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Essential Insights for Immigrants: Uncommon Tips for Moving to Toronto


Toronto is often hailed as one of the world’s most multicultural cities, a place where every culture seems to have left an indelible mark. If you’re planning to make this Canadian metropolis your new home, you’re likely already aware of the need for warm clothing, a SIN (Social Insurance Number), and perhaps some understanding of the healthcare system. However, there are several lesser-known, yet critical, insights that can make your transition smoother and your experience in Toronto more enjoyable.

1. Understanding the “Toronto Silence”

Torontonians are known for being polite and reserved. This cultural subtlety often translates into what’s known colloquially as the “Toronto Silence”—a public demeanor where people respect personal space and privacy to the point of minimal interaction in public spaces. Don’t be surprised if your smiles or greetings on the street aren’t always returned; it’s not personal, just the local norm.

2. Credit History Starts Fresh

Many immigrants are unaware that their credit history doesn’t follow them to Canada. You’ll be starting from scratch, which can make securing loans, credit cards, and sometimes even renting an apartment more challenging. Consider applying for a secured credit card or joining a credit union to start building your credit score promptly.

3. The Importance of ‘Canadian Experience’

Despite your qualifications and experience from your home country, you might hear that you lack “Canadian experience.” This can be frustrating but is a common hurdle in the job market. Volunteering is a respected way to gain this experience, network with locals, and enhance your resume.

4. Weather Beyond the Cold

While much is said about the Canadian cold, Toronto’s weather can be quite diverse. Yes, winters are harsh, but summers can be surprisingly hot and humid. Spring and autumn, though brief, are extremely pleasant and beautiful. An assortment of clothing that you can layer is essential throughout the year.

5. Unspoken Queue Etiquette

Queuing or lining up is an unspoken rule that’s taken very seriously in Toronto. Whether it’s waiting for a bus, in a grocery store, or buying tickets at a cinema, jumping the queue can attract disapproving glances and even confrontation.

6. Diverse Food Scene

Toronto’s food scene is as diverse as its population, offering cuisines from around the globe. However, dining out frequently can be expensive. Many immigrants are surprised by the high cost of alcohol and eating out. Exploring local markets and cooking at home can be a more economical and rewarding way to enjoy Toronto’s culinary diversity.

7. Recycling and Waste Sorting

Toronto takes its recycling and waste management seriously. There are specific bins for garbage, recycling, and organic waste in most residential areas. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the waste disposal guidelines of your area to avoid fines and help maintain the city’s cleanliness.

8. Healthcare Access

While Canada’s healthcare system is publicly funded, access can vary. In Ontario, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) covers many health services; however, it doesn’t start immediately. There’s generally a three-month waiting period before coverage begins, so private health insurance is recommended during this period.

9. Neighbourhoods Matter

Choosing where to live in Toronto isn’t just about affordability. Each neighborhood has its own character, community, and sometimes even micro-climate. Spend some time understanding the vibe and amenities of different areas. Whether it’s the artsy streets of Kensington Market or the upscale vibes of Yorkville, each area offers a unique living experience.

10. Language and Communication Subtleties

While English is predominantly spoken, understanding local slang and idioms can take some time. Phrases like “I’m sorry” can mean anything from an apology to a polite way of saying, “I didn’t hear you.” Getting used to these nuances can be crucial for effective communication.

Moving to Toronto, like any big life change, comes with its challenges and adventures. Knowing these lesser-discussed aspects can help you navigate the city not just as a newcomer, but as a soon-to-be local. Welcome to Toronto, where every neighborhood tells a story, and every street corner offers something new to discover.

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