- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Calgary Guide (PDF)
Expats moving to Calgary will find themselves in the largest city in the Alberta province and a destination often described as being 'the most American' of Canadian cities, with its 'cowboy character' and relatively conservative social policies. There is no doubt that the great attraction of living in Calgary is its proximity to the Rocky Mountains, the wonderful views and outdoor lifestyle opportunities that the majestic range has to offer.
Traditionally, Calgary's oil industry was the backbone of the economy and contributed significantly to the city's expansion. That said, since the oil crash of a few years ago, unemployment has risen and the city's economy was forced to diversify considerably. Low taxes in the city encouraged many businesses to set up operations in Calgary so skilled expats should be able to find opportunities in a diverse range of fields including engineering, geology, financial services and IT. Agriculture and tourism are also significant employers. The job market is super competitive though, and we recommend expats secure employment before relocating here.
Calgary is often considered as lacking some of the rich history and multiculturalism of other Canadian cities such as Toronto and Vancouver. This perception is changing rapidly, though, as areas such as International Avenue grow in status and popularity. Calgary also boasts a thriving theatre industry, a heritage of country folk music, and hosts several annual festivals, with the most exciting being the Calgary Stampede. Held every July, it is one of the biggest rodeos in the world and offers a wonderful opportunity for expats to experience the true character of Calgary and its people.
Living in Calgary is, by all accounts, much more of a pleasure than a chore. Expat reports do indicate, though, that in recent years the city's infrastructure has been battling to keep up with its incredible growth. Increased traffic congestion, a lack of affordable housing, and a shortage of space in schools and childcare programmes do not help. It is important to note, however, that these concerns are being addressed.
Calgary remains blessed with an extremely low crime rate, a reliable public transport system, great healthcare, and a wonderful network of urban park areas. Moreover, the unique +15 Skyway network – a network of pedestrian walkways built 15 feet above the ground – links almost every building in the core downtown area to every other, effectively turning Calgary's city centre into a massive shopping mall. The +15 walkways are heated, which is a true godsend in winter when, despite the freezing temperatures outside, pedestrians can go about their daily business without the need for a coat or boots.
►Find out more about your medical entitlements as an expat living in the province of Alberta in Healthcare in Calgary
►Our Banking, Money and Taxes page contains all the essential information expats need to manage their finances in Canada
"I love the small-town feel of Calgary and the fact that we are so close to the Rocky Mountains. Calgary is a very family-friendly city and there is a great community feel."
"The biggest adjustments here involved the drastically different climate. Coming from sunny South Africa to snowy Canada can be quite a shock to the system. Winters are very cold and with the snow you need lots of layers, jackets, mittens and boots, and this was a huge adjustment for our kids, who were used to running around barefoot most of the year."
Read more of South African expat Catherine's experiences in Calgary.
Are you an expat living in Calgary?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Calgary. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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