What’s It Like Living in Halifax, Nova Scotia?

Richard Payne
Richard Payne
Published on May 10, 2018

Of course, everyone will have their own opinion of what it is like living in Halifax, Nova Scotia and here is my personal take on it, having chosen to move my family and start a new life in Halifax back in March 2007 and loving mostly every minute living here 🙂

Halifax, in comparison to many other major cities across Canada is a pretty small City.  Some people will tell you that this is a negative, however having come from a big, cosmopolitan City prior to moving here, you can access most of the same type of conveniences of larger cities but without the frantic rushing or overwhelming number of people.

The small City vibe is mainly felt in the slow and more relaxed pace at which everything moves, so if the bustling chaos is something you enjoy, Halifax may not be the city for you.

There is so much history tied to Halifax, and it is proudly shown wherever you look from interesting buildings, to the architecture and museums. You won’t be disappointed if you enjoy history.

Although the public transportation in Halifax is certainly far from the best, navigating the City is still made very easy because of its small size, allowing you to walk virtually anywhere you need to go in almost no time at all. If you live in the more rural parts of the City, you will most definitely need a vehicle to get around.

Compared to other Canadian cities, Halifax is in fact, a very safe City. Yes, there is drugs, crime and homelessness here (like in every City) and Halifax is not immune from these social problems. There are certain sketchy areas. The area of Gottingen Street and adjacent streets towards the McDonald bridge (not the other way though, as the area around Scotia Square is totally fine) is a bit of an up and coming area. Many of these so-called sketchy neighbourhoods are undergoing re-gentrification with fantastic new bars, restaurants and condo developments moving into the area and improving it. But again, this area is not a typical area tourists go, so it’s something you get to know once you live here.

Halifax downtown late at night is very safe. Of course, practical precautions are always recommended – keep your wallet safe, don’t get intoxicated and walk around, take care after dark, be careful of keeping your drinks within eye sight at a bar, etc.

Here’s a list of Canada’s Most Dangerous Places 2018 to see where the City of Halifax ranks, which you may be interested to read.

As for finding a good job in Halifax however, it’s certainly not impossible but nowhere near as easy as in big cities such as Toronto or Vancouver. This makes it a bit frustrating as the cost of living is actually pretty reasonable if you are able to secure a good, well paid job. That’s not to say you can’t live here comfortably without the salary of a high flying executive, as house prices are actually very reasonable compared to other major cities around Canada and you do get a lot more home for your money. 

Halifax does appear to be on the rise economically with more job opportunities becoming available, and a larger number of people not only staying but also moving here than in past years. New schools are being built and infrastructure improvements are happening which is always a positive sign of a growing economy.

The taxes and slightly higher cost of food are another strike against Halifax as well, though certainly not a deal breaker. It is very possible to buy good healthy fresh food on a budget as long as you shop savvy but we can’t do anything against the high taxes that we pay here in Nova Scotia.

If you enjoy good food (including the best lobster and seafood you will ever eat) craft beers or just enjoying a drink at a nice pub, this is where Halifax really shines. Halifax has one of the highest bars per capita in Canada. This isn’t just a matter of quantity, as many of the restaurants and bars around Halifax are excellent. And with new places opening up all the time, there is not a chance you will get bored of exploring. 

Halifax is the main cultural center of the Atlantic Provinces. With the number of Universities (4) within the City, as you would imagine, Halifax has a vibrant arts, music and entertainment scene. Festivals are held throughout the City all summer long, actually all year long.  From Beer Festivals to Rib Fests, and plenty of family friendly festivals such as the Buskers Festival, Halifax comes alive and thrives during the summer months. See what’s going on here

Healthcare and the lack of Doctors taking new patients is an ongoing problem here in Halifax and other parts of Nova Scotia. Personally I find the healthcare system really good. I’ve never had to wait for any tests, other than a CT Scan which was 9 months.

We had no problem registering with a Family Doctor when we landed here but I know many doctors are not taking new patients. There is an ongoing Government initiative to attract and retain new physicians and a provincial registry has been set up which you can register with. When a primary care provider in your area is accepting new patients, the practice will either contact you directly, or Nova Scotia Health Authority will make contact with you. Here’s the link.

In the meantime, those people without a doctor can call in to any Walk in Clinic (see list here) and be seen by a Doctor. It’s not perfect but it means you still have access to primary healthcare, even if it’s not your own family doctor.

On the subject of weather, Halifax doesn’t do too badly. If you don’t enjoy a Canadian winter, chances are you won’t like the Halifax climate. We tend to have a good nine months of decent weather, a short Spring, often rainy and cool with the odd warm day thrown in, sunny and warm Summers, a beautiful Fall and snowy, traditional Winters, which often start around December through to mid March.

We love the climate here. We love the outdoors and the fact that it doesn’t rain nearly half as much as our previous City of Cardiff so we can be out and about a lot more enjoying all that this place has to offer – from stunning beaches to abundant hiking trails to provincial parks and lakes to swim in.

Finally, what matters most about living somewhere is the people who live there with you, and in my opinion this is where Halifax gets top marks.

People generally like to think of Canadians as some of the most genuine and friendliest people you will meet, and nowhere is this more true than in Halifax.  You really do get such a strong sense of community living here. I’ve noticed that when I talk to people wherever I am in Halifax, whether it’s in a coffee shop, waiting at the bank or crossing the road, it’s not just some robotic interaction, but instead there is true interest in wanting to get to know one another. 

So as you can see, I do think Halifax is a pretty great place to live, and although it has it’s drawbacks, the pros certainly outweigh the cons in my opinion. I’ve really tried my best to be objective here but I guess I just love my City too much and see a lot more of the positives than negatives.

As always, feel free to ask me any questions about living here. We’ve been in your shoes and I will do my very best to answer all your questions honestly and as objectively as possible 🙂

 

Rich