What are the Challenges of Living in Whitehorse?

Whitehorse

Moving to an area in northern Canada can guarantee that you will see some of the most beautiful landscapes and wilderness that the country has to offer, and the city of Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon, is no exception.

With its close proximity to national parks, friendly people, and having been declared as having the cleanest air in a city in the world, Whitehorse certainly has a lot of benefits. However, while it may have high-quality air, scenery, and history, not everything about living in Whitehorse is easy. Therefore, if you are considering making a move to the largest city in northern Canada, then read on to learn about what challenges you might face living there.

Light in the Summer and Winter

Being so far north, there are of course extremes when it comes to daylight hours during the summer and winter, and if you are moving from a city or country where you have not lived in such extremes, it can take quite a bit of getting used to.

The days during the summer are really long, at the height of the summer days, there are just over nineteen hours of daylight; it seems very novel at first, but perhaps after weeks of it still being daylight at half eleven at night, it could start to become a little tiring, especially since the sun will only be down for less than five hours. Having late nights and early morning can take a toll on your quality of sleep, and in turn this can affect many other aspects of your life.

Perhaps worse though, is the lack of daylight in the winter, in the summer the problem can be helped by installing blackout blinds or something similar to help you sleep, but you cannot do anything to create the feeling of real daylight.

During the shortest days in the winter, there are just over five and a half hours of daylight, so as you can imagine for a few months, you will live most of your day to day life in the dark. Getting up in the dark, arriving to work in the dark, leaving work in the dark, or going shopping in the dark and so forth. Not only does so much darkness cause problems in the sense that going about day to day life is just easier if you can see well, but it can have a big effect on your mood; living in a place that has long periods of time without much daylight is connected to feelings of sadness and depression.

Isolation

whitehorse

Yukon covers a very large area of land, to put it into perspective, the area is about twice the size as the whole of the U.K, but the estimated population of Yukon is 39,922 people. That’s a lot of land for not a lot of people, and even though about 70% of those people live in Whitehorse, it is still not many people at all. Now, this might sound ideal to you, if you like fewer crowds and more open spaces then this is a great choice, but even for people who prefer a more rural setting, it can become isolating.

The city of Whitehorse is the largest in Yukon, so heading out on a road trip to visit another big city isn’t particularly easy.

You will find yourself traveling great distances to faraway places just to find other cities or large towns, and driving for miles and miles without seeing another person can be quite daunting. Even in the city limits of Whitehorse itself, the lack of people can leave you feeling a little lonely or struggling to make friends, the residents are known to be friendly but the tight-knit community might leave you on the outside.

Cost of Living in Whitehorse

As of April 1, 2019, the minimum wage for the Yukon is $12.71 per hour, this is not too bad if you are living in a place where you can split the costs with several friends or family members, but if you are responsible for raising a family, then this rate per hour is nowhere near enough. A report published by The Yukon Anti Poverty Coalition in 2018, stated that in order for two adults, with two children, to have a basic quality of life, the living wage needed to be $18.57 per hour, this is after taxes.

Again, this is not the minimum needed to be able to have a great time, easy life and a healthy savings account, it is simply to be able to afford the basics in life for your family such as food, utilities, clothes, and a roof over your head, without having a daily struggle. The difference between what the minimum wage is, and where it needs to be is huge, and while the minimum wage increases most years, there is still a long way to go before everyone is able to live there without a possible financial struggle.

Housing costs for both renting and buying a property are higher than most cities in southern Canada, and new houses being built in the city to develop the area are coming in at a high price. Unfortunately, this is the nature of a city being in an area that is relatively remote, the cost of housing is high as the demand is high but resources are low. Currently, for example, the average price of a one-bedroom apartment in Whitehorse is $1,314.29, this is staggeringly high given a large number of other bigger and more popular cities in the country with lower rental prices.

Of course, heating bills are also high, you will need your heating on for around six months of the year, or more if you are particularly sensitive to the cold, and all that heating starts to add up. Other costs for utilities might be pretty standard, but there is no escaping the high heating bills as blankets and jumpers can only do so much.

Food prices are high also, again, due to the location making it difficult for food to be transported cheaply, or the weather not being good enough for food to be grown locally, the food that is available comes at a cost. Your weekly food shop will probably be more expensive than you are used to, and these higher prices are also reflected in restaurants and cafes.

To give you an idea, in the table below, you can find the average cost of housing in Whitehorse:

Housing Price
Apartment with 1 bedroom in Whitehorse 1,314.29 CAD
Apartment with 3 bedrooms in Whitehorse 2,080.00 CAD
Price per Square Meter to Buy a house in Whitehorse 4,250.00 CAD
Price per Square Meter to Buy a house in Whitehorse 3,925.00 CAD

Lack of Big Shops

It will come of no surprise that there are not lots of big commercial shops or large shopping malls in Whitehorse, the demand just is not there, so big well-known brands are not as frequent as you would see in other cities.

There are still a few available, but in Whitehorse, the majority of shops you find will be small local shops. Now, while there is nothing wrong with shopping local and supporting the community, the prices will almost always be higher than if a big retailer were selling the same item and you can’t always afford to pay the difference in price, or the product you are looking for is something specific or perhaps quite specialist and nowhere in the city has what you are looking for.

In either of these scenarios, you will have to resort to online shopping so that you can find the best price or find the item you want. However, due to the rather remote location of Whitehorse, delivery is not always reliable, you will receive your parcel eventually, but the delivery times are frequently slow.

When ordering an item, you should not rely on the delivery time estimate that you are given, it will usually be wrong and you can save yourself a lot of frustration if you just accept that it will arrive when it arrives, especially if you are ordering from a place that is outside of Canada.

Weather

Due to the city being so far north, expect to be cold for most of the year; even in summer months the average low temperature is always below ten degrees, and during the winter months the temperatures often reach an average of between minus ten and minus twenty.

Sure, you can wrap up warm, and your body will start to acclimatize after a couple of years, but just be prepared to rarely feel a real summer, while it is certainly milder than other parts of the province, you will never really be able to describe the weather as hot.

Employment

In a place with so few people, the demand for jobs is low, this is not to say that you won’t find a job, you can, but it can take a while, or you could end up in a job that you didn’t want just so you can pay the bills.

It is a city, so there are prospects, especially if you have worked in government jobs previously, but there isn’t always an excess of positions waiting to be filled.

Conclusion

Whitehorse is surrounded by mile after mile of natural beauty where you can spend years exploring the rolling hills, rugged mountains, and never-ending parks, but the stunning nature must not distract you from the challenges you could face if you are planning on making Whitehorse your new home. If you want to know more about Yukon, please don’t forget to check this article Pros and Cons of Living in Yukon.

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Thais R

I moved to Canada in 2016. This was the best decision that I ever made. I created this website to share what I’ve learned with anyone who’s thinking of moving or travelling to Canada.

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