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The Differences Between NYC and Toronto


When I tell people I’m from Canada, I’m often asked what Toronto is like. To the naked eye, it’s not all that different. It’s got great restaurants, Broadway and off-Broadway theater, a subway system, a couple of airports, lots of tall glass buildings, and everything else you’d expect the biggest city in Canada to have.

But then you look a little closer, and you notice that, oddly, the streets are really clean. Why? Because the vast majority of Canadians subscribe to the philosophy that they share the space with other people, and they’re not the center of the universe, so therefore they should hold on to their trash until they find a garbage bin.

Here are a few more examples of typical Torontonian behavior that I experienced during this trip:

  1. I was a party to several traffic jams at open doorways. Not cars — people. Not because everyone was in a rush to get through at once, as it would be in NYC. On the contrary, it was because they were busy standing to the side and saying “After you”, “Oh, no, please — after you!”, “It’s ok — go ahead”, etc. followed by “Oh, thank you so much,” “Have a great day!”, etc.
  2. I was with my dad, who gave me some change and asked me to grab us a couple of coffees at the Second Cup (Canada’s local version of Starbucks). I jumped out of the car, went into the coffee shop and ordered a couple of coffees. Then, because they’re my favorite, I added a ginger cookie to the order. The woman at the counter said “Oh dear, you’re about a dollar short,” she winced, “Oh, nevermind,” she said as she made a little hand-swishing gesture. “Just pay me back next time you come in,” she added with a wink. Being a proper Canadian, I thanked her profusely and promptly refused the cookie to bring my total down to what I could afford.
  3. At the airport, lines merge beautifully. Despite many people actually being in a rush, people are still considerate and take turns when they could just push through. At security, instead of leaving the white plastic trays scattered after they remove their “personal belongings”, they pick up their trays and stack them on top of the others. I’ve always done this at airports, despite the fact that I couldn’t remember ever noticing anyone else doing it. I guess now I know why.
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