The trouble with Toronto is that it’s such a damn nice place to live in.
The quiet charm of its tree-lined residential neighbourhoods, the colourful bustle of Chinatown, Korea-town, Little Italy and the Danforth, the museums and galleries, colleges and universities, the towering office blocks of Bay Street and of course the markets – Kensington and the St Lawrence Market, especially, and the farmers’ markets – offer about as much interest and variety as one could reasonably want – and all in a package of tolerance and civility that puts most other major cities to shame.
It is, as they say, a very liveable city.
But to the newcomer, like myself, it can sometimes seem as if the flip side of Toronto’s acceptance is a sublime indifference – a complacency and insularity that allows one in but simultaneously keeps one out. Not so much in a social as in a business and professional sense.
Business in Toronto (and here I might include the charities, foundations, colleges and other organisations I have contacted) has a reputation for stuffiness, for cliquishness, for a lack of innovation and a lack of openness to what is going on elsewhere in the world.
All true, in my limited but very personal experience. No-one here, at least that I have met in my work-seeking, consultancy-seeking and networking efforts, seems to be able to see in my non-Canadian skills and experience anything that might add value, open up new insights and perspectives, or just plain help to get the job done, here in Canada.
You have great experience, everyone says – as if I were experienced in moon-walking, or lion-hunting. Fascinating, of course – but not much use here, unfortunately.
I guess immigration is hard, under almost any circumstances – although having pots of money (I of course don’t) would probably ease the transition. And the onus, I accept, is on the immigrant to integrate – to adapt to new circumstances, retool if necessary, find a niche in the wider ecology.
But it can feel, if I may report from experience, as though one is perpetually outside looking in – one of the huddled masses, in that classic immigrant stereotype, staring across the water from Ellis Island, to the Eldorado of Manhattan.
Or, in the more modest, apologetic Canadian vernacular, staring across the lake at the Toronto skyline, from the Toronto Islands.
There are agencies – charities and other organisations – that exist to assist newcomers of course, and there are things that newcomers can do, to help themselves. Some of which I shall be writing about, in future blogs under the category ‘The Immigrant.’