I recently got an email from someone who’s contemplating a move to the Peg, looking for the lowdown on what it’s really like to move from Vancouver to Winnipeg. I’ve included her message and then my response below. If you’ve moved here from a bigger or very different city, let me know what you think — would you add anything to my thoughts? What would you say to reassure someone who is feeling conflicted about moving here?
I am a Vancouverite who’s managed to fall for a Peg boy. I grew up in the Fraser Valley and have started school at BCIT after realizing a B of A is pretty much useless. I’m looking at moving out that way in the summer and I’m caught between excitement to live with the man I love and panic due to the fact that I’v always seen the prairies as being non-options for anyone that wasn’t blue collar. I’ve realized that Winnipeg has a great Art scene which I love, but I’m in panic mode about what sort of careers a person can pursue there. I’ve been looking into Red River College for schooling, and I can do some distance learning through BCIT, but I’m still struggling with letting go of my prejudice of the prairies as being bastions for the blue collar crowd.
I have lived in many different areas of Canada so the act of moving is not new for me. But I am now in my 30’s and these choices that were once made with very little thought, are more real and intimidating then they were in my 20s. I would like to say, I love my boyfriend very much. The idea of moving to a place I used to look down on (why, because Vancouverites are almost as bad as Torontonians for seeing other cities as not as good I’m ashamed to say) is something I’m doing because I know it’s worth it to be with this great man. I just can’t let go of the BC snob in me that says “But it’s Manitoba!” even though I’ve never set foot in the city. I do have family in the area and I know they will be thrilled to know I’m moving to my Grandfather’s home town.
But what’s it really LIKE there, from someone who’s used to living in a city like Vancouver. I’m not of the belief that people are better here mind you. In fact, they’re kind of a pain for a girl who grew up in a small town and is used to people who nod and smile as they pass; but are there opportunities for people who are willing to work for them? My boyfriend is a lifelong Manitoba boy and has never felt the need to live somewhere else, so it’s hard to get a real understanding for myself as someone who has. I’m not looking for you to have any answers really, I’m just wondering if you found that there are really any parts about Vancouver that are truly absent there (besides the mountains and ocean of course). I’ll be there in a few weeks for a visit, but I’m curious to know your take on life for a Vancouverite in Winnipeg. Sorry for the ramble, I’ve swung more on to the worried side of my “holy cow, I’m moving to the prairies” spectrum.
This is what I responded to her:
Believe it or not, I get A TON of email from people in basically your shoes. But I have good news. I think you’ll be absolutely fine.
When I moved here, I had worked in Vancouver in a professional environment (with my trusty diploma from SAIT) for 5 years and people here seemed to be pretty happy with what I assumed must be my “big city” skills. There are absolutely opportunities here for people who want to work for them. On the schooling front, the beauty of attending a local college like RRC is that you’ll make tons of local contacts in your chosen field, especially during your practicum(s). RRC has an excellent reputation, and I think (?) they tailor their admissions to local supply and demand.
>Because like you, I’ve lived in several different places, I too find it sort of strange that so many Peggers never felt the need to try living anywhere else. I chalk it up to two different schools of thought: 1) Winnipeg is wonderful, my whole family is here, I’m friends with the same people I’ve known my whole life, so why would I leave? or 2) Winnipeg sucks so probably everywhere else does too (the “I was born here. What’s your excuse?” folks). I think there are probably lots of people in both camps, but it’s the ones in the first camp that make this such a charming place to live, with such deep roots and interconnectedness.
Winnipeg has some things that are frustrating for people who come from big cities. Public transit is pretty hit and miss. This was my #1 biggest adjustment. I didn’t have a car in Vancouver and transit was an essential yet almost invisible part of life – it was such a seamless part of my day that I almost took it for granted. When I moved here, it wasn’t so much that the transit was terrible (which it is certain routes/areas) but that people here had no concept or vision for what it COULD be. Instead of having vision for building a subway or light rail, we are part-way through a bus rapid transit line that by most accounts hasn’t actually improved things that much. This is one area where I feel Winnipeggers could benefit from getting out into the world a little more.
Other than transit, I will tell you what I miss about Vancouver. I used to go to a bunch of docs and movies at the Vancouver International Film Festival every fall, and I really miss that. (I know there are smaller festivals here, but nothing of that scale. I will be the first to admit that I haven’t really sought them out.) I miss walking to a little neighbourhood movie theatre for a second-run double bill. I miss how much exercise I got just from walking to do errands and to and from work on pleasant days. I miss certain local restaurants and I miss the humidity. But none of those things are dealbreakers for me. And to be honest some of those things wouldn’t be much a part of my lifestyle anymore, now that I have two little kids.
What Winnipeg lacks in Vancouver qualities, it makes up for in other ways. The housing is incredibly affordable, people don’t have that “go go go” rat race mentality, and while there is certainly a strong hipster contingent here (see http://www.winnipegfreepress.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that yes, Winnipeg and Vancouver are really different, but it doesn’t really matter. When I think back to my five years in Vancouver the only thing that really makes me sad is thinking about my little clan of friends — we were all from other parts of the country, and explored the big city together. It was that special time of our lives – our 20s – when we were young and building our careers and figuring life out… and then we all moved away, back to our hometowns or to new places with our spouses or just on to the next adventure. It was who I was with that made the experience what it was.
I moved here for the people. I had both sides of extended family here and one really good friend, and other than that, I was going on a feeling in my heart that I needed a change and that Winnipeg seemed like a safe and comfortable place to try out. It wasn’t super logical but I did it anyway. In my view it’s as good a reason as any, because what’s a home without people you love?
So — I don’t know if that reassures you. I think you’re going to be just fine. I know it seems like a major shock (although I can’t totally relate to your perceptions of the Prairies as I grew up in them!) but come to this city with an open mind and I think you’ll be just fine.
Try not to dwell on the differences between the cities if you can’t change them. Just accept them and focus on finding common ground. There are great people in any city you’ll live in and if your boyfriend has lived here his whole life, he’s probably got an amazing network of good people who are waiting to bring you into the fold. Once you’ve got some good winter boots, you’ll be golden 🙂
What do you think? If you moved here from somewhere else, how did the city meet your ideas about Winnipeg prior to moving? And what do you think about it now, when you look back at your previous city?