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Keep your distance
Around the world obviously people have different ways of greeting each other and interacting in conversations. In France for example it's common to kiss the person on both cheeks.
In Canada we don't normally kiss eachother when we greet (unless we're close friends or family) but a firm handshake will do if you've just met the person. Unlike some nations in the Middle East or Asia where it's common to stand very close to a person while engaging in a conversation, in Toronto most people would feel as if you were invading their personal space or intimidating them if you stand too close to them. I usually get realy uncomfortable when people, men or women, stand right in my face when they're talking to me. A couple feet away is normal for an average conversation.
It's always better to be freakishly polite.
Canadians are a strange people. All of the ones I seemed to meet had a real respect for human life in all its forms - even people who are different from one and other had no problem exchanging pleasantries. As a guarded, fussy American, I found this at first confusing, but then refreshing.
Here are some things that might help you out:
* When that guy on the subway talks to you, you don't have to pretend you’re deaf or that you don't speak English. People just do that here - to be nice!
* When someone bumps into you, don't be totally shocked when they say, "Sorry, my fault." It's some crazy local custom that I saw no trace of in New York. None. In fact, Canadians are so nice, that if you bump into them, they will probably still apologize to you. I wouldn't try it on purpose, but if you're a klutz like me, you'll see what I mean.
* When you get directions from someone, they will actually lead you to the place you want to go. No kidding. If you have ever been to Washington Heights in Manhattan, you know this is not the case everywhere.
* It is sad when someone gets hurt / makes a tragic and public mistake in their love life / has a retarded hamster here - - not funny.
I don't know how universally accepted this is elsewhere, but in Toronto there is a definite protocol for using escalators that most people follow.
Most escalators are wide enough for two people to stand side by side, but don't do that. If you are with someone, go single file. The left side of the escalator is reserved for people who are in a hurry ( in Toronto that's a lot of folks) and want to walk on the escalator to get there faster. The right side is for people who want to stand and ride with the escalator.
Torontonians outside of a Business Meeting dress very casual. A lot of people think nothing of coming out of the gym in sweats and T Shirts and walking down the street to a restaurant. Visitors can dress however they want and no problems will be met. Only exception are business meetings and a very few smart nightspots where sloppy dress will keep you in line.
Torontonians do not generally have good fashion sense and you will see many fashion crimes committed on our streets..do not laugh too much at us..it is just our Canadian easygoing anything goes casual lifestyle.
Keeping to yourself
If you're from a rural area, you're probably used to saying hello to strangers and chatting with random people who come your way. Well, in big cities like Toronto, you'll likely get ignored or sometimes even scowled at if you do that. During World Youth Day, it was different - everyone was friendly and even police officers posed for silly pictures with WYD pilgrims, but in general people in the city tend to mind their own business and expect others to do the same. Nothing wrong with that, but I thought this tip might be useful for people who are not used to an urban environment.
When using escalators, please...
When using escalators, please follow the directions: If you wish to stand, then please stand on the right hand side. Torontonians tend to walk or even run on the escalators. If you stand on the left hand side of the escalator, they will get irritated because you are blocking their way.
This isn't exactly a cultural tip... just a general tip for those travelling by subway. I realize many tourists who visit Toronto have never taken the subway before but I would just like to say it is common courtesy to let the people step out of the train before you go on. It creates less of a mess, especially during rush hour, and people don't get mad at you. From personal experience it's very frustrating to have to fight to get off the train.
Toronto is very casual, much...
Toronto is very casual, much more so than I ever expected. I spent some time looking out my downtown hotel window for a man with a tie. I would have spent the same time in Washington, DC, looking for a man without a tie.
Flip out a map of the city!
It is amazing how helpful the Canadian people are. If you need help locating where you are or where you want to go just flip out a map of the city. The residence of Canada will approach you to offer help. I have never met such helpful people.
As for the escalator, you definitely want to stand to the right and walk to the left. The people in Canada do not want to stand behind you on an escalator and wait because you are on the right.
Do the things you know are courteous, like holding the door for others. The people in Canada are courteous.
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