Is Ottawa the best city to live in Canada? | Expat life

Ottawa, Canadian capital, is becoming more and more popular as a destination in Canada among expats from all round the world. But then the question pops up: Is Ottawa really the best city to live in Canada? Here in this post, I’ll try to share our personal experience as we lived in the city for 12 years.

Parliament Hill Ottawa
Parliament of Canada – Downtown Ottawa

Ottawa has already been on top of rankings throughout the years, for example as the best place to live in Canadá and also runner up on best cities in the world. Today, Ottawa holds the 19th place of best cities in the quality of life category (Mercer) e o 2nd place in best city to live in Canadá (pesquisa da MoneySense de 2018).

Rideau Canal Locks
Must see in Ottawa – Rideau Canal Locks

Although I have already mentioned on some posts, I say it again, one of the potential expat’s most important decisions is decide where to live, and many times a job offer or a college acceptance guide that decision, but also there are those times where is completely up to you to pick one city or another based on your researches, interests and preferences.

Children in snow
Diana going to daycare in a regular snow day in Ottawa

We are very biased when it comes to Ottawa and we do believe is one of the best cities to live in Canada. But no place is perfect, that’s a fact. Here I start with a few of the positive factors that made us love Ottawa:

  • Clean (overall, there is not a lot of garbage laying around even on busy public places).
  • A lot of bike paths, parks and green areas.
  • Close connection with French language and culture (Province of Quebéc is right over there, across the Ottawa River).
  • Architecture (with the well preserved downtown area).
  • Good size (“not too big and not too small, much smaller than Montreal”)
  • Multicultural.
  • Cost of living is relativity cheaper than bigger cities in Canada (like Toronto, Montreal…)
  • The seasons (although spring and fall are short).
  • Low crime rates.
  • Traffic is fairly acceptable (rush hours).
  • People are friendly (wait a second, aren’t all Canadians friendly?) :).
Green spaces in Ottawa
Beautiful green area in Ottawa

Obviously, pros and cons are extremely personal. What is considered acceptable or good to me, might be a big challenge for you. And some factors can change depending on your status on the country and the season, for example.

Snowfall in Ottawa
Snowfall in Ottawa – usually from October/November though March/April.

Below you can find the “negative” factors of living in Ottawa, in our humble opinion:

  • Public transportation still being developed (O-Train, for example).
  • Weather (long and cold winters!).
  • A bit less available job opportunities than bigger cities.
  • Less cosmopolitan and more conservative, overall.
  • Night life (we haven’t been close to night life in the past 9 years, but some people say it’s not comparable to Toronto or Montreal and the word “boring or tedious” has come up many times).
Dog in the snow in Ottawa
Dexter trying to enjoy the backyard, but hey, the snow took over.

We decided that Ottawa would be our home in Canada based on these factors and on the IT sector in the Ottawa region (Diego’s field). We never regretted our decision (in fact, coming to Germany had almost nothing to do with Canada itself…), but I confess we did not make the best we could to get comfortable in some of the areas that bugged us, such as the extra long winters, and the option of embrace that though winter sports and activities to make all those months more pleasant.

In summary, positive and negative factors are very personal to each immigrant or potential expat and they can fluctuate according to experiences, preferences and backgrounds. I always recommend in any expat situation, to go deep, research, visit the place, network and learn before making such a big decision as select a city to live. It’s going to be up to you to deal with the daily challenges and make the city that you picked, the best one possible (for you!). Leave the comfort zone behind and get out there!

Now I want to hear from you. How did you get to our final decision?