Living in California and Why I Chose to Move Back to Canada

Living in California and Why I Chose to Move Back to Canada

A great deal of us see on T.V the glamorous lifestyle of living in California, and many of us who have seen that also want it. I grew up in Calgary, Alberta (that’s in Canada) and if you’ve ever been to Calgary then you probably know it’s not very glamorous – or warm. It’s a diverse city with 1.3 million people living in it and it has great universities and awesome culture. But it’s also cold a majority of the year, it’s in the middle of the prairies, and it is expensive. Don’t get me wrong, I love my city and will promote it to everyone; I mean we are the home of the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”. I did, however, have the chance to experience living in California as I went to high school at Los Osos in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. I was there from ages 15-17, and when I graduated I promptly applied to the University of Calgary and moved back home. A lot of people ask me why I would leave California when it was so much better than Calgary and all of Canada. There’s a number of reasons, and the least of them was that I was homesick.

I loved California, the weather was amazing for a majority of the year (the Santa Ana winds can go to hell), the beach was 45 minutes away, the mountains were behind my house. It’s a dream, right? Wrong. No, it wasn’t, there were many problems, problems that you can find anywhere but they become more prevalent when you are somewhere new. So what were these problems?

  1. The People.

    Okay so this may sound incredibly rude and biased but I did notice a stark difference between the people in Canada and the people in California. I mean there were some genuinely great people in California, I met my best friend there, but there were also some really not-so-great people. It may be a funny stereotype that Canadians are overly polite and always say sorry, but there is a lot of truth to it. It’s part of how we are raised; we learn to apologise and be as polite and/or helpful as we can. It’s our culture and that is why when someone bumps into me I will apologise, not because I think it was my fault and I was in their way, it’s just a knee-jerk response and it is done out of respect and manners. I noticed in California that this was not really the case, people could shove me and not care. I met a lot of people who were incredibly homophobic, transphobic, racist, sexist, and it was disappointing. People were rude to me about Canada and my political and economic beliefs, they would call me names and insult my country. It was shocking. There is the stereotype of Americans being “ignorant and arrogant”, and I never believed them and I still don’t think it’s true of all Americans because I’ve met many who are great, but there were also many who lived up to it.

    Canada, of course, has its fair share of bigots and ignorance. Just last semester a group of students at my university put up anti-Islam posters all over the campus. It’s a common thing here too, especially since Alberta is considered the “red-neck” province, we’re one of the most conservative. All of this is not to put Americans, specifically Californians down, the great majority of them were wonderful, nice people, but due to the population being equal to that of the entirety of Canada, there is a lot more chance to meet someone who sucks because there is just that many people.

  2. The Government.

    I come from a country that has universal healthcare, a more pacifist militaristic view, freedom, and a love of immigrants. I am used to walking into a hospital, getting x-rays and a cast and leaving without thinking about insurance. It’s not common to hear people are signing up for the military, nor is it common to be worried about attacks on our country. We are one of the top nations for receiving immigrants and we don’t complain about them. It’s quite rare to hear people complaining about immigrants “taking our jobs”, the people who do are typically racist and more upset that they aren’t white than they are about their citizenship status.

    Moving to America where the healthcare system frankly is shit (sorry), the majority of spending is in the military and there is constant concern about terrorism and war, and having a government trying to ban immigrants – not to even mention the fact that Trump is the president. There is not very much religious freedom considering a great deal of legislature is still based on Christian beliefs and values (I mean it wasn’t until 2015 that gay marriage was legal). This was, frankly, not my cup of tea.

    I mean there are also some great things about the American government and political system. I absolutely loved Obama and everything his administration did, they do protect a lot of countries in times of war, and the Constitution is one of the best in the world in my opinion. There are just many significant differences in the way the countries are run and I prefer Canada’s way over America’s.

  3. The Education.

    Okay, I’m sorry but I actually find the education in America incredibly frustrating. The United States’ Universities are among the top in the world, and I agree that they are phenomenal, I’d have loved to go to one. I want to go to one for grad school. However, primary and secondary education is disturbing. To begin, I started sexual education in grade 2 – nothing serious, just that boys and girls were “different”. By high school I’d learned about all types of sex and how to protect yourself for each, different genders and sexualities, birth control, what an orgasm is and how to achieve one, masturbation, abstinence, pregnancy and what your options are, abortions and why they’re okay, how everything works, equality and abuse, rape. I was well educated. Imagine my surprise when I’m 17 and a senior in a California high school and have to explain to my friends – male and female – that people with vaginas don’t, in fact, urinate out of our vagina. Or that you can get STI’s and STD’s from anal, that lube is useful and not weird, it’s not supposed to hurt your first time, that birth control doesn’t prevent STI’s. People had no idea and when I asked about their sex-ed, the majority of friends told me they hadn’t had any besides the one class in grade 7 where they taught them abstinence is the only way and that you should only have sex in missionary and never think about sex ever.

    There were also issues in other subjects. Their math was behind but split up so when I took algebra I was learning things I’d learned 3 years prior, and then I go into pre-calc and I haven’t learned half of what they’re talking about because I didn’t take geometry as well. Their history was distorted and very USA-centric, which makes sense because it is important to learn about your own country, but imagine the arguments I got into with classmates and teachers when I said that Canada was in WWII years before America, that we were actually quite important on D-Day, that the War of 1812 has been considered a victory for Canada because we burnt down the White House, that Canada is actually bigger than the U.S. by a significant amount, not equal in size like the map at the back of the class shows.

    The U.S. has an amazing education system but it is also extremely lacking in many areas, the most noticeable being sex-ed. The universities are amazing and I’d love to go, but high school in California was not something I felt benefited me.

  4. The Cost of Everything.

    This is not new information, the U.S. is incredibly expensive. From a cup of coffee to a house, it’s expensive and there isn’t enough money to go around. I didn’t get my first job until I moved back to Canada because they wouldn’t hire me in the U.S. since I was underage and not American, which is fair. However, I couldn’t afford anything because of this. My mother couldn’t get a job because she wasn’t American, regardless of the years of experience she had. The wages are low, minimum wage being so low that it should be illegal to be allowed to pay someone so little. Grocery stores had little selection and so we ate out a lot more because it was for the most part cheaper. And the biggest thing: University tuition costs are so ridiculous that even if nothing else was wrong with California I’d have moved back anyway just because of that.

    In-state tuition was average $1,100 for community college, 5,500 for a state university, and 12,000 for the University of California. By the end of my degree, my family will have paid $28,000-33,0000 for all of my years at the University of Calgary, in California, they would have paid about $44,000-90,000 depending on if I did state or went higher.

    The quality of my education is without a doubt equal, the University of Calgary is one of the top research university in Canada and has achieved the longest teleportation of a particle, and our professors are internationally recognised. Would I have preferred to go to Yale? Yeah, of course. Could I have afforded it or even gotten in? Nope, not even close.

This post was not to just insult California and the U.S. as a whole, and while I did say things that I disliked about living in California, I can’t deny how wonderful it truly was. There were a lot of opportunities, great people and culture, and it is one of the best states, but it was not for me. There were things I couldn’t get past, like the cost of education and the lack of healthcare, the two things that drew me back to Canada the most, but there were also lots of things that made me want to stay, like the weather and the opportunities I’d have had. Would I advise against moving there? No, definitely not. Would I move there again? No, definitely not. Though I would move to New York City. Just not right now, right now I love Canada too much, there is so much to see and do here that I haven’t done and before I leave this country I want to take it all in before I lose my chance.

For the TL;DR version I’ll just say while California was great and has it’s draws, I had to choose what was best for me and living there was not it. Do I enjoy America though? Yes, have nothing against the country, I just like Canada more.


One Reply to “Living in California and Why I Chose to Move Back to Canada”

  1. Great post. I just wanted to mention that while we did eat out a lot more, we ate in more than out. It was much cheaper in the U.S. to eat out than in Canada. Thus, contributing to the obesity rate. Groceries in the U.S. were very expensive, which shocked me because a fair amount of their fresh food (fruit/vegetables) come from mexico which is not that far away, and therefore the cost of shipping would be cheaper. Quite a bit can be grown in California. Our grocery bill for a family of five was nearly $400.00/wk to eat healthy food. Now, you consider how much money the average person there makes, and try to imagine how they would pay for healthy food. This is why so many Americans are obese. It’s cheaper to eat at a fast food restaurant, or buy ready made/boxed meals from the freezer section. Not that it isn’t expensive in Canada, roughly the same cost per week, but our wages are higher, so people can actually afford to eat healthy.
    The other thing I wanted to mention, is that the day we moved into our house, all the neighbours came out to welcome us, and introduce themselves. This would never happen in Canada. People tend to keep to themselves. It was really very nice, and all our neighbours were so friendly. They were quite religious (all of them) as the first question each of them asked is what church we belong to, and have we found a church in California yet, which kind of worried me. Not because I’m anti-religious, I have my faith but my husband is atheist, and I’m just not much of a church goer. Plus we like to have fun, and yes we drink. So I was worried, that our neighbours would look down on us for this, or take offence. I was very wrong in that assumption. However, the biggest shock was when one of our neighbours, a wonderful family, a black family, was telling me about her church and how much I would enjoy it, and then said “don’t worry, our minister is white”. My jaw dropped, and I didn’t know how to respond. The fact that she felt she needed to mention that, shocked me. There is a considerable amount of racism in the U.S. Something I wasn’t used to. Not that we don’t have racist people in Canada, racism exists everywhere. But it’s not so conspicuous. Mostly, the racism I’ve experienced comes from the very old.
    I will say that we purchased a great home, could afford to put in a pool and have great landscaping, even a gardener. That same house in Calgary (without the gardener) with the view we had, would have cost approximately 1.5 milliion, possibly more. Not something we could ever afford.
    I miss the weather, the view of the mountains, our neighbours, not having a basement (I hate basements), growing my own fruit, and my house. Some days I wish I was still there, but I’m glad to be back in Canada because we have universal health care, little racism, and we don’t have a leader who is a man-child that fires anyone opposed to him, and will quite possibly spark WWIII.

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