Successful Brits in Toronto: Quin Parker

Quin forgot to send us a photo, so here's a little piece of home. (Sorry, got some dust in my eye ...)

Quin forgot to send us a photo, so here’s a little piece of home. (Sorry, got some dust in my eye …)

Quin Parker is the Deputy National Digital Editor at Metro. His Twitter bio explains a few more nuggets of info: “Expat Toronto Brit in the Lagrangian point between journo and tech.”

We asked the Brits in Toronto office intern to look up “Lagrangian” on Wikipedia:

The Lagrangian, L, of a dynamical system is a mathematical function that summarizes the dynamics of the system. For a simple mechanical system, it is the value given by the kinetic energy of the particle minus the potential energy of the particle but it may be generalized to more complex systems. It is used primarily as a key component in the Euler-Lagrange equations to find the path of a particle according to the principle of least action.

So, now you know.

Over to you, Quin …

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?

We planned a permanent move from the beginning — the whole reason my wife (who is Canadian) and I moved here was because it was a place we could put down roots … something difficult in London unless you have six figures in your bank account.

I’m now at the point I could find it difficult to see myself living back in the U.K. I did name my dog Bakerloo, though, and both my children’s names are common in Northumberland.

This is a city I feel I belong in. As for why Toronto? Well, my wife is from Mississauga. She got a job in the city first, and I joined a few months later. Loved it when I first visited, love it now.

What steps did you take to land your first Toronto job? Did the infamous “Canadian experience” hinder you in any way?

Planning as far ahead as you can is key, really. When I started as an editor at The Guardian website in 2007, I knew that it would be a step towards our family moving to Toronto. Still, I’ve learned that little counts on paper and you have to network and meet people.

Face time (no, not the app) is even more important here. Otherwise, your applications get caught in automatic filters. It is hard. “Informational interviews,” which to British people are the most awkward concept in the world, are quite important — you can ask to meet people at orgs you want to work for, for coffee. And they often say yes. Weird, huh? But use them.

Hell, if you are in media, just moved to Canada from the U.K., and want to try out the concept, you’re welcome to contact me …

But do permit me a few puffs of Metro’s trumpet here. I’m proud to be part of a diverse newsroom in Toronto that actually reflects the city we live in. Three of the senior editorial staff were born outside Canada.

Given my own perspective, I certainly don’t discount resumes of people settled here but with no Canadian experience.

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

Best: All the big box stores are in malls or out in the suburbs, so Toronto has no problems with the “clone town” epidemic that has taken over the U.K.’s towns and cities. Every neighbourhood is different and characterful.

I particularly like The Junction, with the high street brewery, the optometrist that does evening rock gigs, the Icelandic-Japanese furniture store named after the Swedish word for “milk,” something that seems to be open but just has a single motorcycle in the window, and the tax preparation service with the Commodore Vic-20 proudly on display. That’s a level of eccentricity British people are usually accused of.

Worst: Many people say the traffic. I’m going to say the drivers. Toronto drivers disregard rules, not in an exciting edgy Lena Dunham way but in an obnoxious walrus-crossed-with-a-toddler way. Indicators are magic levers that make the car beside you speed up, and speed limits are literally just a suggestion.

Let me talk to Brits who are non-drivers (particularly those from London): wait till you get here to learn to drive. They give licences to basically anybody. You might even be able to find a local walrus to help you prepare for the test.

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’m in the Meetup group, which is great for reviving e-mails about where all the British people are going to be … but I’ve never actually made it, for some reason. I don’t think there is an actual “British” area in the same way as there are other countries, because there never is really, right?

You will usually find cross-pollination with lots of Toronto hipsters drinking strong tea and eating omelettes at The Bristol Yard on Christie.

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

Learn to love thermal underwear. You will find yourself staring at the sky wondering if it was ever that open, high and blue. High quality tea is available in most supermarkets. High quality Brie is not.

You will feel like a novelty with a different accent and then, somehow, you will forget you talk differently. The pavement is the road, the sidewalk is the pavement, nobody actually says “eh.”

Full stops go inside quotes and everybody understands it makes no sense but they do anyway. You pretty much have to join LinkedIn, sorry.

Camping is not, in fact, sleeping in a field conveniently close to a pub, but actually involves the possibility of bears.

If you are sponsored by your spouse, lean on them but find your own connections — it’s heavy going on a relationship if your partner is your only friend.

There are raccoons! Squirrels are the wrong colour.

You only have to go to one Jays, Leafs or Raptors game — you don’t have to become a fan, but you have to go to one game.

Religion occupies a much more central role in people’s lives here, therefore somehow it matters less.

On a bicycle, don’t undertake a Toronto taxi unless you want to start a new career in the exciting world of purée.

Visit the city’s ravines.  It’s quite alright to go to Google Maps and scroll through the ludicrous vastness of this country and get overwhelmed: Do it every few weeks, so you don’t forget about it.


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