She ain’t from around here: advice to new Torontonians

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I am not from the city. I’m from that rural-surburbia crossbreed of a neighbourhood, where some families live in old victorian houses and others dress in camouflage and go cow-tipping for fun.

Now's a good time for a good time for a stereotypical hick pic
Now’s a good time for a a stereotypical hick pic

I am in no way ashamed of where I’m from – how can you grow branches without roots, am I right?! But I will be the first to admit that there were quite a few shocks making the transition from small pond to big ocean.

I'm a city girl now!
I’m a city girl now!

Here are a few tips to get you started in the Big Smog…

1. Have an opinion about Drake.

Love him, hate him, or don’t give a damn? Be aware that this guy’s influence is massive in this city. “There was no real radio station or market for a lot of rap back home, but I can sing Redneck Woman in my sleep!” is not a good excuse. Trust me, I’ve tried. Bonus points for knowing about the OVO crew!


2. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone from Toronto cheers for the Maple Leafs.

Tread cautiously in hockey world.



3. Upon entering TDot, you must pledge allegiance to the Raptors.


This team is kind of a big deal
This team is kind of a big deal

4. City folk can’t stand manure, country folk can’t stand sewer.

It’s just the way it is! Is regional sense of smell a thing? No? Okay, I’m making it one.


5. You will sell your soul to the TTC.

There are too many cars in this metropolis, and if your idea of traffic is 10 cars at a stoplight on Main Street, you’re in for a big surprise! If you’re in the downtown core, you can probably transport yourself faster on foot when it comes to weekday rush hour, otherwise I’d suggest investing in tokens. Your love/hate relationship with the Toronto Transit Commission is inevitable, but I promise it’s the most efficient way to get around 95% of the time!

Say hello to my little friends - these tokens are the key to getting around the Six!
Say hello to my little friends – these tokens are the key to getting around the Six!

6. Know your city on a compass.

Intersections are not always clear, and you’ll look like a fool if you say to a friend that you’ll meet someone on the South-West corner, end then tell your cab driver to go North-East by accident.

(Helpful Hints with Kiera: South is where the water/CN Tower is! Mississauga is to the West, Scarborough is to the East.)


7. Find your place in the crowd.

This is a city of 2.8 million people, and you are bound to find yourself in a sea of faces and stories. Know how to walk confidently like you’re on a mission, and learn to master the art of the “Oops, I missed my destination” U-turn.


8. You will never fully understand city slang.

I once dated someone who kept a running list of my “hick” expressions, and rubbed it in every time his phrasing went over my head. Patience, young grasshoppers: you will (mostly) catch up. Besides, the slang is usually silly anyways – THEY are the ones who sound ridiculous!

Me on the daily…

9. The rumours about Torontonians having weather-phobia are true.

Sure, it gets cold here (we’re in Canada, gotta keep up with the igloo stereotype), but it is much colder in my hometown and this city has made me a bit of a wimp. You’ll understand what I mean when you inevitably find yourself hiding from the elements in the PATH.

I got to work here in the snow this past December!
I got to work here in the snow this past December!

10. Identify by neighbourhood.

Not only will this make apartment hunting easier, but you’ll really start to identify unique people and places in each area. When you let yourself explore and get lost, you’ll find you’re much less drawn to the typical tourist traps. Adventure calls!


11. You will meet the most incredible people.

My background is pretty bland, I’ll admit, which is why I’m constantly excited about being surrounded by such awesome diversity. I’ve become friends with people from countries and communities I didn’t even know existed! Good food? Cool culture? New languages? Sign me up! Make sure to check out Pride and the many ethnic festivals we have year-round.

Grupo Latino Hola. Copyright ©2013 Ruth Lor Malloy

12. Cities are expensive.

Know where to eat, shop and play for good n’ cheap! One of my favourite finds is the St Lawrence Market. Fresh and cheap food, and on Sundays they have a super cool antique market!


13. Your Tim’s loyalty is no more: Starbucks is the Coffee Queen.

You may be hard-pressed to find a Timmies, but there is likely to be a Starbs every block or so. Plus, we all know that where caffeine is to be found, so are students.

Hello, sweet caffeine addiction.
Hello, sweet caffeine addiction.

14. Own who you are.

Small towners have a certain charm (or so I’m told). Maybe I am just oddly polite to people but often city dwellers think I’m peppy, sugary-sweet, or even fake-nice. I make small talk with salespeople and wait staff, and smile at people on the subway if we make eye contact. I for one like this about myself, so if these are habits picked up by small-towners – I suggest you keep them. They do set you apart, and you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, right?


15. You will have two great places to call home.


Before long, you’ll be the one tourists approach for directions while you’re confidently walking along Yonge Street. You’ll know how to expertly navigate the TTC and find the best ways to spend your Friday nights downtown.

So journey forth! Lay the foundation for your new life here, and be sure to keep me updated! Us small-towners have to stick together 🙂

Welcome to Toronto, and DFTBA,

– K


3 thoughts on “She ain’t from around here: advice to new Torontonians

  1. Hi Kiera, I have been happily entertained by reading the posts you have on here, they are very informative and super enjoyable to read! Anyways, I’ll skip to the part where I tell you: I’m a grade 12 student looking to apply to York, and I have a big interest in studying international studies. So, I’m not gonna lie and say fate led me to you. I “intentionally” found you on the international studies program page on York’s website, I can’t imagine how much comments/ letters you would get each day with that much “publicity”, haha 🙂 So, I just wanted to ask you more on how international studies has shaped the life you have now and how would you advise someone like me to pursue the program, and what I should do to get the most out of this program. Also, what I can do to get into the program, and if I get in, what can I do to get a good head start (prepare in the summer), what can I say? I’m a keener. Thanks!! BTW, I’m Iris. Nice to meet ya~

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