We have to give a big shout out to Claire D. for introducing us to the latest Successful Brit in Toronto, Andy Wright. She connected us, didn’t ask for any commission and thus, here he is.
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 originally relocated to Canada from the old country in 2001 with my wife and two daughters. We were based in Kitchener/Waterloo (where they still live) while we found our feet and made our mark in this wonderful country.
Moving to Toronto was a decision that came at the end of a difficult change in life and circumstance for me. Suffice to say that I knew my photographic career, and my personal life development, had a much more interesting future ahead of it here than anywhere else in Canada.
What steps did you take to land your first Toronto job? Did the infamous “Canadian experience” hinder you in any way?
The “Canadian experience” thing was a total pain in the nuts when we first moved here. Back then I was still working in the corporate IT world and despite having a CV full of experience as long as your arm … nobody would give me that first break. Especially difficult when you start job hunting in the same month as 9/11 happening and suddenly finding that no one would employ anyone from anywhere else for ages!!
It reached a point where we had consumed most of our savings for our start here and I was considering heading back to London to do some contract work, when I finally landed a job here.
I lost a few jobs because I was unaware of the cultural differences — I was used to interviews where you spent the last 15 minutes discussing the package and benefits and such — totally normal expectations for any job interview in London, but over here you’d think I had dropped my trousers and peed on the desk for the reaction I received when I asked about the salary and compensations of a management position.
I ended up attending several government-run workshops that explained how the Canadian marketplace worked (which was very different) before fully appreciating the etiquette of getting employment here.
Now as a visual artist running a visual media studio in Toronto, I find that people love the accent, and it certainly helps to start conversations.
The funniest thing I find is when shooting live concerts for British bands, and the venue will automatically assume that you are part of the road crew for the band because you sound like the others. Something that I have been able to take advantage of now and again to find a better angle to get “the shot” through using my cheeky charm.
What’s the best/worst aspects of living in Toronto?
Best aspects: It’s a beautiful city with lots of green space, and some wonderful views, and a fantastic vibe. Plus as a visual artist I am always finding something new to pique my creative interest as I wander around. I also love the fact that they just “get on with it” when there is snow here and the whole place does not shut down when it reaches zero degrees or we have a quarter inch of snow on the ground.
Worst aspects: The London Underground network of a hundred years ago covers more areas, included more stations and successfully ran more lines than modern day Toronto can manage. We have only just added a rail link to the airport, and it takes as long to drive to another city as it does to use a mainline train. Considering the amount of people here it’s quite shameful at how inadequate the transport infrastructure is.
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?
Until now I have not consciously been out there searching for people with whom I can share a joke and not have to explain the punchline, or finding people that get that sarcasm and black humour are normal and inoffensive. I have close friends who are Brits living here too, and they help to keep me from missing it too much. It’s more chance encounters than anything that bring me across paths with other Brits currently.
I’d happily raid a Firkin pub and steal some of the fixtures and fittings and décor, but they certainly don’t feel like a slice of home. It has been a struggle to find something near to a good local that I would feel at home in to sup on a good pint etc.
And trust me — if I ever find a café or restaurant that actually serves a mug of tea instead of a cup of hot water and a tea bag I will be shouting it from the rafters to get others to go there!!!!
The one gem I would share is the BGW (British Grocer Wholesale) at 2905 Argentia Road in Mississauga. Fantastic foods from home at a really good price. Well worth the trip.
Open question/comment: feel free to write anything here/advice/tips on a Brit living in, or moving to, Toronto.
If you have just got here …
1) Stop mentally converting prices in your head. It gives you a great sense of value and bargain when you first get here, but really is a false sense of fluffy that you need to get beyond.
2) Get a good supply chain in place with people back home to bring in huge supplies of Marmite or good cheese whenever possible.
If you are moving here …
3) Be prepared to get lost in some of the processes here that have an inherent sense of “we know how its done — so should you” which can often be frustrating when trying to get settled as an outsider.
4) You won’t die when winter hits and the world does not end. Some day you will find yourself thinking that a sunny minus eight degrees day is really warm and might not even close your jacket or put a hat on when you head outside!!!
Some great insight and tips there, Andy — cheers mate. Check out Dead Fly Media too if you get a chance.