Still in Edmonton

by Rita Neyer

When I moved to Edmonton a few years ago for school, one thing I noticed very soon was the comparatively few Edmonton-Edmontonians – those who were born and raised here. At first, I thought it was the composition of my social circle, but the more people I met – random people, co-workers, my friends’ families – the more I could see a pattern: a combination of work, education, or the urge to leave small-town Alberta, Saskatchewan, or BC had brought them to Edmonton. Even right now, as I’m writing this, a man sitting next to me in the coffee shop is asking his adult godson about his move to YEG, and how he’s settling in. “You think you’re gonna go back East again?” – “Yes, eventually.” We’ll see about that…

Many of the people I talked to over the years have said just that. They never intended to stay, but somehow it just happened. It is one of the fundamental truths about Edmonton. I know that because they made a shirt about it: “STILL IN EDMONTON.” If it is on a shirt, it must exist. Like with the accidental beach: although I have never seen it myself, I know that it really exists – not because of Google Maps or a feature in the Edmonton Journal, but because some under-occupied recent marketing grad put it on some textiles and started selling them in a Whyte Ave print store. The sand might be gone by next summer, but the shirt will last!

Why is it that people come to stay and don’t even realize it? Is it the new stadium, the green onion cakes, or the fact that you can always one-up your out-of-province relatives with the wind chill? Here are some suggestions. Please see the below test, check off the reasons you moved here in the first place. If you fit four or more of these points, Edmonton has won and you are likely to never leave it again. Never. Ever. Again

Edmonton is just the right mix of rural and urban.

No other city gives you that much of both worlds. Covering the exact middle ground between Backwater/AB and Big City/ON, Edmonton offers just enough urban atmosphere to lure you out of your 600-people home town, and lacks just the right amount of hillbilly-ness to keep you in its icy grasp for many years longer than intended. Like a hive mind, all Edmontonians – including you! – claim that they want to leave for BC or Ontario (NOT Toronto!) but secretly they know that is a lie, and the seals at WEM are all the wildlife they will ever need. After all, this city allows you to drive your mud-covered F150 to the Royal Alberta Ballet guilt-free. Also, and importantly – many people have independently emphasized on the fact – Edmonton is NOT Toronto.


Edmonton’s post-secondary institutions offer hundreds of chances to turn your student loan into student debt. Come here for a degree, and stay because you can’t afford the flight back! That Leadership certificate better be worth it…

An appreciation of bad driving.

Edmonton is probably the only place on the planet where road rage is considered an art form.

The seamless integration of hipster culture.

In select, seasonally changing areas (farmer’s markets, theatres, campuses, Whyte Ave, along the trails of River Valley, in the limbo that is the local ‘art scene’), the members of the genus Young Urban Hipster – as originally observed in the Starbuckses of Portland some thousand years ago – follow their favourite pastimes in their natural habitats: founding a start-up, destroying traditional industries, working off student debt, defying expectations, and resisting the urge to wear income-appropriate clothing. Contrary to common perception, Edmonton is the actual birth-place of the original hipster since it was here that plaid first became cool – partly due to the temperatures. People who no longer self-identify as hipsters (or never did at all) are very accepting of them – another reason why Edmonton is great.

The people.

It feels like Edmontonians say ‘sorry’ even a tad more frequently than other Canadians. Could be they’re born with it, or it could be the Oilers.

Job opportunities.

Whether shift work on the oil fields, a 9 to 5 for the government, or running a microbrewery: Edmonton has you covered with a variety of professional options that enrich your mind, bank account, or ideally both. If not, there is always the option of moving away in a couple of years. Never stop believing!

The nature.

Edmonton has the largest urban park in Canada. That’s more than Vancouver. Savour that! With a couple of national parks, the Rocky Mountains, and your grandparents’ cabin within driving distance, YEG caters to the heart of every outdoors fan yet is still conveniently surrounded by geographical insignificance – in case of, you know, zombie apocalypse.

Got stuck/nothing better in sight.

It happens to the best of us. You’re not the first, and you won’t be the last…

Edmonton – heart of the province, jewel of the prairies, home to Boston Pizza and an NHL team more unstable than an Eastern European reactor. Overall, it’s fine here! That is a fact as well as one local designer’s answer to an underwhelming Lonely Planet review. And she is right: this city is more than a stopover to Jasper, vast suburbs, and the frigid cold (just deal with it!). There are many good reasons for why to move here – even if only for a bit. Like a minute on the ETS arrival board, a short time here can stretch out very much. Many come to stay ‘until I find something better,’ and 5 or 10 or 37 years later they find themselves, inexplicably, still in Edmonton. Maybe they didn’t find anything better. Maybe Edmonton is one big crack in the space-time-continuum and the Muttart actually a Stargate. Or maybe the city is really not that bad. In any case, it is much better than its reputation. Now let’s stop complaining, and somebody please make a shirt “YEG! BECAUSE I WANT TO.”

Photography taken from The Wanderer Media Archives

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