Successful Brits in Toronto: Katya Garipova

Katya Garipova

Katya used to sound British but now she sounds like a Russian Australian … a Braustralian, if you will

Pete Beale from EastEnders was the loveable market trader that constantly tried to flog spuds to punters as they wandered around Albert Square. Who can forget his cheeky Cockney banter and shout of, “Awight tweacle?!” to Sharon, or Kath. We can’t recall who, but he was a sales legend.

Katya Garipova also tries to flog her wares, but because this is not 1985 EastEnders, now has the power of the Internet to help her. In fact, we first spotted her on Facebook in a Brit-expat group and offered her a slot as our next Successful Brit in Toronto.

Katya is a British illustrator, designer and art director living in Toronto. Her family is still living in Berkshire, Leeds and some in South Wales.

We’re not sure which part of South Wales, but probably not Pontypridd.

That’s a bloody shame because here’s some fun facts about Pontypridd we featured a while back:

  • Pontypridd is twinned with Nürtingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany and Mbale, Uganda.
  • Notable people from Pontypridd include Tom Jones, Indie-folk band Climbing Trees and the drummer for AC/DC.
  • Pontypridd has its very own community radio station GTFM 107.9 run by a voluntary management committee.

So, let’s DRAW some ARTful answers from these following questions to ILLUSTRATE why Katya is successful …

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 not originally intending to stay in Toronto or even Canada permanently, but things changed a lot and now I’m a permanent resident! Initially I came to visit on holiday eight years ago and loved everything about the city, so I applied through the BUNAC program to live and work in Toronto for an extended period after graduating with BA from Winchester School of Art.

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

I started doing freelance graphic design work for a small Canadian company while still in the UK to have something to show on my resume when I came to Toronto. Skype and e-mail was my best friend.

Before I arrived, I made sure to research. I applied to some job postings before arriving and told them when I will be arriving, to which a few replied with, “Sure, get in contact when you’re here” — which I did.

When I arrived, I immediately started to apply to more places and doing interviews from the connections I built before coming. That in turn landed me my first proper Canadian job in a multimedia design and production studio.

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

It took some time to get used to not being able to walk over to any ATM and take out money for free. (Your bank, only!) Or not having free bank accounts here in general.

Also, the added 13% tax on everything still throws me off at times! And the tipping took getting used to, definitely.

However, the best would be the friendliness of people, the incredible mix of cultures and backgrounds of everyone around you. Almost everyone you meet is from somewhere else, and made Canada home.

There is also so much great food here it’s ridiculous. I have never been so adventurous with food until I came here.

People are very open minded, and supportive. This city is also probably the most influential in the country. When it comes to the art, design and advertising industries, it’s the most buzzing with opportunity. And it’s growing like crazy.

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

I actually don’t know any other British people here! Although many of my colleagues have family in the UK. Over the years I have made a lot of great friends through work and hobby-based meet up groups or events.

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

To be honest, the only places I would advise if you’re craving some Twiglets and such would be British themed sweet shops in downtown Toronto, which there are a bunch (expensive, though!). There are also many British-style pubs.

My favourite option has always been to have my family mail me or bring me my favourite things during holidays or visits.

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

For students: As far as I’ve found, people in the art, design and advertising industries here don’t really care about your schooling or educational background … it’s not something they’re familiar with; GCSEs or A-Levels is gibberish.

So if your work is solid and you’re willing to go out of your comfort zone and meet people, you can become successful.

It’s always going to be tough to leave everything you know behind and start a new life elsewhere. You have to want to it to make it work. The amount of growth as a person you experience from doing something like that is immeasurable.

You’ll need to adjust to the language and slang for sure, but it’s not a big deal.

Expect for everyone to tell you how exotic and amazing your accent is. They love it here.

After some time away, your British accent will probably morph and you will become a foreigner to your own people back home. There will be laughs. After seven years of living in Canada, people here can no longer pinpoint what I am — I get Australian a lot! — and my South-England British accent is now permanently tainted with Canadian intonations, “Rolling-rrr’s” and unintended “‘eh’s.”

There’s also hints of Russian in there. But that’s just more exotic, I suppose!

Brilliant stuff. Katya’s art is also very good and you can see an extensive selection of her wares at these following fine Internet establishments:

Etsy
Instagram
Facebook
LinkedIn

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