I moved to Toronto in October of 2013 and started this blog not long afterwards.
It has been a year and almost two months in my new city. Instead of a long, rambling essay on the good and bad and ups and downs I have experienced in that time, I have compiled a Top Ten list of things I have learned about Toronto and Torontonians.
1. Once you move to Toronto, you are expected to know the general location of every single major intersection in town. When you meet new people and you ask them where in town they live, they will say something like “College and Dufferin” or “Gerrard and Carlaw” and you are supposed to know where that is. People also use this in general conversation. For example, they will say things like “you should try this great new restaurant called ___. It’s near Dupont and Ossington.” They seem to think that you will 1) remember that and 2) that you have an idea of where that is. Considering the fact that Toronto is the biggest city in Canada and probably has more than a hundred major intersections, this can be quite difficult.
2. People in Toronto pay exorbitant prices for tiny homes. I recently lived in a mid-sized city about one hour from Toronto. It was three times as big as the house I live in now, and it cost $100 000 LESS than the house I am in now. And my old house? It was not big by ANY means. It was a two bedroom, one and a half bathroom house with no garage. It did have a huge yard though, which relates to my next point:
3. People in Toronto are very used to and very good at dealing with crowds, lineups, and a general lack of personal space. Ever take the TTC at rush hour?
Ever shop in the store I work at, where the aisles are so narrow that customers regularly send breakable items crashing to the floor simply because they are wearing over-the-shoulder handbags? And if you are a Torontonian, do you have a yard? If so, is it the size of a postage stamp?
And have hordes of raccoons made it their home? This brings me to the somewhat surprising fact that…
4. Toronto, the biggest city in Canada, is full of wildlife.
I have started calling my backyard the Urban Jungle. I had heard stories about the raccoon problem in this city (for an unintentionally hilarious article on the subject, go to http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/torontos-exploding-raccoon-population-sparks-city-council-debate/article20105718/), but I didn’t know that an entire family of them would regularly walk across my lawn every single night at 8:00pm and stare at me from nearby trees as I am approaching my front door.
I have also had many encounters with fragrant skunks, gangs of angry squirrels, a colony of bats, multiple stray cats, and most recently, mobs of ravenously hungry birds. I recently put up a bird feeder and was surprised by the sheer number of birds visiting it. If I fill it two times a day, they will eat it right down to the last kernel.
I should also mention that there has been a lot of coyote activity in the Toronto area lately. They are smart, and bold…which is a little bit disconcerting. It is unlikely that I will see one in my area, but if I lived in the Beaches I would be on the alert (see http://toronto.ctvnews.ca/coyote-sightings-in-urban-areas-more-likely-in-winter-officials-warn-1.1677507).
5. It is very difficult to find a good job in Toronto.
This article – http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/economy-lab/toronto-is-canadas-hottest-job-market-for-better-or-worse/article14683922/ – explains that ” there are really two sets of expanding job opportunities, at either end of the income spectrum – and not much in the middle (jobs that pay in the $20-something per hour range).
“The biggest gain in any occupational category is in IT, computer and information systems professionals – jobs that pay a median wage of about $35 an hour. The big surprise was that three of the top four “hottest” jobs in Toronto over the past three years were retail sales clerks, labourers (not skilled tradesmen), and people working at food counters and in kitchens. These three occupations account for more than one-third of all the job growth in Toronto in the past three years, and their median pay hovers between $10.25 an hour, which is the minimum wage, and $13 an hour.
“There are lots of points of entry at the low end of the scale. But they are not generally the types of jobs that lead you down a career path to something better, nor do these jobs fully employ many workers’ skill sets.”
I have found the information in this article to pertain exactly to my current job situation. I have applied to literally hundreds of middle-paying jobs only to find that I am competing with hundreds of other people for each and every job. The competition is so fierce that, despite all my efforts, I have not yet succeeded in being the first at the finish line.
Sometimes I feel like one of those hungry birds at the bird feeder, just trying to get their share in the midst of all the competition.
Now for something more positive……and perhaps the best thing about living in this city:
6. Toronto is full of interesting and fun things to do, many of which can be done without spending any money at all.
I have been exploring Toronto for over a year (which I have documented in this blog) and I still feel like I have only seen a small fraction of it. A few of my favourite places to go/things to do in Toronto (which, incidentally, are either free or inexpensive) include visiting High Park,
hiking on one of the many beautiful waterfront trails,
and taking in the atmosphere in places such as Kensington Market,
Queen Street West,
And that’s just a start.
Speaking of busy streets…..
7. Driving in Toronto is not for the faint of heart.
Traffic jams and rude drivers are pretty much guaranteed most of the time. Additionally, a lot of streets here are narrow, which creates a sense of claustrophobia while in the car (that gigantic bus or transport truck in the lane beside you can be literally only inches away). This, combined with the aforementioned gridlock and bad drivers, equals a sense of impending doom to any occupant of a car in Toronto.
Needless to say, I take the TTC instead of driving to work. Which brings me to my next point…..
8. The Toronto Transit Commission (the TTC) is both a blessing and a curse.
Torontonians love to complain about the TTC. Yes, service needs to be improved, service is very bad in some areas, and the TTC needs more money in order to operate at the level that is expected and needed in a city this size (see http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/11/10/toronto-transit-union-pledges-to-make-ttc-funding-a-key-issue-for-2015-federal-election/ ). However, the TTC is better than any other transit system that I have used in any other city I have lived in. I used to wait half an hour for the bus. Now I wait for about five minutes. And I still think riding the subway is kind of cool.
I am also looking forward to riding the sleek, shiny new streetcars.
9. People in Toronto are – generally speaking – nice, polite, and friendly.
I know that Canadians are supposed to be polite as a rule, and Torontonians follow this rule very well. However, on the whole, they are nicer and friendlier than people in other cities that I have lived and/or visited in the past. Perhaps it is because they have grown up with crowds, lineups, and small spaces, and they have learned that it is a lot better for themselves and for everyone else to maintain a sense of civility in such an environment.
10. I am going to leave #10 up to you! What is one thing about Toronto that you notice the most, like the most, or dislike the most? What most appeals to you about living here? Conversely, if you have left the city, what were your reasons? What do you think I have left out on my list, if anything? Discuss!