In Discussions, Discussions, Life, Money, Travel

What would be your ideal city to live in?

eemusings talked about the tradeoffs she and T are making to live in New Zealand, and mentioned that Toronto was a possible contender, if not for our winters.

I love these kinds of discussions because we ourselves have individually and later, as a couple, lived in many different environments around the world.

Photograph-Travel-Toronto-Ontario-Canada-Skyline-Landscape-Land-Lake

My ideal city is Toronto or Montreal to live and for those of you who don’t live in Canada or who have never visited, here are a few things that I’ve observed from living here versus living elsewhere.

WHERE AM I COMPARING TORONTO / MONTREAL TO?

For the record, I or BF have lived and/or visited long enough in these countries around the world (along with talking to locals and having friends, family or former colleagues from there) to talk about some personal observations in comparison to Canada:

  • Hong Kong
  • China (Beijing, but more Shanghai than Beijing)
  • Japan (Tokyo)
  • Portugal (Lisbon and small villages)
  • Spain (Madrid)
  • Singapore
  • Malaysia (Penang)
  • U.S.A. (Dallas, Miami, Manhattan – New York City)
  • Mexico (Mexico City)
  • Brazil (Sao Paulo)
  • France (Paris and Lyons)
  • England (London)

Photograph-Toronto-Canada-Ontario-Einstein-Love-is-the-Answer-Sign

MY IDEAL CITY

..is very close to eemusings’ ideal city, and I am going to list everything, knowing that Toronto / Montreal only hits about 80% of the list, not 100%.

  • Safe for citizens (mentally and physically)
  • Little to no pollution
  • Universal healthcare
  • Ability for me to work and do my job (I freelance in an specific industry)
  • High level of trust amongst citizens (in communities, neighbourhoods and the government)
  • Good public transportation (I take the bus more than I would drive)
  • Good walkability in pockets of the city (e.g. you can just drop off in neighbourhoods & walk)
  • Decent commuting time (no more than 30 minutes)
  • Diverse food options available (sometimes a girl needs a pho!)
  • Availability of good food (particularly European delicacies like cheeses)
  • Moderate cost of living (I am being realistic here)
  • Houses not made of chipboard that cost $800,000 (I will tell you that Montreal & Toronto fail on this)
  • Eco-friendly sensibilities (composting, recycling, garbage incineration)
  • Moderate weather (I can take slightly hot or slightly cold, but nothing in the extremes if possible)

That’s pretty much all I need.

Photograph-Toronto-Ontario-Canada-Spring-Rain-Weather-Water


OBSERVATIONS ABOUT LIVING IN TORONTO / MONTREAL

1. PHYSICAL & MENTAL SAFETY

Canada is very safe compared to the rest of the world in my opinion, especially if you are talking about countries like Brazil, Mexico and to a lesser extent now, Malaysia.

There, they really have a low level of physical safety amongst citizens.

For a certain level of psychological or community safety, I’d put China on this list of “unsafe places to live” because they don’t have Western standards when it comes to dealing with food safety, workplace safety, etc, and as a result, you can’t really trust the government to do what’s right and ethical for its citizens.

They have loads of problems with diseased pork being sold as meat for consumption, fake rice made out of plastic… there are countless of stories reported by actual Chinese citizens who are upset with the way they and their compatriots are being treated.

This photograph I took of (super high) skyscraper window cleaners in Shanghai is a good example of what I mean by lack of workplace safety.

Beijing-China-Photograph-Skyscrapers-Cleaners-on-Buckets

I’d also consider Malaysia to not be as safe as Singapore for living but that’s because I am not used to living under such a strict religious rule (sharia law).

As for healthcare, we also have universal healthcare here in Canada, which is something the U.S. sorely lacks, and one of the major factors why I hated living there, which is not something you really think about until you no longer have it.

Countries that have universal healthcare should not take it for granted, and if you want an American perspective — Sandy from Yes I am Cheap posted why she is NOT signing up for healthcare because she simply can’t afford it as a freelancer.

I agree. Freelancing in the U.S. is a bum deal without healthcare.

Many people just go and work for companies because they can’t afford healthcare, or they just don’t take it… and take their chances that they don’t get sick.

2. POLLUTION & ENVIRONMENTAL STANDARDS

Canada has very low pollution levels compared to the rest of the world.

China tops the list for being the biggest offender of this one due to their manufacturing industry, Hong Kong alongside it because a lot of smog and pollution wafts over from the mainland.

It is nasty there. I developed a hacking cough and felt sick just being there for a few weeks.

On the plus side, China is very good at recycling. Nothing goes to waste there. Cardboard, cans.. everything gets collected by people who do it to make a living, and I found it heartening.

Shanghai-China-Photograph-Recycling-Garbage-Cans-Bottles

I cannot say that Canada is perfect or even close to the levels of countries like Demark who have learned how to incinerate their garbage so efficiently that it helps provide heat and energy to the country, I heard they’re even IMPORTING garbage from other countries because they’re running so well.

However… I will say that after living in the U.S., I am very pleased that we at least have a composting program in Toronto, as well as recycling bins in a good part of the city.

Vancouver still beats us on the eco-friendly front, but at least we aren’t that far behind, although I will acknowledge that California seems to be quite an eco-friendly state to live in.

The waste I encountered in the U.S. in NYC, Miami, etc,,, shocked me after living in Canada. It really made me feel uncomfortable, to be honest. The only state that is killer on this eco-friendly business is California.


3. TRUST AMONG OTHERS

We also enjoy a high level of trust amongst ourselves in the community, even in a city as large as Toronto, and by that, I mean that if you were to drop something, someone is very likely to say to you:

“Excuse me! You dropped your ______.”

Even if it’s money, I’ve seen people return expensive headphones, etc.

We are also able to for instance, have packages delivered and left at our doors in plain sight of passerbys, and have no one really come forward and steal your package from your door.

This kind of level of trust and honesty is not to be taken for granted, and to be nurtured by all of us because once we talked to a guy who moved from Mexico to Canada, and told us how amazed he was at how much we trusted each other.

He said that the first time he came to Canada, he went to a grocery store and was shocked to see huge cases of soda pop, chips and other items outside of the store’s gates on a promotion, and NO ONE stole any of it.

In fact, he saw a few people pick up a case, walk into the store, pay for it, and walk out.

This blew his mind and he said: In Mexico, you could never leave anything outside of your store. It’s sure to be stolen.

Two other countries that are fantastic for this level of trust are Japan and Singapore.

Japan being #1 in my books.

Canada is nowhere near the levels of the trust and community displayed in Japan, but we are pretty good.

4. WEATHER

We don’t really get major weather disasters here. Just a lot of snow once every 10 – 20 years or so, and bone-chilling winters.

No hurricanes, huge major floods, tornadoes, monsoons… nothing really tropical to speak of, not to mention a lack of earthquakes as well. We’re pretty good on the disaster-front here.

We do get some serious problems once in a while — drought, flooding, but it isn’t a regular annual occurrence you have to be on guard for.

Toronto is warmer than Montreal, but Ottawa as I have mentioned a bunch of times before, is a frozen hellhole in my opinion.

Montreal is colder because the wind and snow blows in off the water, and Toronto is a little more protected with their huge skyscrapers (blocks the wind… sometimes).

Still, I have complained many times about the weather in Canada (one of the reasons why I wanted to move to Miami), but at the end of the day, our winters have been getting progressively warmer.

Photograph-Travel-Toronto-Canada-Dundas-Square-Shopping

Take for instance December 5th 2013. Normally, I’d expect a foot of snow by now (although it doesn’t really get cold until January), but it was only 11 degrees C today or 51.8 F.

That’s warm enough for a light sweater or a jacket.

There are of course days where you can’t go out without being SUPER bundled up, but I’ve found that the winters haven’t been as harsh lately.

In contrast, moving to a country like Portugal, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Singapore or to hotter cities like Miami, is not that much better in my opinion. Probably worse.

It is mind blowing how HOT IT IS THERE. Then if you add humidity to the mix (Singapore and Miami), it makes it a sweaty endeavour to try and live in that country (no cute coats or knee-high boots there!).

Between the hours of 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. year round, you are basically screwed to enjoy your life. You have to kind of stay inside or risk being burned to a crisp, unless you are used to such weather (which many natives are).

You stay inside, you try and stay cool to not overheat, and you wait until the sun goes away so you can come out and try to enjoy your life which is why nightlife is so much better in those areas.

I am not a fan of the hot humid weather. I would prefer to be in freezing cold temperatures than in a hot and humid one.

5. HOUSING & COST OF LIVING

The U.S. beats Canada HANDS DOWN for affordable housing and cost of living (in most cities, it is going to be cheaper to buy food and live there than it is to live in Toronto or Montreal, save for big cities like NYC or San Francisco). Americans have the same style of houses there (made out of chipboard), but the prices are a fraction of what people pay here in Canada.

To put things into perspective, a “normal” house in the U.S. for $200,000 would be about $800,000 here in Toronto. A little less in Montreal.

To get what I would consider a real house that is solidly built and made to last for generations, you can’t beat Portugal, France, or Spain (not entirely sure about England.. I think they would be on this list too; making a mental note to ask my friends).

Photograph-Montreal-Canada-Quebec-Restaurant-Vieux-Port-Snow-Winter-Home-House

They have stone houses that take FOREVER to renovate because it’s all made to last for hundreds and hundreds of years, and the maintenance is very low compared to Canadian and American houses.

The houses we saw in Portugal needed a little patching from the house settling once in a while, but otherwise, it’s pretty much built for life.

In Canada, you can expect to basically spend about 25% of your home’s value in fixing all the problems that come with it (whether you buy a house new or old, makes no difference here, and some old houses are even worse off because their standards for electricity, wiring and so on were non-existent back then).

You only have to take a look at a few HGTV (Home and Garden TV) channels like Property Brothers, Love it or List It, Income Property and so on, to see the kind of crap they put in houses.

Home inspectors? Worthless. Can’t even take them to court after you find serious problems in the house that they should have found in their home inspection report.

It’s nothing like in New Zealand (not insulated, mushrooms growing in the carpet), but it’s pathetic nonetheless.

So when someone goes to renovate a kitchen, they find stuff like leaking sewage dripping from the toilet upstairs into the walls of your kitchen (yes, feces and all), or all sorts of dangerous live electrical DIY wiring from previous owners that was absolutely NOT up to code.

The only kind of house I’d ever consider buying here is a condo made out of cement because at least there are engineers here who have to build the entire structure out of cement, and put in real math at work to make sure it won’t just topple over from a gust of a wind.

6. TRANSPORTATION & COMMUTING

Commuting is horrific in Toronto and Montreal, as they tend to be in bigger cities. The average Montreal and Toronto commuting times are about 75 minutes.

Ugh.

Toronto is a monster that eats up every piece of land around it, even MILTON and calls it the “Greater Toronto Area”. For me, if you live anywhere outside where the TTC stops, you do not live in Toronto.

My ideal commuting MAXIMUM time is 30 minutes. I prefer 15 minutes, but you can’t always get what you want.

In addition, Montreal has bridges that are literally FALLING DOWN (Pont Champlain, anyone?).. which they are trying to fix but only because the federal (Canadian) government is stepping in to bail them out, but *rolls eyes* with the corruption in Montreal for the past while, I am not surprised that they don’t have money to do it.

The potholes are horrible in Montreal as well. Toronto is far better maintained and less corrupt on the whole, than Montreal (surprising right? Even with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine, he seems to have been doing a better job than the folks running the show in Montreal).

Toronto also clears snow when it falls.

Montreal.. does not.

You are very likely to be driving through at least 1 foot of snow after a heavy snowfall, and having your car swerve and skid out, which is why having an SUV, minivan or a truck is so necessary to living in Montreal.

Or at least, a good CAA plan and snow tires with chains.

Photograph-Travel-Montreal-Quebec-Canada-Winter

On the plus side, Toronto has a very good public transportation system (comparatively speaking to Montreal, Madrid, NYC, Paris, London), but nowhere near the professional levels of the transportation in Singapore and Hong Kong.


That said, I find the Toronto public transportation system bloated, full of inefficiencies, and if they were willing to hire me and pay me obscene amounts of money with power to do whatever I wanted to fix the situation, I’d be willing to step in and eliminate routes that should no longer be running (only 2 passengers the whole day? Please.), and to update their entire fare system with RFID reloadable cards to bring them up to the 21st century.

Update: Apparently PRESTO cards are rolling out by 2016 and will do exactly this. ABOUT DAMN TIME.

I’d also get them to build more subways, less streetcars, and a line going across either the length of St. Clair West or Eglinton, because the city needs it.

I will say that in the U.S. it’s a hit and miss for public transportation. Some cities are great like NYC in that they’re extensive (but stink to high hell), but in other cities you have little to NO public transportation and you need a car.

Paris was the same. I found it extensive but very inefficient, because they could probably shut down about 25% of their subway stops (they have way too many) that are underused by the public and stop wasting money on them.

7. OTHER QUIRKS OF THE COMMUNITY

Montreal is quirkier and less tolerant than Toronto. Quirkier and stricter.

For instance, everything has to be staunchly available in French. Even signs for stores like Starbucks Coffee, have to be translated into French.

(I will note however that they are more lax when it comes to translating French to English, especially for government documents or websites. French is #1 there!! It takes me twice as long to read the French version carefully and translate it in my head into English)

For instance, if you live in Montreal, you should learn how to speak some French. If you don’t, you’re just going to aggravate some locals or occasionally get yelled at or receive bad service on the metro, because you should know ENOUGH FRENCH to buy transit tickets and take a train.

On the plus side, Montreal has a fantastic range of more European-centric food and so on. I think the quality of food is far better in Montreal than in Toronto, but Toronto has slightly more diversity in cuisines, although in recent years, I have observed more ethnic restaurants popping up in Montreal.

The U.S. is one of the best cities for food though — lots of great variety in cities like NYC and the quality of food like the beef in Texas is to die for.  (Calgary has amazing beef too).

Paris had good restaurants too and GREAT food in grocery stores, but I’d miss ethnic foodstuffs way too much and it was QUITE expensive. In Spain and Portugal, it was basically meat meat meat meat, fish in the coastal cities and salt. A little too one-note for me.

London had good food if you had the money to pay for it, but English food although going through a revival, is kind of gross to me.

Hong Kong had amazing food but it was rather expensive for the good stuff.

China had very tasty raw and natural food (and bread!) but the pollution turned me off (it seeps into the food being grown there).

Eating-Out-Photography-Sashimi-Japanese-Food-Meal

NYC of course, beats both cities in terms of ethnic restaurants and cuisines.

They have also adopted the French (from France) style of making sure the whole province is equal in terms of religion and culture, that is, that there is NO religious bias.

For instance, Quebec has recently been embroiled in a debate that you cannot wear religious symbols such as Muslim headscarves, Sikh turbans and so on to work, which is very similar to what France does.

I (shockingly or not) support this because it makes it fair for everyone in the sense that you don’t get special treatment (or mistreatment) based on the fact that you’re wearing a Sikh turban (or not), and everyone is therefore equal.

Whether or not you agree with me, is another discussion, but it is something I think is fair. Then again, I am also someone who doesn’t follow or believe in religion, so I am of course, biased.

..and that does it. My kind of overview of what it’s like living in Toronto or Montreal versus the world.

HOW DOES TORONTO / MONTREAL RANK ON MY LIST FOR BEING A GREAT CITY TO LIVE IN?

(Red = Fail / Green = Pass / Orange = Halfway there!)

  • Safe for citizens (mentally and physically)
  • Little to no pollution
  • Universal healthcare
  • Ability for me to work and do my job (I freelance in an specific industry)
  • High level of trust amongst citizens (in communities, neighbourhoods and the government)
  • Good public transportation (I take the bus more than I would drive)
  • Good walkability in pockets of the city (e.g. you can just drop off in neighbourhoods & walk)
  • Decent commuting time (no more than 30 minutes)
  • Diverse food options available (sometimes a girl needs a pho!)
  • Availability of good food (particularly European delicacies like cheeses)
  • Moderate cost of living (Am being realistic here, I don’t want NYC levels, but I know it costs to live in a big city)
  • Houses not made of chipboard that cost $800,000
  • Eco-friendly sensibilities (composting, recycling, garbage incineration)
  • Moderate weather (I can take slightly hot or slightly cold, but nothing in the extremes if possible)

Not so bad. Mostly green.

HOW ABOUT YOU? HOW WOULD YOU RANK THE CITY YOU LIVE IN?


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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K (savings rate = 85%). I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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25 Comments

  1. Cara

    Amsterdam!

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I’d love to visit!

      Reply
  2. Debbie M

    It’s hilarious that I’ve never even considered some of the things on your list because they are so rare or nonexistent in my experience:
    * safety – I miss not locking doors like when I was a kid and I miss when people would give out home-made foods for Halloween. I just look for a neighborhood that’s safe, not a whole city!
    * universal healthcare – I live in the US; now that I’m older, it seems unfair to move to a place with universal healthcare!
    * trust – the Texas A&M University campus is famous for this; but mostly I’m really happy enough just trusting my friends and roommates; note: I am often chasing after people returning things they dropped–I even wondered the other day what I will do when I’m too old and decrepit to be able to catch up to them.
    * public transportation – loved it in Boston; Brussels; London; Lausanne, Switzerland, but I rarely live anywhere that has good public transportation; I always have to have a car.

    I like your idea of not needing a whole city to be walkable, but needing pockets of walkability (like my pockets of safety!).

    Here’s what I want:

    * warm weather – I am willing to deal with horrible heat in the summer in order to not have to deal with cold. Where I live, we close down the city when there’s ice or snow. Love that.
    * college town – I like an over-educated populace. I also prefer people who are smarter than me for friends. I like big libraries (jealous of the central library in Amsterdam). I’ve learned that the college has to be a good college rather than a party college for me to want to live there!
    * city, not a small town and definitely not a suburb – If I have to deal with traffic, I want there to be things worth driving for. I like having lots of things to do. I’d rather live in the country than in a suburb, but I have a black thumb and don’t properly appreciate wildlife, so my favorite is living near a city center.
    * affordable – my pension is going to be about 27K/year, so I can’t afford London, Brussels, Lausanne, etc.
    * English-speaking – I suck at foreign languages. (I could learn enough French to buy tickets, though, but maybe not enough to appreciate deep conversations and subtle jokes.)
    * a culture where I can belong even though I’m not religious, I think early retirement is a good idea, I like to read a lot, I don’t wear make-up or high heels, etc. I also don’t want to spend most of my time with acquaintances explaining how people shouldn’t be judged by race, gender, religion, gender expression, weight, etc.

    I’m in Austin, Texas. I don’t like the terrible mass transit, the 100+ degree days (38C) for weeks on end every single summer, being surrounded by homophobic, racist, missionary types (every county but mine voted for an anti-gay-marriage law), or the way we’re using more water than we have, especially with all the droughts we’ve been having. Also, I feel like our city council is corrupt. And my whole country, really. But I like never dealing with cold weather, the big university (I work there), big libraries, many many things to do. Also, I live near the center of town on an above-average bus route, plus I have a decent, reliable car, and about half my friends live here.

    I don’t think I could afford a place with good mass transit, and most places with a culture I like are expensive or cold or are desert areas with even less water or I don’t have citizenship or many of those things.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I liked Austin when I visited, except for the heat. The horrible, HORRIBLE heat.

      I also think almost every city thinks their government is corrupt. Some more than others (Mexico City versus Montreal)..

      As for your ideal of the days when people REALLY trusted each other, I agree. I wish that we could trust each other like we did in the past, unfortunately we can’t any longer.. even though I’d like to.

      Reply
  3. Potato

    I can tell you didn’t update your winter comment for the polar vortex 🙂

    I miss London (Ontario), it was pretty close to my ideal (few too many rowdy undergrads in pockets, though they’re not all like that, and the personal experience with crime was a little nuts). I actually did more “Toronto” things while living in London than living in Toronto — in London it was a 5-hour round-trip weekend drive to come in to the big city and do something (ROM, musical, whatever). Even living in Toronto, it’s still a 2-hour round-trip journey to do something uniquely Toronto, and I lose 10 hours a week to commuting so I’m always playing catch-up on the weekends.

    Cost of living was lower, the bike paths were better, and it had everything I needed on a regular basis within a 5-to-10 minute drive.

    The commuting times in Toronto are killing me — part of why I’m working evenings and weekends to build freelance gigs and my DIY/investing education service is so I can get to the point where I can start working from home full-time. Even setting aside going downtown for work or an event, god forbid I need milk within an hour of 5pm.

    But the biggest thing I miss about London was the atmosphere: everyone I met was happy and optimistic or at least somewhat contented. People were friendly, in part because they had the capacity to be. We could do an impromptu BBQ or have someone over just to watch an episode of How I Met Your Mother and hang out for a bit. The few times I got cut-off in traffic were memorable because they were so rare. Whereas Toronto has a crack-using sideshow of a mayor, and it doesn’t even faze people. The experience of living in this over-crowded condo hellhole is so mind-numbingly oppressive that Rob Ford’s antics don’t even register. Everyone is on edge all the time. Forget popping by for a drink and a chat: it’s not worth getting in your car or grabbing your metropass unless it’s going to be at least a three-hour visit; oh and weekdays are out because we’re not home from work until after 6, and have to get ready for the early-morning commute by going to bed by 9.

    But hey, how else are you going to solve the two-body problem?

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Well this winter was really an exception but we had noticed in recent years the winters were quite mild…!

      You bring up a good point about living in Toronto. It’s hustle-y, bustle-y and all that jazz but on the weekends or during rush hour you don’t want to do anything if you don’t live downtown because of the traffic / commute to get anywhere. It takes me an hour to get anywhere so I always have to plan my entire day out before I leave the house. It’s not easy to get to places and do things on the spur of the moment if it takes 2 hours to get there and back. You’re exhausted.

      I’d also agree that Torontonian drivers are CRAZY and some of the worst I’ve ever experienced. Total lack of respect on the roads, and I am including my family members in this. They turn left on green lights by speeding up to cut off other oncoming cars (SO DANGEROUS), they swerve in and out of lanes, do rolling stops at red lights so they can turn right on the red… all this stuff is a regular occurrence and I can’t believe car insurance isn’t higher.

      Reply
      1. NZ Muse

        @save. spend. splurge.: It’s getting a bit like that in Auckland too. Not so much weekends but rush hour has gotten really bad of late (esp since we’ve been back/since I last worked in the city a few years ago). Not LA bad but certainly heading in that direction, and I don’t imagine that’s going to improve going forward. Our city is growing and I’m really intrigued/concerned as to how urban planning and public transport is going to be affected and try to deal with the population changes.

        Reply
  4. femmefrugality

    Pittsburgh is pretty good on my list! Wish they would stop fracking, but aside from France and Sweden I don’t know too many westernized countries that have banned it. That and plowing the roads in the winter are my big complaints (they’ve gotten slightly better about that with our new mayor.) But it’s pretty, green, there’s rivers, and that’s just downtown. It’s a safe city for its size. And relatively affordable, with the caveat that you’d better have a decent education if you want even an entry-level position.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      It sounds nice. I like a LOT of greenery in a city, it’s something I miss in Toronto.

      Reply
  5. Lila

    I liked this post. I would love to visit Canada one day. I used to think Canada was part of the U.S. before I moved to the U.S. I read somewhere that Canadians travel more than Americans. 😉

    Right now I’m at home in Omaha because of low unemployment (one of the lowest in the U.S. right now), cost of living is affordable compared to bigger cities, it is a big enough of a city which means there are enough jobs to go around, people to meet, concerts, restaurants to go to, and they have enough big city events (Joslyn Museum, the zoo, the Old market, parks, etc), the people are also friendly.

    I can go out at 2 am and no one is going to mug me. It depends on your neighborhood as well. North Omaha is known for its crime, I don’t live there though. The neighborhood I live in you really can go out at 2 am and not worry about someone mugging you. Omaha is also diverse, there is a growing Hispanic population here.

    Also Bellevue and Papillion have been voted as best places to live by Money magazine. Winter in Omaha sucks and nobody likes to go out. It snowed only a few days this past winter, but when it snows heavily it sucks. Some days have very light snow and so it melts the next day. I also don’t like the humidity.

    Right now it’s perfect for me and for what I need/want. The only thing that makes me sad about Omaha is that its not like Colorado or Washington. I would love to go hiking, sailing, etc.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Outdoorsy stuff would be a bonus. I like Montreal because of its biking trails / tracks. In Toronto I would NEVER consider biking here.

      Reply
  6. NZ Muse

    I tried to update one of my posts about Auckland the other day (having a real global perspective I should now have a more rounded view to present) but came up with a bit of a blank. But reading this post of yours reminded me of some of the good things I need to add! It’s so easy to take cleanliness and safety for granted.

    I really like California. But the big hurdle in the US for me is the big political stuff – healthcare in particular (I’m not a freelancer but media jobs from what I know don’t always come with good benefits).

    And yeah, winter in Canada.

    And for me the other two big personal tipping points (as separated out from the objective stuff, like the stuff you’ve listed here) being work/career and family/friends, definitely tip the balance for Auckland.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I notice the cleanliness because I waffled between Montreal and Toronto and noticed Montreal was much dirtier / ill-kept.

      As for safety, my neighbourhood is fairly safe for the most part but some pockets of Toronto are to be avoided after hours.

      Politics, weather, healthcare. Out of the three, healthcare is the #1 for me.

      Reply
  7. Emily @ Urban Departures

    HAHA. Ottawa IS a frozen hellhole! My criteria for an ideal city is similar. Walk-ability, affordability, safety and diversity in food is important to me. A preferably a climate with temperatures that ranges between 15-25 degrees year round 🙂

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I had never been in such a cold city before. Even Montreal was warmer…

      Reply
  8. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life

    30 minute commute time isn’t bad at all. It’s funny, in NYC everything is so close together, but it takes forever to get anywhere. My bf lives on the northern tip of Manhattan, but when he’s working in Brooklyn, even though it’s just a few miles away, it’s an hour and a half commute. I think my dream is to live in the San Diego suburbs. Very expensive and far from my family though :/

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      That’s the irony of being in NYC. I found that it took me forever when I was taking the trains particularly if I had to switch from one line to another.

      30 minutes seems like an eternity to me.. but then again I’m spoiled because I tend to live in hotels near to my projects.

      Reply
    2. NZ Muse

      @Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life: It took us ages to get around NYC, but because it was all so new and exciting to us (and staying outside of Manhattan we had views on the train as it was aboveground before crossing the water) the 30 minutes or whatever never felt anywhere near as long.

      Reply
      1. save. spend. splurge.

        I think as tourists / visitors the commute is not bad. But if you do it daily, it starts to grind on you.

        Reply
  9. AdinaJ

    If money was no issue, but I still had to work, I’d pick Vancouver. (Sadly, we can’t afford the lifestyle we have now in Van.) if money was no issue, and I DIDN’T have to work, I would probably pick London or the surrounding area. And I would spend half my time traveling.

    The main reason we settled in our home town was family. Both our families live a 10 minute drive away. That is a huge deal when you have two small kids and busy careers. And, like I said, we can enjoy a very comfortable lifestyle here, cost-of-living wise. The biggest downside is the weather and the cost of travelling out of country.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Vancouver is EXPENSIVE. I can’t live there…. that, and it rains all the time. Just ask Jessica of Mo Money Mo Houses. 🙂

      London? England?

      You’re really lucky to be so close to parents who are willing to take care of your kids full-time. My mom still works but she also has said she would go crazy if she had to stay at home with a baby / children all day long (like me).

      Reply
  10. MelD

    Well, you know I’m going to tick all the boxes for Switzerland – I just feel lucky, really. Pretty much everything is way up top in all respects. Nowhere is 100%. But people differ and English-speakers don’t always enjoy the reality if they won’t adapt.
    LOL
    (presently in England, where once more, I am not impressed. Country is pretty, but towns – yuck. Just glad I don’t have to work/live here.)

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      When you say English-speakers you mean those from England or North America? Expats??

      England is a country I can’t really live in either unless I had a lot of money and was able to live anywhere I wanted and travel constantly. It’s just so expensive… and I found London to be a great city to visit but I am not sure I’d want to live there. Paris was the same. Lyons was also nice, but boring…

      Reply
      1. MelD

        @save. spend. splurge.: Take your pick – British, North American, Oceania…
        The English are lovely people and the countryside is beautiful, the history and culture are fantastic, but practical living, education etc.?! Not if I can help it!

        Reply
        1. save. spend. splurge.

          HAHAH 🙂 BF feels the same way.. sometimes.

          Reply

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