Like so many Calgarians, I’m relatively new to the city, and to Alberta. I moved here in August 2011 from Ottawa, primarily for a great new job, but also for the mountains, and frankly, for a new adventure.
As with every place I’ve lived, I can’t help but try to make sense of it. Looking back, I realize that many of my early tools for figuring out Calgary were the stereotypes associated with the city – both good and bad. For those of you who haven’t looked over at Calgary (and Alberta) from afar, be aware that your fellow Canadians have many stereotypes to offer.
For instance, I’ve been told that all the men are cowboys, everyone drives a truck (many with fake balls hanging off the bumper), everyone lives in oversized homes in sprawling suburbs, no one recycles, Albertans hate Ottawa, and that Alberta and all its oil and gas money is essentially “the armpit of Canada.” Ew.
On the positive side, I heard that there was an abundance of bold and burly single men, the nightlife and arts scene scene was rich and understated, and that everyone retreated to the mountains to go hiking and climbing on weekends (my favourite).
As with most stereotypes, some of Calgary’s are rooted in reality. I’ve never seen so many trucks and SUVs in one place, and I do have a plastic-bull-ball-sighting every month or so. Calgary’s cowboy heritage emerges via cowboy boots in oil and gas boardrooms on Fridays. And as a single woman amongst Calgarian men, well, let’s just say that I’ve never felt so pretty.
That said, I’ve delighted in discovering sides of Calgary that faraway Canadians seem to have missed. In particular, it has been surprisingly easy to live as a car-free, earthy urbanite. I gushed with excitement when Car2Go launched in downtown Calgary in July, making it that much easier for me to transport heavy stuff or get out to the mountains without my own car. (Further, Car2Go recently messaged me to let CIA know that Calgary is the fastest-growing Car2Go city worldwide – so I know I’m not the only one loving it).
Calgary city council and its loveable mayor are remarkably progressive – they’re working hard to improve public transit, make the city safer for cycling, and remove incentives for urban sprawl. New condo high rises are popping up everywhere downtown, increasing population density and supporting downtown conveniences such as urban farmer’s markets and hip new restaurants and bars.
I’ve also uncovered a thriving sustainability community here. I’ve connected with so many Calgarians who are laying the groundwork for Calgary to be a leader in addressing some of the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges. By leveraging the city’s entrepreneurial spirit, its determination, and its wealth, I think Calgary can be a source of real solutions to environmental and social problems.
I love you Calgary, and look forward to growing with the real you, whatever that proves to be.
Even with the occasional fake testicle ornament cruising around.