Prince George, British Columbia

My husband and I lived in Prince George for five years. We thought we might settle there, but it was not to be. That’s okay though, because I was tremendously relieved when we moved on.

Most of the people we encountered socially in Prince George were friendly, kind, and incredibly generous. When our car broke down and was in the shop over Christmas, someone lent us a car. When we couldn’t move into our new apartment right away, someone let us stay with them. The generosity was off the charts. These people deserve to have good things written about their city. It breaks my heart that I can’t do that. The truth is, I found Prince George to be a hellhole and I would never live there again unless I absolutely had to.

mr-pg
Mr. PG

Part of the problem was that I just didn’t fit in. Although people were friendly to me and tried to include me, I did not feel accepted as I am. I felt extremely strong pressure to conform to the social norms of the place, which would have required engaging in activities I dislike and pretending to be someone I’m not.

Outdoor activities are huge in this hardy, northern, blue-collar city, which is great for the people who like that kind of thing, but I am not an outdoorsy person and absolutely loathe things like camping and hiking. I have a lot of sensitivities and do not find nature to be my friend. People would tell me I just needed to go outside my comfort zone and try these things and I would like them, but I grew up in an outdoors-loving family and have had far more experience with things like camping, fishing, off-roading and canoeing than I have ever wanted. I decided when I was old enough that those things are not for me. So it’s not a lack of experience that makes me avoid those things now, it’s a healthy self-awareness.

Another thing that made me not fit in was my penchant for wearing dresses and skirts. It’s not like I wear fancy or high-end dresses, just ordinary, simple, Old Navy type dresses. But almost every time I wore one, someone would say to me, “What are you all dressed up for?!” As if it were the weirdest thing in the world.

But the real problem in Prince George was the crime. People told us what area of town to avoid so we found a nice apartment and later a small house in what should have been decent areas, but we were still victims of crime repeatedly. The locals will tell you there’s crime everywhere and Prince George isn’t worse than anywhere else, or that if you don’t get involved with certain types of people or activities you won’t have a problem. But in my own personal experience, having lived in a lot of different places, I can assure you that Prince George was far worse to me than any other place I’ve lived. It is a terrifying place. And my husband and I lived a quiet, law-abiding life like we always do so there was no reason we should have attracted such treatment, and yet our car was stolen and repeatedly vandalized, and I was once followed and terrorized by gang members after accidentally stumbling upon them doing some kind of deal in the parking lot of my workplace. I honestly didn’t even see exactly what they were doing, but just my presence was enough for them to see me as a threat, I guess.

We sometimes had to walk through groups of people openly using drugs just to get to the door of our building. Thieves would leave stolen vehicles in the parking lot at work and I would end up having to talk to the police. Even our church had money stolen from it on a fairly regular basis.

I never felt safe in Prince George. I soon learned not to even walk anywhere alone. The seedy element permeated the whole city.

There were other, less serious things I didn’t like about Prince George, such as its remoteness. It’s about an eight hour drive, more or less, to Vancouver, Edmonton or Calgary, the closest major cities. If you want to go for a drive, there are really no interesting places to go. And Prince George itself doesn’t offer much in the way of attractions so it was extremely hard keeping the few guests who visited us from out of town entertained. The people who do go there as tourists are there for the outdoor life, but if you’re not into that there’s not much to do. We are lucky anyone ever visited us at all! Plus, the winters are often very harsh, leading to further feelings of isolation. I also didn’t care for the scenery, with thick, dense evergreen forests surrounding the city and making me feel claustrophobic. As you drive in any direction from the city, it all looks the same: Trees, trees and more trees. I know some people love that kind of thing, but it is not for me.

near-prince-george
You can’t see the forest for the trees.

So I have to really wrack my brain to think of things I did like about Prince George. I do want to present a balanced view of the place.

I actually had awesome medical care there. My family doctor was wonderful and I was able to get diagnoses for some mysterious health issues that had been plaguing me up until that point which other doctors had lacked either the knowledge or interest to look into. I have never had such a good doctor, before or since. So there’s that.

And we adopted a stellar cat from the Prince George SPCA. She has brought a lot of joy to our lives and if we hadn’t lived in Prince George we wouldn’t have her. We’d likely have another cat, but it wouldn’t be this cat, and she is the best cat ever.

Also, my husband was able to make some good money in Prince George… for a while. In fact, we were better off financially there than anywhere else we’ve lived, at least for a couple years. Our rent was extremely reasonable as well, providing a lot of square footage for the price. And we got into some nice routines in Prince George, doing the things I enjoy like shopping and dining. Granted, there are better shopping options in bigger cities and the dining was mostly in chain restaurants, which I know some people look down on, but I don’t mind them. I kind of like chains, actually, because you know what to expect. I appreciate that.

And again, there are some very good people in Prince George. They’re not all criminals. The good people deserve to live in a nicer, safer city, so I truly hope things have improved since we left there five years ago, or that they improve in the future.

I ended up getting so overwhelmed by the crime, the isolation, and feeling like a misfit in the social atmosphere of the place, that when the work ran out for my husband it was a tremendous relief and I couldn’t wait to leave. A weight lifted off my shoulders as we drove south out of that place. I don’t ever want to go back, even for a visit.

 

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