When Umar and Atefah Khan moved to Calgary from Toronto in May, they created the Tiktok account @toronto2calgary to document their journey.
It all started when they began posting about their three-day cross-country road trip to update friends and family back home.
The Khans say they didn’t know where their TikTok account would take them — but now, with nearly 100,000 total likes on their videos, they’re inspiring others to make the same journey.
“We saw in the comments that a lot of people got inspired to make the move too, and they’re asking questions about it,” said Umar.
Atefah and Umar decided to move to Calgary because of its housing market and closeness to nature. They’ve received mixed reactions about the move, but they say it’s for their financial future.
“With the money we’re saving over the months, we definitely could use that money to get away during the colder months.”
Now, a few months after their move, the Khans say they’re using TikTok to showcase the beauty of the city and its surrounding areas for viewers across the globe.
They aren’t the only ones. Other new Calgarians have turned to the social media platform to share their experiences relocating to Calgary from bigger cities like Toronto and Vancouver, spurring conversations among youth about whether the city should be an option for their next big move.
CBC News reported earlier this year that more young Albertans are choosing to live outside of the province. But recent Statistics Canada data published in June shows that while 16,629 people left Alberta for other Canadian provinces in the first quarter of 2022, there were 21,980 people from other provinces who moved to Alberta in the same period.
That means Alberta has a net gain of 5,351 new residents from January to March of this year, compared with a net loss of 1,239 residents who left the province in all of 2021. This data, however, does not include the age ranges of those new Alberta residents.
Goodbye Toronto, hello Calgary
The increase in people moving to Alberta from other provinces, including bigger metropolitan cities like Vancouver and Toronto, is something Mel Chow has witnessed herself.
She’s a real estate agent who moved to Calgary from Toronto seven years ago and started posting about her moving experience on TikTok over the summer. Chow has also lived in Vancouver.
“There’s no negative that I can think of in my time being here that would ever make me go back to one of the bigger cities,” she said.
Chow says lately she’s noticed a lot more people looking to buy properties in Calgary from other provinces.
“I never talked about it on TikTok before. And then since I started talking about it, the amount of clients that have come through…. A lot of people are truly buying and aren’t just curious.”
Many of Chow’s TikTok videos highlight benefits of moving to Calgary from Toronto, including shorter commute times, cleanliness and general affordability.
She also touches on the close proximity to the Rocky Mountains and career opportunities in various sectors.
“The opportunity and the ability to grow in your career, that is much harder to do in those cities,” said Chow, whose career took off once she moved to Calgary.
Since she started posting about moving to the city, she’s been flooded with comments and messages from people across the country.
“I get a blend of people that are just curious, and a blend of angry Calgarians that want me to not tell people to move here. And then a blend of people from other provinces that are looking to move.”
Lack of awareness outside of stereotypes
Bailey Stanworth moved to Calgary from Vancouver for the summer and also shared her journey on TikTok. She says she had a stereotypical view of Calgary until she visited in the spring and fell in love with the city.
“When I visited, I was just very impressed with the culture, the community, the food scene, the nightlife — just kind of everything.”
She only planned to live in the city for two months, but Stanworth ended up extending her trip for another two weeks because she wasn’t ready to leave.
Stanworth says there’s a lot she loves about Calgary, including the friendly people and popular districts like Stephen Avenue and 17th Avenue.
“I had a friend who actually came to visit me while I was living here and she’s from Vancouver as well, and she was like, ‘OK, I get it now. Like, now that I’m here, I actually understand why you wanted to come back.'”
Stanworth says there’s a lack of awareness about the good parts of the city — most people who live in other cities don’t understand that Calgary is culturally diverse with a lot to do and a variety of independent shops and restaurants.
Now that she’s posted everything she loves about Calgary on her TikTok account, Stanworth says she hears from many people who are curious about Calgary and her experience.
“I was just really blown away when I came here and with this experience,” she said.
Similarly, Alex Biron has spent most of the last few years in Calgary. He returns to Vancouver once a month for about a week, and posted a TikTok earlier this month about the comparison between the two cities.
Biron says he finds Calgary has a nice, liveable vibe in terms of affordability and job opportunities. He also says people in Calgary are a little more approachable and friendly.
“For me, as a comedian, I think Calgary is great and there’s a lot going on,” said Biron.
Calgary has a more active comedy club scene compared to Vancouver, according to Biron, so it’s a better city for his career.
However, he says he wishes Calgary was more diverse, adding that the cultural diversity of Vancouver is reflected in its food choices.
New campaign to bring skilled workers to Alberta
The Alberta government just launched a new marketing campaign — dubbed “Alberta is Calling” — in Vancouver and Toronto this week, and it’s aimed at attracting skilled workers to the province.
The $2.6-million campaign will include ads on social media, radio and posters in high-traffic areas. The ads will promote Alberta’s low taxes, housing affordability, shorter commutes and proximity to the mountains.
The TikTokers say this campaign could be effective to bring people to Alberta depending on how it’s used. But what really worked for them was seeing videos from Albertans on TikTok.
“I think it definitely helps attract people because they get to see a side of Calgary that’s not seen that often,” said Umar.
His wife, Atefah, says TikTok ultimately played a big role in why they settled in Calgary.
“We made a trip down and we actually found a realtor on TikTok, and then he became our realtor and helped us find the place that we wanted to stay in,” she said.
Stanworth says interacting with the Calgary community on TikTok was helpful in her move, and using the platform would be the most impactful way of targeting youth to come to the province.
“Ever since being here, I’ve seen a lot more of Calgary life pop up, and I think that has enticed me the most.”