This bloke used to make macarons in primary school. Could have made a fortune in Toronto!
The chap above may look a tad familiar. (No, he’s not the ruthless sleeper in Paris you call when Jason Bourne is in town.)
Cast your minds all the way back, if you will, to October 13, 2016. We featured a profile of Under The Cosh, a football blog and podcast.
Alexander Nathan is one-fourth of the brains behind that venture — and he’s a Brit to boot — so we wanted to delve deeper and find out his thoughts on Toronto.
And he also does some good work with a sporting not-for-profit, so grab a nice cup of tea and enjoy …
What made you decide to choose Toronto as a city of choice? Did you plan a permanent move, or wanted to “try it for a while and see how it goes” and it turned out to be longer than planned?
I was actually born in Toronto, and my mum is from here. My dad is English and we moved to London when I was a baby, but we’d come back to Toronto for family holidays and to visit my grandparents. It was always in the summer, of course, but I loved it and felt that I might return at some point.
When I was 18 and it came time to apply for universities I applied for five or six in the UK and one here, the University of Toronto (UofT). Once I was accepted here I made up my mind pretty quickly. It felt time for a change.
I didn’t plan a permanent move, but I also quickly took to Toronto and after a couple of years the thought of moving back to the UK didn’t seem as attractive. Especially once Cameron and his lot got into power.
But during my fourth year in university I also met my partner, who is Canadian. If there were any doubts, meeting her put an end to them — and having dual citizenship made staying here very easy.
What steps did you take to land your first Toronto job? Did the infamous “Canadian experience” hinder you in any way?
I now work at UofT, but the very first job I had in Toronto was at a bricks and mortar audiobook store. Obviously they don’t exist any more because, you know, the Internet … but I had a little bookstore experience, the interview was pleasant and informal and I got the gig.
They promptly asked me to try and sell their small collection of BBC audiobooks, thinking that people would buy them if they were recommended in a British accent. It didn’t work, often. Their customers were very set in their ways!
What’s the best/worst aspects of living in Toronto?
It’s a cliche response I know, but Toronto’s diversity is fantastic. It’s not as if London isn’t also extremely diverse, but it feels different here.
To me London always felt on edge, as if multiculturalism was fine as long as everything was going well. As soon as problems arise, fingers start being pointed. The same is true in many places, I’m sure, but in Toronto tolerance and multiculturalism feel innate and are points of pride rather than simply tolerated.
I run a football website and podcast with three mates who are Nigerian, Egyptian and Indian Canadians. There aren’t many places in the world where the four of us would have come together, but this is one of them.
I also love how manageable the city is in terms of getting around. It doesn’t take long to get anywhere, despite people’s complaints about the TTC who I think do a largely excellent job despite being ridiculously underfunded.
The worst: Snow is rubbish, as is city governance of late. One less serious thing that annoys me is that Toronto is a bugger for a culinary fad, no questions asked, especially if it’s “artisanal.”
For example, recently macarons got really popular for some reason and a number of places started selling them in a variety of colours and flavours at silly prices, and people got really excited. Bit bizarre. I just thought, “Mate, we used to make these in primary school.”
Do you make an effort to connect with other Brits in the city, or just meet them when chance allows it? Any recommended pubs/eateries/other places for homesick Brits to meet each other and network?
I don’t, really. I’m always happy to meet other Brits and it tends to happen mostly when I go to a pub to watch football.
Actually, I’m doing some work with a not-for-profit called NUTMEG. We provide free football coaching for 6-12 year-olds, but one of the founders is British and a Norwich fan. The first top flight game I ever went to was Norwich vs. Spurs at Carrow Road so it was fun to chat about that.
In terms of a recommendation, I’d say follow Davy Love. He’s the chef who owned The Bristol for years and recently made a short-lived attempt at an English pub on College Street called The Old Laurel. It was brilliant in there — dark, great food, sold Twiglets, showed football — but maybe the location wasn’t perfect for it.
I haven’t been yet but Davy is now the chef at a place called Janie Jones, so I’m looking forward to trying it out.
Open question/comment: feel free to write anything here/advice/tips on a Brit living in, or moving to, Toronto.
I would suggest listening to a fair bit of BBC radio to keep your accent in shape, leave your weekend mornings free for watching football, and switch your English driver’s licence for an Ontario one soon after moving here.
I’ve quite literally never used mine, but it’s good to have especially as most places don’t accept a health card as ID.
Other than that, I suppose try to wean yourself off Marmite because that looks like it’s about to become even more problematic to get hold of.