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Expat Tales: Multicultural Toronto living

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This article

Steve McLeod lives in Toronto, Canada, working as a digital designer for a travel company.

What inspired your move, and how long have you been there?
I wanted to play rugby in a foreign country where it would be no problem getting a visa. I had worked and travelled the world after university and came back to NZ to “settle down” – which lasted 12 to 18 months before I got itchy feet again. I love North America and with it being more difficult to get a working visa in the US, I decided on Canada. From there it came down to either Toronto or Vancouver – Toronto won out. Without knowing anyone I came over for 12 months, it’s now five and a half years later, and I’m married with a mortgage.

What do you do there?
I work as a digital designer for the Travel Corporation, the parent company of many travel brands including Contiki, Trafalgar, AAT Kings, Adventure World, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises and Insight Vacations.

What are the greatest advantages to living there?
Whether it is restaurants, concerts, sports events or travel, everything is so easily within reach. I love food and a good beverage, and with Toronto being one of the most multicultural cities in the world, there are so many different authentic restaurants and drinking spots.

Disadvantages?
My family isn’t here and it’s a long way back to NZ so that’s easily the biggest disadvantage. Also, I’m not a winter person so the winter and snow has to be a close second.

How expensive is it compared to New Zealand? How much is a beer?
A decent pint of beer in downtown Toronto would be about $7.50. The last time I went back home to NZ I noticed that groceries (some general vege items) happened to be much more expensive than here. However, all in all there’s not a crazy difference.

What do you do in your spare time?
I try to make the most of the great summer months and get the barbecue going. Ontario has a great craft beer scene and we definitely sample a few of the local drops whenever I get the chance. The cultural scene here in the city is also great so a concert or a night out at a restaurant never goes amiss.

What’s the local delicacy and would you recommend eating it?
Poutine is a must. It’s a Canadian dish made with French fries and cheese curds topped with a light brown gravy-like sauce. It hits the spot, definitely after a late night out!

Easiest way to get around?
Subway is the easiest [transport] here in Toronto, however it definitely doesn’t have the network size of London or New York.

What’s the shopping like?
It’s great! Toronto is a city of neighbourhoods and there are so many different places to spend money.

Best after-dark activity?
You can’t go wrong with going to a great restaurant and sampling an Ontario craft beer. With Toronto being so multicultural you can always find a great, and authentic, place to eat out.

Best time of year to visit?
From May to October you can’t go wrong. The summer in Toronto, and Ontario as a whole, is amazing with so many festivals and activities going on.

What are the top three things you recommend for visitors?
1. CN Tower is the “iconic” image of Toronto so you would have to check that out, the view is amazing.
2. Take a day trip to Niagara Falls, and the small town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. The falls are less than two hours from Toronto and the Niagara region has some of the best wineries in North America.
3. Visit one of the neighbourhoods like Queen Street West and sample some great restaurants, watering holes, art galleries or just have a coffee and people watch.

Besides family and friends, what do you miss most about home?
I was going to say Whittaker’s chocolate but just recently it’s being sold here in Toronto. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel around the world quite a bit and the thing I miss most about home would have to be the NZ nature and the coast – nothing compares for me.

How easy is it for you to get back to NZ?
Apart from the 20 or so hours of flying it’s pretty easy and stress-free. Toronto has the largest airport in Canada and has regular flights to the west coast of the US or Canada, where it’s a direct flight back to NZ.

For Kiwis looking to move there, which industries are seeking fresh talent?
The most in-demand jobs in Toronto are in the professional and financial services sectors as well as health care, telecommunications, media and technology fields.

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