Immigration to Canada has long been almost synonymous with two key options: either relocating to Canada’s west coast, or to Toronto. The steady influx of people moving to Toronto, both from abroad and from within Canada, has given the city its reputation as a very international, cosmopolitan place. Since its founding in 1834, the city has repeatedly grown — not only due to newcomers making Toronto their home, but also by amalgamation with its surrounding municipalities and suburbs, most recently in 1998, when East York, North York, Etobicoke, Scarborough, and York were merged with the former city of Toronto.
The city proper is home to about 2.6 million residents, many of which came to Toronto from abroad. The population of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA, see below) even exceeds six million. Almost half the city’s residents are foreign born. Foreigners moving to Toronto have helped make the city one of the most ethnically diverse municipalities on earth, surpassing even the famed diversity of New York City.
This impacts not only the cityscape and its neighborhoods — see the section on Toronto’s neighborhoods below — but also the languages spoken around town. As Toronto is a popular destination among people from all around the globe, there are sizeable ethnic communities with many different languages and backgrounds. Foreign languages spoken by a considerable part of Toronto’s population include Chinese, Portuguese, Urdu, Tamil, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, and many more. English, however, obviously remains the official language, and anyone moving to Toronto should make sure they have a good command of English.
Those who, for whichever reason, are not interested in moving to Toronto proper might want to look into Toronto’s neighboring municipalities: Durham, Halton, Peel, and York constitute the Greater Toronto Area. Not only are rental prices often considerably lower than in the city itself, but the GTA is also home to some of the best expat employment opportunities in the region, making Toronto’s “outskirts” an attractive option for expats. We have taken a closer look at the GTA’s economic performance in our article on working in Toronto.
Moving to Toronto’s metro area does not mean you will be unable to enjoy the unique cultural spirit that Toronto radiates: all regional public transportation services are linked to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). There is also an additional network of suburban trains, the GO Transit.
If you insist (or are dependent) on using a car in Toronto, you will quickly make the acquaintance of the King’s highways, the busiest and largest highway network in Canada. Highway 401 is one of the main traffic arteries in the GTA and among the busiest highways in the world. Seeing how traffic is often less than relaxed, to put it mildly, you might want to consider making ample use of the various public transportation options Toronto offers.
Within the first few days of living in Toronto, you will surely see a very clear pattern arise in the design of most street signs. Most of them do not indicate only the street you are on (obviously), but also the neighborhood. And neighborhoods are aplenty in the city: some claim that there are upwards of 240 distinctly identifiable parts of town. Some only extend for a couple of blocks, others are much larger; however, their sheer number (which has also gotten bigger over time, see above) has earned Toronto the nickname “City of Neighborhoods”.
Many of the various social and ethnic groups in Toronto have claimed specific neighborhoods for themselves. Sure, Chinatown and Little Italy are North American city staples, but the large variety of neighborhoods with very distinct feels and atmospheres still makes being an expat in Toronto a special experience. Distinct architecture, ornamentation, sights, smells, and sounds — many neighborhoods perfectly encapsulate what Toronto is all about: “Diversity Our Strength” is the city’s motto. On moving to Toronto, any newcomer should take their first week off just to explore the countless neighborhoods. It’s well worth it!
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