I love Toronto. Ever since I made it my home in 2002, I’ve loved the city more every day. In fact, I don’t just love Toronto. It is really living in Canada that I love, but Toronto is my chosen home town now. It is interesting to people who don’t know me too well to find out I identify as “being Canadian”, even if officially I do not have Canadian citizenship (yet). I think the reason why I feel so strongly about Canada is explained in my first reason I love living in Toronto:
1. First, a deeply personal reason I love living in Toronto
I feel like I’ve done my adult growing up in Toronto, which gives it a special place in my heart. What I mean with “adult growing up” is that I’ve spent my late teens and twenties in Canada, which were maybe my most formative. I’ve covered many “firsts” and milestones in Toronto. These memories and the friendships I’ve made along the way are far more significant than my childhood memories. It makes Toronto feel like it is “home”, and where my roots are now. I’ve never felt the same level of patriotic pride towards the Netherlands as I’ve felt towards Canada.
2. You are steps away from cottage country.
Why would you travel to a tropical island when you can see these beaches and sunsets a couple of hours away from the city? Even in the city of Toronto you can find beaches to stroll and places to admire the beautiful sunset.
3. Toronto is the most multi-cultural city I’ve lived in.
Amsterdam is intensely multi-cultural, but in Amsterdam you continue to feel a difference between being Dutch and being a foreigner. Worse yet, there is a divide between being an “Amsterdammer” (someone born and raised in the city), and being a resident of Amsterdam but from another place in the Netherlands. Amsterdam even has it’s own regional accent! As an expat, you are still a foreigner in a multi-cultural city. Toronto is different: anyone can be a Torontonian. No matter how long you’ve lived in the city, or how recently you moved there. We are proud of our city and you are not judged on what accent you have, what country you were born in, or what the color of your skin is under your parka. I’ve grown up with an expat mother, and got to experience up close how hard it was for her to fit in in Holland, even when she identifies with being Dutch after having lived there for three decades. Canada was different from day one, and I’ve never forgotten the welcoming feeling the country and its people have given us since.
4. Canada has all four seasons.
Spring, summer, fall and winter are all different. We get a real summer, no matter what people think about “Canada being cold”. It’s not all that bad when you get all four seasons, and the worst of winter is really just January and February in most cases. Any country with reliable sunshine and where you can get this sun burned in a few hours outside is a great place to be. Not Toronto specific, but adding in that Toronto has a glorious waterfront area (which I’ve called home for over a decade now) where you can enjoy beaches, (water) sports, music festivals, and sunshine… it’s all good. The Toronto harbourfront has been one of my favourite running routes for years, and I’ll never get bored of the view.
5. You can from A to B very quickly.
It is a massive city, but you can take the subway from one end of town to the other and not feel like you are traveling all that far. Especially compared to other major cities around the world. After being away for a little while, it always surprises me how close the subway stops are from each other. The subway is also a little emptier than you’d expect in Tokyo, London, or New York. Even at rush hour!
6. It’s safe!
I’ve never felt unsafe in Toronto. Like any big city things happen, but compared to other major cities I’ve always felt safer than anywhere else. Walking alone at night in the downtown core does not creep me out. Yes, it is a big city, and common sense should always prevail, but in the grand scheme of things there isn’t that much to fear in Toronto. This is one of those cities you can still walk around with your purse open, and once you discover it wasn’t closed you see nothing is missing. I can’t say the same for Amsterdam, or many other cities I’ve lived in or visited.
7. World class universities, AND a thriving startup scene
I attended the University of Toronto for a decade (HBSc, PhD + some time teaching), and although us UofT-ers like to complain about various things when we are there, it is a great school. I’ve come to appreciate it more after I left Academia. You can’t ignore that even though UofT is massive, the other universities in and around the city, as well as various research hospitals and institutes, provide plenty of opportunities for collaboration and discovery.
It is also no secret that I got my start in the private sector by working for Papers. It was very much a startup when I joined in early 2011. Although I was the only Papers employee in Toronto, in recent years the city has evolved as a strong contender in the startup world. I’ve loved participating in Startup Weekend Toronto a few times, but there are plenty of other events and resources for the 2500-4100 tech startups in the city.
8. Toronto is a great place to be a foodie
Countless restaurants where world class chefs reign the kitchens offer numerous choices for a foodie to revel in culinary diversity. It may not be as large as New York, London, or Tokyo, but Toronto boasts enough interesting restaurants to keep your palate busy.
9. Business is thriving
Business is good in Toronto, not just for startups. It has one of the biggest financial centres in the world. A fact to be proud of, but not often something people know about Toronto. Canada is a great place to do business, and when I was working for Papers, my boss at the time said the people at Revenue Canada were some of the nicest he has ever dealt with. Quite the compliment for taxes! Not surprisingly, many international companies carve out a home in Toronto and the major banks have chosen this city specifically. It creates many opportunities for jobs, both in Toronto and internationally.
10. The CN Tower, sports, and museums
Living in Toronto doesn’t get boring. Between the restaurants and the world class shopping, there are museums, galleries and of course the CN Tower to visit. On top of that, let’s not forget sports events. Whether you love hockey, basketball or baseball, Toronto plays along and even wins sometimes. The CN Tower is the third tallest tower in the world, and the 360 Restaurant at the top boasts some of the best food in town. Paired with great wine (from the wine cellar in the sky) and an even better view.
Are you living in Toronto, or would you like to? Tell me in the comments what you love about this amazing city!