A Guide to Surviving Ottawa

1. Disordered Personalities

I firmly believe Ottawa has a high percentage of disordered people. Due to medical privacy laws and a lack of clinical diagnoses there is no objective way to measure the population, which is a shame since this is surely indicative of the quality of life in any city.

Acquaint yourself by reading the following starter books:

The Sociopath Next Door

Dangerous Personalities

The Mask of Sanity

In Sheep’s Clothing

The key to dealing with these personality types is understanding them, spotting the warning signs, and avoidance.

You need to learn about narcissists, sociopaths and “gaslighting“. Then you can learn how to minimize risk and damage to you and your family.

Basic key advice:

Don’t tell new “friends” or acquaintances any personal history or issues. Keep conversations generic and surface level. If someone probes for information continually bring the conversation back to him/her.

Don’t show any weakness. Think of it like prison or the streets: signs of weakness (lack of confidence or conviction, caving in to pressure) attract predators and bullies – hold firm.

Carefully vet people. Be polite and casual with others while taking your time getting to know them. Watch their behavior, observe, and don’t assume decency is in them because it’s in you.

2. Winter Gear

This may seem obvious but my message is for lower income/working class people. If you’re on a budget there’s a tendency to purchase inferior clothing and boots to save money presently, but this temptation will cause you misery in the long run. Do what is necessary: save, use your credit card, purchase used items online, cut down on non-essentials, etc.

Winter is miserable at -20 C to -30 C. Enduring years of this for months on end means quality winter wear is a priority! (As much as you may promise yourself your relocation or stay is “temporary” – one year can easily turn into five despite best efforts.)

When I finally got a Canada Goose jacket I was amazed at how easy it was to go for 30 minute walks outside with little discomfort. It is WORTH IT! I was cheap and stubborn for many winters and caused myself extra suffering. Be smarter!

3. Toxic Work

A decade ago the ‘public sector’ accounted for 20% of employed Canadians, including almost 1 in 3 federal employees working in Ottawa-Gatineau. As of 2017, the number of federal government employees working in the NCR (National Capital Region) was 145,000.

In 2016, the NCR population was 1,323,783 – meaning federal employees comprised nearly 11% of the workforce. That’s 1 out of every 10 people walking around who works for the Feds. Now you begin to understand …

It’s extremely difficult to fire a government worker. In most cases, problematic employees are shifted to different departments or transferred to new locations. With such protection comes a lack of accountability, an inability to remove bad apples and an overall lowering of standards.

In most situations, individuals with personality disorders won’t fare well: they end up reprimanded, fired or ostracized. Mixing disordered persons into cushy jobs they can’t lose is a recipe for disaster; throw in the other issues for a nice stew of toxicity. Because of the good salary, benefits and pension, people stay even if they’re miserable – thus the miserable populace and working conditions.

As you find yourself in this Kafkaesque nightmare you may ask:

Can people really be this incompetent?

Can people really be this vicious and petty?

How does this place continue to run?

How does the country function with the NCR as its core?

What kind of nightmare am I living in?

Let me give you some advice: look inward and learn to cope. This situation has been brewing for decades and you cannot reinvent the wheel. No amount of hard work, positive attitude or ingenuity can change the culture of a city or your workplace. One blade of grass can’t stand against the tsunami of dysfunction…

Continue to work hard. Continue to treat others politely and professionally. Continue to disengage from workplace dramas and gossip. Keep your head down and plot your escape with care. And if you are planning on working there until retirement … invest in a good therapist and try not to develop a cocaine addiction.

Yes this all mostly applies to the private sector and general work environment too.

4. Dating

My advice would be to avoid it if you’re only staying a short time. If you’re brave enough to try then I urge caution.

The website ‘Ashley Madison’ was hacked and user data revealed as many as 1 in 5 Ottawans were users. Media then went into overdrive complaining, explaining, and making excuses for why this wasn’t so.

Regardless of the exact numbers or what you believe – Ottawa is filled with cheaters, liars, affairs, and women selling themselves on the side (with or without their partner’s knowledge).

The prostitution rates are higher per capita than in Toronto, Montreal or elsewhere. They’re also higher than the provincial and federal averages. (The city tried to say that there’s “more vigilant police work ” in Ottawa to account for the difference!) Ottawa is also one of three main hubs for sex trafficking Aboriginal women.

Anecdotally, I witnessed plenty of cheating, affairs, prostitution; people laughing about giving others STDs; people shrugging off getting STDs; middle class women turning to sex work, on and on. Just a gross place!

Be very careful who you date: get to know them and hope for the best while preparing for the worst.

5. Happy Place

Misery and Ottawa go hand-in-hand for any sane or well-traveled person; it can all get a little overwhelming. You need to find a couple spots you can go to when it’s all too much. My favorite places to find peace:

The Aviation Museum, National Art Gallery, Conroy Pit (dog walking).

The long and tedious winters will require innovation: try making a list of top classic books to read or movies to watch. Try learning a new language with a course or online program; try your hand at a new hobby like painting or woodworking.

I discovered a love of foreign cinema and Hitchcock. (I also drank a lot. I won’t lie, Jack Daniels helped tremendously.)

6. Media-based income.

Leaving Ottawa requires a good deal of money without a work transfer. One Gatineau resident used to complain about the region and vent online. He suggested it cost roughly $10,000 to make a proper move. He was mocked online (and later doxed by someone with too much time on his hands) but he was correct. I found it cost roughly that amount for airfare, new furniture, deposits, immediate rent and so on. (It may be easier for single people.)

While you’re wasting away in Ottawa you may as well be productive.

I suggest a media based method to make a passive income: blogging, podcasts, Youtube videos, selling digital art or intellectual property, having a drop-based shipping company (USA) and similar ideas which can be done on the web.

Try to avoid physical manufacturing or shipping (which is expensive from Ottawa/Canada) and will be redundant in the event of a global pandemic, conflict, or other crisis.

Stick to something which can be done online (with little cost) and can make money 24 hours a day by virtue of views, clicks, or sales by internet. You can gradually build up your content – a lengthy process – and it’s something to do in winter.

Having an extra revenue stream will help with the move or resettling, especially if you go somewhere more expensive like Toronto or Vancouver. This advice is especially pertinent for the working poor.

You will make it out eventually … persistence is key! If I can do it with the hurdles I faced, anyone can. Don’t give up!

During my time in Ottawa I had two stalkers; was sexually harassed; had a pervert neighbor drill peep holes in the exterior wall; was threatened numerous times; was scammed and ripped off by bosses and individuals; had terrible landlords; was gaslighted; met disturbed individuals, met an assortment of weirdoes; had my work credentials discounted, worked mundane, belittling jobs; was beaten up by a group of losers; was randomly offered a machine gun; survived severe depression; developed an anxiety condition on account of all the freaks … I could go on but you get the picture.

My last advice: if you’re working class don’t bother going to Toronto or Vancouver, your standard of living will go down. Ottawa has some benefits: working for the Feds (through networking, not talent), social nets for the poor, close to Montreal, close to New York and Vermont, etc.

Try to enjoy the small good things that are there and focus on your future. Things can seem bleak but don’t be discouraged.

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