I live in Toronto, Canada. It is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in North America. If New York is a ‘melting pot’ then Toronto is a ‘melange’ of cultures. More than half the population constitutes of first generation immigrants and they are from all over the world. There is so much to discover! Each culture has its own neighbourhood and it helps to keep things really authentic. So head down to Little Italy for some cafe and antipasti, Little Japan for some authentic sushi, Little Korea, if you love karaoke, Little India, if you need ethnic wear for an Indian wedding reception, the list is endless.
But there is also another side to this diversity. Ethnic cultures living in Toronto do not mix well amongst each other. The Indians hang out in Brampton, the Italians in Woodbridge, the Chinese in Markham and so on and so forth. Sticking to your own culture is comfortable but it is also very limiting, especially given the fact that there is such a huge smorgasbord of cultures to try out in Toronto.
I was fortunate to be able to experience life outside the confines of the Indian diaspora living in Toronto. But it meant going out of my comfort zone and it wasn’t easy. Here are a few experiences from my personal story –
- Being a global citizen required me to be open minded and be willing to explore new and alien cultures. Even before I moved to Canada, I was interested in other countries and cultures. I think my childhood hobbies of collecting stamps and coins from different countries, fostered a healthy interest in exploring cultures beyond the confines of my nationality
Being a global citizen required me to be open minded and be willing to explore new and alien cultures
- Even before arriving in Canada, I loved eating Arabic, Italian and French cuisines (well, whatever I could grab my hands on in India). I could read and write in Russian and Arabic (though I did not understand the words). I loved learning how to say “Hello, How are you?” in different languages. Also at my favourite restaurants, I tried my best to pronounce foreign, food items (e.g. – Filet Mignon, Tagliatelle etc.), the way they were supposed to be pronounced. My friends laughed at me and thought I was just trying to act all snobbish but I was genuinely interested in learning more about those cultures
- I came to Canada with a job and not for school. I live in downtown Toronto, while all my colleagues back then, were the married, with kids, living in the suburbs type. I couldn’t hang out with them. If I was at school I would have automatically become a part of the Indian gang. Thankfully I did not have that option
- To meet people, I had to go out of my comfort zone. It was difficult but I had nothing to lose but my loneliness. I started going for a language exchange meetup called “TorontoBabel”. It still goes on at the Rivoli (Queen & Spadina) pub on the 2nd floor, every Wednesday, starting at 7:30 pm. It is a place where people from around the world who were new to Toronto congregate to meet people, exchange languages, find help learning English, or just chill out with their multicultural friends with a beer in hand
- My knowledge of exchanging basic pleasantries in various languages, become a huge social aid for me at TorontoBabel. I started making friends, going to house parties, trying out new cuisines, learning new languages. I was meeting folks from Brazil, Spain, France, Japan, South American countries, Belgium, Russia, etc. Within a few months, meeting folks from different countries became my new comfort zone and I was at home at TorontoBabel. I became a “regular”
- I got into Brazilian culture because of a few Brazilian friends I used to hang out with. I started learning Brazilian Portuguese, loved listening to MPB (Musica Popular do Brasil), loved pigging out on coxinhas, pao de queijo, feijoada, etc. and became the Indian guy who made caipirinhas (a Brazilian style mojito, using the white, rum-like liquor called – Cachaça) for everybody at Brazilian house parties
- An important point to note was that as I started delving into other cultures, I started appreciating my own Indian culture. People would ask me things about Indian culture and life in India and I started looking at my own culture in a new light. I started loving it and respecting it. Just because I liked other cultures did not mean that I hated mine. Most people think that you have to choose between your culture and other cultures. I say no! You add other cultures to your repertoire and that in turn helps you to appreciate your own
I pride myself on becoming a global citizen. But I have also started delving more into Indian mythology and my Vedic heritage
I pride myself on becoming a global citizen. But I have also started delving more into Indian mythology and my Vedic heritage. Indian food is no longer, just food for me, it has become a delicacy. I want more out of life and culture and at the end of the day I choose to follow my own heart and my desires to explore. Cheers! (or as they say in Moscow – Za Vashe Zdarovye!).
PS – If you are new to Toronto or just want to meet some new and exciting people, check out the meetup page for TorontoBabel here – Click Here.
Just ask for one of the friendly hosts – Eduardo or Anna. Tell them that you heard about this place from Ayan 🙂