Monthly Archives: September 2013

Successful Brits in Toronto: Fiona Knight

Fiona Knight Photoshopped in front of Niagara Falls

Fiona Knight Photoshopped in front of Niagara Falls

Today’s brave victim to be profiled as a Successful Brit in Toronto is Fiona Knight, Owner/Consultant at Fiona Knight Consulting Services in Toronto. She gave a very non-committal and unsure “ummm” when I asked her on Twitter, but now I have the info there’s no turning back.

What made you decide to choose Toronto as a city of choice?

My family immigrated to Kitchener in 1978 and soon after I found the Big City of Toronto
on a school trip, I have lived here since 1981 — on and off. Raised my family here and started my business here in 1993.

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 not the one planning anything; I actually returned to live in Croydon in 1983 and came back to Toronto for a lad … been here ever since! However, I do get to travel a LOT for my special events work and go home to England nearly every year, sometimes twice a year.

What steps did you take to land your first Toronto job?

My first official Toronto job was as a backup singer — as I have been in the music and entertainment business most of my life it was not at all difficult to land. However, I was also working as a chambermaid at the Roehampton Hotel while I was singing at the
Chick’N’Deli on Mount Pleasant (and other jazz spots), which worked out well for getting on the job ladder in hospitality.

Did the infamous “Canadian experience” hinder you in any way?

Not really, although this was the late ’70s = different times!

What’s the best/worst aspects of living in Toronto?

Best – most diverse and wonderful city in the world and great food and local neighbourhoods from all over to discover! Worst – it takes a LOOOOONNNNNGGGG time to really meet people who might become your forever friends here. I took a long time to get used to the reserved nature of the typical Toronto lifestyle; no one invites you out — they are too busy commuting one to two hours each way for work.

Do you make an effort to connect with other Brits in the city, or just meet them when chance allows it?

I made my own networking opportunities with other like-minded folk to meet and hang out with! AND, I must admit, most of my good friendships are still across the pond or with ex-pats here.

Any recommended pubs/eateries/other places for homesick Brits to meet each other and network?

I am part of a Meetup group for U.K. ex-pats and those who love them (lol) that holds pub nights around town, and pub quizzes are very well-attended. I live in Cabbagetown and was lucky to have two local pubs for most of the 30 years I have lived here, with a darts league and footy teams, so easy to meet folk. I find that pubs will advertise if they have special nights, so easy to track down a variety of activities. More difficult for young parents and those who do not live in the downtown spots. I found it VERY hard when I had a child until
I happened across a bunch (gaggle) of English and Scottish nannies in the local playgroup, then it got easier.

Open question/comment: feel free to write anything here/advice/tips on a Brit living in, or moving to, Toronto.

FREE ADVICE – BE PREPARED TO NOT FEEL TOO BRITISH WHEN IN ENGLAND AND NOT TOO CANADIAN WHEN IN TORONTO!!! Explore the two sides of your new lives and contact me for anything advice or event wise!!! Twitter and LinkedIn or 416-939-0090.

Thank you Fiona for being a good egg and taking part!

Just English? Good show, old chap!

Sir. Geoffrey Entwhistle Esq. desperately searches for a Tim Hortons

Sir. Geoffrey Entwhistle Esq. desperately searches for a Tim Hortons near Union Station

I still get the same questions: (1) “So, which part of Scotland are you from?” or (2) “Is it nice in Australia?” and (3) “Looking forward to St. Paddy’s Day?”

(1) Not. (2) Yes. (3) Of course — we’re all Oirish that day!

Then I cry inside, rush home and put on the BBC News and start pronouncing “how now brown cow” over and over until my accent returns.

Being a Brit in Toronto is a mixed bag of emotions. It’s a fantastic city, full of ethnicity, things to do, a big lake and easy to get around. I’ve embraced the life it’s afforded me and feel very grateful.

But … there’s still that part of me that really misses the gentle clink of a pint glass in an English country pub on a Sunday, the dire warning of “Mind the gap!” and — of course — how the whole of the country unites as one during World Cups/Euro, the Eurovision Song Contest and a murder on EastEnders.

I read this article — Being “just English” left me confused in multicultural Toronto — with great interest.

The writer, Daniel Rouse, mentions: “Admittedly, being surrounded by wonderfully diverse people all the time can make one feel a little, well, ordinary or inadequate. In Shrewsbury, with parents hailing from Manchester and Sheffield, I felt a delusional exoticness as a kid: I had a slight accent and regularly spent time up north.

“In Toronto, surrounded by people with parents from different continents whose households speak at least two languages, I’m a mere unilingual, applying thick layers of factor 60 under whatever shade I can find.”

I feel proud to be British living and contributing to society in Toronto. I don’t try to hide it in any way, but also don’t play on it. (This website, you point out? Yes — aimed at Brits in Toronto, but a resource of information. Not to set us apart.)

The mix of people and cultures in this city is what makes it such an interesting place to live. Everyone has a part to play, wherever you may be from.

Totally biased product review by me — Walmart Butter Chicken

Gotta say I've had "better" chicken. See what I did there?

Gotta say I’ve had “better” chicken. See what I did there?

Stuck again all day in the Brits in Toronto office cubicle. It’s such a buzzing place, full of action and ringing phones, that I didn’t get a chance to grab some lunch.

No worries — Phil from accounts had left his Walmart Butter Chicken in the office fridge, so I borrowed that instead. It wasn’t labelled or anything.

Things got off to a rocky start when I followed the on-packet instructions to “tear off corners to allow hot steam to escape.” Upon checking the microwave three minutes in, I noticed a lava flow of molten hot rice bubbling over the edge of the plastic container and making a mess.

As to the actual taste of the cuisine itself, I found the aforementioned rice to be a bit gloopy and stuck together, not fluffy at all. Bit disappointing, but rice is not my favourite part of a curry anyway … so onto the meat.

The chicken was OK — nothing special. Needed a bit more seasoning, and the spice factor was VERY LOW. I didn’t need to blow my nose once. Very tame. (But then butter chicken is a mild dish anyway, so was to be expected.)

One saving grace was that the portion size wasn’t too bad. I wasn’t stuffed or anything, but this will get me through my late afternoon conference call with the Welsh in Toronto office and to dinner.

I give it a Brits in Toronto 2/5 stars.

The Toronto Brit Meetup Group

Now that, my friends, is how you crop a teaser screenshot

Now that, my friends, is how you crop a teaser screenshot for maximum pre-click anticipation

It’s a lonely life running Brits in Toronto. Here I lurk, anonymously in the shadows, like a cyber-Oliver Twist waiting to reach out and grab snippets of useful information to present as an offering to British ex-pats.

Sometimes I lie awake at night, gazing up at the CN Tower under the twinkling stars, wishing there was a way to meet other British Blokes, Geezers, Ladies, Lassies and Birds in a face-to-face, social setting.

It’s hard to meet people when you uproot from friends and family and make that big, sometimes life-changing move to another unfamiliar city. Sometimes you need a friendly face to help you get settled.

Introducing The Toronto Brit Meetup Group. Founded in 2003 — the momentous year that Brogdale enters the U.K. Weather Records for the highest ever recorded temperature of 38.5 °C. — the group bills itself as “a social meetup of individuals, ranging from Brits who are ‘New to Toronto’ all the way through to the offspring of Brit parents.”

(Not sure of the use of the word “offspring” personally; think I saw that used in a video trailer for The Hills Have Eyes … but I digress.)

The group have social events every two weeks and also pub quiz/trivia nights, the staple lifeblood of a good British pub. There’s over 1,000 Brit members (and “offspring”) in the group, so seems like a great way to meet fellow ex-pats and chat about the weather, the meaning of a “double-double” and “What the hell is a Chesterfield again?” over a beer or strong cup of Rosie Lee.

They will know who Curly Watts is, trust me, always a good conversation-starter. So why not check them out and get to know some Brits in Toronto! (And probably Brits in Mississauga, Oakville and Burlington too, but that doesn’t play well on the theme of my website. Sure they’re nice people too. Unless they’re “offspring.”)

Which pub in Toronto do you watch your football at?

Watching football in the pub. Sunglasses optional

Watching football in the pub. Sunglasses optional

There’s nothing better than when game day comes along, and you head to the pub to watch the game with fellow fans. Which Toronto-based watering holes consider themselves the HQ for which teams?

I’m trying to compile the definitive list for all the English Premier League teams, but need your help to spread the word and complete it.

So far, we have pubs listed for fans of Toronto FC (guest inclusion as the home town club!), Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Everton, Chelsea, Sunderland, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle, West Ham, Aston Villa and Arsenal (yes, there are six Gooners in Toronto apparently).

Over to you, fans in Toronto! Contact me or tweet me and let’s make this list happen.

Mayday! Mayday! Curb idiotic radio presenters. Stop people from Ann Arbor, Michigan immigrating. Or it’s the end of the Canada we know!

Mayday! Mayday! Curb Idiotic Radio Presenters. Stop People From Ann Arbor, Michigan Immigrating. Or it's the end of the Canada we know!

Come on, give me a smile you granola-crunching, tree-hugging thug hugger

Until this morning, I thought Lowell Green was the name of a nice little British town in the middle of the countryside where residents washed their cars on Sunday, enjoyed a lunchtime pint and always said “Good morning, Bert, how’s the wife?” to the milkman.

How wrong I was. Thanks to the Globe and Mail’s media reporter Steve Ladurantaye who tweeted these quotes from Mr. Green, I was roundly educated.

“To summarize: CFRA’s Lowell Green believes there are forced marriages in Ontario because immigrants can watch satellite TV from homeland.”

“Lowell Green’s deep reflection on immigrants: ‘They can’t read Canadian books, and watch native television from their homeland everyday.'”

Where do I start?

First off, Mr. Green is an IMMIGRANT. According to Wikipedia — which is never wrong, and totally accurate, always — he was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan and IMMIGRATED to Canada as an IMMIGRANT via the IMMIGRATION process. There’s a theme there somewhere. Stick with me.

So, having enjoyed a successful career as an IMMIGRANT to Canada, Mr. Green then goes on to write a book with the subtle, yet gentle, almost whimsical title of Mayday! Mayday! Curb Immigration. Stop Multiculturalism. Or it’s the end of the Canada we know!

Hard to tell from the title which way Mr. Green is leaning on the subject, and as I haven’t had time yet from my daily life of being a successful and contributory IMMIGRANT citizen to Canadian life, have not read the book.

But then again, according to Mr. Green, I “can’t read Canadian books.” Oh well. That’s that, I suppose.

And as for the satellite TV comment? I literally choked on my cucumber sandwich when I read that! As Steve Ladurantaye asked me, “Do you insist on watching Coronation Street?”

Oh yeah. All the bloody time. I can’t function in Toronto society without knowing who’s shagging who at the Rovers.

Ridiculous.

/Rant. I’m off to enjoy a lukewarm cup of tea and read about my fellow IMMIGRANTS to this welcoming country who are doing great things.

Grab your Spotted Dick

It's SPOTTED DICK. Great time-waster for health website search engine bots

It’s SPOTTED DICK. Great time-waster for health website search engine bots

Poutine is delicious! It’s the national food of Canada (I think?) = chips with gravy and cheese on. Really yummy. But sometimes you have a hankering for some Spotted Dick, a Curly Wurly or the real Heinz Baked Beans. (You know what I mean, smiley wink face.)

British Corner Shop contacted me about being featured on Brits in Toronto. As simple as that, here they are. NO MONEY CHANGED HANDS! There was talk of an affiliate program where I get a percentage of sales from clicks to their site blah blah. But no. Maybe in the future Brits in Toronto can start begging for ads and sponsors, but in the spirit of full transparency and honesty, we need to develop a bit further along first.

That means bringing you great, interesting, relevant content that is useful and — I hope — fun to read. Please spread the word, link to us, bookmark us, subscribe to our RSS feed/e-mail alerts, tweet the crap out of us etc. Good things will come if we get the traffic and support.

Oh — here’s the deal. Thanks to Chris at British Corner Shop (extra link for good karma), just quote BRITSINTORONTO2013 when ordering and you get 10% off. Not bad eh? (That’s “eh” as in “agree” and not “eh” as in “Sidney Crosby looks great, eh?” I still have an accent, thank you.)