Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Best Place To Retire In The World - Canada

If you are getting close to retirement and looking at your options, you may be considering a move to a different area of your country or a different country altogether with tropical weather or a low cost of living. Online searches and polls will show so many varied opinions that it's almost impossible to know for sure what life is really like in any one given location and the criteria they use for judging a place is highly subjective. But to jump into the fray, I'd like to tell you about Canada.

Our climate in Canada varies from permafrost in the North, to temperate rainforest on Vancouver Island, to the wine growing regions of southern Ontario and the cool and green Maritime Provinces on the East Coast. As you can imagine in a country that spans 5 time zones, there's a little bit of something for everyone weather wise. For gardeners, our zones range from 8 (Victoria, BC) to 1 (the Arctic) and if you're moving from Europe you'll find many areas of our beautiful country not unlike areas you are used to. While we joke about being the 'Great White North' we're actually on the same latitude as places like Paris, Florence, London, Rome and the south of France. Our climate varies due to the air currents over land and the oceans which accounts for either our maritime or continental temperatures but lots of information about historical weather is available online for you to look at.

The Cost of Living is another important factor, as is the exchange rate if you are drawing a pension from the UK for example. Since these vary it pays to check it out regularly. But the cost of living also varies greatly from one place to another and from store to store. It's easy to check out the local papers of any places you're considering and have a look at their grocery store ads. Here's my opinion of the various places in Canada...

Victoria, Vancouver, and BC (British Columbia) in general. The most beautiful place on Earth. And it comes with a price tag. The housing market in the major metropolitan areas is second in the world only to Hong Kong as far as being an unaffordable English speaking housing market. The median home price in 2011 in the Vancouver area was almost $700,000 but having said that, if you want a multi-cultural and vibrant city with good weather and a good arts scene, it's a great choice. If though, you wanted a quiet country life near to the sea and an easy flight to Europe then you'd look at Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia is a lovely small Maritime province steeped in English and French history since the 1600's. The people are friendly, the real estate is unbelievably cheap in rural areas, and the winters are not too long, though we do get plenty of snow. So why are houses so cheap? Due to the nature of the local fishing industry and it's falling on hard times, unemployment is fairly high and so there are less people in a position to buy homes. Many people here already own their own home, even those receiving Social Assistance can manage the $300-$500 typical mortgage for a small rural house. Having said that, if you are a skilled worker you'll find plenty of work in and around the metro areas of Halifax and Dartmouth and the house prices rise accordingly. Here in the Annapolis Valley a decent home will range in price from $75,000 to well over $300,000 for the fanciest models with large acreages. The typical price for a hobby farm of 5 acres in the country is probably somewhere closer to $130,000 if you are an hour or more outside of town. We bought just 42 acres of bare land and it cost us $35,000. Nova Scotia reminds me a lot of Scotland and Ireland as far as climate goes and the population is under 1 million people. Many young people move away from the Maritime provinces seeking adventure and employment in busier places such as Alberta and Ontario. But on the reverse side, many people retire here for the slower pace of life and the cheaper cost of living. A great tourist destination, as my Dad is demonstrating (that's him in the pic) and a large British ex-pat population.

Ontario varies from city to city but it's the largest population centre of the country with large cities like Toronto, Ottawa and really too many others to list. This province is bigger than many countries in the world so topography varies as you'd expect. The southern part of the province has the best weather and also the largest population centres and these are home to many people who choose to make Canada their home as refugees, immigrants and those who have been in Canada for generations. The population is approximately 12 million.

Alberta, located on the western side of Canada it's separated from BC by the glorious Rocky Mountains and then stretches eastward onto the rolling prairies of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Alberta is home to Edmonton and Calgary both of which offer ethnically diverse populations and arts and culture despite the region being known as the home of cowboys. Oil and gas make this a resource rich province boasting high wages and low unemployment so many younger Canadians live and work here in the hustle and bustle of the boom towns and cities. Being  conservative area, it's home to many different religions and people are generally friendly and welcoming. There's a marked difference between the rural life and the big city life on the Prairie Provinces, but no matter where you go you're sure to find a warm welcome as this lovely couple found out. The white hats are gift given from the City of Calgary to visiting dignitaries and are especially prevalent during the world famous 'Calgary Stampede' held every year in July over a 10 day period. Billed as the Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth, it's got something for the whole family to enjoy.

The northern territories offer opportunities for a slower pace of life and the thrill of living away from large centres. Yellowknife, the only major city has a population of 20,000 and boasts a varied cultural heritage with 20% or more people identifying themselves as aboriginal. Located just 250 miles south of the Arctic Circle, it's cold in the winter and the winters are long and dark. Transportation of goods can be tricky in the summer months when the ice roads begin to thaw but that doesn't stop tourists from flying in and workers who use Yellowknife as a hub on their way to the many mines that lie withing a 500 mile radius of the city. Diamonds are particularly plentiful. Tourism is another industry that's flourishing among the adventure providing outfitters up north and they offer a once in a lifetime vacation for anyone looking for something different.

Moving to Canada is a big step so if you're considering it, I'd urge you to come and visit a different province for vacation each year and see what you like best. You should have a good idea of your budget and your priorities so that you can make a decision that you will be happy to live with. And if you're moving within Canada, enjoy the drive! Our family moved to Nova Scotia with the idea that we could have our own land, home and finish raising our family here before settling down into a semi-retirement. It's a dream that's slowly becoming reality, and I wish you all the very best success and happiness too!

Please feel free to comment and ask questions.


  1. I have just one comment here, although much of your hypothesis of locations are very correct , I would not concure that Vancouver has good weather. I have lived in and around Vancouver and the island for the past 20 years and spent much of it in the rain. I cannot therefore conclude that the weather is good. But if you prefer grey dreary days then I guess it would seem so. We are in the process of deciding where to move to in Canada. I do agree B.C. is beautiful but I do think there are other beautiful places in Canada. For the price we pay over here we have no oportunity to enjoy it as we have to work alot to even just live!!
    Our thoughts are Nova Scotia and Ontario but thinking there may be more options for the kids as they get older in Ontario and still some fairly cheap areas.
    I hope I dont sound too negative about my above comment but I am just feeling a little disenchanted by B.C. right now.

    1. The Southern Interior of British Columbia is by far the best place in Canada. Hot (but dry) summers and mild and short winters. Lots of sunshine, vineyards, orchards, lakes, ski hills. You can live a fantastic quality of life for a lot less than the soggy Vancouver area yet it is only a few hours away by freeway. Look into Kamloops, Kelowna and Penticton.

  2. We agree that the cool wet weather of BC is not for everyone. People retire there for the lack of snow and forget that it's grey and dreary for most of the winter. There's a reason people joke and call it the 'wet coast' and 'liqid sunshine', right? Places like Alberta and NS may have snow, but the skies are sunny even at -30c and it's just more cheerful!

    I agree that if you look around you can find beauty in all sorts of areas and the scenery is just one small factor in deciding where to live. Certainly thinking about the kids is a big thing and presents lots of questions. We know that although we live rurally our kids will go to the city for university and to sample the excitement that most young people crave, hopefully by then they'll have a good combination of street smarts and small town values.

    Good luck Tasha in your decision where to move, I know it's a big change to make and wish you the best!

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  4. This is the great post indeed, I visited Canada in Ontairo once in a life for some business purpose. I had only two days but my meeting was only just 2 to 3 hours. So I just only saw Royal Ontario Museum and I think this is one of the best historical destinations.
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