*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Visiting Toronto, from Tokyo.

I am resident in Tokyo, but am visiting my childhood home outside of Toronto for the month of July; so I am a Canadian, but my eyes are a bit different to Toronto, since I now view it as a Tokyo resident. I want to point out what many visitors will notice strongly, that locals take for granted: I will not get into the politics or planning, which most visitors are happily ignorant of. I will alternate good with bad, and see if I can keep it balanced.

- Toronto is full of tree cover and parks
- the streets are full of overhead wires
- there are garbage receptacles on the street, which are vanishingly rare in Tokyo
- and yet there is more trash on the street in Toronto
- the streets stink of garbage in the pedestrian shopping streets

- it is easier and cheaper to find parking
- half of the lanes are full of parked cars, which remain free to traffic, in Tokyo
- the roads are full of holes
- repairs must take forever, as there are blocked lanes with nobody at work in them

- transit is quite cheap
- there are only two subway lines (OK, 2.3); there are many places to go that subways do not
- trains are not as crowded
- trains are not as frequent, or reliable
- streetcars look cool!
- streetcars are hot and unreliable
- streetcars, buses, trains, and even taxis, are much filthier in Toronto

- people do not ride all over the sidewalks, as in Tokyo
- it is dangerous to cycle here, sometimes even to walk, and yes even to drive, statistically

- servers can be more creatively helpful
- servers are less professional and reliable
- portions are bigger
- adults should not eat that much
- meals costs much more, after the 30% for taxes and tip
- some cafés are very good
- most coffee is very bad

- people may be more friendly to strangers, than in Tokyo
- people may be more rude to anyone, than in Tokyo
- there are a lot of ethnicities in Toronto, and mixed families
- not all of them seem to integrate
- people are more casual and relaxed
- people dress like crap, or like children
- far more people are obese, even some Asians!

Just a few initial impressions. Your experience may differ. I clearly have little love for Toronto... because I know Tokyo, and Montréal.


  1. Spot on! I did a similar post comparing Canada in Japan on my blog at the end of 2006. http://bit.ly/mQxIpS

    I dearly miss the trash receptacles of Canada.

    I'm going to be in TO for an evening and a morning this month to catch a train. Though it'll be brief, I'll let you know what I think.

  2. Please do! Add to this in the comments, if you could.

  3. good stuff - think all of us expats can make a couple of these lists for our (former) home versus (new) home. I at least do...

  4. Just read yours, @Derek. My favourites:
    - "the avg. cup size must be 2 sizes bigger." But remember that gravity is a bitch when they are naked.
    - "Deodorant!"
    - "Nobody wears suits." Apart from the financial district.
    - "Homes have central heating." My mother's house is 1500 square feet, all of it comfortable, of course.
    - "People have free time." Well, they waste a lot of time driving and mowing lawns...
    - "Everybody is direct and open with each other." Yes, even when you wish they'd bugger off. Maybe that is my British half, but I do not care if a stanger has had a good, or bad, day. I just want a civil interaction. Hmmm... I knew there was something about Japan.

  5. My experience in Toronto:
    Everything does cost a lot more! $8.99 for a breakfast that I could make better for under $2 at home? Get outta here!

    Also experienced:
    -Having to interrupt cashiers from texting on their phone to be served.
    -Having to interrupt receptionists from Skype video chat and Facebook to get information.
    -Diverting blame and being unapologetic.

    +The average person was quite friendly though. Nobody was shy to start up a conversation (in a food court or on the bus/train). I, however, never do this unless I'm interested in the person. Like you said, sometimes "I wish they'd bugger off."