subscribe

My husband and I are dying to move to another province where we have tons of family. People are much more laid back there; they know how to have fun without spending a lot of money. They enjoy each other's company, chat with strangers, tell great stories and place a lot less value on money. It's a beautiful province with lakes and tons of beach access. Houses have decks and fireplaces. To me, it's paradise. The family component is wonderful for my daughter. The problem is that in our home province, we make crap-tons of money. Moving to the other province could mean as much as a $50,000 pay cut. We've decided to stay here another 2 years to build up some super-savings. My question is: What can we do to make our lives here more bearable until we are ready to move? If worthwhile, I could spend up to $500 a month on any changes.

Here are the things I hate about our life:

- Family ties are not close. We only have one set of friends.
- We do not have a babysitter.
- We are way too busy with mundane things that other people seem to get done more easily or efficiently: prepare child for day, take to daycare, work, pick up child, cook supper as fast as possible, clean up, play with child for very brief time then put to bed, watch 1/2 hour of TV, go to bed.
- I am afraid my daughter is not exposed to enough neat stuff.
- We are landlocked. Lakes here suck. Recreation for family-friendly stuff is expensive and not even all that fun (museums, swimming pool, indoor amusement park...?) We are boring people who don't know what to do even when we have spare time. We tend to default to the mall or stay in. We are not sporty people, although we could certainly change that. But with winter coming and having a just-turned-3-year old, I don't see how she can skate, go skiiing or snow-shoeing.
- This province is all about money and work. It is culture-less.
- We rent the top floor of a house, but it feels small and squished.
- Winter is coming, and it's long (although that's no different in good-province, but at least the people make it more bearable).

I know we are extremely lucky to have health and money, and this sounds whiny (forgive me, it's my first day back from vacation). Something we do plan to do is get me driving, and enroll my daughter in some classes. Still, I really need some more ideas.
posted by kitcat to Grab Bag (39 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I don't think it's worth the savings.

Make plans to move. 2 years in the life of your child is precious, wouldn't it be better to spend them with your friends and family?

Sure, learn to drive and get your daughter in classes, but focus your priorities on getting jobs and moving.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:44 AM on August 19, 2013 [9 favorites]

So you live in Alberta and you want to move to the Maritimes, or something along those lines? Go ahead and move. Don't spend two years of your short lives waiting to start living.
posted by Jairus at 11:45 AM on August 19, 2013 [23 favorites]

agreed with the others. move. life isn't ever as complicated as you think it is, it's just that the lens you use is to macro focused.

in the meantime use (now in canada eh) to find a sitter. our quality of life shot through the roof when i discovered that tidbit a few months back.
posted by chasles at 11:50 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Yup, Alberta to Nova Scotia. For Americans, imagine moving from boring high-income city in Montana (sorry, I don't know anything about Montana) and a move to a low-income place in Maine.
posted by kitcat at 11:54 AM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

I agree that moving now is probably better. You never know what the future holds, and having family near by in tough times is invaluable. Maybe your husband is going to get laid off in two months time. Maybe one of you will be injured. Maybe something will happen to one of your far away family members. I'm not saying to constantly live in fear of what terrible thing might happen. But find a healthy balance of where you want to be right now.

As for addressing your actual question:
Some 3 year olds do skate. And there are snowshoes designed for the 3-5 year old set.

Maybe learn to fly kites? These can be done lakeside without having to go in the lake. (not sure what your definition of "sucks" is, but what I'm getting at is, try reframing what lakes are for.) Kites aren't a winter activity, but if you're still in your province in summer you can try it.

Take nature walks. Focus on the beauty that is around you. Teach your daughter to enjoy where she is and who she is surrounded by, instead of to live in the nebulous future (a sick system in fact sets up the idea that we won't be happy until "future thing" happens. In a true sick system, that future thing never happens. Two lessons. Make the thing happen now, and make where you are "stuck" pleasant - so good on you for doing that.)

Join a mom's group. Join a reading group. Join a crafting group. Join a group. Surely there are at least a few people in town whose company you genuinely enjoy. Have a supper club or otherwise make an excuse to see these people frequently. Like, once or twice a week.

500 a month might get you bargain discount tickets to have one beloved person visit your province each month. Or maybe you'll decide to spread it out to 4 visits over the year to use some of your money on other things.
posted by bilabial at 11:56 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Isn't living in Nova Scotia more affordable than Alberta? Maybe you wouldn't be loosing as much money as you think!
posted by windykites at 11:56 AM on August 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Can you build a network of friends with young children? Can you make friends with some artsy hippies for a dose of (counter?) culture? Depends on what you mean by culture - music, opera, art.... there should be lots of free stuff at your local art gallery that is aimed at children. Maybe you can find a 30-something woman who doesn't have kids or nieces/nephews near by but wants to be artsy with kids. Pay a starving art student to play with your kid. Whatever.

Otherwise it sounds like you need some more time. With $500 you can:

Get a housekeeper.

Buy healthy premade meals. Wholefoods or the like.

Hire someone to run errands for you (there's a website for that I believe) one day a month.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:59 AM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You're in the exact situation I'm in (well, different destination province), except you have actual marketable skills, so I'm completely jealous.

Regarding actual advice, I know it would feel so good to leave - believe me I know - but those savings will be the difference between success and failure should you lose your job once you get out there. You do NOT want to turn around and come back here. No, no, no.

In terms of making it more palatable to stay, sorry. There's not much to like about western Canada unless you're predisposed to like the culture (obviously, I don't). Were I in your position, I would begin making very detailed plans about where you are going to live and what you're going to do there - are you going to buy your first house? What colour schemes do you want? Are you going to start a garden? You could get your daughter interested in planning a garden, or planning her own room. You could both enroll in swimming lessons, since you'll no longer be stuck with algae-and-swimmer's-itch-filled stagnant puddles. Driving lessons, certainly. Read up on the national parks in the area and make plans to visit them (two years is not too far to plan in advance). MEC usually has low-cost lessons for outdoorsy stuff, if you guys want to get more interested in the outdoors that you will gloriously be seeing.

If it were me, I'd be planning a long-term declutter, as you will not want to move this stuff across the country. Stop buying, start tossing. And if you can, re: getting ready more efficiently, try bulk-buying your food and doing a weekly prep session on your weekends - I did the slow-cooker freezer thing for a while, and it's both cheaper and easier on a working family than trying to figure out what you can cook when you get home from work. Plan your meals down to the last ingredient using a weekly meal planner, as well, and stick to it.

And, finally, if there's anything you've ever wanted to see in the west, like the Royal Tyrrell Museum (pretty cool), or some of the World Heritage sites, do that now (especially the latter, seriously, just so you have them stored in your head). Take a road trip to the mountains and take pictures - Jasper is noted for its beauty.

To the Americans: Alberta is like Texas, but with absolutely none of the charm and twice the slavering desire for petroleum money.
posted by Nyx at 12:00 PM on August 19, 2013 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: Real-estate and fun are cheaper, but day-to-day things like gas prices (and lots of driving) and a 15% sales tax + higher food prices mean no, not cheaper.
posted by kitcat at 12:01 PM on August 19, 2013

Grew up out East. I think the move will make a huge difference to your children and the quality of their childhood. No amount of money can make up for that. Move, you'll like it. Lots to do in Nova Scotia (and in my opinion, a much saner place to live in general). Depending on where you live, your dollar will go farther too. Not to bash Alberta, but it isn't for everyone and I suspect I would have been a very different person had I grown up without the Maritime value system/lifestyle.
posted by gohabsgo at 12:04 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

If you do decide to stay put, three actually isn't so young for introductions to snow sports. In my area, kids start XC skiing lessons at twoish (it's cute to watch but super embarrassing when a 5 year old smokes me as I'm still learning myself). If she can walk, she can snowshoe, too. Getting outdoors in the winter makes it sooo much more bearable.
posted by charmcityblues at 12:08 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: First things first, try to separate out the things you dislike about your life which are actually related to where you live, from the things you dislike that are not related to where you live. Right now you've got quite a jumble of the two. Moving will not automatically change any of the following:

- We do not have a babysitter
- We are way too busy with mundane things that other people seem to get done more easily or efficiently
- We are boring people who don't know what to do even when we have spare time.
- We tend to default to the mall or stay in.
- We are not sporty people, although we could certainly change that
- Winter is coming, and it's long

...nor are you necessarily prevented from changing those factors if you stay where you are. Except for winter of course.

If you're determined to save up for a couple of years before you move, try to work on some of those non-location-relevant factors in the meantime so you don't end up carrying them along with you to your new home.
posted by ook at 12:10 PM on August 19, 2013 [19 favorites]

In your home province, all your contacts were already made - family and long time friends. It is difficult to start over in a a new place and make all those connections yourself. When your child is in school, you will meet more peers, and maybe settle in a bit better. Can you join any kind of group that relates to your business, craft, sport, card playing, interests?
posted by Cranberry at 12:11 PM on August 19, 2013

Join a meet-up group through! There are so many, there has got to be one that is of interest to you. We found ourselves with few friends about a year ago and found a meet-up that suited both me and Mr. Sadtomato. We have met so many cool people through the fun meet-ups and now see friends from the meet-up outside of official meet-up events.
posted by sadtomato at 12:11 PM on August 19, 2013

I forgot something! The one thing about western Canada that I do like is that you can find just about any kind of niche or specialty store, with enormous product selection, rivaled only by Toronto and Vancouver. This will NOT be the case down east, so if you have any non-mainstream hobbies, prepare to find alternative products, find alternative retailers, or stock up. On the plus side, shipping from Toronto (where most of these alternatives will be found) will be a titch cheaper.
posted by Nyx at 12:14 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

What can we do to make our lives here more bearable until we are ready to move?

Depends where you are in Alberta, of course, but $500 a month should get you nice weekend getaways at the luxury hotels in Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise... They always have tons of activities for novices. And the scenery is nothing to scoff at, either.

Weekend getaways can be as good as a full-on vacation, and could go a long way to reducing the stress and suckitude of your current position. Often enough, just removing yourself from present circumstances, however temporarily, can do wonders.

You're out west for now -- so might as well enjoy those sorts of places while you're still there.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:15 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ok this is starting to be fighting words... fellow Americans, Alberta is not that bad.... pretty vanilla and meh but not evil. And it has the rocky mountains, breathtaking. Saskatchewan is the fly over province, and Manitoba is Detroit. Don't get me started on Ontario... actually I thought the OP was from Ontario wanting to leave for BC, but that's just my proclivities.

But if you are tired of the rat race and money being the final pursuit, make friends with counter culture hippies. If you are in Calgary, they exist, you just need to look. If you make lots of $ you are probably surrounded with people who make the same amount as you, so maybe expand your social strata.

And I like the suggestion above to declutter.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:18 PM on August 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

Hello Future Atlantic Canadian! I live in Altantic Canada (New Brunswick) and it is lovely. You sound like someone who will love it here. Everything you said is true. Yes, life is quite laid back but people work HARD. I think the difference here is that people don't seem to take their work home with them so much. Their work day ends, and they leave it at work. People really make the most of free time. You will not make anywhere near as much money, but the sense of community and kindness and friendship is just wonderful. People smile at each other, make small talk in grocery lines, tell incredible stories, etc. You will be able to very easily raise your child with a very clear sense of nature and the ocean and the outdoors. Money isn't the end all be all here. We complain about it a lot, but deep down the vast majority of us are cool with what we have, and frankly think we have it pretty good. There is this tremendous sense of home and contentment. People are content. I have been all over the world and the feeling here is just wonderful and unmatched. And it is very different living here vs. visiting here.

Frankly, I wouldn't bother staying the extra two years. It wouldn't be worth it to me. Staying there just for the money even though you don't really want to... that is just nuts. Call me nuts, but I don't understand why you'd invest time and effort in to making friends in a place that you are intending to leave in the near-ish future when you could be investing that time and energy in to building the new connections in your new city. I say move now, get it done, and get on with your new life.

But before you leave make a point of eating at a few really good ethnic food restaurants. We have total crap for options in that regard.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 12:19 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

One final thing:
Houses have decks and fireplaces.

I am legitimately surprised this is something unusual and "maritimey". I'm clearly way too entrenched in the Altantic Canada way of things because I figured decks and fireplaces were fairly common/standard everywhere, not just here.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 12:30 PM on August 19, 2013

If you have a lot of money when you move (to a place where money isn't as prominent), you will be permanently different from your future neighbors. The reason that community is so important there (or seems so) is probably because that's what one does when one _doesn't_ have money.

You say they "place a lot less value on money" -- by staying in a place you hate, for two very important years in your daughter's life, specifically to earn money, you're demonstrating in a very real way that you place a high value on money. Higher, perhaps, than people who don't move to earn more money.

Perhaps they would earn more money if they could. Perhaps they'll wish they had as much money as you will. Perhaps they'll wonder if you intend to share your good fortune.

Which is one thing, but it marks you.
posted by amtho at 12:31 PM on August 19, 2013 [10 favorites]

From Victoria, BC. I know what you mean about the Maritimes. It seems like it's a more genuince, interesting place.

FWIW, we relocated back to Canada from Japan in 2004. I've never liked it here, and I wish we had remained in Japan? Why?

Victoria is pretty boring. It's very suburban, and very bourgeois. There is a lot of outdoor stuff to do, but, at the end of the day, we're stuck on an island and it's expensive to get off.

Back in Japan we have more family and friends, and there are more things to do, especially in the winter. There's also better food.

We moved back to Canada because I wanted to "start a career". I was successful, but I still have never really liked living here.

The most important thing you can do is make friends. Try to join a group. Get engaged somehow with your community.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:33 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't know much about those two provinces specifically, but I have a good deal of experience with moving between those two types of places. It seems to me that you're still sort of clinging to the values of your current location (money above all), while trying to get away from them by moving. Unless you're saving to be able to physically afford to move, just go, as soon as you reasonably can. Two more years in a place like that will suck your soul dry more than any relative loss of income.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 12:35 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

- Family ties are not close. We only have one set of friends. Get a babysitter and go out more. Skype with family & raise a techsavvy kid. Are you in an apartment building? Organize a building-party.

- We do not have a babysitter. Get a babysitter (this is tied in with having friends, being boring people who don't know what to do with yourselves. Your three-year-old doesn't need to go with you to do grownup things)

- We are way too busy with mundane things ... Skip things like making dinner and instead have indoor picnics on the floor, or make-your-own-dinner night (with sandwich fixins that let your child experiment with peanut butter, tuna fish, egg salad, etc.) Combine playtime with bathtime, skip the TV, do a yoga video instead, etc.

- I am afraid my daughter is not exposed to enough neat stuff. Pretend! You are a parent, you have to pretend that a bug on the sidewalk is the most fascinating thing you have ever seen. Your daughter doesn't care about lakes, she doesn't even know what a lake is. Whatever she's looking at right now needs to capture her imagination.

- We are landlocked. Lakes here suck. Recreation for family-friendly stuff is expensive and not even all that fun (museums, swimming pool, indoor amusement park...?) We are boring people who don't know what to do even when we have spare time. We tend to default to the mall or stay in. We are not sporty people, although we could certainly change that. But with winter coming and having a just-turned-3-year old, I don't see how she can skate, go skiiing or snow-shoeing. Maybe not snowshoeing but skating and skiing, absolutely she can. Kids love swimming pools, not sure how they're not fun. (Also, lots of stuff that will make your child squeal with delight are boring for parents, no matter where you live. Pools are one of those things.)

- This province is all about money and work. It is culture-less. But you say they have museums which are boring. If there is anything touchable or interactive it won't be boring for your daughter. When my kids were small I used to take them to the National Gallery in DC all the time because it was free. I thought they'd be bored but they really weren't, they loved the contemporary art especially. Your daughter might surprise you but she will definitely follow your lead. If you're bored and unhappy, she will be too.

- We rent the top floor of a house, but it feels small and squished. Get rid of some furniture, get rid of anything that you don't use all the time. Ship the stuff that looks nice but isn't practical to family on the lake for storage. Use your space for what it is, not what you wish it were.
posted by headnsouth at 12:35 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yeah move. Life is short.

Next best thing: Move to a better home space so your day-to-day is more pleasurable. And/or get a part-time nanny. $500/mo can accomplish one for certain, or maybe a bit of both.

Expand your community! Church? Not churchy? Then Unitarian? Quakers? Humanists? Try some on for size.

Harsh winters really demand concrete winter goals. So mull on this. Learn a new skill, sign up for a class, get some sort of certification, teach your kid some basic French (or ?) and learn it at the same time.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 12:37 PM on August 19, 2013

My parents claim to have started me on cross-country skis at 18 months -- I'm not sure if that's entirely true, but I do know I don't remember a time when I couldn't cross-country ski. Three is definitely old enough to get started.
posted by pie ninja at 12:41 PM on August 19, 2013

Consider a nanny or nanny share with someone who has friends with kids and knows how to keep them entertained.

Not needing to do daycare pickup/dropoff is a big quality of life issue. If they'll do a bit of housework or cooking, even better.

Alternatively, shorten your commute. It is a huge quality of life thing.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:41 PM on August 19, 2013

Response by poster: About the money thing: our savings will be for a decent house downpayment (I mean like 15%), money for the actual move, and money to cover the mortgage for 8 months in case one of us makes really crap money, loses a job, gets pregnant, etc. We don't live the high-life right now - money = security to me, not YAY MONEY!
posted by kitcat at 12:42 PM on August 19, 2013

I don't know anything about Canadian culture and the variations among the provinces other than what I've learned in this thread, but it seems to me that you're grasping pretty tightly to some notions about "what life should be" and "what childhood should look like."

I get you. I grew up in a leafy suburb where every house had a green yard, the neighbors knew each other and we walked to school. It was my normal. Now I live in an urban area and I've never met most of the people in my apartment building, and we have to plan ahead to take the kids to the park. For the longest time I railed against having to pre-strategize every outing.

But you know what, for every leafy suburbanite there's an urban kid whose normal is basketball in concrete lots. Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing to look at what your normal is, and try to stretch that definition a bit.
posted by Liesl at 12:49 PM on August 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

It never hurts to start looking for a job now. I have more than one friend who moved from big boring city to the Pacific Northwest expecting a big pay cut only to find jobs that actually paid slightly more than they were making at their big city jobs. You really don't know what might pop up. Right or wrong, sometimes prestigious big city jobs carry a lot of weight in secondary markets.

Also if you can commit to an extended job hunt, and I don't see why you couldn't if you're willing to stay where you are for two years, you can be choosey and wait for the right job at the right salary. And if it doesn't happen in the next two years you are no worse off. I've been consistently amazed at the jobs and salaries people have been able to get in far flung areas of the country.
posted by whoaali at 12:58 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, your daughter probably can learn to ski or skate at 3. I don't know about snow shoeing.
posted by jeather at 1:03 PM on August 19, 2013

Best answer:
"...our savings will be for a decent house downpayment (I mean like 15%), money for the actual move, and money to cover the mortgage for 8 months in case one of us makes really crap money, loses a job, gets pregnant, etc. We don't live the high-life right now - money = security to me, not YAY MONEY!"
This is what everyone wants and feels. It's not like people living in NYC are all evil greedy monsters who just want to roll around in hundred-dollar bills. They just want to feel secure. As does everyone in the place you want to live. They just achieve it through community (fragile) instead of through dollars (also fragile).
posted by amtho at 1:06 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know you asked what you can be doing now in your current province but to me it sounds like what you need to be doing is job hunting in the new province. You won't really know what your skills are worth there until you seriously test the market by applying and interviewing.

With all the family you have in the east, you can be confident that if one of you does get an awesome offer, you'll have a place to crash immediately, and you can often get a realtor to sell your place after you've left.

If I had the opportunity to relo my family to a place where we had a built in network of family and friends I would JUMP at it. You are lucky to have it as an option. See if you can make it happen sooner rather than later -- it takes so much stress off a marriage to have that network in place, and it's so wonderful for kids.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:28 PM on August 19, 2013

I live in the same city as you and I whole-heartedly second ook's comments that most of what you complain about is not about location, but about how you are choosing to approach your life right now. I'm childfree and athletic, but I've found a lot of cheap and/or free things to do around the city. I know others who are parents, and into different things than me, and they lead rich and full lives. There is a huge amount of stuff going on in this city. Even just finding other parents: looking at, a good third of the groups are parent meet-ups. Check out the city website and the events at the library network ( Or the community pools and rec centres (not very expensive, especially the tier 2 and tier 3 facilities). And 3 year olds can have an awesome time snowshoeing - you don't even have to go far. Just go to one of the river valley parks, bring some hot chocolate in a thermos and have fun.

I live and work centrally, but I feel like I live in a small community with the benefits of a city. More days than not, I randomly run into acquaintances when walking down the street, and I have a busy and full schedule of activities and plans, mostly just by being open to participating in activities and seeking things out that I find fun.

That said, if you want to be close to a family network, that's one thing that you cannot import and I'm wondering if you really need to save as much money as you think. If you're paying off some crazy debts, maybe you do need to remain here to work for 2 years, but if it's just about having a safety net, you may be able to revise that number down, especially if you'll have community support in Nova Scotia for things like childcare costs and what not. Making life merely 'bearable' until you can move is not a way to live (as Jairus notes above) - if you really want to make that move, you may be better off just making it.
posted by Kurichina at 1:58 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

I know your pain and am so glad you are moving for your daughter (I wish I had been so lucky), but if you've got 2 years there is still lots of time to do things! While the weather is nice, take some road trips. There are lots of suggestions for road games for little kids in related asks. Tyrell museum is amazing, Banff and Jasper park is one of the most gorgeous places on earth, go see them!

At home, well, you are moving to the maritimes, learn an instrument! Jam with your daughter, she can play a tambourine and sing. Growing up surrounded by music is amazing.

Get the family involved with art! Kids LOVE play dough and markers. You can learn how to knit or crochet, cross stitch, paint, draw, photography, anything. Art saved me when I was in your situation. There are TONS of tutorials and ideas for projects for kids and adults, just spend some time searching or check out some books.

Speaking of books, the library! Phone them up and ask about programs for little kids, take your daughter over to check out her own books. Look into books on tape (for free through the library) to listen to at home, great for when drawing or knitting.

Get some plants indoors, start working on your green thumb. I used to love starting pea seeds with damp paper towel, and colour celery by placing it in food dye. You can grow a few herbs inside easily.

I'd find a babysitter (there have been a number of asks on how to do that) and spend some of that $500 on seeing plays and concerts.

It is a lot harder to find things to do out there, for years I thought it was just me being bad at doing things, but then I moved. It wasn't me. But just because it's harder doesn't mean it isn't there, you just won't find as much by simply walking down the street.
posted by Dynex at 2:04 PM on August 19, 2013

Seriously, the cultural difference between western and eastern Canada is... I've been looking for words to describe it for two decades and I'm still sort of culture-shocked (I moved here in my teen years - old enough to be firmly entrenched in eastern values, young enough to be deeply hurt by the treatment I got when I got here).

For people commenting to say "I don't really know the culture, but..." trust me, it is soul-killing if you can't adapt to it, and a lot of easterners can't. Calling it Texas is actually insulting to Texas, because Texans - so I've heard - have Southern hospitality and Southern manners, neither of which are present up here. Albertans are aloof, insular, inclined to "promote from within", inclined towards nepotism, focused very much on the material trappings of success and not really concerned with manners in daily interaction (but VERY concerned with "manners" in social interaction, in that if you screw up you will not be notified unless a close friend takes you aside and explains how you should've read the air at that social function, which won't matter, because you'll still be a social pariah until you work it off). In Alberta, you really have to know someone to get anywhere, and coming from a culture where graciousness means treating everyone like a potential friend (not a potential competitor for resources), it's grating as all hell. I grew up thinking that the best way to show off your wealth and success was to be as generous and kindly as possible to everyone around you. It did not suit me well out here.

Still, save your cash and try to make your daytrips as cheap as possible. You want a very big cushion to fall back on when you move to a poorer province. And because many of the homes down east are older, plan on getting an extremely thorough ($1000+) inspection done before you move in, and then prepare to have to redo a lot of stuff like electrical, plumbing. (On the flip side, you won't be paying $400,000 for a 3 room bungalow built in the 60's with almost no work done to it, as you would out here, if you're in the city I think you're in.)
posted by Nyx at 2:07 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Man, it's a rough time to be an Alberta boy.

I hear what you're saying. I got sick of the conservative politics, the business culture, tired of fighting, and yes, I left -- to go into renewable energy engineering, in a place that doesn't consider renewable energy a joke. So what I am about to say may ring a bit hollow. But hear me out.

Some people have pointed out that this false dilemma you have set up says more about your own attitude toward money and materialism than it does about the place in which you're living. I'd have to agree. You say you're not living the high life, but you are hell bent on saving for a down-payment on a house. Where is it written that you need to own your own house? Have you looked at market assessments for residential real estate in Canada recently? A house is not an investment anymore, it's a simple cost. And if it's a simple cost, you might as well rent. At least if you rent, you can pack and move in three months if the fancy strikes you.

You say that "recreation for family-friendly stuff is expensive", and then you say you're willing to commit $500 a month on any changes that will make your life more worthwhile. This puzzles me.

You say that Edmonton is soulless and money-obsessed; well, I always felt Edmonton had a lot more soul than Calgary. The Edmontonians I know are unpretentious, wonderfully creative and have a unique sense of humour. Edmonton was always a bit more working class, and yet never ashamed of that. Edmonton never had to pretend it was important the way Calgary did. It's the capital! My heart will always have a place for Edmonton in it. Whenever I visit it feels a little like coming home -- and I'm a born-and-raised Calgarian.

So, yeah, it is a great city, if you look in the right places and make the effort to talk to the kind of people who, like you, appreciate a fireplace and a deck. Have you looked into co-operative housing? You can meet some pretty interesting people in housing co-ops. If you're spending most of your time at the mall, then how do you know the lakes suck? How many have you actually seen? Did you go to the Fringe Festival this year? (It's not too late!) And sorry, the bit about not taking your three year-old outside in the winter is a bit weak. My parents put me on skates at three and skis at four. What's important is that you get outside, and you take the kids with you. Kids don't know the difference, and before you know it they're loving it. There is no shortage of things to do outside in Alberta, and most of them cost much less than $500 a month.

Don't make that all too common mistake of thinking that moving is going to solve all your problems. Most of the problems you describe have more to do with you than where you live. Just ask me, I know. My German girlfriend visited with me last summer, and she loved it. Now she wants to move back with me. Oh, the irony.

Basically, it comes down to this: the sooner you stop comparing yourself to all the pickup-truck-driving masses on the Whitemud Freeway, the sooner you will be free.

You are right. People make a place. And people starts with you.
posted by rhombus at 3:59 PM on August 19, 2013 [10 favorites]

$500/month? Take more vacations. Or better yet, donate time and money to local charities and get to know your community. I'm from Alberta, and I've lived in half a dozen countries in my life, and frankly my experiences in Edmonton (and Calgary currently) are very different than yours. You'll find the same problems everywhere you go unless you change your mindset. There is much to love here, and being miserable is a lousy way to live.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:27 AM on August 20, 2013

My advice for being happier in Alberta is not to compare working in the Alberta winter to vacationing in the Nova Scotia summer. Sounds like a recipe for unhappiness.

It's hard for us Maritimers to be away from home, and I think that sometimes it can colour our impression of our adopted home and prevent us from seeing the good things that are on offer.

You heart will always ache for the lakes, the sea, and family, but THE truth is that there is a shitload of lovely people and communities in Alberta. If you don't believe that, you won't look for it, and it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
posted by beau jackson at 8:29 AM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]

When I used to travel to Edmonton for work a few years ago, I usually stayed near a place called the Trap and Gill. They were open for lunch on the weekends and there always seemed to be a lot of friendly people, including young families, there.

I bet if you became regulars at a place like that, you would make some friends or at lest get a good recommendation for a babysitter.
posted by rpfields at 9:40 AM on August 20, 2013

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