I moved from Lima to Ottawa in the middle of the winter, not a normal winter, but an incredibly cold winter!. So, when spring came and all that white cover disappeared and everything changed to green, I started to discover the real Ottawa, not as a tourist but as a resident. And what I saw was beautiful and I started loving that I lived here.
Summer came and things got better. We discovered Ottawa’s beaches, the Gatineau Park, the variety of festivals and events that take place every single weekend in Canada’s capital, and that’s when we decided to stay and not to move to another city or, in the worst of cases, return to Peru.
So, when I discovered that many people thought Ottawa is a boring city, and worse than that, that Ottawa had been named the most boring city in Canada in a contest in 2013, I thought whaaaat?
Simply, it can’t be possible. Have you been in Saskatoon? I have, and I would say that city can be described as boring. And like that city, probably there are lots, probably hundreds of Canadian cities compatible with the adjective “boring”.
I searched the Internet, and I was amazed at the fact that the name Ottawa has been so tightly linked to the term “boring.” I even found really nasty comments about the supposed state of boredom in Ottawa, in a number of different sites and forums. “It’s the most boring disgusting city in the world,” said one. “Ottawa can be excruciatingly boring,” said another.
And I also found a very popular saying, remarking that Ottawa “is the city that fun forgot,” which apparently originated in the 1960s.
I was perplexed. I know Ottawa doesn’t have the exciting nightlife of Toronto or of neighboring Montreal, and it doesn’t have their variety of options for dining or go shopping, but in the two-and-a-half years that I’ve been living here I have never felt bored.
Probably it’s because I’m not a young and single lady that wants to party every single weekend. My weekend plans usually revolve around the family, and that is perfectly suitable for Ottawa. I had heard many times that Ottawa is a great place to raise a family and it’s true.
Is there an obsession for knocking down Ottawa?
I’ve been thinking about the attitude of Canadians towards Ottawa and I think there’s a custom for belittling the city. It’s as if criticizing and saying bad things about Canada’s capital had become a popular sport.
This is very weird for me. I cannot imagine people in Latin America, for example, in my country Peru, saying and repeating endlessly that Lima is an awful city, or dirty, or dusty, or that Lima “sucks”. On the contrary, we are very proud of our country, culture and millenial history.
I can’t imagine listening to a Mexican saying bad things about Mexico City, or a Chilean, a Colombian, an Argentinian criticizing or mocking Santiago de Chile, Bogota, or Buenos Aires.
So why do Canadians speak poorly of Ottawa? It’s their country’s capital city, representing the centre of political power.
I have some thoughts about that. One of them is that Canadians are kind of a humble people. And let me tell you an anecdote. I was in my French class, and the teacher asked us to talk about our countries’ main tourist attractions or their best features. In my class there were only two Canadians, the rest came from all over the world: Brazil, China, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, you name it.
Of course I talked proudly about Machu Picchu, the amazing Inca citadel hidden in the Peruvian mountains, which is one of the seven wonders of the modern world, according to an international online survey. My classmates talked about the Amazon, Mecca, the Great Wall of China, etc.
When it was the turn of my Canadian classmates, both of the two young men in their late twenties or early thirties, talked about things that sounded insignificant to me. None of them mentioned Niagara Falls. I think every tourist who comes to Canada wants to visit those waterfalls, right?
But these guys just forgot totally about the existence of Niagara Falls and they lost their opportunity to show off a little bit about Canada. And that takes me to the next thought, Canadians are not keen on showing off or bragging. Usually they express great interest in learning things about other countries, but they don’t say much, or even anything, about Canada.
Or perhaps there is a Canadian attitude of the “grass is always greener elsewhere.” And that would explain why many young people originally from Ottawa want to move somewhere else in search of more excitement.
My teenage daughter told me one of her teachers, an Ottawa native, told the class how much he and his friends wanted to leave Ottawa, when they were teenagers. All of them did move in the next years, and most of them returned to Ottawa in their adulthood to start their families and are happy now.
Anyway I really don’t understand where such negativity toward Ottawa comes from. But the truth is that calling it the most boring city in Canada is just unfair, incomprehensible, and not reality. What do you think?
I really believe that much depends on our attitude. If someone wants to be bored, they are going to be bored no matter what. Instead of that, leave your house and go find something interesting to do. After two and a half years living in Ottawa I am still discovering new places and I love it. Just explore!