The best kind of meet-ups are the serendipitous ones, the kind that just fall into your lap one day like a gift from on high. It’s not every day I hear from people who take the time to read things my crazy self says online, so when Miiesche of Soulstriptease reached out, wanting to know what it is like living in Toronto, it really made my day. And reader, I did get to meet Miiesche last month and it was fun seeing Toronto again through the eyes of a newcomer.
Although I grouse about living here, especially in the winter, the truth is I do love Canada, and Toronto, the city I now call home. Here, I’m sharing my answers to Miiesche’s questions about Canada, in the hope that it’ll convince others to either visit, or at least consider it as a place to live. The caveat is after a one-year stint in the GTA, I’ve really only lived in Toronto, so a lot of my answers are based on this one city!
What’s it like living in Canada?
My favourite thing about Canada is the quality of their public libraries – access is free, the advantages are legion and one of the first things I did when I moved here was get myself a library card because I am a nerd like that. The minimum wage in Ontario (the province I live in) is $14, which is decent. Over here, anyway. Food staples are affordable, and it’s manageable for as long as you’re not off drinking away your money on the weekends, or have any expensive vices like smoking. Cigarettes are costly, beer, not so much. If there’s anything that’s true about Canadian stereotypes, it’s that Canadians love beer, barbecues and hockey.
Officially, Canada has two languages: English and French. It’s why you’ll see both languages on labelling everywhere, even if most of the Francophones are based in Quebec, a province that spends a lot of its energy trying to ensure everything is in French. They got stymied when they tried to Frenchify the word “pasta”. Truth. They’re nuts. Lol. Most of the rest of Canada speaks English. Toronto, while not actually the capital of Canada (that honour goes to Ottawa), has so much swagger it may as well be the capital. It’s been said that Toronto is like New York City if it was run by the Swiss. I don’t really know what that means, but if it means cleaner and has less crime, then that is true! Rent here is kind of high especially in the downtown area. You’d be lucky to get a one bedroom with utilities included for about $1K a month (this may not be THAT expensive UK-wise, but I’m not too savvy about the rent over there). I would consider the east end the most affordable area rent-wise. Not to worry though, the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) is pretty solid, so you’re covered if you don’t drive. That said, one of the favourite things Torontonians like to do is complain about our public transit; some say TTC stands for Take The Car, and there are days when it’s true.
What about taxes?
Each province has a different sales tax rate. Alberta for example, has the lowest at 5%. Here in Ontario, it’s 13% 😭. It could be worse, it’s 15% in Newfoundland and Labrador and some other provinces.
Work, the weather, different neighbourhoods…
Work is plentiful, if you’re willing to work hard and aren’t choosy. There’s a lot of opportunities in the city, and also in the Greater Toronto Area. The drawback is really just that a lot of employers try and use contract work (i.e. hire you for just a year or a few months) to try and get out of paying your insurance coverage, dental, paid days off and so on. I do think that depends though, it’s not always true. There’s a lot of opportunity in the engineering, tech, finance and medical sectors.
Toronto is an amazing city for neighbourhoods – it’s the kind of place where you turn a corner and suddenly you’re in a whole different place. All the cultures and nationalities are well represented – the food scene is vibrant (if you’re into trying out different kinds of cuisine) and I love the diversity over here. It does kind of suck, curfew-wise if you like to party/drink. Last call is at 2AM (ridiculous) and it’s a bit of a challenge to find quality restos that are open around that time. There’s always Chinatown. It’s also a very supportive environment for artists, and very LGBTQ friendly. One of my favourite neighbourhoods is Church Street (I like to call it “the corner of gay and gay”) which has a very active and welcoming LGBTQ community. It’s a madhouse each year when Pride comes around.
And finally, the weather. I both love and hate the weather over here. Winter unofficially starts about late November, and finally peters out in mid-April, even if that’s supposed to be spring. Winter takes up about a third of the calendar year, and it can be very bitter. Toronto is right next to a lake, and the lake effect causes our winters to be relatively humid (compared to the dry winters in, say, Manitoba or Saskatchewan). It just feels colder, is all. If there’s anything I’ve learned about winter here, it’s that it’s never over until it’s over so I’ve learned never to let my hopes up. The upside though, is that it’s glorious in the summer. Sunshine and cool breezes and all that lovely stuff. Except for the folks in British Columbia (the Canadian version of the West Coast), we have such long winters that when summer comes around, it’s cause to celebrate. That’s why Canadians love to barbecue so much. Fall is my favourite, because it’s beautiful and just the right temperature for me.
I know this got long, and I also liberally name-dropped some Canadian provinces, which might not be familiar. If you have a chance, take a peek on Google maps and see how crazy large the Great White North really is – there’s literally room for everyone, including you!