In a few words, how did you come to Toronto and why?
My first visit to Canada was in May 2012 with my husband. We ditched our plans for a European honeymoon after I saw an online photo of Lake Louise and the Canadian Rockies. I had the best 2 weeks of my life in Vancouver and Banff. On our return flight home, after an epiphany, I knew I had to return to this beautiful country. It took us a year and half of saving up and completing our immigration paperwork before we took our flight again to Canada – this time to Toronto.
What do you like about this place? What do you find exciting?
I appreciate the diversity in Toronto. Close to half of the population in the city are foreign born; so as an expat myself, I’ve never felt out of place. Diversity is well embraced here and you can find a variety of food from all corners of the world.
Canada, as a whole, is blessed with dreamy landscapes like mountains and plains, to alpine lakes and boreal forests. Even the changing of seasons looks like a painting; from the explosion of flaming gold, sunny yellow and crimson red in autumn to the ice covered lakes and tree branches in winter. Coming from tropical Singapore, it took time to adjust to the ever- changing weather here, but I’ve grown to love it.
Is there anything you like less?
I’m definitely guilty of whining about the public transportation in Toronto. The TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) dates back to 1921, so it’s plagued with delays, track failures and detours, almost on a daily basis. They perform track repairs on weekends too, which I find rather baffling since public commute is heavier on the weekends so that means more detours for us!
How did you change since you come here?
I ’ve started picking up the “I’m sorry” habit! Canadians use the word “sorry” a lot to apologize or in place of “Excuse me”. The first time it happened, I was in the grocery store and I bumped my cart into someone. Before I could react, the person says “sorry” even though it was obviously my fault not his! It surprised me but now I’ve grown used to it.
I’ve also started eating healthy and learning my way around the kitchen. My perception of cold is officially skewed too. When you’ve gone through days with -33C (-22F) temperature, a day of sunny 7C (44F) feels almost like summer, like it’s time to break out the ballet pumps!
What did you leave behind?
My family, friends and a job in Singapore that promised stability. I wanted to break out from the routine and take the less traveled way, even if it means starting all over again.
What were the first thoughts when you arrived in Canada? How did they change over time?
To be honest, I was anxious when I landed in Toronto. I wasn’t sure if I could make friends easily and the thought of facing my first Canadian winter was nerve wrecking. This year’s winter was exceptionally brutal, probably the worst winter that Canada has seen over the last decade, with most days in subzero temperature. But I learnt that having the right attire and attitude makes a difference in getting through winter. Today I have a group of Canadian friends and expat friends whom I cherished. Since I have my husband with me, I never truly felt lonely.
What is the main difference between the cities that you lived in?
Besides the weather and natural landscapes, the way Singaporeans and Torontonians live are vastly unlike. In Singapore, children live with their parents and move out only when we get married. I guess we’re more family oriented but at the same time, the high cost of living, especially the exorbitant rental and mortgage prices, makes it almost impossible to score our own place before tying the knot.
Things work differently in Toronto of course. I’ve enjoyed the freedom and independence that I’ve gained over the past couple of months, and every day I’m thankful for that.