First impressions: New Edmontonians share their experiences

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Moving to a new city means new opportunities.

For Miriam Khalil, it means being able to start a new job, live blocks away from Edmonton’s river valley and make new friends. She moved from Toronto in July 2021.

“Our neighbours here have been so welcoming,” she says. “They’ve given me vegetables from their gardens, they’ve hosted Friday night block parties, they’ve introduced their kids to my older son. They’re amazing.” 

Edmonton is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada. The population grew by 111,452 people between 2016 and 2021, for a total of 1.01 million. Another 250,000 people are projected to arrive over the next 10 years. 

Moving to Edmonton or just arrived? Check out these online resources, including a 64-page guide and links to local community groups, or visit the City of Edmonton’s Citizen and New Arrival Information Centre

We also asked some newcomers to share their first impressions of the city. 

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Kindness of strangers

Khalil, a Juno-nominated opera singer, is one of 7,220 Ontarians who moved to Alberta between July 1 and September 30, 2021, according to Statistics Canada. 

She came with her husband, Joel Ivany, and their two young sons, Sammy and Amil. She now works as a vocal instructor at the University of Alberta. Ivany was recently appointed artistic director of Edmonton Opera and Khalil recently starred in the company’s version of La Bohème

“Edmontonians are so friendly,” says Khalil. “It’s not that people in Toronto weren’t, but no one goes out of their way to talk to you there.”

Lives in: A house in King Edward Park, a neighbourhood south of the North Saskatchewan River and Whyte Avenue. “A friend from high school also lives in Edmonton and she gave me a really good tip before we moved: If there are children’s toys on the lawn, that’s a good neighbourhood for families. There were kids’ things on almost every lawn here.”

Highlights: Edmonton’s bike paths and river valley, Canada’s largest urban park. It includes Mill Creek Ravine, which borders King Edward Park. “To be in a city, but feel like you're not, is just really a gift,” says Khalil.

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Tips for new Edmontonians:

“Be ready for the bombardment of kindness and be open to it because it’s saved us. We just have the best neighbours ever. Don’t get me wrong, we love our family, but we haven’t felt homesick yet.”

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“So much beauty”

Edmonton’s affordable housing prices lured Brandin Strasser and his partner Scott Swartzentruber from Toronto in June 2021.

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Brandin Strasser visits the Walterdale Bridge, which spans the North Saskatchewan River.
Brandin Strasser visits the Walterdale Bridge, which spans the North Saskatchewan River.

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They currently rent a house in the west-end community of Secord, but they hope to buy a home in the next two years. The average price of a single-family home was $493,543 in February 2022, according to the Edmonton Realtors Association. In Toronto, it was $1.7 million, reports the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board. 

“It’s not feasible for us to buy a house in Ontario,” says Strasser. “I’m 27 right now and I think it would’ve taken until at least I’m 35 to save up enough to purchase one.” 

Lives in: When they first moved to Edmonton, they rented a condo in Oliver, a community west of downtown Edmonton. It’s the city’s most densely populated neighbourhood. “Scott and I are very active,” says Strasser. “We love to be able to go for walks along Jasper Avenue.”  

Highlights: “I'm a very avid runner, so I love the river valley and the general ambience of Edmonton. There's so much outdoor space and so many trees and so much beauty. Everybody seems more relaxed here.”

“Edmonton also offers big-city amenities with a small-city vibe. That’s what I love about it.”

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Tips for new Edmontonians:

Don’t believe the stereotypes. “Moving out here, I was definitely warned that Albertans can be a little more conservative in their views,” says Strasser.

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“But I have yet to meet a single individual that has not been more than welcoming to my partner and me in every aspect. My overall experience has been very, very positive and I absolutely love this city. I tell all my friends to move here.”

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“I don’t care if it’s -25 C”

Charvi Dhamija is in her second year as a computer science student at the University of Alberta. She completed her first year online from her home in Karnal, India, and moved to Edmonton in August 2021.

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Charvi Dhamija, right, and her sister Vanika, on their apartment balcony in downtown Edmonton.
Charvi Dhamija, right, and her sister Vanika, on their apartment balcony in downtown Edmonton.

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“I chose U of A because it’s one of Canada’s top five universities and home to some of the top-notch AI and machine learning research in the world,” she says. 

It didn’t hurt that Dhamija’s older sister, Vanika, is a U of A grad and now works as a software engineer for Edmonton’s Jobber, a software company. 

“Edmonton is amazing,” says Charvi. “I’ve never experienced snow before.”

Lives in: A downtown apartment with her sister. “There are a lot of things downtown, like the Royal Alberta Museum, City Centre Mall, the Art Gallery of Alberta, Save-On Foods. I can take the LRT to the university, I can go to the bus stop and take a bus anywhere.”

Highlights: Edmonton’s blossoming tech industry, the city’s festival culture, and the sense of community she feels at the U of A. “There are so many clubs and organizations, and I love that students are so enthusiastic,” says Charvi. “I’m part of the International Students Association. I like helping other international students because transitioning to a new country can be hard.”

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Tips for new Edmontonians:

“...I started embracing Edmonton’s winters. I don’t care if it’s -25, I still go out. I’ve tried skating, I’ve gone tubing and I want to try skiing and snowboarding.”

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Thinking of moving to Edmonton? Learn more about our affordable housing prices and quality of life

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Visit Explore Edmonton for more information about local activities and events.