the Pros and Cons of Living in Toronto

One of my old posts about the pros and cons of living in Toronto has been getting a lot of hits recently, so I thought I’d create a little updated page now that I’ve lived there for a good 4 years. I’ve lived in a couple of different places (the United States, Canada, Taiwan, and now Ireland), so my view of Toronto will be compared against my experience in all of these countries. Let’s get right into it!

Public transportation: I used to think public transportation was a nightmare in Toronto. Certainly it could do with improvements, but it’s great compared to Irish public transportation where delays can go up to 2 hours and there are no shuttle buses to replace train service. A monthly metropass for an adult is $141.50, but you can get discounted passes if you have an annual subscription. They’ve also introduced the Presto system this year, which I have no idea about unfortunately. If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’d feel like to be a sardine in a tin can, rush hour on the TTC would be the time to learn. It’s overly crowded with limited oxygen, and people are extremely rude after a long day at work. Surprisingly, the most civilised public transportation system I’ve experienced is in Taiwan – where people actually wait in a single-file line and 2 minutes is the longest you have to wait for a tram. They also have some kind of program where you can load money onto your metrocard and use it to pay for things like Starbucks or what-not, but I’ve never tried. They also have the bullet train, which can get you from one city to another in record (train) time.

Food: This is where Toronto rules. You can get pretty authentic food from every culture in Toronto. Some of my favourites include the burger deli inside select Rabba 24-hour marts, pastries from Chinatown, greek food from the Annex in front of OCADU, Bandidos Burritos, and Matsuda. Eating out is a common activity with friends. You can always satisfy a food craving in Toronto. There are large supermarkets like the Real Canadian Superstore, Loblaws, and Costco where you can get groceries. Groceries aren’t cheap though – in fact, it’s the most expensive out of all the countries I’ve lived in. Be prepared to fork out $4.99+HST (taxes) on a tasteless box of strawberries. Given the prices, it’s cheaper just to eat out or buy in bulk from Costco, then survive on the frozen foods for 3 months.

Housing: It’s insanely expensive. You get ugly micro-units for $1,300/month not including utilities if you live downtown, and furnished homes are likely to include only a shitty $50 IKEA bedframe, stained mattress, and an old plastic chair. It gets cheaper the further outside of the downtown core, but keep in mind that probably means a long and crowded commute to work/school, regardless of whether you drive or take the subway. Roommates can also be a hit or miss. I found that roommates didn’t tend to socialise with each other like they do here in Dublin. We locked ourselves in our own rooms and avoided each other at all costs. Heck, I didn’t even know the names of the last people I lived with. We also didn’t share any cookware like we do in Ireland. So if you have roommates, there’s going to be 4 frying pans, 4 pots, a million plates, and one disgusting dish sponge.

Driving: I didn’t drive when I was in Toronto, but I do have friends who did. They often complained about having to wake up super early to beat the morning traffic, and let me tell you… that I know is a disaster. My first private condo was on the 37th floor, and I could see the highway in the distance which would be completely plugged up with car headlights as early as 5:30am. At the same time, if you don’t drive, you will have to trudge through slush and snow in your eskimo boots in the winter to get anywhere.

Weather: After experiencing life in 3 different climates, I really can’t decide if Toronto weather is a pro or a con. It’s 40 degrees in the summer and then -40 degrees in the winter. Summers are very sunny with few showers, and winters are blustery, slushy, and bitter. If you live in the suburbs though, you can get the gorgeous fall colours, which is one thing I really miss about Toronto… seasons. Spring and fall may not last too long, but at least they are there. Pumpkin spice lattes, apple picking, and snow on Christmas day are all things that just make you feel good.

Employment: Retail and service jobs seem to be super easy to come by. I’ve not met a single person who was unable to find a job within 2 weeks in that industry. I myself interviewed and landed my first job as a barista only 4 days after moving to Toronto. In terms of career jobs… I’m not 100% sure because I left for Ireland as soon as I graduated. But based on what I’ve heard and my friends, the most popular careers start out at a bank branch in customer service, and then getting promoted into analyst roles. But other than that, Toronto seems to be quite competitive and your first job will probably be an low-paid/unpaid internship. There are a lot of open positions in career jobs, but you also have to keep in mind that pretty much anyone who comes to Toronto looking for a career job will be very highly qualified. My advice would be to look for employment agencies or smaller companies to start out, to get your foot in the door. Don’t expect to land your dream job immediately, but at the same time, don’t be ripped off.

People: Torontonians can be a mixed bag. It’s super multicultural, especially compared to Dublin (even though Dubliners claim to be very multicultural). I found that the cultures were very isolated though – the Koreans hung out with Koreans only, the Italians hung out with Italians only, etc. It’s gotten to the point where walking down the street, you wouldn’t hear any English. I personally didn’t have a very positive experience with most people in Toronto. I found them to be rude and a bit too Liberal, and having a skewed vision of feminism that dominated every conversation. Everyone seemed to have a sense of privilege and arrogance. Of course there are others who are the stereotypical friendly Canadians, but these days it is rare. To be honest, the people are 2.6 million reasons of why I chose to leave. On the other hand, I have friends who claim Torontonians are the nicest people they’ve ever met, so I guess it really depends on your personality.

Shopping: There’s lots to buy, everywhere. Eaton Shopping Centre, Yorkdale, York Mills, Scarborough Town Centre, and all those little boutiques on Bloor Street. It’s expensive A.F. though. If you don’t mind paying $400 for a jacket, then sure! I have to say though, Toronto is the only place where I’ve seen good-looking clothes. Quality was cheap in Michigan, style too cute in Taiwan, and too granny-ish in Ireland (black tights with every single kind of skirt and floral on everything? Yuck.)

Well, from the above I make it sound like there are more cons than there are pros. But I was in Toronto when I was a student working 3 jobs simultaneously in order to pay all the bills. If you are able to get a well-paying job, I think you would enjoy Toronto because you can afford a lifestyle to compensate for some of the bad. And there are definitely a lot of things you can buy to give yourself a comfortable lifestyle, whether that be a massage after work or a lakeside apartment that isn’t only 500sqft.

Hopefully this has helped you in your research – and in any case, it’s still an experience to live in Toronto. You never know where it will lead you!

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  1. Can you do a post about the pros and cons of living in Ireland? I am thinking about doing a SWAP there next year.

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