Parliament Hill


Comment on Reddit to an individual considering a move to Ottawa.

I’ve been all over the world, including most major European cities, and have a good basis for comparison. You will find Ottawa very clean, very modern and very safe with excellent schools and health care.

That said, the experience will feel more like living in a rural setting compared to a European city, even in heavily populated areas. Ottawa has numerous parks and forests, and public buildings are also in park-like settings. There is a large experimental farm in the middle of the city, a ‘green belt’ around the older part and the newer part (Kanata is outside the Greenbelt). As a result, public transportation is not up to European standards.

People have commented on the health care. First of all, it’s free (for Canadian citizens and permanent residents; I’m not sure what you’re status will be but check on this) except for prescriptions, dental and optical. There are no deductibles, user fees, or limits to this coverage. It’s good to have a family doctor – when we arrived five years ago (after a long absence) we got one almost right away. But post-covid, your experience may vary. There are clinics, or in emergencies, go directly to the hospital. There will be little to no wait for emergency services. Overall the standard of care is very high and Canadians have some of the longest life expectancies in the world.

Ontario’s education is world class, no matter where you go. That’s not just me saying it; the province scores at the very top of international student rankings. Primary and secondary education are available in English and French, and if you are Catholic, you can attend a separate Catholic school in English or French. Education is again a public service and there are no fees (though some schools will ask parents to contribute for extras). There are private schools in the city, and International Baccalaureate is available, but really, they’re not at all needed here.

It’s safe everywhere in the city. And by ‘safe’ I mean really safe, world-class safe, even in the supposed ‘bad areas’ (those areas, by the way, are in east downtown, though this is changing because of the cost of housing).

Housing is expensive by Canadian standards but not by European standards. Shop around. Although the cost of housing has increased a lot in recent years reasonable housing is not out of reach for most people with decent jobs (especially considering you’re not paying for health care or education).

Some people commented on culture in Ottawa. Culture in Canada is different from culture in Europe. You won’t find (many) corner cafes (but look for them eg. in Manotick and Stittsville, or in higher traffic areas like Westboro). You will find abundant outdoor activities at your doorstep – cycling, sports of all kinds, skiing and more. The city has professional hockey (in Kanata!), football, basketball and baseball teams (the latter two at a lower level) and there are numerous opportunities for children to play any of these. There are numerous museums and galleries. Outside the city (which you can visit because you’ll have a car) are farms, forests, fantastic parks, historical areas, and more. You will never lack a new place to visit with the kids.

Again, by Canadian standards, Ottawa is expensive, but not like Vancouver or Toronto. Public transit is substandard. Winter is cold, but comperable to northern Europe, with a bit more snow. It’s not Prague or Vienna or Berlin, but it doesn’t try to be any of those things. And if it’s accepted on those terms, then with a standard of living that is one of the highest in the world, it is an enviable destination.

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