Brits are a modest lot. Even though we’re the funniest, make the best tea and once owned the world, we’re still very modest.
Robin Brown is modest. His tweet accepting our invitation to be the next featured Successful Brit in Toronto attests to that. He moved to Toronto in 2003 and is now Environics’ Senior Vice President of Consumer Insights and Cultural Markets (the SVPCICM for short).
He is also the co-author of Migration Nation about Canada’s multicultural markets. Here’s the trailer.
Apart from plugging his book to a worldwide audience of information-hungry British immigrants with money to burn who read Brits in Toronto, we also had some questions for him …
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 had moved from the U.K. to Asia when I was in my mid-twenties and I ended up living there 10 years, meeting my wife and starting a family. The company I was working for was acquired by a global company and I approached them for a new role. I guess I shouldn’t say this here but I asked if there were any positions in the U.S. — but there weren’t. There was the position managing the Toronto office.
So you could say I did not choose Toronto. It chose me. And I am very glad it did. I love living here.
What steps did you take to land your first Toronto job? Did the infamous “Canadian experience” hinder you in any way?
I was fortunate. I had a job here and came here on a work permit. I have acted as a mentor for newcomers seeking employment on behalf of Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC)’s Mentoring for Change program and I am well aware of the challenges and the infamous “Canadian experience.” I believe it is often another way of saying, “I’m not really sure about you.”
What’s the best/worst aspects of living in Toronto?
I love Toronto. It’s a cliché but I love the diversity. My wife is Chinese and we agree that this is probably the best city in the world to raise our kids where they can feel entirely comfortable and be so connected to their twin identities. I like the values, the fact that basically if you’re nice and behave yourself you can do and be what you want. I think it is very respectful.
Also, I live near the waterfront and sometimes when I walk my dog on the beach I stop and wonder at how fortunate I am to live in a place like this.
The worst? Well you’re asking me on a day when it snowed in April so there’s that. I arrived in February and I remember in my early days eating lunch alone, sitting in a food court with my winter coat on, the floor grey with slushy footprints and thinking, “What have I done?”
And restaurants giving me a cup of lukewarm water with a tea bag on the side.
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?
Not really. I was coming here from Asia so I’d already been away from home for 10 years. My neighbourhood (the Beaches) is very British. Places to meet? Not many. I remember a British colleague of mine complaining that if England won the World Cup (big if) we’d have nowhere like Little Italy to congregate and celebrate. The largest concentration of Brits I have come across would be Scallywags pub during any international rugby or football match.
A very active networking organization for ex-pats from all countries is InterNations.
Finally, I never fail to hear a British accent when I go to Cinamon Indian Bistro and I would advise any Brits nearby to go there. You may not meet anyone but they’ve got great food.
Open question/comment: feel free to write anything here/advice/tips on a Brit living in, or moving to, Toronto.
They’ve probably heard it already but my advice to those newcomers seeking employment is to network like crazy. Personal connection is important here. And while it is important to reach out beyond your community, do not be afraid to leverage connections with your fellow immigrants from the U.K. or wherever you are from.
Most of us here in Toronto are immigrants and I am always impressed with how willing people are to help those who have newly arrived if they can.
Fantastic — thank you Robin. Curries, pubs, lukewarm tea and a budget-conscious trailer for your book … this Successful Brits in Toronto post had it all!