Noob Question

Engineer is a really fun class to play. The race choice is purely cosmetic, but also affects your starting area and personal story for the first bit.

I was playing a ranger as my main when I was playing GW2 in the summer and it was a blast.
Engineer is my main. Nothing beats running around with a flamethrower and grenades!!! Bwahahahaha!!!

However, you have 5 character slots. Give a few different professions a try. There's something to love about each one.
I'd like to reiterate that race is cosmetic are far as mechanics go. Certain slot skills are only available to certain races though, and choice of race depends on what you like to watch your toon do. Morphing Norns are kinda cool, but to me they look like they are running through syrup. Asurans have some cool slot skills, but other races have equal cool slot skills. And watching Asura run, dodge and jump is just plain fun. The character customization of Sylvari is like going to a salad bar and building a snowman, very fun. Charr can be an acquired taste, and some GW1 players just can't get over the fact that they are responsible for the Searing. They also smell like wet dogs. Humans are picked most often, just the whole identifying thing. Overall it is just individual taste. Classes are a whole other area. Anet tried hard to get rid of traditional methods of looking at classes, and did a pretty fair job of it. To the extent you can take pretty much any mix of classes and run them through events and dungeons. Each person likes different classes, and there is no "right" class. Some do take more thought on working them to the max, but can still be used effectivley by those with basic, "roll yer face on the keyboard" skills like me. And Raven is right, a flame throwing, grenade tossing little squirt of an Asura has a lot of amusement value.
I'm running an engineer right now - enjoying a pistol/shield - flamethrower build. I'm playing a human now. I had an Asuran before. Asurans are great on some of the jumping puzzles. They make them much easier than a Norn or Charr. I have to say, I was glad to get out of the Asuran homeland and went there as little as possible.
Good, I didn't know what I was getting myself into, the Asuran remind me of Stitch from the disney movie.

I wasn't expecting the 80 max level after GW1 only going to 20. Does it take forever to level up?
It doesn't take forever, there are some "quick" ways, like crafting for most of it. But that can be pricey. I would say just work your way through and enjoy the scenery. If you get stuck there is Wiki or just call for help, some skill points can be pretty tough with just one toon. Just follow the story line.
When you only have one character and haven't done much gathering crafting can be difficult or expensive. I took my first guy to 80 in a couple of months without the crafting. But it was a couple of months of fun - exploring the world - following the story line - clearing areas - it all adds up pretty quickly. One other thing you can do to get XP and levels is the daily activities.

One of the best guides I've found is - between this and their jumping puzzle guide you can score loot and XP pretty quickly.
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Crafting in this game is more along the lines of the SWTOR/WoW type as opposed to some of the older sandbox MMOs. Its a nice side thing but not terribly profitable.

I recommend involving yourself in the Living Story content as you level. I hopped into some of it in my 30s on my engineer and rode the train to 80 within a week or so. Just don't get too focused on getting all the achievements at less than 80, some are meant for capped characters.
I know I'm late to the party, but...

Personally, I pick a race based on three things:

1. The practical side of me looks at the racial skills to see what might synergize best with my profession choice from an "effect" standpoint. For instance, picking a race with transformation racial skills would clash if I'm picking a norn, who already has transformation skills - those wouldn't be usable together.

2. The logical side of me looks at how those skills relate to my chosen profession. For me, something about a Charr Engineer who has the option to wield a Charzooka among his other toolkits just makes sense. Balancing the logical/practical stuff isn't an exact science.

3. The roleplayer in me looks at whether the race is "compatible" with the profession from a historical/roleplay point of view. Dwarven warrior. Elven mage. Asuran Elementalist. Sylvari Ranger. You get the idea.

And finally, after looking at all the options, and weighing the practicality, logic, and roleplay characteristics of each race, I pick Human.

And, yes. My warrior is a girl.
My warrior is a female Asura named Super Gnat. Watching her dual wield axes on a Jotun or Ettin is just plain crazy. Hammer is even funnier to watch. And yes I made her small even by Asuran standards.
What exactly is the purpose of crafting? Do you basically get a job in the game? Become an apprentice?
Crafting used to take you ten levels along the way. Now it is only eight or so. My last four or five characters I started them off with an Experience Scroll and two crafting areas and brought them out into the world at level 36 to 40.
I mainly use a Char Engineer and love it. Big smelly and mean! But I use all the 5 slots to try one of each race. I do have an Asuran Ranger (I know not a typical Asura profession). He's my crafter and every so often I let him craft a couple of levels higher. Mainly I bring him out to play wintersday games - his name? Lil Grentch!