Sergei, a Ukrainian who was building a career as a digital specialist in Kiev, went to the other continent to visit his loved ones and see the city. After wandering around the metropolis, he decided to stay there and enrolled in college. Sergey shared his impressions of life in one of the largest and most extraordinary cities in the world

My Canada started with a promise to visit my godson in his homeland, which means I had to get to Toronto. Obviously, Canadians are well aware of how far they are from Ukraine, so they gave me a year to get my thoughts together and to find cheaper tickets. But those "cheaper" tickets kept coming back to Italy and Portugal. At some point I realized that I had to leave right away, at least not to disrespect the visa issuing authorities. So I flew for a two-week vacation, which lasted at least a couple of years.

The idea to live outside Ukraine had occurred to me for a long time, but it was a serious business: one had to decide where, choose the right moment, prepare ... And here I found myself in an English-speaking country, loyal to foreigners, with the support of family and friends and a six-month visa.

My visitor status did not allow me to be a member of Canadian society for at least a short period of time, and being a tourist for more than a couple of weeks was somehow unsporting. A review of the options yielded a disappointing result: there are few legal opportunities to obtain temporary resident status. And if you leave out exotics such as refugees and investments in the Canadian economy, there is essentially one: to become a student.

I have received so many questions on this subject that it is worth to dwell on this point separately. Getting a work visa to Canada for the Ukrainian is almost unreal. In order to legally work in Canada you actually need a call from the employer. The latter, in its turn, in order to formalize such a call, has to prove that no Canadian citizen is suitable for this workplace, and execute a pile of documents with a professional lawyer. So if you are not, say, a certified deep-sea welder, no one will risk getting involved. If you are a company relocates you from its Ukrainian office - another thing, but that's another story.

Getting a student visa is relatively easy. And this is a temporary resident status, which allows you to work legally (part-time during the study and full-time during vacations, sabbaticals and internships) plus health insurance. After your studies, you are entitled to an open work visa for at least the duration of your studies. Your spouse is immediately eligible for an open work visa for the duration of your studies. You have to pay for your studies, although there are chances to get a scholarship - I know people like that in Canada.

Becoming a student is easier before you come to Canada: you confirm your English level with IELTS or TOEFL, apply to a college or university, pay at least for the first semester, get a permission to study at the consulate in your home country, and you can go. If you, like me, decide to do it directly in Canada, it's a bit more complicated, but also doable. All in all, the process from the beginning of the research to actually getting the work and study permits took all the time I had allotted to stay in Canada on a tourist visa - half a year. But it was an interesting and rewarding six months: I became comfortable speaking English, began to understand the local realities, and even in preparation for studying I recalled long-forgotten technical skills by making a small website about real estate in Canada.

Anyway, I got my temporary Canadian residency and now I can confidently share my insights.


About Toronto itself

Toronto is a modern Babylon. And there are fewer and fewer native Babylonians here, but the whole world, except North Korea and Antarctica, is represented in all its glory, with its neighborhoods, restaurants, stores, media, and churches. As far as I know, there is nowhere else like it.

In addition to the Anglo-Saxons themselves, Toronto is full of Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos, Indians and Pakistanis, Jews, Iranians, Poles, Ukrainians and Afro-Canadians. Among my new friends and acquaintances, there are also Venezuelans, Turks, Brazilians, Japanese, Vietnamese, Sri Lankans, Singaporeans, Chileans, and Portuguese, just to name a few. 

Canadians are usually very polite and considerate to each other. The person in front of you will hold the door, sincerely thank you for the same on your part, apologize for accidentally hitting you, smile when you meet with a look, offer to help. The other day I was asked if I need help when I slowed down in a stream of people to deal with the signs on the wall.

I saw a situation where a teenager with a cello case got on the bus and found that all his pocket money had gone on sheet music and buns. One of the passengers sitting next to him stood up, threw three dollars for the lost one, and sat back down silently.

It is amazing how the darkness of people from completely different cultural backgrounds, settling in Toronto, find the local environment so comfortable that without any pressure they switch to the lighter side of the force, and themselves contribute to the conversion of another hundred thousand fresh blood in the future.

But there are also more unusual for the Slavic mentality of behavior. For example, it is not customary here to give way to women in transport. For the elderly, pregnant women and people with disabilities, yes. Feminism has won here. No one will stop on the way to pick up a lonely commuter, either for money or for nothing. Even if the weather's crappy. Either everyone believes in the power of public transportation or something else. Accordingly, no one votes.mid9Photo: Sergey Pinigin

Toronto is a big city. Especially when it comes to the GTA - Greater Toronto Area. This is a city with its satellite cities, which together with more than 7 thousand square kilometers of territory and 6 million people is the largest metropolitan area in Canada.

At the same time, much of the city - it is a dismal building of private houses or seedy high-rises with local bursts of urban activity in the shopping malls and a cluster of bars, clubs and stores.mid10Foto: Sergey Pinigin

The only place you find true urban life is downtown. Here you have everything that any modern metropolis deserves: a half-kilometer high symbol of the city - CN Tower, colorful restaurants for every taste, streets of skyscrapers, beloved parks and squares, almost marine waterfront of Lake Ontario with ships at the pier, with the National Geographic recognized the best food market in the world - St. Lawrence Market. Lawrence Market with 200 years of history, the Victorian distillery, talentedly transformed into the colorful Distillery District, Chinatown, Coria Town, the epic Hockey Hall of Fame, the oceanarium, the stone buildings of the University of Toronto and much more.

PATH deserves special attention: a 30-kilometre underground city that allows residents to stay indoors altogether if they wish. Many homes have their own subway entrances, so you can walk straight from your apartment down to the subway, drive to the station with your office, and straight into the sweetheart of open space. At lunchtime you can still, without going outside, go for lunch, go shopping, sit in the park with a fountain or, say, get a haircut.

After taking the ferry to the waterfront, you can move to The Toronto Islands or The Beaches, which in summer turn into a beach Mecca with huge sandy beaches, green lawns, and acres of beach volleyball fields.

In general, Downtown Toronto resembles the more relaxed brother of New York's Manhattan. It has its own wall street and its own SoHo. The party streets are filled with tattooed people on bicycles in raybans and with yoga mats behind their backs. I once saw a homeless guy with a longboard. And the streets are full of colorful characters. People feel free and relaxed, enjoying life.

From spring to fall the cultural life boils. Many things happen in an open format on the streets, in parks and on the waterfront - for example, film screenings on screens installed over the water. Audiences are comfortably ensconced in pairs or in groups on the waterfront. Toronto has a serious relationship with movies in general. There are a lot of film productions here that work for Hollywood. Right on the streets you can come across a betmobile chase or Will Smith saving the world. Every September the Hollywood elite pulls up here for TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival).

The myth that Canada is a hockey country is true, only to be corrected by the fact that apparently soon Canadian teams will consist of half of Chinese (local, of course). Toronto is home to the most legendary hockey club, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have 13 Stanley Cups. True, they won the last one in far 1967, but this does not prevent them from reaping the benefits of former glory, buying the most expensive players and filling stadiums. By the way, it costs about $100 to join the legend -- for that money, you can buy a ticket to stand behind the back rows at a regular game.

The Toronto Raptors basketball and Toronto Blue Jays baseball are also spelled out here. The clubs battle in the NHL, NBA and MLB with the U.S. pros, so Canada in sports is not just hockey and curling.

The marijuana situation in Toronto came as a surprise to me. The first time I saw people downtown smoking pot outside a bar without hiding, I was a little surprised. But when I saw the same cops next to them, I was seriously surprised.

Later it turned out that Ontario is just a little bit behind the global legalization of marijuana, and although the relevant laws have not yet been passed, in fact the use and possession of marijuana for personal use is not prosecuted.

Over time, I got used to the city quite well, began to feel it. But Toronto continues to open up to new sides-perhaps that's its most appealing feature.