Move to Prince George?
March 10, 2008 6:18 PM   Subscribe

Prince George B.C. (Canada), possible employment. Need relocation info please.

I'm from Alberta but have never been to Prince George. Tell me as much about it as you can please. Have heard negative things about air quality, crime, lack of amenities - set me straight if neccesary.
posted by canoehead to Travel & Transportation around Prince George, BC (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I lived there for a long time (most recently leaving in the summer of 2006).

Let me begin with the caveat that I know a lot of people who do love it there. There are a lot of great people there. I know of people who go there and never want to leave. Generally, they like it because of its small town feel (though it has over 80000 people now, in the city mindset, it is much, much smaller) and its proximity to the outdoors. Many of these people are transplants from down south who weren't fans of the speed of somewhere like Vancouver.

The city itself, though, I wasn't too fond of.

Basically, what you've heard is true. Air quality is horrible. When you first arrive, all you can smell are the pulp mills. You get used to it. I don't think that is a good thing, though. The downtown core is dying, while the city council--dominate by the same, short-sighted mayor for the last decade or more--wrings their hands and wonders why nobody wants to go downtown while they take no initiatives to make anybody want to go there (meanwhile doing all they can to encourage big box stores to populate the city periphery). I think small businesses really struggle there, in general.

It's not a pretty city. It is dirty. If you like the outdoors, there are a lot of places to go and see, but in the city proper, it's pretty ugly (in my opinion), and this hasn't been helped by the havoc the mountain pine beetle has wreaked on the forests.

I'd characterize it as a pretty "redneck" town, too, for all that's worth. People like to drive enormous trucks. Most people don't have a lot of time for the arts, and so on. There's a newish art gallery, but there wasn't much there. (The one time I went, I was pretty put-off by the staff telling me to read the brochure on what the exhibit "meant" because otherwise I wouldn't understand it). I thought the symphony was pretty decent, but I might be biased as I knew a few people who were involved with it. That said, I don't think a lot of the population gives it much respect. Any time they talked about public funding for the arts, there was a bit of a backlash, as I recall.

Public transit was abysmal. (Didn't run at all on Sundays when I left.)

If you have specific questions, feel free to send me a note, and I'll answer to the best of my knowledge. I fully admit, though, that I'm pretty biased against it. Its tolerable, I guess, but not anywhere on my list of favourite places to live. The people, as I said, can be wonderful, but it has a lot of problems (many of which, I suspect, are at least partially the result of the current city government).
posted by synecdoche at 6:33 PM on March 10, 2008

A friend of mine has lived there for the past three years. She warned us before visiting that the drivers there are terrible, but I wasn't expecting to get in an accident within half an hour of entering the city. We were rear-ended while sitting behind other cars at a red light. The guy in the (HUGE) pickup who did it said, "Well, I tried to signal to you." Still not sure where he was hoping we would go...

My friend's assessment of the town is that it is split between Sikhs, hippies (e.g. university students who live in the woods in the summer) and rednecks, so the town doesn't feel that big because the groups don't interact much. She's moving out because the jobs are rather industry-specific and she's pretty sick of the backwardness, lack of amenities and small-town mentality. She's been trying to like it for a long time, and they've met some good friends there, but they've finally reached their limit.

She also said that the climate is changing. The winters used to be very cold with very clear skies, lots of sun. This year, it's been overcast most of the time, which makes it much more depressing when it's been overcast all day and the sun sets at 4pm. She said it hasn't been as cold, but she would take cold sunny days over this type of weather.
posted by heatherann at 6:53 PM on March 10, 2008

I pretty much grew up there (well, North of there, but it was the only city around, and I went to high school in town), and my folks still live there. You couldn't pay me enough money to move back but there are some good points. I could expound at great length but it would help to know what you're interested in.

Are you moving a family and interested in schools? Are you the outdoorsy type or the arts and culture type? Young? Old?
posted by jacquilynne at 7:18 PM on March 10, 2008

As the above have said, it really depends on your personality. Everyone I know who's spent any time in Prince George worked for one of the logging companies and had drinking as their primary hobby, so I can't really offer deep insight. If you like the outdoors and don't mind being the very small town feel, you'll be alright. If you thrive in the city (even the city by Alberta standards), you might go crazy.

On the plus size, I don't think the cost of living is that bad and if this is some lucrative resource industry job, you could save a ton of money sticking it out for a few years in Prince George.

The only thing that I haven't seen mentioned yet is to keep in mind that it's really, really far away from just about anywhere sizable. Vancouver is a 9 hour drive assuming the weather's good and Edmonton is about the same. Getting from Prince George to everywhere else in the world is no small (or cheap) feat.
posted by Nelsormensch at 7:28 PM on March 10, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks all, this is useful information.

> Are you the outdoorsy type or the arts and culture type
both actually.

>Young? Old?
middle aged, no kids
posted by canoehead at 7:33 PM on March 10, 2008

Response by poster: I should also say that we currently live in a small town with very little to recommend it but if we make a move I would like it to be to somewhere with a lot more to offer.
posted by canoehead at 7:52 PM on March 10, 2008

Well, there are a lot of opportunities there for outdoorsy type stuff. Moderately good skiing 20 minutes out of town, really great skiing a few hours out. There are trails for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, hiking, whatever. Tons of fishing, hunting, canoeing, etc. It's not as pretty country as the more mountainous regions, but you can find lots of outdoorsy stuff.

There's not a huge public support for the arts in Prince George, but there actually is a not insignificant amount of it there. It's not world class, but for a city of its size, it's doing okay. There's a Symphony, two playhouses, mid-level touring acts at the CN center, and the occasional smaller act, etc. If you can accept that some of the things you'll see will be more about enthusiasm than skill, there is opportunity to spend an evening out doing things. Plus there's a university, which will offer university like things like lectures and such.

Restaurants trend towards cheap chinese, burger joints and chains. It's not a culinary city.

The air pollution can really suck. Sometimes the whole city is covered in a layer of ash from the burners. More often it smells like a pulp mill. On the other hand, I never found the lung clenching car pollution there that you get in bigger cities.

Transit sucks. You will have to drive. Everywhere. Most people live or want to live up one of the hills, outside the downtown area. College Heights is probably the more stable middle-class side, while The Hart has both some of the most expensive neighbourhoods and some pretty crappy ones. Downtown is really dying in a sad sort of way. They keep trying to build stuff down there but it keeps not happening. Instead, they build more and more places for people to drive to on the outside of town.

There is a fair bit of minor property crime and drug related crime in the town. You're not likely to get killed, or violently mugged, but there's a good chance you might get your purse snatched or something.

Shopping is sketchy at best. You can get a fair to middling selection of asian and indian groceries. Clothing is pretty much limited to low-mid mall chains. That said, people come to PG from hundreds of miles away to shop, because there's nowhere else in Northern BC where it doesn't suck worse.

I don't know what you do and what job you're looking at, but you should be aware that the economy there is really, seriously, unbelievably tanking in the last few months. The paper recently published a massive list of forestry jobs that are being lost as all of the mills are either closing or deeply cutting shifts. It's a forestry town, so the fallout from that is going to be considerable. Other jobs will be lost as masses of people and their money move to the oil fields to find work. Between massive flooding that severely damaged several mills and insane tariffs on top of lousy softwood lumber prices, some of those mills will probably never re-open. 3000 jobs in a city of 80K people is huge, especially when they're 3000 of the best paying jobs around.

Weather is pretty terrible in the winter. It's fairly nice in the summer with more sun than rain but few days that are unbearably hot.

One significant factor to living in Prince George is the isolation. Anything closer than a day's drive away is smaller and less significant than Prince George. For Northern BC, Prince George *is* the big city.

Medical care is iffy. The city has a pretty significant shortage of specialists. If you have a problem you may find yourself flying to Vancouver or Edmonton, and you may be doing it on your own dime if it's not an emergency. Apparently it can be hard to find a GP, too, and once you do, you won't really be allowed to change it -- my mother's doctor is old and forgets things and doesn't seem to pay attention, but as long as she has a doctor, no one else will take her.

The people are generally a little on the red-necky side. They don't revel in ignorance or anything, but it's a blue-collar, molsons kinda town. You can find sub-groups of people who don't fit that mold, but that's not the default. People there drive pick-ups, many of them because they have to for work and others because they need something to haul their snowmobiles.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:26 PM on March 10, 2008

I grew up a hundred kms north of there, and PG was The Big City for me. How sad is that?

Nothing much to add to these excellent and comprehensive responses. I have heard things have gotten a little better culture-wise since UNBC opened its doors a few years back, but Prince will always be Prince. Lot of fun to be had, lot of nice people, but you have to be very open to the idea that a lot of people that you'll meet will be cut from a very, er, frontier-y cloth. Which is to say, redneckery. Me, I get along just fine with frontier types (a big part of me is still a Northern BC boy, though it's barely visible through the overlay of the decades of travel since) but you've got to be relatively judicious with deciding when to speak up and when to keep you mouth shut. If you can't do that, it may make social life a little more difficult. Unless you like barfighting, of course.

All that said, I genuinely love that part of the world, at least to visit. Gimme 40 below and blue skies, and I'm a happy boy.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:15 AM on March 11, 2008

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