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Monday, August 25, 2014

The top 10 cliches about Toronto

Toronto clichesCliches about Toronto have varying degrees of accuracy, even as they shape the discourse about our city. Whether true or fair, cliches are at least a useful way to examine how a city collectively thinks of itself -- or in some cases, how it's thought of from afar. The idea that Toronto is a polite city, for instance, is a something I've regularly heard from visitors but less so from people who actually live here. Our multiculturalism, on the other hand, tends to be universally acknowledged, even if only in the most superficial, let's-pat-ourselves-on-the-back type way.

Here's a stab at highlighting some of the most prevalent cliches about Toronto. Naturally, the list is subjective, though I've reached out to fellow writers, our Twitter followers and others to generate the list. Please join the discussion and add additional suggestions in the comment section.

Toronto is a city that hates fun

Perhaps the longest standing cliche about Toronto stems from our Victorian stuck-upishness. Toronto the Good, we have long been referred to, and it's still rather common to see how our love of rules gets in the way of novel ways of having fun, from bans on pinball machines to dance parties to patio licences. Accuracy rating: 8/10.

People from Toronto are exceedingly polite

Torontonians are notorious for saying "thank you" at every opportunity, and out of that the city has built itself a reputation as one of the politest urban centres in the world. This is a place where people form neat lines to wait for streetcars and buses, one expects others to hold doors open for them when passing through buildings, and you'd never dream of someone stealing your cab. But is all this a matter of politeness or passivity? Accuracy rating: 7/10.

Toronto is the world's most multicultural city

From an international standpoint, Toronto's multiculturalism is what the city is best known for. Is it a cliche? Yes, insofar as it's an overused descriptor and I'm not convinced that there's always much of substance being referred to when people laud Toronto for its diversity. On the other hand, when one goes further and notes how diverse our food and festival scenes are and how crucial the multicultural makeup of our neighbourhoods is to the city's cultural economy, statements about our diversity reveal just how important it is to our identity. Accuracy rating: 9/10 (docked one point because it's hard to prove that we are the most multicultural city in the world).

People from the suburbs hate downtown elites and vice versa

A more recent phenomenon -- at least since the creation of the megacity in 1995 -- the tension between downtown and the suburbs seemed to reach a fever pitch during the last mayoral election in which Rob Ford successfully polarized the discourse, pitting cyclists against drivers, home owners against apartment dwellers, etc. There's certainly real tension between the demands of suburban residents and their downtown counterparts, but the animosity between these groups is just a tad overstated. Accuracy rating: 6/10.

Toronto is the centre of universe

Toronto is often accused of this global egocentrism, but it's probably more apt to say that we're guilty of thinking we're the centre of the country. It's important to bear in mind, of course, that we also suffer from a collective self consciousness that sees us worry about our stature as a world class city. Almost half the country lives in Southern Ontario and feeds off of Toronto's economy, so it's understandable why we might think this way. Accuracy rating: 6/10.

Other cliches about Toronto

Toronto is the best hockey city in the world. -- Accuracy rating: 6/10 (we need to win something).

Toronto just wants to be like New York. -- Accuracy rating: 4/10 (our New York envy has waned over the years, recent posts notwithstanding).

Toronto is as clean a city as there is out there. -- Accuracy rating: 9/10 (For a big city, Toronto is remarkably clean).

Toronto is crippled by traffic congestion. -- Accuracy rating: 8/10 (While some cities have it worse, Toronto traffic is the pits).

Toronto is a city of incorrigible latte-sipping hipsters. -- Accuracy rating: 4/10 (Yes, there's a wealth of indie coffee shops, but conspicuous coffee consumers do not a city make).

Photo by John Tavares in the blogTO Flickr pool.

by Derek Flack via blogTO

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