I will soon be moving to Canada and I plan to live in British Columbia. It is my strong desire to stay clear of big cities. I am not rich or investing money or buying a house. I will work and earn a living. If I move to a small town or a village, what are my options to earn? My profession in the past was in the media and entertainment services business. So the jobs in my field are all in Vancouver. But I don't want to necessarily stick to the same domain. I am okay doing anything to earn and live by. Is it possible to get a job at all in a small town and "start over" so to speak? or will it be a struggle and not worth it?

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Well, the problem with BC is 3-fold:

  • It's the only place in Canada with snow-free areas, so all immigrants who really, really, non-negotiably can't stand snow, but still want to move to Canada(usually because they can't get into Australia/NZ) end up moving there and are willing to accept a 20-30% wage penalty to do so. This is the average difference between equivalent positions between Toronto/Vancouver, for(non-exhaustive list of industries that I have either first hand, or familial/close friend level of experience in) Doctors, Nurses, Programmers, Architects, Civil Engineers and Teachers.
  • The said non-snowy areas are very small in relation to the otherwise very large, but mountainous province, so the housing prices are correspondingly worse than the other equivalent areas in Canada, by pretty much the same amount.
  • All economic activity ends up heavily concentrated in the areas where people want to move to, which is 3 of them Vancouver, Victoria(the capital, but also isolated on an island which is a b***h to get to/from regularly and Kelowna, which is in the interior and does get snow, but has the best weather of anywhere in the interior overall and truly stunning nature all-round)

This triple whammy means that all the places where you can more or less easily get a job, will have relatively low salaries and high living expenses that dig into what you have left. You can make good money working in the resource extraction industries up North, but you have to have the skills/mindset to to that. The rest of the province is heavily skewed touristy, which means low pay.

There is one exception: Kamloops. It's a city in the interior that is the land transportation hub of BC, has both industry, a decent sized university and a good amount of services, including some IT firms, while still having (relatively) low living expenses. This is due to 2 factors, both of which keep enough people away to be affordable.:

  1. It's got one of the weirdest geographies that I've ever encountered, it's in a very steep sided, east-west valley with a river/lake in the middle of it and due to a quirk of wind patterns and rain shadow, it's a desert. This means that it's only green for ~3 weeks of the year in spring and looks like a parched treeless post-apocalyptic wasteland in the summer(not the city itself, since it's on a river, which is very nice and a huge tourist attraction in the summer by itself and irrigated, but the surrounding area). The weird thing is that all you have to do is to drive <10 minutes north or south, over the nearest range of hills and it's the gorgeous green/forested BC everyone knows. In the winter, the combination of the lake, which is deep enough to never freeze, even if it's -20 and the steep sided valley holding in the evaporated moisture, means that once the sun is low enough to have a hard time hitting the valley itself over the southern edge, a layer of cloud forms over the whole valley and just stays there for 2 months until the sun gets up high enough again. As in, if you stay in town, you will not see the sky, much less the sun for 2 months, which is incredibly depressing. If you're into skiing, you're golden, there are some amazing skiing opportunities nearby, world-class, including Sun-Peaks(perfect name, the resort just hangs there in glorious sunshine just above the cloud layer) and you can get your vitamin D. But people not into skiing usually wonder why they chose to live there every winter.
  2. Did I mention industry? There's a pulp-mill in town, which, while well-run, environmentally friendly(it's waste heat is the town's central heating system) and generally as good as it's possible for a pulp-mill to be, still stinks to high heaven(it's technologically un-avoidable for a pulp-mill). After a week, you become a local and stop noticing the smell, but first timers often gag. The expensive neighborhoods and the University are high enough for the smell not to reach and the cheap real estate is often near the waterfront.

So if you're willing to adapt to those 2 realities, it's a good place to hit the ground running in BC.

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