According to typical citizens of the city, Toronto is majestic: that breathtaking skyline, the CN Tower, those soaring skyscrapers, Kensington market, Little Italy, Little Portugal, Chinatown… The list goes on. Rappers are renaming it, films are premiering in it, sports teams keep losing in it. But how do immigrants see the city? For those who fight so hard for a Canadian Work Permit, does Toronto live up to their expectations?
Well, I can assure you, the Italians aren’t too happy. Throughout my ever-so professional experience at the Italian Chamber of Commerce of Ontario this term, I’ve noticed a few differences in the way an Italian sees the city compared to your typical Torontarian. It first came to my attention when two of my colleagues, Mary and Carmela, were trying to plan a birthday party. They referred to the city as Boronto, combining “boring” and “Toronto” into one word.
To an Italian, the most striking physical characteristic about Toronto is its space; in Europe everything is small, no building is taller than 5 floors, and they’re all right next to each other. Most of my colleagues are shocked when they see a 6-lane highway. University Avenue is the width of about four European streets. But the real shock Italians experience when they move to Toronto is the lifestyle itself.
Their first real complaint is about the nightlife in the city. On Nuit Blanche, the one night of the year where it’s acceptable to stay up until the early morning hours, we were kicked out of a bar at 2am. Other bars were reportedly open until 4am that night, yet after wondering around looking for another bar, we gave up and went home an hour later. Why does the fun stop at 2am? In Europe, things are different. Last Call can be as late as 6am, and in Italy, last call doesn’t even exist; the bar closes when people leave.
Another complaint is about the working culture of Torontarians. Work is important, we can all agree on that, but in Toronto that seems to be all there is. “They live to work! In Italy we work to live,” said Carmela, frustrated with her friends. She is often unable to organize a night out with her Toronto friends because of two well-known excuses: “I have to get up early for work tomorrow” and “I just refuse to spend $6 for a pint”. In Italy, a job is but a job. It is something that you may or may not like, that provides you the means necessary to go out at night, go away for a weekend, and enjoy yourself. What’s the point of having a job if you can’t spend the money earned?
The biggest complaint I heard from Italians is about the food. Italians are sensitive to this topic. Mary and Carmerla find that in Toronto, people eat because they have to; because their bodies need nutrients. They buy whatever is cheapest and inhale it on their way to work. Italians also find that there’s no real taste to the food here. Mary and Carmela have a point. What on earth are we eating and why are we always in a rush? At least find a table or a bench to sit down and eat that Gulf War style stir-fry.
Nevertheless, Italians like Mary, Carmela and I came to Toronto for a better life, and we have obtained just that. The city has endless job opportunities. We can earn money here, which is an unusual prospect for an Italian. Why can’t Torontarians let go, and live? Stop worrying so much! While you’re off having fun, the city isn’t going anywhere. Boronto will always be here.