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Being Ottawan in Toronto: The Low-Down

For anyone who’s lived in Ottawa, Toronto, or even other various parts of Canada, it’s quite clear that Ottawa and Toronto are two very different cities that long to be the most important city in Canada. While Torontonians might laugh at the idea of there being any rivalry between their great city and any other place in Canada, it’s hard to deny the notability of the country’s capital. Being from Ottawa and now living in Toronto, I’ve heard a few different things that have both amused and baffled me. Here are some of those observations I’ve made so far:

1. “You must speak French.”

Most foreigners think all Canadians speak French. It’s become such a misconstrued stereotype that even Canadian celebrities claim they’re “fluent” in French, when they can’t really string a sentence together. For some reason, it’s become a trend. Torontonians know, however, that barely any of them speak Canada’s other official language. Ottawa, being Canada’s most prominent bilingual city, is known as the land of “everyone is bilingual”. While I am bilingual – having gone to school in French – there are actually plenty of people from Ottawa who don’t speak French at all. Most East Ottawans (like myself) do speak, or at least understand, a little, but the Western parts of the city are rather monolingual. There’s no denying that it’s still a fairly bilingual city, but it’s not a case of everyone being able to speak both languages. It’s still fairly difficult to find someone who is fully bilingual anywhere in Canada.

2. “What do you even do in Ottawa?”

It’s true that Ottawa’s less varied in cultural activities than Toronto is. Toronto is, after all, the third biggest city in North America. It’s Canada’s entertainment hub. Having said that, a lot of the same events that find their way to Toronto also do so in Ottawa. Winter time is especially great in Ottawa due to Winterlude, and the Rideau Canal (the world’s largest skating rink). On the other hand, Toronto’s the type of city that dies down a little in the winter. Whilst I’ve yet to experience Toronto’s summer activities, Ottawa holds Canada’s biggest July 1st (Canada Day) event. The only issue with Ottawa is that it’s far less active after 5pm than Toronto is, but there’s an abundance of family-related activities. Hence, why…

3. “You must have left Ottawa because you’re a young professional.”

This one is somewhat true. I feel lucky to have been given such a different type of education, but at this point, it’s not the right place to be. It does sometimes lead to…


Ottawa, 2011.


4. “Jobs are way more interesting in Ottawa, aren’t they?”

Okay, it’s true that most of Ottawa is employed by the government or public sector in general. Yes, some of those jobs are rather interesting. Yes, Canada’s intelligence agency is based in Ottawa. Yes, it’s where anyone with an interest in becoming the country’s next leader has to station themselves. However, not every job is spectacular. Toronto is similar, except that the city’s interesting jobs are in the private sector (especially financing) instead of the government.

5. “Ottawa’s freezing, isn’t it?”

I heard this one the other day and couldn’t help but laugh. Though Toronto’s winters are normally fairly mild, this winter has managed to go from mild (and snow-free) to absolutely freezing. Unfortunately, Ottawa definitely is cold in the winter, but Toronto is no Vancouver. Winter still sets in.

To be continued…

2 thoughts on “Being Ottawan in Toronto: The Low-Down

    • Thanks! A lot of people would tell you to go to Toronto since it’s Canada’s “cultural” hotspot, but I think it depends on what you’re looking for. Ottawa will give you a more accurate reflection of Canada, with its blend of European and American while also maintaining a bilingual essence. Toronto could be an American city, and while it is pretty great, you need to know what to do exactly to get what you want out of it. Ottawa’s the kind of place where you can just wander downtown and see its most beautiful spots simply by strolling past the Rideau Canal and Parliament. I won’t lie though – while Ottawa’s much prettier and more romantic, Toronto’s more fun in general.

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