Visiting from the Caribbean? Welcome to Toronto. You have chosen the city with the world’s most diverse population of immigrants, apparently even more diverse than New York City.
We are growing toward three million and if you are from any one of the nations of the Caribbean you will find compatriots here.
In a sense, Toronto is a bargain for visitors like you because with one plane ride you can experience more cultures than you could have possibly imagined.
First, you will notice there are more Jamaicans here than other Caribbean people, but you will also notice that they are part of a larger expatriate Caribbean community that does not really engage in arguing about which island is better.
We all get along as Caribbean people here. As a matter of fact, sometimes when a person from another Caribbean island is questioned by the police he might tell them he is from Jamaica. True thing. So, how is that for unity?
About our climate, let’s hope you brought a variety of clothing. The temperature here tends to be very irregular, except on the first day of school, which is rapidly approaching. Almost like clockwork, the first day of school, right after the first Monday in September, is a gloomy day that is usually overcast.
Also, as if someone has flipped a switch, the temperature goes from summer-like to fall rapidly. There is no gradual transition.
Of course this year being Mother Nature’s big wakeup call on global warming – sorry, climate change – you may be able to wear your sandals for your entire visit.
A word about our politicians: Pay no attention to them; they pay little attention to us. You should know however, that we have a penchant here in Toronto for “colourful” mayors.
If they are not very colourful, we put up with them to show fairness. Then as soon as possible, we elect someone we can make fun of for a good while until he or she does or says something so absolutely outrageous that we choose another quiet bureaucrat for balance.
Outrageous would include comments such as this one attributed to former mayor Mel Lastman in the run-up to his trip to Africa for Toronto’s 2008 Olympic bid:
“What the hell do I want to go to a place like Mombasa? I’m sort of scared about going out there, but the wife is really nervous. I just see myself in a pot of boiling water with all these natives dancing around me.”
The mayor we have now, once aggressively waved his middle finger at a mother and child after the mother tried to chide him for using his mobile phone while driving. You should know that for public safety reasons it is illegal here to use your hand-held mobile phone while driving, but not illegal to, as the locals say, flip someone the bird.
Photo evidence also indicates that the current mayor will read and drive at the same time – he is a very “busy” man, so if you see him don’t ask “ridiculous” questions about that kind of thing because whether you’re “White, pink or purple” he won’t have time for you.
About using our public transit system to see the sights, you may have been expecting something more world-class, and we apologize, especially if you are staying with relatives out in Scarborough or the outer reaches of the city. We like to discuss public transit here; only occasionally will we get around to expanding it.
Furthermore, because we legislate everything and have a by-law for everything, we don’t allow entrepreneurial maxi-taxi operators and the like just springing up even where there is an obvious need. Sorry.
By the way, Canadians have a reputation of being really nice people. There is a strong tendency among them to say “sorry” and “excuse me” in response to any number of situations. You should know, however, that the latter comment usually indicates a greater degree of irritation.
In public spaces, Torontonians will hold open the door they go through just long enough to hand it off to the next person coming behind them; some will even stand and wait awhile until you get to the door. A few will always stand there, sometimes holding a Tim Hortons’ coffee cup. Use your judgment on such occasions.
Anyhow, please enjoy your stay and your cross-border shopping.
A note on a search…
We know of the ongoing debate about where to find the best roti in Toronto, but where is the best jerk chicken to be found?
By PAT WATSON