How to choose a good neighbourhood to settle in Toronto
Wednesday Apr 13th, 2022
Priscilla Han, realtor servicing the Greater Toronto Area, shares her experience of choosing a good neighbourhood to settle in Toronto.
Priscilla had come to Canada twice. The first time was in 2000, when she was emigrated from China as a skilled immigrant. The second time was in 2017, when Priscilla and her husband, along with their two daughters, returned to Canada as a family.
During the two experiences, Priscilla has summed up some tips to help new immigrants to understand how to choose a good neighbourhood. Because this is a much discussed topic, this time the topic will be on whether to pick a neighbourhood that is more “mainstream”, or one that has more Chinese population?
Almost every new immigrant expresses wanting to integrate into the mainstream society when they have arrived in Canada. The main reason is the worry that if the family settled in a Chinese-dominated community, then there is little difference from China, and that their children's English may not improve.
This view is so common, that even Priscilla herself had first had this worry. However, the more that she lives in the country, the more that this perspective has changed.
Groceries & Dining Choices
Food is a large part of our daily lives. If a new immigrant is living far away from Chinese communities, it may be quite difficult to find the cooking ingredients that the new immigrant may be used to. Of course, there are Western supermarkets - but, their selection of groceries and products may not be what you are used to, and it may be a shock when trying to adjust to the new life in Canada.
The same goes for dining out. Although Toronto is a multicultural city and one can find great selection of international cuisines, the advantage of being in a Chinese-dense neighbourhood is that you have a much greater selection of Chinese cuisine.
Home & Health Services
The same is true for other services that one needs when living in the city. If the new immigrant lives in a community with more Chinese-speaking population, there is a higher probability that he or she may be able to find service providers who speak Chinese. Imagine the convenience and comfort when communicating with landscapers, electricians, plumbers, contractors, and even doctors and health practitioners who can understand the needs in Chinese.
Many Asian and Chinese families place education as a priority for their children, and want to settle in a good school catchment. In Canada, there are private schools and public schools. Private schools will accept students with any home addresses, whereas for public schools admissions will be based on the students' address and the school catchment they belong to.
If we reference recent Fraser Institute's school ranking report, we can see that most of the top ranked school districts are coincidentally the ones favoured by Chinese, such as Markham and Richmond Hill. In Canada, public education places no special emphasis in terms of geography, so the Fraser Institute’s school ranking is largely the reflection of the school student’s performance. A typical Chinese parent spends a lot of time and attention on their children's education: sending them to extracurricular activities and after-school tutoring classes, similar to that in China.
Obviously, education should not be just about achieving high test scores, but also the overall development of the child's physical and emotional growth. However, children growing up in this environment typically perform better academically than children who do not.
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While some new immigrant parents worry that by living in a Chinese-densed neighbourhood will affect the ability of their children to practice English, this worry may be unnecessary. Some of the Chinese population may have been living in the these neighbourhoods for a long time. For example, many immigrants from Hong Kong have arrived in Canada before 1997, and the children of these families are born in Canada. These children often speak English as their first language, and rely on weekend Chinese classes in order to communicate with their parents or grandparents in Cantonese. When these children meet new friends in school, watch YouTube and play video games, they are all in English.
Instead of worrying how to improve children’s English, it may be more realistic to be concerned that they are going to forget their Chinese language skills! Priscilla’s younger daughter arrived in Canada when she was 8 years old. When she first went to school she couldn't understand any English, and after a year or so, she would only respond in English even during a casual dinner conversation at the family.
Whether it is easier to integrate in the mainstream society by living in a "mainstream neighbourhood" vs a "Chinese neighbourhood", Priscilla personally do not believe there the two are necessarily related.
Integration into the mainstream society depends more on one's personal values, behaviour and attitude in life. When you are working hard, paying taxes, caring about your community, participating in social activities, going out to vote, that is integrating into the Canadian society.
The concept of "mainstream society" is not about being elite, your race, or your income. The important part of integrating into Canadian life is about the ability to learn and serve - so the prerequisite is to be able to communicate well in English, regardless of where you settle in.
Buying and Selling Toronto Real Estate
Whether you are buying your first condo, or selling a single-family home, Team Priscilla Han Realty can help you.
We are proud to serve the whole Greater Toronto Area (GTA), including but not limited to Markham, Mississauga, North York, Pickering, and the City of Toronto.
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