Living in Canada: The Change Of Lifestyle from East to West

By Jennah M.

It’s 4:38 on a Tuesday, and the subway is stopped at Old Mill. Just three more stops; I should make it.

Finally, we start moving. “The next station is Royal York, Royal York station,” I hear the electronic voice announce. After two minutes, we arrive, and then continue on our trip. I look at the time, 4:41. The subway slows down, as it always does while going to Islington station. Suddenly, the blue sky and hundreds of buildings surround the subway as we rise above the ground. “Arriving at Islington, Islington Station.” I look at the time, and immediately get a knot in my stomach. It’s 4:45. The GO train comes at 4:47. It typically takes three minutes to get to Kipling. Looks like it took more time than usual to get to Islington. Shoot.


The subway exits the Islington tunnel, and is once again flooded with sunlight. It stops just before Kipling as it always does. My phone reads 4:46. I see another subway travelling in the other direction pass us. And then, the most disappointing sight of all: 4:47. The white and green train reading “GO” passes us in the distance. I swing my school bag over my shoulder, and sprint out of the doors just as they open. I run down the escalators, turn left, and race up the first set of stairs to my right, onto the GO train platform, but I’m too late. I run outside just as the doors close. I wait on a bench on the platform. I text my dad. “Missed the GO train, be on the one at 5:06. Be there at 5:41.”

During grades seven and eight, back when I lived in Toronto, this was a pretty typical after-school routine for me.  Things have changed quite a bit since then. Welcome to my new after-school routine: Walk out of class, gather my things, and if I’m taking the bus that day, exit the school precisely at 3:23, and look for bus F. If I have an afterschool activity like basketball or volleyball, my mom will just come pick me up. You could say it’s pretty boring now.

Looking back, my experiences and routines have changed immensely since I moved across the country. Toronto and Calgary are much more different than what I first expected.

Let’s start with traffic. Calgarians are always complaining about traffic, I’ve noticed. “Oh it took you thirty-five minutes to get somewhere, instead of twenty-five? That’s horrible!” Don’t even get me started on Toronto traffic. People always have somewhere to be in Toronto. The gridlock is absolutely horrible. On bad days, you could sit in your car for two hours, only to have moved a meter.  I eventually learned to just take the subway, unless driving was absolutely necessary.

Apart from the traffic, downtown Toronto is absolutely amazing. Everywhere you go there is something to see or do. Around my old school, there were dozens and dozens of restaurants, there was a stadium, a park, and a library. It was full of buildings, old and new. My school was made in 1910. Four blocks away was the Royal Ontario Museum. Two blocks down the other way was a brand new apartment building, and just down the road was a quaint neighborhood. Right in the heart of downtown was the CN Tower. In Calgary, downtown is still an amazing sight, but in a very different way. There are numerous pieces of modern art, and many amazing buildings. The Bow River also flows through downtown, and it adds a natural aspect to Calgary, which you wouldn’t find much of in Toronto.

Calgary’s landscape is very different from Toronto’s.  Everyday, I find myself amazed at the sight of mountains. They’re absolutely incredible, and before I moved here I had only ever seen mountains when I went on vacation. They look different every time I see them. Meanwhile, Toronto is very flat. You’d be lucky if you saw a hill there.

Chinooks are definitely the best part of Calgary winters. This winter wasn’t too bad for me, especially because it was so dry, and every once in a while we get the best thing ever: Chinooks. They were definitely what I’ve looked forward to for the past few months.

Finally, there’s the education system. In Toronto, taking French is mandatory until grade nine. Also, in Calgary we take social studies. I only took social studies until grade six. In grade eight, we took history, geography, and civics. I guess things really change across Canada, because I haven’t learned a lot of the stuff I should know. And then there are your high schools. At typical Calgary schools, high school starts in Grade ten. In most cities, there are four years of high school: freshman year, sophomore year, junior year, and senior year. This is the system they used in Toronto, and I have to say it made way more sense.

Overall, both are absolutely great cities. I may live in Calgary now, but I will always be a Leafs fan. I suppose Calgary will just take a bit more getting used to.

So welcome to my new life: school bus rides, public school, Chinooks, mountain views, no more racing for the GO train. It’s changed quite a bit, but I love it just as much.

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