It’s been seven months here in Toronto and I’m often asked if I have settled in well. That’s a million dollar question no doubt. But I stay clueless about the answer.
Is there a month or moment when you are supposed to “settle in well?” Or a time in the day when I should declare “here, I now feel settled”? Does that momentary elation get negated if I feel unsettled a few minutes later?
Isn’t settling in more of a journey, rather than the destination itself?
All I can say is that on good days, I do feel faint ripples of national pride figure-skating through my soul.
It manifests more during the Sochi Winter Olympics screenings on telly. Each time Canada races ahead, we jump to our feet bringing out ice wine. It matters little that we are blissfully oblivious about winter sports and supremely ignorant about the local champions.
The ripples multiply into waves of patriotism when local news brings up familiar faces and places. There’s a sense of self complacency when we don’t confuse Edmonton (the capital of Alberta) with Eglinton (a street in Toronto/Mississauga) anymore. I am aware that Hogtown is not a colony of pigs but a nickname for Toronto (bet you didn’t know that, eh!)
But my national pride soared to new heights when I came across this million dollar report.
Canada has one of the world’s largest millionaire residents.
Nearly half of these are new immigrants or first generation Canadians.
What’s more, two-thirds of these worship-worthy people are self-made business barons! Very few inherited their wealth!
Nothing can be more inspiring to a newcomer than this.
Certainly we are settling in, well and truly, to a life in sharp contrast to the one we had back in Asia. However long you live in Asia, there is something unsettling about the continent that never leaves you with a dull moment.
Passionate politics keeps life on its toes. Furious strikes fire up people. Frenzy, fun, festivals, celebrations, pollution, traffic jams, maid hassles, driver’s absence, all take turns to keep the excitement and economy alive.
News channels buzz with a million reasons to keep viewership high. High viewership leads to bustling businesses and millions of dollars pouring in to make the rich richer and keep the poor in place.
Even beyond the human race, the frenzy continues. Nature works with an intensity that this part of the world can seldom match. Fiery summers scorch the earth. Monsoons hurl down thunderstorms, lightning and raging rain. Wildlife keeps up the pace with bigger, bolder, fiercer creatures. Tigers, lions, elephants…the jungles are alive with snarling predators!
Contrarily, Canada is gentler, quieter, more soul-settling. The loudest noise in most neighbourhoods is the rustling of leaves.
People go about their daily chores with a stony face or friendly cheer. It’s rare to see fellow humans cursing out loud, bringing out their fist, or throttling each other over a difference of opinion.
Toronto is pristine, peaceful and ethereally beautiful, much like the lake that it sits around.
Yes, we witnessed some of the harshest winters on this planet. But even a snowstorm has the grace of a lady. The sky blushes pink as if in apology, sprinkling down flurries that soundlessly coat the earth in a veil of white.
Much of winter is dreary and uneventful. We had a white Christmas, a white New Year’s Day, a white Chinese New Year, a white Valentine’s Day, a white Family Day, and with the way it’s going, looks like we’re on for a white Holi too (Indian spring festival).
Canadian creatures of the wild remain in sync with very few threatening to wipe out mankind. Friendly black squirrels, gentle Humber Bay butterflies, and peaceful doves co-exist politely. Coyotes, racoons and skunks can be cruel, but even these look more like stuffed toys than life-threatening beasts.
Recently city life did get a tad wilder when Rob Ford, the delinquent mayor of Toronto, and Justin Bieber, Canada’s errant export to the USA, made a desperate attempt to keep the country in the news with their antics.
You have to hand it to them. They valiantly salvaged the city from some of its mundane serenity and elevated it to global fame. We sat with bated breath as news channels from the farthest corners flashed the name of Toronto in some context, finally!
‘Fordism’, became a new word defining antics in an inebriated stage.
Not one to lag behind, Bieber followed suit, driving not just his fans but also the police force crazy after him.
However, such cases are few and far between. Toronto and its people remain some of the most courteous, gracious and of course, silently richest in the world.
It’s easy to see why the city tops in immigration listings and takes the trophy for the most multicultural, attracting immigrants in droves from both developing and developed nations.
Unlike Quebec which is known to be more discerning (especially after the controversial ban on selected religious clothing for public servants), Toronto celebrates goodwill. The best thing about Canada in general is that good health, good food and good education combined with safety, security and stability is not restricted to the rich. Once you are PR holder, the government goes out of its way to look after you.
No one goes hungry this country. No one goes uneducated. No one is medically deprived. What remains a stumbling block is a decent job.
But as the Chinese say, where there is crisis, there is opportunity. This is the reason why new immigrants create their own jobs here, often minting millions in the process.
Canada is a money-magnet for the enterprising with a total of about 422,000 millionaires.
The Toronto Star says that over a quarter of these, about 118,000, live in Toronto alone placing it among the world’s top, well ahead of Chicago, Houston and Moscow. In the multimillionaire category, Toronto beats Geneva, Shanghai and Los Angeles hollow. However, there are only five billionaires here. (Blame it on the taxes!)
It’s common to see business barons moving around in private jets here. Luxury boats litter Lake Ontario. In North York that falls under the GTA magnificent mansions line up Bridle Path also known as “Millionaire’s Row’! This is the most affluent neighbourhood of Canada with an average household income of over $600,000.
Others live in opulent castles ingeniously built on The Thousand Islands – a 50 mile archipelago of 1865 islands near Kingston, adjoining Toronto and New York.
It’s hard to believe that some of these little pieces of land dramatically dotted across the lake were sold for as little as $5 each in the mid 1800’s.
Today, they double up as spare homes for the rich and famous. After Toronto, Quebec is next in line with over 19 per cent of Canada’s millionaires!
What’s more interesting is that a large percentage of these millionaires are single and eligible. According to the Huffington Post, even in this category, Toronto tops with the most eligible millionaires (2,327), followed by Calgary (1,210), Ottawa (988), Montreal (734), and Edmonton (621)!
Which brings us to yet another million dollar question – how did they fill their bank vaults?
It is commonly believed that the money spinning sectors in this country lie in finance, mining, entrepreneurship, technology, software programming, and real estate investment among others.
As the economy woke up, so did luxury homes, condos and a whole new lifestyle with it. Wealthy investors from the Middle East, China, India, USA and Europe have been flocking to the GTA, Vancouver and Montreal to buy homes for work, vacations, renting or selling. As the city downtown run out of space, the suburbs have opened their doors with housing options that are fast appreciating by the day.
The reason for this sudden growth spurt is the country’s policies that allow not just residents to invest but also make it easy for non-residents to buy property. Now you know why Toronto tops the charts as one of the world’s most favoured destinations to live in, year after year.
Huh? You think it’s not as bustling as other parts of the world? The winters suck? It’s a pain to get a professional foothold here? True, these are million dollar questions too.
But hey, think of the thousands of “Richie Rich’s” sitting in their castles, cruising in their luxury boats, many of them single and eligible.
Doesn’t that suddenly make Toronto a million times more exciting?