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Interviewing Today’s Torontonians

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I left Toronto at the beginning of May 2014, after living there for just under a year. Upon leaving, I thought about writing a long-winded ode to Toronto, a post that would tell you all about how much the city means to mean, and my impressions after living there. But then I realised that giving you my opinion of Toronto, considering I had only really experienced the place for such a short time, would only tell you so much. I felt like I needed to connect you with Toronto in a much deeper way.

As I’m incorporating local travel in Gotta Keep Movin’ more and more, I decided that the real people to ask about Toronto are the people who live there – the locals that have walked its avenues, taken its streetcars, and sipped its coffee for years. I reached out to a group of people I met and worked with during my time in Toronto, and asked them exactly what the city means to them; what they think are the characteristics that give this place its identity and make it oh-so-TO. You’ll see some running themes about Toronto through all of these answers, but you might equally notice striking differences. Here are the experiences of 6 people who call this city home.

 

Mikey Sadowski – Marketing Coordinator at Intrepid Travel

 

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Favourite neighbourhood in Toronto?

Tough question. There are so many amazing pockets in this city that serve their unique purpose. If I had to choose one I would have to say Chinatown. It has everything. Insanely good (and authentic) food, great bars, produce stands and unique shops. From Dim Sum at 10am to King Lobster night caps at 3am, it’s an exciting place to be any time of day.

If there were one place or landmark in Toronto that represented what the city is, what it stands for, where or what do you think it would be?

It has to be Kensington Market, a neighbourhood that once served a hub for immigrants settling in Toronto. Today it is a melting pot of every culture and cuisine. It is truly is a place for everyone, from all walks of life. The market is constantly changing but it always remains true to its roots.

What would you say is the biggest misconception people have about Toronto?

Everyone always says people from Toronto think they live in the centre of the universe. I don’t get that at all. I think we all appreciate that we live in a great city, but I feel other people take us more seriously than we do.

What characteristics are most commonly found in people from Toronto?

I think Torontonian’s by nature are very outgoing and accepting.

 

Anna Zissou – Founder of Cynefin Co | Brand & Digital Strategist, Graphic Designer, Community Manager

 

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Favourite neighbourhood in Toronto?

I have to say that currently my favourite neighbourhood is the Junction. It seems to exhibit a truly affable atmosphere as well as possess a distinctively vintage feel when it comes to the aesthetics of a many number of shops and restaurants. I have only recently discovered the area myself, however I’m growing quite fond of it. It’s really very charming!

Of course, I also quite fancy St. Clair West (where I call home), Kensington Market, The Distillery District and Liberty Village, to name a few.

If there were one place or landmark in Toronto that represented what the city is, what it stands for, where or what do you think it would be?

I think the most obvious answer to this would be the CN tower, as it’s a sort of iconic image connected to the city, in its many variations. From photos to artistic renderings.

In a more personal light, for me, Toronto is sort of mapped out via relative connected spaces. Those who have read the Scott Pilgrim series know that its based out of Toronto, and includes a many number of well known Toronto locations. Many of which are in my neighbourhood, St Clair West. Casa Loma, Hillcrest Park, The Goodwill, Knives’ School, Second Cup, The Baldwin Steps, The Wychwood Library, etc. When I first moved to Toronto, having been a long time fan of the series, this is actually how I began to navigate the city and quite a few of the locations are still favourite spots. There’s this kind of shared history tied to them that is part pop culture and part personal experience. I think one of the reasons the series is so well received is that it’s essentially a love letter to geek culture.

I also created a “Scott Pilgrimage” list based on the locations a few years ago.

What would you say is the biggest misconception people have about Toronto?

Honestly, I think that really depends on the perspective of the individual and their situation. Having lived in Toronto most of my adult life, I can’t really speak much to that personally. I can however pose a few observations based on comments I’ve heard.

I think that people (who live outside of the city) often assume that your life is engaging, exciting and that you’re always running around on all kinds of adventure, attending events and partying. That’s just not the case! Sure I do these things sometimes, but I also have quiet nights at home, work endlessly, and much prefer to meet with friends or read alone at a small cafe.

I’ve heard people say that as a typical Canadian I apologize too often. This is likely entirely true.

What characteristics are most commonly found in people from Toronto?

I find it hard to generalize when it comes to characteristics as there is such a wide range of personalities here!

I’ve seen a huge growth in the entrepreneurial community. There are a a variety of individuals with eclectic backgrounds involved in start ups that they are passionate about. I could attend a entrepreneurial focused networking event somewhere in the city, any night of the week. I’ve also seen an increase in the number of “maker” shops and work share spaces, so I think that’s something people are really interested in too.

On a slightly more shallow note, there are a lot of very attractive people in Toronto!

I find people to be generally friendly, stylish, and accomplished.

 

Cheryl Howard – Travel Writer & Photographer at CherylHoward.com

 

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Favourite neighbourhood in Toronto?

My favorite neighbourhood is St Lawrence Market. I actually live just a few hundred feet from the market and regularly shop there. I especially enjoy the antique market on Sundays. Market Street has also received a complete makeover and many new restaurants have opened there. Evolution Food Company is my new favourite lunch spot. Aside from that, I love how close everything is – the downtown core, the Distillery District, Cherry Beach, the Island and more.

If there were one place or landmark in Toronto that represented what the city is, what it stands for, where or what do you think it would be?

I would say – Toronto’s gay neighbourhood. I think it’s a positive reflection of the city’s diversity and acceptance. The World Pride celebrations is a reflection of this.

What would you say is the biggest misconception people have about Toronto?

That it’s a boring city. I’ve read articles written by esteemed travel writers who claim this as well. Look to any of the local blogs, there’s so many things happening every weekend that it’s hard to narrow down a choice. The sheer volume of places to eat is staggering. I’m not sure how anyone could ever be bored.

What characteristics are most commonly found in people from Toronto?

We’re friendly and nice, good old Canadians.

 

Maggie Coblentz – Jewelry Designer & Co-owner of Liel and Lentz

 

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Favourite neighbourhood in Toronto?

I’ve lived in many neighbourhoods in Toronto at various stages of my life, and I’ve loved all for different reasons. Usually, my favourite neighbourhood is simply where my favourite restaurant is at any given time. Currently, I’m having a culinary love affair on Ossington Ave.

If there was one place or landmark in Toronto that represented what the city is, what it stands for, where or what do you think it would be, and why?

What I love about Toronto is how almost every intersection serves as a thoroughfare to four different cultural hubs. I used to live in Little Italy, but magically just north of me was Koreatown, a two minute walk west was Little Portugal, and Chinatown was also close by…the list goes on. I think Toronto’s overarching diversity is what represents it best.

What would you say is the biggest misconception people have about Toronto?

That it lacks a sense of identity, or cultural definition. Toronto hosts a vibrant community that is acutely aware of its “Canadian-ness”, that distinguishes it from a handful of American cities. Diversity is also what springs to mind when considering what makes Toronto truly unique.

What characteristics are most commonly found in people from Toronto?

I believe that Toronotonians are characterized by their openness and tolerance for one another, despite having diverse and individually distinct cultural backgrounds.

 

Jason Kucherawy – Owner/Operator of Tour Guys and Toronto Urban Adventures

 

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Favourite neighbourhood in Toronto?

My favourite neighbourhood is Kensington Market. It’s small, with narrow streets and packed with unique locally owned businesses ranging from restaurants to vintage shops to fish markets. It’s got a very relaxed atmosphere most days but really comes to life during Pedestrian Sundays (the last Sunday of each month) which sees the main roads blocked off to traffic and used for a neighbourhood street festival. Everything you could want is within a couple city blocks.

If there were one place or landmark in Toronto that represented what the city is, what it stands for, where or what do you think it would be, and why?

If there was one landmark or place in the city that represents what Toronto is or what it stands for, it would have to be the CN Tower. It was built in the 70s when Toronto was coming of age as a major city. In that decade we got our professional baseball team, there were a few skyscrapers built with many more planned or under construction, the waterfront was being converted from an industrial wasteland to an attraction, and everyone watched this engineering marvel reach into the sky, taking our imaginations with it. It’s our most recognizable landmark and a symbol of our aspirations as a city.

What would you say is the biggest misconception people have about Toronto?

I think one of the biggest misconceptions people have about Toronto is that it’s not a very interesting city. I frequently hear from visitors how surprised they were how much larger Toronto was than they expected and how much more there is to do and experience here. The diversity and variety of people here also surprises visitors. I suppose many people think of Canadians as pale skinned with blue eyes and aren’t expecting to hear a lot of Cantonese spoken on the street or see women in burkas minding their children at playgrounds here in Toronto. Our city motto is “Diversity our strength” for a good reason.

What characteristics are most is  commonly found in people from Toronto?

Canadians have a reputation for being polite and friendly. People from Toronto generally keep to themselves in public, which might make us seem unfriendly, but if you ask for directions or start a conversation with people here you’ll find us quite friendly. Other Canadians think Torontonians are cold but visitors tell me we’re really nice! We also apologize if someone bumps into us and it’s not our fault. We aren’t confrontational at all.

 

Mary Chong – Founder of Calculated Traveller Magazine, and Freelance Graphic Designer

 

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Favourite neighbourhood in Toronto?

Chinatown on Spadina is my favourite Toronto neighbourhood because its where I lived during my youth. I have fond memories of summers hanging out in Kensington Market shopping for vintage clothing, walking through the University of Toronto campus to the various book stores shopping for good reads and just being within walking distance to the hustle and bustle of downtown Toronto. Other reason I love Chinatown – food – where else can you get good healthy eats at 2am after staying out late with friends.

If there were one place or landmark in Toronto that represented what the city is, what it stands for, where or what do you think it would be, and why?

The CN Tower is one of those iconic landmarks that says “Toronto” but quite frankly it isn’t easily accessible to everyone. I personally think that the Toronto Harbourfront is more representative. The harbourfront is a people place where you can experience free live entertainment, arts and crafts from all the nationalities that represent Toronto as well as dine at many of the multicultural food vendors. Plus, I’m pretty confident that all Torontonians have visited the harbourfront at one point in their lives yet, I know quite a few people that have never been up to the top of the CN Tower due to the costs involved.

What would you say is the biggest misconception people have about Toronto?

Because Toronto has such a large population, there is a lot of industry, business and entertainment news happening here all the time, people outside of Canada always think that Toronto is the capital of Canada, when in fact it’s actually Ottawa.

What characteristics are most commonly found in people from Toronto?

I think that Torontonians in general are very open minded. Toronto is a very multicultural city with people from all cultures, religions, backgrounds and lifestyles, and we generally live pretty harmoniously with each other.

 

Have you ever been to Toronto? What were your impressions compared to these locals?

 



4 responses to “Interviewing Today’s Torontonians”

  1. The diversity was one of the main things that struck me when I visited Toronto and the exciting buzz of being in a truly large City felt familiar to New York, but I found Toronto friendlier. The food options are staggering and there is so much on at any one time. I loved Toronto even though I never expected I would. The beaches, harbourfront, islands, markets and distinctive neighbourhoods are what I loved the most.

    • Gotta Keep Movin' says:

      I think I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did either, Katie, so I feel the same way. I miss it pretty much every day! I think the diversity ties in with all the food and everything going on – the people from all walks of life bring all these influences and it does Toronto a huge favour. What a city!

  2. I’ve only visited Toronto once but I loved the four days I spent there! This just makes me want to go back ASAP!

    • Gotta Keep Movin' says:

      Go back nooooow! 😉 It’s such a wonderful city, and I think these guys really did it a lot of justice. Totally underrated.

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