Life In Toronto as a London, Ontario Local

I think most people who are both born and raised in the same city have a burning desire to leave. Toronto is just two hours away from London and usually the utopia of every young Londoner. You’ll constantly hear things like, “I just gotta get out of this town” or, “Toronto is sooo much better than London.” In all honesty, I was slightly disappointed when I got to Toronto. I was also going through a lot of changes in that time, which may have impacted my feelings. Today, I’m going to compare the two cities on food, entertainment, transportation, cost of living, and my own experience. As a disclaimer, I am only speaking from my own biases and experiences. I only lived in Toronto for a couple of months and worked a minimum wage job which would all impact my enjoyment.

Food

First, let’s compare the food options in the two cities. Considering Toronto is the larger of the two, it has way more locally owned and unique restaurants. I’m vegan and finding a *good* all vegan restaurant can be a challenge. Toronto seems to be much more accommodating for vegans as it has tons of vegan spots. My favourite spot and one I still dream of is the Vegandale Brewery (My go-to on the menu is the Chick & Bac & Ranch – I’m drooling just thinking about it). It’s not like London doesn’t have any vegan options – there’s Plant Matter Kitchen, V Food Spot, and The Root Cellar. Yet, London is still mainly filled with big chain restaurants. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some people love simple chain restaurants, it all depends on your personality. For further comparison, if you are social and a big foodie, Toronto gives you the opportunity to constantly try out fun new restaurants. If you prefer cooking at home and don’t care to eat out often, London will likely satisfy your needs. For me personally, I really enjoyed trying to restaurants and having a variety of vegan food to choose from.

Entertainment

It’s so easy to find something to do in Toronto, there are always events happening in the city or a cool new pop up to check out. For example, if you check out blogTO‘s website there are several events coming up this month alone at the time of posting, including an open mic, comedy pop up, and a The Office trivia night. If you’re into music there are always shows going on. You can find anything from big names to small indie bands playing all year round. If an artist or band is going to play in London, they generally need to have a pretty decent following. If they are a large super-star, they’ll likely only play in Toronto. Artists like Michael Buble, Def Leppard, and Bryan Adams visit often in London, but someone like Lady Gaga will probably just visit Toronto. blogTO keeps you updated on all the things you can do in Toronto on any given day. Unfortunately, London is still too small to have anything similar.

Toronto simply has more things to do. There’s a beach within the city whereas, in London, you’ll need to drive at least 45 minutes to Port Stanley beach to dip your toes in the sand. Many Torontonians I’ve spoken with who live further from the beach say they never go (at least in their case they can take public transit to a beach). You might prefer a private pool over a public beach to relax in with friends/family. You’ll likely not find many people with their own private pool in Toronto. London is much more affordable to have a property with a private swimming pool.

Since Toronto is a major city, there are a large variety of bars to pick from, ranging from your classic dive bar to even a Harry Potter themed novelty bar! If you’re just looking for a chill place to grab a drink and converse with your friends, London has you covered. As far as shopping goes, most of the major stores that I needed to travel to Toronto for can now be found in London (i.e. Forever 21, H&M, Urban Outfitters). However, I no longer shop at any of these stores. Check out my post on slow fashion to learn more. Toronto offers more locally owned boutiques, but you can find the same items online. You can find a lot to do in both cities. Toronto has more going on simply because it’s larger. If you are super outgoing and need to constantly do something new, then sure, maybe Toronto is a better option. I will say I do miss being able to go to a random bar on a random day and see a good band play.

Taking a walk through one of the many forests in London

Transportation

How do you like to get around the city? Do you mind public transportation or do you really like to drive and prefer owning a car? Well, your response will really help gauge what city’s transportation infrastructure is best for you. London is very much designed to have a car. There have been too many damn times in my experience that the London Transit Commission (LTC) was either late, didn’t show up at all (even though the live update app said one was passing), or drove by me because it was too full. According to Moovit, the average wait time for public transit in Toronto is 14 minutes. I can’t find stats for the LTC, but I can tell you I probably wouldn’t feel as much disdain toward the LTC if the wait time was that short. I should mention, I’m strictly comparing the LTC to the TTC. The TTC is definitely not world-renowned public transit and has its own share of issues.

Stores and places you need to go to in London are typically spaced out and there are a large number of parking lots/garages in London. This is also why Uber and Taxi rides tend to be more expensive in London than in Toronto due to the further distances you need to travel to get to your destination. More often than not, your grocery store likely won’t be a very close walk from your home. You may want a car to buy a lot of food so you don’t have to make too many trips (especially in the cold winter). However, in Toronto, nearly every neighborhood has everything you need within a walk or has easy access to public transit stops or stations.

Photo by Jha Visuals on Unspla

In London (where there is only a bus system), stops are much more spaced out which can make it difficult to catch certain buses depending on your location. When I was in University, I had to take two buses that would total a 40-minute bus ride (that would have been a 20-minute car ride). In Toronto, my route was approximately 15 minutes. By car, it would probably take closer to 20 minutes to get to the same location due to traffic.

From what I have noticed, people in London try to avoid using public transit unless they don’t want to drive or can’t afford to. The majority of people I know own a car. According to a 2011 household survey, 85.4% of Londoners commute in a vehicle and only 6.9% use public transit. Everyone from the rich to the poor takes the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) because it’s more convenient (the same survey reported 23.3% commute via public transit in Toronto – that’s more than 3x the commuters in London).

It’s not uncommon to be an adult without a car in Toronto but it is in London. So, back to the question. Do you love driving and want a car? London is probably the better choice. Good luck fighting traffic, finding a parking space, and paying car expenses in Toronto. If you are environmentally conscious, don’t mind public transit, and don’t care to own a car than Toronto is a good option. Personally, I don’t want a car and don’t mind public transit. Toronto has a subway, bus, and streetcar system which adds to the ease of taking the TTC. I will admit that the TTC can get extremely busy which would stress me out and make me slightly anxious. Sometimes, I’d rather stay home than deal with the chaos of the large city. No transit system or city is perfect. As you can see, there are certainly trade-offs.

Affordability

You really can’t speak about living in Toronto versus London without including the cost of living. In almost every category including, local purchasing power, cost of groceries, and rent prices, Toronto is significantly higher (Check this page out for more info). Thus, if you want to move to Toronto, you should either save a lot or get a well-paying job to live comfortably and stress-free. Especially if you are the social type that will find themselves taking advantage of the entertainment scene. If you like to save money, find yourself cooking at home, and don’t need to pay an entrance fee to have a good time, then London is probably a fine city for you. At the end of the day, if you are truly drawn to Toronto and believe you’ll thrive there, you’ll make it work.

My Own Experience

This entire post is completely based on my own perceptions and experience within the city. I do want to include a little bit more about my personality and how it meshed in the city so you could get a better idea of who the city is for. I was born and raised in London and had a strong desire to leave. I love change and trying new things which lead me to decide that Toronto would be the best place to go. I had gone on many family and school trips to Toronto and really began to romanticize the big city life. When I left, I unexpectedly realized that London is actually a nice city and not nearly as bad as I made it out to be. It still has its cons but so does Toronto. Trying to shop in the extremely busy Eaton Centre Mall in Toronto made me long for the significantly quieter Masonville Mall in London. That being said, I’m still considering other cities to move to. I would possibly move back to Toronto, but I would have to have a decent paycheck to support a comfortable standard of living. I lived in a very old apartment building with many cracks that let in a ton of bugs. If I were to move back, I would look for a newer built apartment. Some people aren’t mad at a cheap place with a few bugs, those people will do better in Toronto on a budget.

At the beach in Port Stanley. The closest beach to London approx. 40 minute drive.

I prefer the transit system in Toronto. I found it very easy to navigate, easy to get to many parts of the city, and relatively dependable (compared to the LTC). The crowded buses and trains caused discomfort and demotivated me to leave my home. I didn’t want to worry about actually finding a seat on that subway or getting a table at a bar.

I made one new friend in Toronto. People think that more people equals more chances to create new relationships. It strongly depends on you. Sure, there may be more opportunities, but it can also feel extremely lonely if you don’t have those social abilities to put yourself out there to make new friends. I’m shy and that made it very difficult to make friends. I didn’t find myself connecting with classmates or coworkers. This would require me to join a club or go to events to meet people. I’m not saying I would never do any of those. It just takes me a lot more strength and mental pep talks to be outgoing. This made me feel extremely lonely and miss home. My oldest brother, on the other hand, has built solid relationships and a network of friends. It’s completely possible to rebuild a life in Toronto, you just have to be willing to put in the work.

Visiting the Distillery District in Toronto

Ultimately, I don’t believe one city is better than the other. It completely depends on your personality and what you like to do with your time and money. If you’re introverted, have basic food preferences, don’t care to try new things, and really want to drive a car maybe London is a better option for you. If you are extremely social, love trying new food, don’t mind public transit, and crowds don’t make you anxious, Toronto is a great city.

Thank you for reading this lengthly post and I hope you enjoyed it. What are your thoughts on London versus Toronto? Do you prefer one over the other? Are there any other cities you would recommend to live in? I love to read your thoughts.

Until next time,

Em. 🙂

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