Clueless about Canada, seeking info on Toronto.
July 26, 2006 10:20 AM   Subscribe

Torontoites: tell me what it's like to live in your city. What do you love/hate about it? More detailed questions inside.

Asking this question for a friend: an American finishing up a graduate course in London and looking at Toronto as a possible settling place. But she doesn't know a huge amount about what it's like to actually live there. Help us out?

Specific queries to use as jumping-off points, though any information is appreciated: On a scale of 1 to reallymotherfuckingcold, how cold does it really seem to get in the winter? What is the arts/film/music scene like -- do you get lots of interesting exhibits and bands coming through town? Tell us about the general going-out culture: frou-frou cocktail bars or more informal and pub-y? Pounding back shots or quiet conversation over a pint? What sports are big in the city? Are people generally friendly toward Americans? Friendly in general? We hear tell it's a really ethnically diverse city, but do different races/groups actually interact or stick to their own enclaves? What's the public transportation like? The city's life-balance philosophy: live to work or work to live? What's the housing/job market like? Is it difficult to make friends there if you're moving there without knowing a soul? Anything else we should know?
posted by hazelshade to Travel & Transportation around Toronto, ON (43 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Geez, where to start. First, search the archives as there are a few Toronto lifestyle questions back there somewhere.

It's a pretty broad question, so I'll answer you specific questions:

Cold: I dunno, it's not so bad. Toronto is pretty temperate by Canadian standards actually. Compared to London (UK) it's cold, sure, but it's better than London, ON. We didn't really get much snow last winter at all. Boston probably had a worse winter.

Arts Scene: holy cow, it's great. I mean, it's probably the #1 stop for bands in Canada. Maybe Montreal is #1, but everyone comes through Toronto. And it is the home of the Toronto film festival, one of the biggest north american mainstream film festivals. And getting bigger.

It's a city of ~3 million and, without sounding too pretentious, Toronto is the NYC of Canada. There's a huge range of bars, restraunts, galleries, etc. There are pubs, vodka bars, fancy places, dives, you name it.

Public transportation is great. About as good as it gets in canada. Maybe not as good as London or NYC or Tokyo, but (arguably) the best in Canada. Better than almost every US city.

Do ethnic groups mix? Well, yes and no. There are "ethnic enclaves" to some extent, but people mix pretty freely. There's a chinatown, a greektown, etc, but it's not like you'll get beat up if you're "an alien".

I could go on and on, but Toronto is the most liveable big city in the world. It's a great mix of big city and small neighbourhoods. And yes, we even like Americans.
posted by GuyZero at 10:39 AM on July 26, 2006


Climate: most of the winter is in the 0C to -5C range, with some days dipping down to -20C in the mornings, with highs of -10C or so those days. It's a damp cold, unlike other areas in North America, but I imagine its similar to London that way.

Summer, July and August will have temperatures in the +30C range, with humidity and poor air quality, in part thanks to our neighbors in the south.

As to work to live vs. live to work, I would call it "live to work".

A joke: Ask a person from Southern Ontario what they do, and the answers include "stockbroker, machinist, teacher..."

Ask a person from BC what they do, and the answers include "windsurf, ski, mountainbike..."
posted by Brando_T. at 10:44 AM on July 26, 2006


Coming from small-town Kingston, I freaking love TO's public transportation system. Get from anywhere to anywhere, quickly and cheaply, at pretty much any hour of the day.

The various festivals going on in TO are always cool, and if you keep your eyes peeled, there's almost always some interesting things going on to join in on, hang out with people at.

Also, I just love the underground mall. Provided you remember which way is which, it's an excellent way to get around while raining. (Not a quick way, certainly, but dry and usually entertaining.)
posted by Imperfect at 10:48 AM on July 26, 2006



Typing as a former Montrealer and current Hogtowner who is realllllly looking forward to getting out of here and moving to Vancouver in a couple of weeks:

On a scale of 1 to reallymotherfuckingcold, how cold does it really seem to get in the winter?

It depends what your friend is used to. It is cold, but not as cold as Ottawa or Montreal. Check http://www.weatheroffice.ec.gc.ca/ for seasonal averages; thing is, everyone here is used to the cold and life is adjusted so that outside time is minimised if required.

What is the arts/film/music scene like -- do you get lots of interesting exhibits and bands coming through town?

Not nearly as good an arts scene as Montreal, 'tho Toronto's recent indie rock flowering is well respected, even if it makes the phrase "Parachute club" come to mind. I'm not really the one to ask actually.

Tell us about the general going-out culture: frou-frou cocktail bars or more informal and pub-y? Pounding back shots or quiet conversation over a pint?

This is a big city and people do what they want. There is a big clubbing scene -- I 'spose, not my thing -- a lot of good 'fine' dining, sports bars aplenty, etc. It's no London -- or even Montreal, in terms of nightlife -- but I bet your friend will find the scene/space he/she wants.

What sports are big in the city?

To watch or to play? Unquestionably, this is a hockey town, even if (or maybe because) the team has been painfully bad for, oh, three decades, tho my friends in LeafsNation have many an excuse. Major-league baseball is here, as is an NBA franchise. But hockey rules.

Are people generally friendly toward Americans? Friendly in general?

Towards Yanks? Yes. Towards people? Generally. There is some Toronto reserve, but it is easily broken through, esp. if you're in the same social setting.

We hear tell it's a really ethnically diverse city, but do different races/groups actually interact or stick to their own enclaves?

There are not 'enclaves' as much as neighbourhoods. Yes, Toronto is (by some measures) the most diverse city in the world, and there is a neighbourhood for every culture/nation/ethnic group, it seems -- witness the craziness during the recent World Cup. There is a fair deal of mixture, I'd say; certainly, my wife (of Indian descent) and me (whitey whitey) don't get second looks, fwiw.

What's the public transportation like? The city's life-balance philosophy: live to work or work to live?

Public transport is okay, if expensive and underfunded. If you live/work downtown, it's perfectly fine. Life balance? As a former Montrealer, I'd say people here are much more on the live to work tip, but Montreal is an aberration in that respect.

What's the housing/job market like?

Housing market has gotten better -- it's no Vancouver, thank God -- and you can expect to find an apt. in the core for approx. $900/month. Jobs? Depends on what you do, really.

Is it difficult to make friends there if you're moving there without knowing a soul?

Never done it, wouldn't know. But people are friendly enough, and if your friend is already plugged into a social network -- ie job, school, etc. -- they'll get taken care of.

Anything else we should know?

Bring a touque.
posted by docgonzo at 10:50 AM on July 26, 2006


Not to derail (as I've often thought of moving to Toronto myself), but are residents of Toronto really "Torontoites"? I've always used "Torontoans" myself, but always with that sidelong glance like I'm gonna get corrected by an angry Toronter...
posted by nevercalm at 11:02 AM on July 26, 2006


'Torontonian' is the general usage; 'Hogtowner' is my preferred name, but not generally accepted.
posted by docgonzo at 11:04 AM on July 26, 2006


Ex-Torontonian here, eagerly anticipating a return visit in a month, so felt like giving my old home some love . . .

On a scale of 1 to reallymotherfuckingcold, how cold does it really seem to get in the winter?

By Canadian standards, not terribly cold but quite grey. No colder than somewhere like Detroit or Chicago, only marginally colder than NYC. Very hot, humid summers.

What is the arts/film/music scene like -- do you get lots of interesting exhibits and bands coming through town?

World class. Toronto's the media/art/culture capital of Canada, a la NYC or London. If a band's touring, they'll play Toronto. If a movie's released, it'll play there. One of world's best film fests, excellent documentary fest, other film and music fests throughout the years. Vibrant local music scene. Etc., etc.

Tell us about the general going-out culture: frou-frou cocktail bars or more informal and pub-y? Pounding back shots or quiet conversation over a pint?

Whatever floasts your boat. Some great informal pubs and bars, but also a vast multiblock agglomeration of stylish dance clubs and posh velvet-rope bars (Richmond St. and environs), two long avenues (Queen and College Sts.) lined with hip clubs, bars and boites to suit every mood, plus neighbourhood joints throughout the city and one of my top five bars on the planet (the inimitable Cameron House, Queen just w. of Spadina).

What sports are big in the city?

Hockey, hockey and hockey. Also, to a much lesser extent, baseball and basketball. Also soccer, esp. during the World Cup, when the ethnic populations strut their stuff. Toronto during World Cup's a blast, and if the Leafs win a playoff series or two, it's Mardi Gras.

Are people generally friendly toward Americans? Friendly in general?

Yes on both counts. Being American is very commonplace, everyone's firm or company or troupe has an American or two, or a US office. Almost all Canadians have American family or friends. You may be dragged into discussions of American foreign policy or schooled at length on how Canada is in fact a sovereign nation with its own currency and everything, but it'll generally be good natured.

As for friendly in general, Toronto's a bit reserved socially - takes a little while to get to know people, find your niche - but if you're working in an office, join an Ultimate frisbee team or book club, anything that gets you into a social circle, you'll likely find yourself invited out for drinks or what-have-you very quickly. Miles friendlier than London, from what I understand.

We hear tell it's a really ethnically diverse city, but do different races/groups actually interact or stick to their own enclaves?

Both. More recent immigrant populations are a little more insular, but there are a couple of generations of dense immigrant infill now, so what you notice as a newcomer is how insanely integrated and polyglot it is. Toronto schools look like the UN. There are Salvadoran restaurants in "Koreatown" and the downtown "Chinatowns" are as Vietnamese as they are Chinese. I lived on a stretch of Bloor west of Ossington that boasted a Serbian church, an Iranian restaurant, several divey coffee shops for old Italian and Greek men, a Middle Eastern chicken joint, a small Chilean population, etc. etc.

What's the public transportation like?

Very good, not quite world class. A well-used but slightly undersized subway system, fantastic streetcar services in the inner city, buses to round out the mix. If you live downtown (i.e. south of Eglinton, east of High Park, west of the Beaches) you don't need a car.

The city's life-balance philosophy: live to work or work to live?

It's pretty aggressive, go-go, live-to-work, as media/financial/power capitals often are. Definitely the least leisurely of Canada's big cities. That said, Torontonians in general have very active leisure/social lives, and the workaholism varies from industry to industry.

What's the housing/job market like?

Canada's economy is among the G8's strongest right now, and a delirious housing/condo boom has, I'm told, made the rental market very good right now. That said, if you'd like to walk into your choice of jobs, Canada's best prospect for that is my current, booming-like-crazy home of Calgary (which is a far less charming and vibrant city otherwise).

Is it difficult to make friends there if you're moving there without knowing a soul?

No more so than any metropolis. If you're willing to jump in with both feet, join a club or rec sports team or something, you should be fine.

Anything else we should know?

Well, Toronto's superficially less charming than NYC or London. Fewer grand buildings, fewer jawdropping cityscapes. That said, the city lives and breathes and makes its rep in its vibrant, cohesive neighbourhoods (which Jane Jacobs loved so well). If you want the full T-Dot deal (that's a local hip-hop nickname, by the way, derived from the abbreviation T.O.), live in one of the great neighbourhoods: Cabbagetown, Parkdale, Little Italy, The Annex, Roncesvalles, Riverdale, Leslieville, Bloor & Ossington, High Park, Corso Italia (St Clair West). Others will add to this list, I'm sure.

Enjoy it - it's a helluva town.

On preview: nevercalm, it's Torontonians.
posted by gompa at 11:05 AM on July 26, 2006


Torontonians I believe. or "Toronto resident".
posted by GuyZero at 11:06 AM on July 26, 2006


As someone who grew up where it doesn't get colder than 5 celcius in the winter and then moved to Toronto, it gets reallymotherfuckingcold in Toronto and lasts a fucking long time. 10 years later and I still have to leave for part of the winter if at all possible. But if your friend is used to cold, she probably won't find it that difficult. What will be difficult is coming to the "culture" in Toronto after living in London - I did this myself after doing degrees in the UK and found it a bit depressing.
posted by meerkatty at 11:07 AM on July 26, 2006


Thanks, I was wondering whether it was actually "Torontoites" or something else. Leave it to me to totally just make something up...

To clarify on the sports thing: mostly to watch, but also in terms of intramural/pick-up games. My friend is really into basketball and tennis (watching and playing). She's also interested to know whether rugby is big in Toronto.
posted by hazelshade at 11:12 AM on July 26, 2006


There's the TOronto Central Sport & Social Club which offers various sports. No rugby though. There are lots of b-ball and tennis courts throughout the city. There are probably some rugby fans somewhere, one of my co-workers plays regularly with for some rugby team. And there's a rowing club on the waterfront. And dragonboating is very popular - another co-worker is on the Canadian national dragonboating team I learned last week. And there are marathons. And there's mountain biking not too far north. And sailing on the lake. And plenty of golf courses. And there are a very large number of cricket fans/players, though some of those are more in the suburbs, like Mississauga.

I honestly can't think of any sport that doesn't have a pretty significant following in Toronto.
posted by GuyZero at 11:19 AM on July 26, 2006


Polo.
posted by docgonzo at 11:22 AM on July 26, 2006


I don't live there, but I've spent 6--8 weeks a year there since 2000.

Cold: entirely bearable around Christmastime, though I'm sure it gets worse. Below freezing, but generally not deathly cold. What'll kill you isn't the cold, it's the weeks on end of grey gloomy skies over grey roads with grey salt on them and grey piles of grey, dirty snow pushed to the curbs while people in grey coats trudge past in the grey sleet. Even two weeks of this is enough to start the "Let's open a vein to see something red!" thoughts.

Ethnic: both can be true at the same time. Over the past few years, it feels like things are shifting away from a more general multi-ethnic society to a polar split between Chinese and whites, but it's still very strongly multiethnic.

Americans: unless your friend has a particularly strong regional accent, I doubt that anybody will tell. Most basic American accents are within the range of what you hear Ontarians say. NB: this applies after the first month, when you'll realize that Canadians say zed instead of zee and mazda (like "as duh") instead of mahzda.

Public transit: the subway is good but a bit limited. I would not put it in the same category as the NY system or the DC metro, but it's better than Atlanta's MARTA or jokes like DART here in D/FW. There is strong growth inside the city in new condos, --but-- there's also very strong growth in outlying suburbs that seem to be developing much like American car suburbs. There are stretches outside of North York that might as well be in Plano or Frisco TX. How this growth will affect Toronto proper Remains To Be Seen.

Housing: what docgonzo said.

It's not cheap, but in terms of housing costs per quality of life, it still seems a good deal.

In addition to the sports mentioned, people seem to make a decent fuss over the CART race in summer. And more people pay attention to F1 than do in the States.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:25 AM on July 26, 2006


Nope, The Toronto Polo Club. I mean, it's not as huge as a polo club in rural England maybe, but it probably beats most cities' polo clubs.
posted by GuyZero at 11:28 AM on July 26, 2006


Moving to Toronto threads: 1 and 2.
posted by GuyZero at 11:33 AM on July 26, 2006


Ok guys...I don't live in Toronto. I'm an American that grew up in the vicinity of NYC and lives in Pittsburgh. I spent a week last January in Toronto and it was THE COLDEST I HAVE EVER BEEN IN MY LIFE. I couldn't leave the hotel unless I can 2 jackets, a hat, a scarf and 2 pairs of gloves. And even then I couldnt make it much farther than a couple blocks. Sorry, but unless that was some freak week in January, Toronto is WAY WAY colder than NYC.
posted by theantikitty at 11:57 AM on July 26, 2006


Meh. Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton are all a lot colder.

Also, cold weather is actually nicer than warm weather in the winter - you get those clear, cold days when the sky is more blue than you've ever seen it and the light is so sharp you can almost hear it squeak against the dry snow. Plus staying cold means snow, which is quite pretty, and not slush, which sucks.

Toronto's mild winters are really almost as bad as they are good - the constant freeze/thaw cycles create a lot of ice and slush, both of which are much worse to drive/walk on than snow. of course, getting frostbite thorugh your gloves walking to work isn't so much fun, no, I suppose not.

Anyway, due to the lake, Toronto is much, much better than many nearby cities, like say, Buffalo. Not that anyone would move to Buffalo.
posted by GuyZero at 12:14 PM on July 26, 2006


I would move to Buffalo! Quite happily!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:32 PM on July 26, 2006


In comparison to London (um assuming London, UK and not London, Ontario), Toronto is definitely on the reallymotherfuckingcold end of things. I'm from Ireland and after a few years in Nth America my body still hasn't adjusted to either the summers or winters on this side of the pond. Of course it depends where in the states your buddy is from and what sort of winters she grew up with.

Versus UK/Ireland, definitely much more live to work in my opinion, but depends what she will do I imagine.

Re ethnicity: Myself and my other half are first-gen immigrants who, like docgonzo above, don't get second looks or find ourselves the only inter racial couple in most social situations. Having said that, a lot of guys I work with prefer to live in neighbourhoods which are predominantly X nationality. And it's nice to see a lot of Canadian politicians who are south asian, like loverboy, because we sure as hell didn't see much of that in the States.
posted by jamesonandwater at 12:37 PM on July 26, 2006


hi - i'm american and moved to toronto last summer.. lived here for just over a year now.

regarding cold: these comments above are by canadians comparing canada's southernmost big city to the other big cities in canada. from an american-winter standpoint, they're crazy. it gets reallyfuckingcold here. last winter was "unbelievably warm" by local standards and i remember days when my eyes hurt it was so cold out. maybe i'm overstating the bad here - it's usually not that cold, just kind of icky gray and wet, not altogether different from winter in certain american cities (buffalo, minneapolis, green bay etc). but it'll take some time to get used to i think.

this summer has actually been really quite pleasant so far! so hurrah for global warming if this is what it means for toronto.

british-style pubs are more common here than in the states. there's an obnoxiously mediocre chain called ____ & firkin that's all over the city, but lots of other little pubs that are really quite charming. there's also lots of high elegance, grungy dives, tourist traps, and everything in between. toronto's got a ton of nightlife, arts, theatre, film, fine dining and all that culture stuff.

people around here seem to be totally meh about sports, with the possible exception of the maple leafs (hockey). you see lots of blue jays (baseball) fans on the subway after games, but i get the feeling that they all come in from the suburbs and that nobody in the city really cares much. it might be the circles i move in, though.

when people find out i'm american, they tend to brighten a bit, and then look confused and ask me why the fuck i moved here. (: i've never received an ounce of shit about anything because i'm american, except one time at the border. nor have i really received any special treatment either. torontonians have a rep in canada as being rude, and to me they come off as a little cold or reserved or polite, depending on the degree. friendly enough though. they do however turn into totally obnoxious shitheads when they get behind the wheel of a car.

there is a lot of ethnic diversity, but rather well-defined neighborhoods. you can get any kind of ethnic food you want here (except decent mexican. blimey). the subway and public transit is very convenient, though a little run-down. very few things are open 24 hours. milk comes in plastic bags. as an american you'll have to file taxes in both the US and canada. toronto sprawls forever and it takes a long time to really get out into the countryside. condos are going up everywhere. canadian cigarettes are ungodly expensive and taste like shit, even the shitty canadian versions of american cigarettes.

you stop giggling at the accent after about 6 months. there are an unbelievable number of donut shops here. the city has an inferiority complex. all that "free education, free health care" stuff isn't really true. the film festival is really cool, and so are the rep theaters, but supposedly they're being closed down. gas is very expensive compared to the US. food is very cheap compared to the US, except for produce. alcohol in ontario is only sold through a chain of province-run liquor stores, socialist style.

overall i'm happy enough to live here in the short term, but i think i'd like to eventually move back to the states at some point. anyway, that was my core dump on living in toronto. hope this helps!
posted by sergeant sandwich at 12:43 PM on July 26, 2006


Jamesonandwater: My friend is from the D.C. metro area, so I'm guessing she'll see it as on the reallymotherfuckingcold side. But she went to college at Colgate (which is somewhere in upstate New York, I'm not entirely sure where) so I think she's got some exposure to frigid climes.

GuyZero, just to point out, my friend's question is a general what-it's-like-to-live-in-Toronto question rather than about specific Toronto neighborhoods, so I didn't think this thread was really redundant. If she does decide to move there those threads you pointed out will come in handy, so thanks.
posted by hazelshade at 12:48 PM on July 26, 2006


Are people generally friendly toward Americans? Friendly in general?

Yes, and maybe not so much friendly but polite yet detached and slightly self absorbed. Sorta like Cronenberg's "Crash". Scientifically Toronto is suppossed to be the third most courtiest city in the world. Strangley if someone steps on your foot you say sorry to them (sore-y not sari), it's odd but you get used to it.

Ethnically pretty diverse, a lot of neighbourhoods will have a several sushi or falafel places and maybe one place you can get a hamburger.

Spots? Two teams primarily, the Leafs and whoever's winning. World Cup is insanely popular but between World Cup's you hardly hear anyone talking about soccer.
posted by bobo123 at 12:52 PM on July 26, 2006


lifelong Toronto-area resident here,

sergeant sandwich has a few things a bit backwards:

very few things are open 24 hours

Most A&P or Dominion grocery stores are open 24 hours. So are many convenience stores, gas stations, and McDs. Heck, there's a 24 hour Home Depot too. What more do you need at 2am? We don't have those Wal-Mart SuperCenters but IMHO that's a good thing.

alcohol in ontario is only sold through a chain of province-run liquor stores, socialist style

Which is actually a good thing, because the LCBO is the single largest purchaser of spirits in the world giving us an amazing selection of booze at very good prices.
posted by chuma at 12:58 PM on July 26, 2006


sergeant sandwich has a few things a bit backwards:
very few things are open 24 hours


i guess i meant compared to the states. sorry. there are some things open late, it just seems like not-much. and you do have walmarts, but they inexplicably close overnight, unlike real walmarts.

the LCBO is the single largest purchaser of spirits in the world giving us an amazing selection of booze at very good prices

uh.. no. quantity is not variety. sorry dude, but the LCBO's selection blows. the LCBO site is proud to proclaim 330 beers f'rinstance. BevMo, which is a decent but not huge or wildly-varied chain of stores in the US, has 988 on their site. fancy nicer places have a lot more. i've been to nice wine stores in the US that have like 30,000 different wines. LCBO doesn't even come close.

look, i'm not knocking ontario or anything, but state-run businesses just tend to work out this way.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 1:15 PM on July 26, 2006


How many replies have I added to this thread... anyway, 24 hour stores are a fairly recent arrival to Toronto, within the last couple of years. Sunday shopping has only started within my lifetime, but is better than a lot of Canada - it's still against the law to open on Sunday in Nova Scotia (barbarians!). It is no different than most US cities I have visited.

The one thing no one has touched on is owning a car - if you live in central Toronto you can get away without owning a car and still do pretty much anything. Owning a car does come in handy if you need to get a lot of stuff or go out of town, but I know a lot of people - even families with kids (!) - who get by without a car.

Assuming your friend is single, there are a couple of "partial ownership" car places - AutoShare and ZipCar. Parking is no worse than any big city - certainly no worse than London - and Toronto's suburbs are like any suburbs, very car-centric. I don't drive much, but Toronto has traffic like any other big city, which is to say pretty bad at rush hour.

And while the LCBO may seem socialist, it's sort of a benign dictatorship. the LCBO's huge purchasing power keeps prices down, though that probably doesn't offset higher tax rates vs many US locales. If you're a wine drinker, you'll find the selection is both good and bad - there are fewer California wines than in California, there are fewer French wines than in France, but we have a decent selection of wine from everywhere in the world. SOmething like the BeerHunter may help. The "Beer Store" is not actually run by the government, but it's a government-granted monopoly to a consortium of Canadian brewers. Compared to the UK we tend to drink our beer cold, even British beers that would be better served at room temperature.

Also, Toronto is pretty safe. Here's some recent data on homicides and robberies. The media makes a big deal of violent crime in Toronto, but one could argue that it's because violence is relatively rare here.
posted by GuyZero at 1:18 PM on July 26, 2006


Again, it's not like I stick around for the whole winter, but around Xmas/New Years, Toronto isn't much worse than Charlottesville VA. Googling, winters much like the Syracuse area near Colgate.

Having your eyes hurt on cold winter days doesn't seem reallyfuckingcold to me, that seems like a normal nice, cold winter day; it feels like it ought to. And I'm used to winters in VA and NC. Reallyfuckingcold starts where engine block heaters are a necessity.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:19 PM on July 26, 2006


uh.. no. quantity is not variety. sorry dude, but the LCBO's selection blows. the LCBO site is proud to proclaim 330 beers f'rinstance. BevMo, which is a decent but not huge or wildly-varied chain of stores in the US, has 988 on their site. fancy nicer places have a lot more. i've been to nice wine stores in the US that have like 30,000 different wines. LCBO doesn't even come close.

It's either Canadian or Ontario import regulations that prohibit bringing in foreign beer to some extent. You may have noticed that Carlsberg and Fosters sold in Ontario is, in fact, brewed in Ontario. And Corona I believe. As a matter of fact, in 1994 you couldn't even buy beer from other Canadian provinces in Ontario. (this has since changed) I moved to Sydney, Australia for a year and they had Moosehead (from Nova Scotia) which was, at the time, unavailable in Ontario. So it's not solely the LCBO, but some bizarre amalgam of trade barriers and the unmotivated retail monopoly.

It's no stranger than the midwest US counties where you can buy a hammer but not nails on a sunday, or dry counties or any of the other bajillion regional eccentricities.
posted by GuyZero at 1:26 PM on July 26, 2006


Yes there is lots of rugby in Toronto. No professional stuff but other than that there is a level for everyone from beginner to very good amateur. If your friend is good a club in the top division of the Ontario Rugby Union will provide a high level of competition.

It's a subculture for sure but a relatively strong one and highly social.
posted by raider at 1:28 PM on July 26, 2006


All this debate about how cold reallyfuckingcold is miss the point: winter sucks in T.O. It starts around Halloween and lasts until March or April, when all the dogshit thaws. There's a brief pleasant period and then the summer humidity starts.

Fall is nice.
posted by timeistight at 1:42 PM on July 26, 2006


I also have been less than impressed with your average LCBO's selection of beer, which I've found to be below the average Kroger's or Albertson's's selection. Wander in wanting a nice microbrew or import, leave with Keiths, again, or just no beer. I don't really care whether it's not allowed in the country, or not stocked by LCBO, or not stocked by that particular store -- getting a Rogue or, shit, Yuengling should not be difficult, to say nothing of Spaten or Pilsner Urquell or other completely boringly normal imports.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:07 PM on July 26, 2006


And the lack of 24 hour stores is not unique to Toronto or Canada. I was flabbergasted a couple of Thanksgivings ago to roll into Gainesville FL at around 10 pm and find that the grocery store was closed.

On the other hand, Toronto purports to be part of civilization, while no sane person would consider Florida to be anywhere near it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:11 PM on July 26, 2006


I just want to say as a born Torontonian that all these Americans and non-Canadians going on about the cold are cracking my shit up.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 2:16 PM on July 26, 2006


And if you want beer, go to the Beer Store, not the LCBO, duh.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 2:20 PM on July 26, 2006


I've lived in Toronto for about 5 years... people have already listed most of the good stuff... so, my three biggest complaints about toronto are:

1) the public transport (TTC) system is absolutely awful, compared to anything outside north america. its dilapidated, limited, and slow. its staff are slightly better than trained monkeys (they had to be taken to court to be forced to announce stops so blind people would know where they are). only people who've never been to a big city outside canada think its any good. there's no use of computers or electronics to make ticket purchases etc -- you must always deal with staff, creating huge lines... it hasn't been updated since the 1960s. hurrah! in fact, you could argue the entire IT revolution of the 1990s entirely passed toronto by -- the infrastructure is simply not up to snuff if it has ambitions as a "world city".

2) it's not that "edgy" in terms of its art or music scene. it's not bad, but again, its no london, NY, or tokyo. only torontonians who've never been to those places think its comparable. part of this is linked i think to a residual sense of paternalism -- ie, the fact that you can't buy alcohol in convenience stores is laughable.

3) the architecture. toronto went through an unfortunate boom during the 1970s, which was perhaps the worst time in the history of man for architecture... it means there are endless concrete monoliths that pass for buildings. i'm not a fan.

having said all that, i *do* enjoy living here, at least for 6 months a year (jan-apr can be pretty bad for me, the weather does kill the city, frankly)... the people are nice, its safe, and there's quite a lot going on.. it's a very good "tier 2" city (think chicago, singapore, manchester, etc)... if you go in expecitng true world class (london, NY, tokyo, paris) you will be disappointed. would i live here forever? probably not... but for a few years, it can be quite a good time.
posted by modernnomad at 2:39 PM on July 26, 2006


And as I have made this thread my new home, let me comment again on the issue of retail selection in Toronto and Canada in general.

Americans, you have no idea how fucking good you have it with regard to retail stores. Canada is a tiny country by world standards and while it's a great place, the average retail selection in a Canadian store reflects this fact.

The Target in Port Huron, MI has a more impressive selection of inexpensive housewares than the western half of Toronto. You live in a huge country which supports a supply chain unseen anywhere else in the world. My wife and I were so happy to find a red dish rack in Target - you'll never find anything but white dish racks anywhere in Toronto. The Gap & Banana Republic have "tall" shirts in the US. Not in Canada - although we do have tall people just like y'all. Red dish racks and tall shirts are not exactly rocket science - unless you live in Canada.

Pick a retail product. Any product. Clothes. Shoes. Potato chips. Sunglasses. Cars. Dishes. Etc. Even a crappy chain store in a little US town will have a better selection than Canada's biggest city. An unfortunate side effect of being 1/10th the size of our southern neighbour.

We're not quite so bad compared to the UK, but it should not come as a surprise that I have never met any tourists in Toronto who came here to shop. Well, except when the dollar was really weak.

Having said all that, we do get a really great variety of products from around the world that you don't see in most US cities. There's a wicked Japanese grocery store on Queen St that carries a great selection of stuff straight from Japan. The polish delis on Roncesvalles carry real polish dry goods - unlabelled in either english or french. Hong Kong stuff in Pacific mall, Indian clothing in little india, etc, etc. In this regard we beat out any American city and probably come close to London.
posted by GuyZero at 2:41 PM on July 26, 2006


I'm also a born Torontonian, Big Fat Tycoon. That's how I know.
posted by timeistight at 3:03 PM on July 26, 2006


it's a very good "tier 2" city (think chicago, singapore, manchester, etc)... if you go in expecitng true world class (london, NY, tokyo, paris) you will be disappointed.

No point in stopping now.

Canada ranks #36 in terms of population, just below Poland, Tanzania, Kenya and Morocco. So I would say that relatively speaking, we're doing pretty well in terms of having great cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

I would argue that Toronto is a "Tier 1" city, but it will never compare with the cities you list simply because Canada ain't that big a place. Toronto is certainly a better city than Chicago or Manchester in most regards, in spite of being half the size of Chicago. (and they even count Hamilton in there, which is not part of Toronto.)

In a 2006 "Quality of Life" study, Toronto ranked above all the cities you listed, including Chicago, New York, London and Tokyo. I'll be the first to agree that much of our architecture could use some help (in the form of explosives) but there is more to life than architecture. While New York, London, Tokyo and Paris are the elite of the world's cities, they are not without their own troubles and faults, computerized transit ticket systems notwithstanding.
posted by GuyZero at 3:04 PM on July 26, 2006


Wasn't talking about you timeistight.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 4:05 PM on July 26, 2006


I'm sorry, but I have to plug a friend here, because it is exactly the answer to your question:
Local photgrapher/blogger Rannie Turingan is doing a project this summer where he interviews people about Toronto and asks them their favourite place in the city, favourite restaurant, what they love and hate about Toronto, etc. He has more than a hundred people lined up, including some local minor celebs, and each of these people will tell you exactly what you're looking for.
Go here and click on any of the thumbnail headshots to read what that person thinks of Toronto, what their favourite places are, and a personal anecdote related to the city.
posted by easternblot at 6:14 PM on July 26, 2006


I moved to Toronto from a smaller city (let's hear it for The Hammer!) about 8 years ago. I've lived in London (UK) and spent extended periods of time in New York, Hong Kong, Dallas, and Amsterdam. And while I love all of those places, for my money Toronto is the best city in the world.

My GF is actually an American who moved here 4 years ago, and she agrees completely. She *hates* the cold - and yes, it does get cold - but she says the whole new wardrobe of cute parkas and hats - and the fact that we have amazing summers - more than makes up for it ;)

(Her exact words when I read this back to her: "It's got the hustle-bustle-we're-the-center-of-the-world feel of New York, the friendly midwestern feel of Chicago, and the 'Hollywood North' entertainment industry of LA. But tell them they'll need a whole new winter wardrobe. Not that that's a bad thing.")

Why do we love it here? Let's see: within 5 minutes of our place are 3 big parks, really good Thai, Indian, Lebanese, Ethiopian, and Italian restaurants, a scungy metal bar, a bunch of hangout places with big patios, several good art galleries, three yoga studios, more coffee houses than you can count, a whack of indie designers....

I could go on and on - and that's just in my neck of the woods (Queen / Bathurst area). There's the Annex, Little India, Bloor West Village, Ronscesvalles, High Park, Parkdale, Church street, The Beach, The Island - each area has it's own "scene", but they're all very open, welcoming, and fun.

It's also one of the safest cities I've ever lived in - I've never felt that tension that normally comes with walking home at 4am. Yes, there has been a gun problem lately, but it's still 1/10th of the issue that it is in a US city even half our size (the fact that every single shooting makes the pages should say something about the fact that it's still a huge deal when it happens).

And we're big on tolerance: the multicultural bit has been mentioned, but there's also a general "live and let live" attitude that permeates the city. For example, we've got one of the biggest Gay Pride weeks in the world, and my GF is constantly blown away by how much positive coverage the local media gives to the events. It's just one example.

Oh - and I don't know if your friend is single or not, but the people here are very attractive. I can vouch for the girls, and several female friends are big fans of the Toronto boys... I think it has a lot to do with the multiculturalism of the city: there are pretty people in every major city, but we get pretty from all over the world ;)
posted by nometa at 6:24 PM on July 26, 2006


As a born-and-bred Toronto girl who's visited her fair share of "world-class cities", this thread cracks me up...take the discussion on the cold: on the one hand, there's lovely evocative imagery (GuyZero: you get those clear, cold days when the sky is more blue than you've ever seen it and the light is so sharp you can almost hear it squeak against the dry snow.) and on the other there's the assertive exclamation (Sergeant Sandwich: these comments above are by canadians comparing canada's southernmost big city to the other big cities in canada. from an american-winter standpoint, they're crazy. it gets reallyfuckingcold here.)

Thought I'd chime in though about the arts scene--theatre in particular. IIRC, we have the 3rd largest theatre scene behind NYC and London. Given the sheer number of theatre companies and festivals large and small, there's definitely something for everyone: the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Stratford Festival in Stratford (duh), the Fringe Festival in the summer, Soulpepper, CanStage, Tarragon Theatre, Factory Theatre, Passe Muraille, Fu-Gen. And let's not forget Mirvish Productions.

(Can you tell I'm particularly proud of our theatres? I only wish I had more time (and money) to take it all in.)
posted by phoenixc at 7:29 PM on July 26, 2006


Oh - and I don't know if your friend is single or not, but the people here are very attractive.

You've obviously never been to Montreal.

Style to the average Toronto XX is tight and low-cut; most Toronto XY still favour the frat-boy-gone-to-seed look of sandals, beer t-shirt and ridiculous necklace. Toronto has a lot going for it, but style and beauty ain't it.
posted by docgonzo at 8:04 PM on July 26, 2006


I love living here. I've loved it more since I moved downtown, into the Chinatown/Kensington Market area.

Some of my reasons: Trampoline Hall, the Pillowfight League, free Heritage Walks, a huge Pride Week, super-cheap and tasty groceries in the open markets in Chinatown, the cutiepie clerks at Cheese Magic, lots of interesting shops on Queen West, Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington Market, the Distillery District, Room 101 Games, every kind of ethnic food you can imagine, murals and sculptures in the least expected places, a great mix of new and old architecture. It gets cold in the winter, sure, but that means we get to have ice sculptures in Nathan Phillips Square. The people who wrote uTOpia: Towards a New Toronto are similarly enthusiastic.

And of course, our street meat kicks ass, and you can actually find chip wagons on our streets (I'm looking at you, Montreal!!).
posted by heatherann at 12:15 PM on July 27, 2006


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