Wow, Brits in Toronto finally made it. Hit the big time. We have a celeb for you! Say hi to Harry Hill, he of the badgers! He is —
Our apologies. Say hi to Barry Hill.
What made you decide to choose Toronto as a city of choice?
I returned to Canada a few years ago to be near my parents (who are originally from The Wirral, Cheshire, a wonderful place). Toronto was the nearest ad agency hub to their Canadian home, now in the charming hamlet of Sarnia — the Roman name for Guernsey, by the way. So not much choice for me.
I had just spent 12 years in the former colony of Hong Kong as a copywriter, last at Ogilvy where I wrote ads for The Economist, Dove “Campaign for Real Beauty” and HSBC Bank. (Ads viewable on my website www.hillcopy.com, profile on http://ca.linkedin.com/in/barryhillcopywriter.)
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?
What steps did you take to land your first Toronto job? Did the infamous “Canadian experience” hinder you in any way?
Before moving back, I brainstormed a direct mail piece that would (theoretically) impress T.O. creative directors, as I had no Canadian ad experience; then the lovely Mrs. and I hand-crafted and mailed 20 packages from Hong Kong. Miraculously, I landed a great job within six weeks.
Incidentally, I do miss Hong Kong’s amazing U.K.-built subway system, something I’m sure brother Byford has assessed. 😉
What’s the best/worst aspects of living in Toronto?
I met and married a girl from the Empire of India while in Hong Kong, so I’m reminded annually that winters here are the worst aspect — but she truly loves everything British, especially history and sporty cars, so what can I say.
We tease each other a lot about the rich combined “backstory” of our two nations, usually referencing the Kho-i-noor diamond “theft” and Ghandi, so I inevitably lose. But then I remind her she can’t make curry like her mother (sadly for me).
Best of T.O.? I’d say the relative safety and cleanliness for its size. And the fact it grew and prospered on the stability of British rule-of-law, discipline and engineering of course.
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?
Mostly chance, but I’m always up for a chat about the Motherland. Although I’m not averse to a pub, “and now for something completely different,” I suggest good old C of E as a fine place to meet a diverse range of Brits wherever you are in the world, whether Toronto, Hong Kong … or Sarnia?
Open question/comment: feel free to write anything here/advice/tips on a Brit living in, or moving to, Toronto.
The first stop for my parents was Toronto — in winter. Mum still jokes that someone should’ve warned her to bring more than smooth-soled shoes, as she had a few slips at first. (Again, C of E really helped them fit in initially.)
She’s still fascinated by what the original pioneer women went through … “they’d put most modern men to shame,” she says. Mum is one of those typical charming old feisty-but-loving English gals that melts your heart.
By the way, my parents said coming to Canada was the best decision they ever made!
Not really advice per se, but perhaps of interest, and to pay a bit of homage: my dad was a very young D-Day RAF mechanic — yes, I came very late in his life — and a patriotic U.K. history nut, so as a child I got the tour of seemingly every cathedral, castle, Roman fort and torture chamber in the Kingdom.
Interestingly, he crashed his motorbike after the war and met my wonderful mum as his nurse … good can truly come out of bad! It also means I can trace my ancestry back through a 350cc Ariel.
Although dad was a very reluctant choirboy, through him I eventually came to love King’s College Choir, Christmas carols, and the whole rich British choral tradition (now incl. Libera).
I confess to being a bit of a Royalist since he made me memorize them all back to 1066; I’m also hooked on many Brit TV shows on TVO and PBS.
Last and most importantly, my team(s): as an adopted Wirral-ite,I cheer for Liverpool, Everton or Tranmere Rovers — depending on who’s winning.
Hi Barry. If your mum hasn’t done so already, I suggest she read “Roughing It in the Bush” which “chronicles Susanna Moodie’s harsh and often humorous experiences homesteading in the woods of Upper Canada. A frank and fascinating account of how one woman coped, not only with a new world, but with a new self, this unabridged text continues to justify the international sensation it caused when it was first published in 1852.” (amazon.ca) Should be required reading for every Canadian. Simply amazing.
Thanks for you kind comment Joanna — I just checked with mum, and here’s what she said: “A great book & a great eye opener to the pioneer world & all the trials they had to endure. As i remember there are 2 sisters? They came from a wealthy English family. Thanks the lady very much for me.” (Yes, she’s active on e-mail!) It sounds like it should be required reading, as you said, along with much other Canada-UK history, although somewhat unpopular I hear — perhaps we should write our MPPs and hope for the best.