Friday, March 07, 2008

During the last couple years that I lived in Toronto, I felt like I was struggling to get by: struggling to pay rent, bills, not completely lose my mind while using the TTC, and to not fully succumb to a slow ebbing sense of depression. I was perpetually trying to keep my head above water, all the while trying to convince myself that a sense of drowning was life at its fullest.

The more I'm away from Toronto, the more I realise just how unique the city and its ephemeral psyche is. The more I'm away from Toronto, the more I love it. I never fully appreciated just how safe the city is, when I lived there. I never would have thought twice about taking a bus home late at night or strolling through Parkdale after hours.

It's a great city but nevertheless, I wanted an out.

I felt a constant anger - from delayed streetcars, to Queen Street West hipsters, to icy sidewalks, to Torontonians who oozed an air of entitlement - and I didn't know why. Most likely it was misguided anger. I felt like I was in a rut - it seemed as if my life was on course and well, that scared the shit out of me.

As much as I love routine, I love adventure more.

Moving to Glasgow, I knew on some level that I was giving up a "better" way of life. Most material goods are cheaper in Canada; you've got four distinct seasons; it's a pretty safe country and so on. And while I agree that the quality of life in Canada is very high, I'm not sure I'm convinced that overall, it's the "better" life.

In Toronto, people live to work; it's a culture of working is next to Godliness. I used to be in awe of lawyer acquaintances who would work 12 hour days. The standard acceptable amount for holidays is two weeks - and even then, people feel guilty about taking off one week, never mind two.

In Scotland, people understand and appreciate a work/ life balance. At my current company, the standard leave for holiday is five weeks. 5 weeks! I honestly originally struggled to come up with ways of plowing through them. As a Canadian, I initially struggled with self-inflicting guilt: could I really take off five weeks?! What would I do with all that time? I've since grown used to the idea of five weeks - how very civilised.

Since moving, I've noticed that I'm no longer angry and depressed. And maybe that's the secret: working in a culture that enforces a work-life balance and laws that protect employees.

Glasgow may not be the safest city in the westernised world and yes, a decent pair of jeans cost about £75, but at least we have long stretches of holidays, a readily-available abundance of booze, and Primark!


Squirmy Popple said...

I didn't realise that Canadian's hated taking holidays as much as Americans. I also prefer the more laid-back work culture here - I'm never in the office after 5:30!

Jennifer said...

Yeah, I guess Canadians are heavily-influenced by our southern neighbours when it comes to "holidays". Then again, Toronto is probably unique and not representative of all of Canada; I know loads of Canadians that take off for a week to Florida...*shiver*

STAG said...

I have 4 meters of snow in my driveway. Florida looks pretty damned good right now!!!

Andrea said...

Wow. I know this posting is old, but I have to say it resonates with me.... this is exactly how I feel in Vancouver right now, and have for years. It's an incredibly beautiful place, and the standard of living is high, but... I'm just not happy here. And my UK friends here look at me like I'm mad for wanting to move over there, but there's just something about it I want to try on, you know?

I tried moving elsewhere in Canada -- to Toronto, actually. Lived there for a few months, and hated it. I love visiting it, but living there? Might be different now, but I'd rather try on the UK for size.