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Old 09-21-2018, 03:10 PM
 
8 posts, read 11,657 times
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Hello...

We are an American family of 5 (twin 8 year olds, and a 2 year old) moving from the Houston suburbs to Calgary. Hubby has a relocation opportunity in O&G. We have only been in Houston for 18 months, and prior to that we were in Durango and Denver, Colorado, as well as Northern New Mexico. The lifestyle of Calgary is closer to what we prefer than hot, muggy, congested, enormous, sprawling Houston. Houston isn't all bad, but it's out of joint for us.

Houston has been a bit of a challenge. We prefer to be on a little bit of land, where the kids can run around on the property. Children in Houston's suburbia are, frankly, brats (not all, but too many). I have seen so much disrespect, meanness, mouthiness, competitiveness, materialism, gossip, etc. Maybe because there's just a lot of people here, or maybe it's because that's what suburbia is anymore. I don't know. I just feel bad for my kids. It's been a hard 18 months adjusting to the culture down here. I know these issues are everywhere, but it seems like the affluent area we are in has a disproportionate amount of it. Can anyone comment on this concern relative to Calgary? I'm just hoping someone will say that Calgary is more like 1970s America, in terms of growing up, than today's America (yes, I know Calgary is 100% Canada, but I just need to put my concern into context). I love my country, for sure, but it's a tough environment to raise kids.

As expats, we are required to rent a home (cannot buy per policy). What areas have some acreage, but are closest to downtown? We do not want to be in a typical subdivision. We'll need a large garage or shop, and a place to park a camper. What areas should be avoided to minimize a congested commute? Are there acreage areas where hubby could get to a train station via a short drive? I prefer some trees vs. just grassland.

Are the sports pretty much the same as in the States? Soccer, baseball, gymnastics, etc? I know there's hockey. Everyone knows Canadians love their hockey! At various points throughout the year we do baseball, horseback riding lessons, art lessons, music lessons, and would like to look into Brazilian Jujitsu. I personally love hot yoga, and outdoor fun. I also like somewhat of a little town to get coffee, lunch, etc. Is there a Costco in the region? What about a good (but not over-priced) natural grocery store. Are there local farms for milk, eggs, pastured meat, fresh vegetables and fruit (do veggies and fruit even grow that far north with such a short growing season)?

Since we love outdoor activities, what are some MUST do things for the family in the region? Is it really bitter cold 9 months of the year? Can the children play outside much of the year, or is it just too cold? We're old school... no video games and TV all the time. Go outside! My kids are happiest when they do.

Just wanted to get some feedback. Hoping for a more simple way of life. Houston has been hectic... not what we hoped it would be.
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Old 09-26-2018, 06:52 AM
 
Location: Kalamalka Lake, B.C.
3,044 posts, read 3,856,244 times
Reputation: 3864
Calgary, Alberta: the only American city outside the continental United States. Currently, except for construction, law, and oil & gas, is going through one of it's many cyclical downturns. Was just in the food court downtown on 5th. All closed except for A&W and Tim Hortons' donuts.

Acreage wise, and close to a commute to downtown via C-train, is the greater Southlands area, and then west to Priddis for places with acreage. Airdrie to the north also has some acreage. Leases should be sourceable, but not understanding the "can't buy, policy" comment. We have all kinds of non-residents buying, flipping, and selling. Southern Baptist preachers, Chinese, and stock market guys on the run from Vancouver, BC.

Calgary has one of the largest soccer and softball groups...…...for women......in North America. Something like EIGHTY leagues. But winter does come early. Like right about now! Gardening is tough; you're on the prairies, after all.

The ongoing panhandling on commuter trains is down a bit, as the labourer factor has gone with the downturn, and jobs in town were repatriated to Texas after the US dollar snapped up manufacturing in town in the early 2000's, and then pulled the jobs to the US in the 2009 recession/depression to buff up their US job base. Calgary has a deep base of mental health issues, but compared to where you're coming FROM, we don't have many of them "packing" and acting out with unlimited ammo.
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Old 09-26-2018, 10:39 AM
 
Location: Gatineau, Québec
21,032 posts, read 26,204,220 times
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OP: I am pretty sure Calgary will provide you with most of what you're looking for.


The climate will be a bit of an adjustment but having lived in Denver you're probably used to rapidly changing conditions. Calgary is kind of like that too, though on the colder side. Summer is quite nice though maybe a bit on the short side. Winters are cold but unlike most places on the Prairies Calgary gets warm chinook winds fairly regularly that can boost the temperature well above freezing and melt away all the snow even in mid-winter.


Finding a place to live that has lots of trees will probably be a bit of a challenge.


Overall I'd say it's a really good city to raise a family with no shortage of things to do. I've almost only heard positive reviews from people who have moved there.


Much of Canada is kinda like how many nostalgic Americans think the U.S. used to be decades ago. I think I know what people mean by that, and sure... Calgary (like a number of other Canadian cities) will likely have that feel to some degree.
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Old 09-26-2018, 11:02 AM
 
Location: Knob Hill
2,056 posts, read 3,151,139 times
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Don't worry about the commute, its nothing like Houston. Would recommend AWD vehicle for that winter commute though.
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Old 09-27-2018, 05:54 PM
 
Location: Hougary, Texberta
8,047 posts, read 10,582,688 times
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Given that you're on an expat package, you should have some decent choices. As far as acreage living, I would head out Crowchild Tr. NW towards Cochrane. Very scenic, lots out there, and if you're working downtown, it will be easy to hop the train at Crowfoot, or make the trek in.

Climate wise, it's going to be very similar to Durango/Denver. Really cold for a week or two, and stretches of cold/warmish throughout the winter, cool evenings because of the altitude and proximity to the mountains.

Expense wise, brace yourself. Especially coming from Houston. I moved here from Calgary, and trust me, you are going to be shocked. The huge bonus for you, likely, is that as expat, you're still being paid in USD, which adds 30% to your buying power immediately, which will definitely take some of the burn out. Currently in Calgary, gas is running about $4.50 a gallon equivalent by the time you do exchange/conversion.

Lots of Costcos and places to shop. Plenty of farmer's markets during the season. Come winter, everything is imported, as is any citrus fruit. BC grows cherries, apples, and the more hearty tree fruits, but anything remotely tropical comes from the States, Mexico or further afield. Easy to grow lots of root vegetables, peas, etc. in the Alberta summer. No decent tex-mex or Mexican anywhere. Killer Chinese/Vietnamese though.

Infinite sports about, with the possible exception of football. It's available, but nowhere like the US, and definitely nothing like Texas.

Best of luck, and enjoy the experience.
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Old 10-22-2018, 02:25 AM
 
Location: Canada
4 posts, read 1,168 times
Reputation: 10
You've got some great feedback in this thread. I echo others that it sounds like Calgary would be a great fit for you, especially in terms of outdoor activities.Having the mountains in our backyard is a huge bonus.

Hope you love living here as much as I do!
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Old 10-29-2018, 09:32 PM
 
3,228 posts, read 3,468,308 times
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Please, for God's sake, don't call yourselves expats. It has a snooty, mildly racist connotation to it. The correct term in Canada is "work permit holder", which is a subset of "temporary residents". I assume your husband will have a work permit. We don't call anyone here an expat. Apart from temporary residents (long-term work permit holders, temporary foreign workers, and students), we also have permanent residents, known informally as immigrants.

Good luck on your move. However, for being temporary residents, you sound pretty fussy on the kind of area you want to live in, etc. The vast majority of our temporary residents take what they can get. If you have a safe, comfortable home and make enough money to pay the bills and place food on the table, be content.
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Old 10-30-2018, 10:40 AM
 
Location: Hougary, Texberta
8,047 posts, read 10,582,688 times
Reputation: 9572
Quote:
Originally Posted by arctic_gardener View Post
Please, for God's sake, don't call yourselves expats. It has a snooty, mildly racist connotation to it. The correct term in Canada is "work permit holder", which is a subset of "temporary residents". I assume your husband will have a work permit. We don't call anyone here an expat. Apart from temporary residents (long-term work permit holders, temporary foreign workers, and students), we also have permanent residents, known informally as immigrants.

Good luck on your move. However, for being temporary residents, you sound pretty fussy on the kind of area you want to live in, etc. The vast majority of our temporary residents take what they can get. If you have a safe, comfortable home and make enough money to pay the bills and place food on the table, be content.
There's a world of difference between someone on an expat package, and a temporary work permit holder. They may carry the same visa, but the experience is completely different.
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Old 10-30-2018, 11:47 AM
 
3,228 posts, read 3,468,308 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeyyc View Post
They may carry the same visa, but the experience is completely different.
In what way?
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Old 10-30-2018, 01:42 PM
 
Location: Hougary, Texberta
8,047 posts, read 10,582,688 times
Reputation: 9572
Quote:
Originally Posted by arctic_gardener View Post
In what way?
Expats are generally completely funded by their company. Work permit holders are here for a job.

For example, I came within about a week of going to Dubai as an expat. My package, which for the record is not horribly generous by industry standards, included the following, but not exhaustive:

My base salary, still paid in USD.
Company Car
Full housing allowance, sufficient for a three bedroom home including operating expenses (utilities, gardner, etc)
Two months salary for incidentals while moving
Moving cost of a sea can for personal goods
A month's salary for furniture for the new home
Full tuition and books for private school to equivalent home standard for the kid(s).
Hardship allowance of 25% on top of my existing salary for being away from native country. That number fluctuates depending on where you go. It's 0 for Canada, and about 150% for Nigeria
One round trip flight for the family to home country, or other approved destination annually
Tax preparation and resolution
All medical expenses/insurance
Repatriation of all goods upon end of assignment.

So basically I would get paid what I do now, plus essentially zero out of pocket expenses. You bank your salary generally while on expat assignment, as the company covers everything else.

Now, that's a bit different than the work permits issued to Mexicans so they can come up and work for McDonalds due to staff shortages.

When I moved to the States, it was made very clear that I was relocating, not becoming an expat.
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