11 Facts you should know about small town living in Canada
Do you rather live in a small country town and put up with small crap than committing to city life? I have experienced both, the anonymous lifestyle of big cities as well as the tightly knitted communities of small towns and rural communities in Canada.
No matter what country you’re in, living in a small town and in a rural community has its challenges. In a small country town, the population is spread out in all directions. What you will find in these towns is community support and lots of friendliness. If you don’t want to become an outsider be sure to show up at community events and offer your free time to do volunteer work at some of the local clubs and organizations.
There were times when I would have preferred the anonymity of living in a big city instead of dealing with the hassle of a small town and rural living. Still, If you‘re like me and you appreciate to be surrounded by trees and nature instead of apartment buildings, living in a small town is your best option. Life in a small community has its advantages. You will find a slower pace and a more relaxed way of life, less traffic and pollution, you’re close to the big outdoors and you always know your neighbours.
1. Lack of job opportunities
One major disadvantage of small town living in Canada is the lack of job opportunities. But then again, small towns are ideal for Entrepreneurs; once you start looking, you will find opportunities at every corner. I suggest starting your own business.
You may consider moving to a small country town to make friends easier and to get away from a nagging loneliness. If this is the case, remember that your life in a small community can be a great deal lonelier than in a big city. Often people in small towns have little in common except the place of residence. Once loneliness strikes you may be on your own with nowhere to go.
3. A slower pace and more relaxed
Everything in a small town takes time. People take time and keep at their own pace. Small town living teaches you patience. Getting something repaired could take forever. Locals are super friendly in small Canadian towns.
Anybody offers you their life story if you bump into them on the street or in a queue at the local supermarket till. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean much in the end.
Soon you will realize that a majority of small-town residents are just like anywhere else. Regardless of the “Nice Canadian” label that gets promoted in the media, not every single Canadian is kind, honest, helpful, laid back, not even in small communities.
4. Cost of living
Cost of living depends to a great deal on the location of the town. In most southern and central parts of Canada, you will find living in a small town to be cheaper than in a city. House prices are cheaper, rents are lower, and you have fewer opportunities to spend money on entertainment.
Transportation will likely cost you more if you work out of town. Food expenses in local stores can be horrendous because of the lack of competition. In northern communities, shockingly high food prices are caused because of the harsh climate and the expensive food transport from the south.
In the end, the cost of living depends on your lifestyle, whether you live in a city or small town. Apart from the main expenses, you can choose what house you want to live in, what size of car you want to drive and what luxuries you need in life.
In Canada, saying “sorry” is a nicety and not a statement of personal accountability. It doesn’t mean anything and is used much too often in any situation. Bumping into someone you say sorry, someone bumps into you, as a Canadian you say sorry, if you’re mad at someone you say sorry. The bad news is that after living in Canada for a couple of decades I catch myself doing the same thing.
Gossiping is part of social life in all small communities. Everyone knows everyone; at least everyone seems to know you. People like to gossip, especially the ones who suffer from boredom and find nothing else to do. Everyone will know when you get laid off at work, cheated on, divorced, get pulled over by a cop, or had to take their pet to the vet.
If you are a newcomer, think twice before you gossip about anyone. Remember, in tightly knitted communities everyone is related somehow.
According to the Police-reported crime statistics, 2017 rural areas have higher crime rates than urban areas. During my decades of small town living I know of many break-ins, murders, car thefts, sexual abuse, child abuse, drug busts, all happening in an idyllic small country town.
8. Small town folks don’t like being criticized
In the land of nice, people are too nice to tell you face to face if they don’t like something about you; instead, they will discuss it when you’re not around. Sometimes your Canadian friend just disappears from your life and you will never find out why.
Be thoughtful if you offer your opinion on things. A critic is not taken lightly by the majority of folks and it might cost you friendships in the end. Be careful not to offend anyone, Canadians are overly sensitive.
9. Yes, some small towns are cliquey
Often, it’s easier to get accepted into a small rural community if you’re willing to be like everyone else and always do the right thing. In this case, you will never realize how cliquey the town really is. The newcomers who frequently hit the local pub will most likely get accepted into the community.
10. Promises don’t mean anything
Saying NO is not the Canadian way since it can be perceived as unfriendly or unkind. It’s easier to say Yes and back out of it in the end.
Ask someone to drop in on the weekend, or phone you and meet for coffee, or invite them over for Sunday brunch. You most probably will get a Yes, even if the person already knows that he will not be there.
11. Locals and newcomers
The locals who have deep roots and have settled in town a few generations ago will always have it easier than you do as a newcomer. Most of these people have extended family in the area and a deep net of friends in various professions; they always will find help when needed.
You, as a newcomer, will have to prove your status first before you begin to belong. In the process to find your way around you soon will learn whom you can trust. Get insight into how things are supposed to be done around town and get involved with the locals if they let you.
Like always, my article is based on my personal experience only.
I have met wonderful individuals living in small country towns and learned to reach out to neighbours for help. As a single woman, I find obstacles in the way which you may never encounter. No matter what town in Canada you want to move to, they are all unique in many ways.
It’s amazing to have nature and wild critters in front of your door. I choose this over city life anytime.
Yrene lives in the Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada, and is the founder of BackcountryCanadaTravel.com. She was born in Switzerland, lived and worked on different continents and has travelled the world. Yes, that's me, an Entrepreneur, wilderness nut and animal lover who prefers off-the-beaten-track places. I write about things I love. Mostely.
Very interesting and very true observations. I agree with everything you wrote … mostly
Hello Peter, thanks for your comment. Good to know that you agree with most of it.
I loved your article very precise and helpful thank you for posting such helpful and honest insights. I would like to pick your brains more on that topic if you don’t mind please.
Hoping to hear from you
Great article Yrene , has thrown a lot of light on the many facts of country living for many new aspiring immigrants. I have been planning to come to Canada with my family. Would love to be in touch with you. Thanks
Thanks for your nice comment. To get in touch, please send me an email via the contact form on my website.
As a small town Canadian who has been living throughout Europe for the past 8 years, these remarks are on target. I never noticed until I left Canada how overly friendly, sensitive and apologetic I was compared to the rest of the world :p
Hello James, I had to smile when I read your comment. Thank’s for it!
Karen R Rymer
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This is only my point of view, but I was born and raised in a small town in Canada, the son of first generation immigrants. I’ve been to all major cities in the country due to having family dispersed throughout the country.
I moved to Europe in 2011, and I’m still here. Will never go back to Canada barring a family emergency.
After seeing and travelling around, and living in Europe, Canada was revealed to be a culturally, financially, and intellectually bankrupt nation. It indeed is.
Terrible infrastructure and filled with immigrants who have been lied to that it’s a land of opportunity and natives who have nothing to offer elsewhere in the world due to limited mental capacities. So they stay due to lack of choice and will be poor their whole lives. None of my family became wealthy or even rich in Canada, except for one cousin who became a doctor.
Was not even able to receive treatment and diagnosis for a mental health condition due to medical politics. Doctors are a joke there. Hillbilly medicine.
If you’re smart, talented, motivated and want to do something with your life that isn’t medicine or being a low paid government bureaucrat, leave.
Wealthy Canadians and their children spend most of their time away from there. Should tell you something.
One thing they don’t mention here is that all this friendliness and relax environment is only valid id you’re white. BROWN AND BLACK PEOPLE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN ATTACKED FOR AGES IN CANADIAN SMALL TOWNS. If you go to a small town there will be many many racists, especially if you are someone who drives a better car than most locals, or have a better job/ bigger house than the locals, THEY WILLL show blatant racism towards you. I would like to specifically point out this problem in Kamloops in British Columbia, and Winnipeg in Manitoba. So beware.
Dear Bella, thanks for your feedback. I actually fully believe you that this happens in certain towns in Canada. I am very sorry you had to experience this.
Is there a happy medium instead of both extremes? For example, medium-sized city with both small town and city attributes but it is combined. I have been in a small town now 25 years and has been devastating and lonely. It is really hard to leave this small town over the last 3 or 4 years, unfortunately. You are very correct in your observations. Great piece and thank you for the information.
Thank you for your reply, Mary. Despite it all, I prefer small towns. My ideal place is on a couple of acres ten munites from town!
Thank you, Mary, for your comment.
As a canadian, I kinda relate, but not entirely. I’ve lived in Quebec City, Montreal, and now I’m in small town more to the north of Montreal. With the pandemic, remote work has become more accessible, so job opportunities are easier. There are some small towns that are rather close to bigger towns, so you get into a mix of accessibility, yet relaxing life pace. My neighbors have been really awesome so far, with help offered every now and then. But there’s an age gap, they mostly are 60+.
The property pricing have skyrocketed during the last few years, so almost nothing is accessible anymore, unfortunately, and it looks like it’s going to get worse :/
In my field of work though (software engineering), the salary is also skyrocketing, so I guess that’s fine, but it’s not the case for everyone.
The thing that’s been striking me the most, is how in big cities, there’s a lot of multiculturalism, but in small towns, there can be a lot of xenophobia, homophobia, whateverphobia. There is some form of “I have nothing against these people, *but*…”. Like they try to be politically correct, while also having trouble to accept differences. That’s probably more frequent in Quebec province with older people, because there’s been a very very huge push of “we gotta protect our culture” in the 80s-90s and early 2000 while federal liberal governments increased immigration (which were one of their main voter base).
Thank you, Vincent, for sharing your experience of small-town living. I’m sure it depends on the area and the age of the population to some degree. I fully agree with your last paragraph, but I assure you that this is not more frequent in Quebec. This was the case in every small town I lived in, all over the world.
Thank you for your insights and I agree with most. I am a Canadian who has lived in the US since 1978. I am now in my late seventies and would love to go back home but not to a small town on the east coast. That is where I grew up and of course now its memories. I like the country but also would like to be in a city as I am still active and curious. I think health care is better in a larger city. Cost of housing for myself may be a big issue as things have sky rocketed in the last 10 years. I am still in a delima as most of my family have passed . Having difficulty in making a decision. Its lonely here in the US also especially when your elderly what to do ???lol
Thanks, Margaret for sharing your thoughts. This is definitely a difficult decision to make. Later on in life, we often think about returning to the country we came from. Many of us go through similar phases. Every situation is different of course depending on finances and expectations.
In Canada, rents and property prices are skyrocketing and food costs are unbelievably high as well, maybe even higher than in the US. I just travelled through the US a few weeks ago. You also have to realize that Canada is not the country it used to be just a few years ago. Making new friends in Canada is not that easy. And, our healthcare system is crumbling.
To me, having friends and self-minded people around me is more important than the place I’m at.
Good luck to you in making this big decidion. Once you decide, either way, accept it and enjoy life, where ever you are. All the best wishes to you<