Successful Brits in Toronto: Alison Copeland

Alison Copeland

DJ Amber dressed for action for her weekly radio show, Rapsolute

Great with a pen and quick to spot an opportunity, Alison Copeland is a Communications Specialist with more than 10 years of experience supporting the PR, marketing and business writing needs of professional service firms.

When she’s not blurring the boundaries between marketing and PR for her business Copeland Creative, she’s creating clever ways to keep listeners hooked into her weekly music show that she hosts and produces under the moniker DJ Amber on Toronto’s newest Internet radio station, iLive Radio.

We caught up with Alison/DJ Amber to find out a bit more about what brought her to Toronto and whether all those multitude of knobs on the DJ decks actually do anything when you twiddle them randomly and shout “Yeaahh, boom boom boom … let me hear you say ‘wayooooo! Wayooooo!'”

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 definitely looking for adventure, because my creative life had plateaued in London, and I was thinking, right, what’s next?

Then I discovered the Student Work Abroad Program (SWAP) from a tiny “blink and you might miss it” classified ad in The Guardian newspaper. They were looking for gap year students who wanted to work abroad in cities like Toronto, Johannesburg and New York.

I chose Toronto, because it was relatively safer than the other two cities. Plus, I had visited once before in 2004 and I was impressed with how far the British pound stretched.

Rent prices in Toronto, for example are 39% cheaper than in London!

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

Interestingly, I landed my first Toronto job within 24 hours. I was boarding at the Global Village Backpackers Hostel, right at the intersection of King and Spadina (sadly, it’s no longer there) and there was a Jamaican restaurant about one block north called the Ackee Tree (which is also no longer there).

After ordering the jerk chicken dinner, I told the owner that if they needed a waitress, I was just one block away and could work late nights. The owner was like “when can you start?”

Four months later, I got my first corporate break, by becoming the face and voice (receptionist) at one of the world’s largest advertising agencies. It was here that I convinced the Vice President of New Business (who also happened to be British) to hire me as their media relations specialist. I worked with some amazingly talented people, and enjoyed the best years of my corporate life here.

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

The best part about living in Toronto is the cost of living, and its multicultural vibe. You can live in a reasonably good neighbourhood without breaking the bank, and you can also make friends from all around the world without ever needing a passport.

The worst aspect is that you have to develop a pretty thick skin to survive the winters. I still remember how ill-equipped I was for my first winter at -30. I couldn’t feel my ears at one point, and the burning sensation of breathing in ice cold air was annoying to say the least.

There’s also a tonne of construction, and the city can feel like it’s drowning in a sea of high rises.

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’ve been quite fortunate to meet a lot of Brits on the radio station where I host my weekly music show Rapsolute. It also helps that the station owner happens to be a British expatriate.

I’ve met fellow Brits through networking within Toronto’s creative and cultural sector, joining meet-up groups and dining at The Olde Yorke — hands down the best chippy in the city.

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

Mind how you cross the street! Cars can turn right on a red light, and even if you’ve been given the pedestrian signal to walk, you could still end up negotiating traffic when it’s your turn to walk.

Be prepared to file an income tax return each spring, even if you have a full time job, or don’t make a lot of money, because you may be eligible for tax credits and refunds on tax that you’ve already paid.

There you have it, loads of information. So catch DJ Amber on her show — if there’s a British problem she can’t fix, she can do it in the mix!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s