Differences between Barcelona and Toronto

As a newcomer to Canada, I am still discovering the amazing city of Toronto. Coming from a European city I found a lot of differences between living in Spain and living in Canada. I am going to compare two big cities (the ones I know the best) that are Barcelona and Toronto.

  • Snowing, but not always

There is no doubt that weather and snow is a big difference! Snow is very present at winter in Toronto, something we rarely see in Barcelona. But said that, I had no idea before that Toronto had such a hot summer. Most people in Spain tend to think of whole Canada as a very cold place to live with no summer at all. That is a mistake, as I have experienced hot weather here as well. It also feels quite dry compared to Barcelona, I guess this is due to the heating in winter. Clothes dry in a short time here when I do laundry!

Scarborough, Toronto
  • Toronto, big city but not crowded

The first thing you will notice when arriving in Toronto is the size of the city. Compared to back home, any American city seems enormous to me. According to cubetoronto.com Toronto has a density of 4,457 people per km2 compared to Barcelona, with 15,873 people per km2. When you go for a walk out of the downtown is probable that you don’t see much people. It feels easier here to maintain the 2-meter distance required for covid safety!

  • Houses vs apartments

In Spain is not common to see family houses in a big city, you can only see them in the countryside. In Barcelona, people use to live in apartments so I was amazed to find out that in Toronto you can easily find houses. I mean the typical American house with the garden and the back yard, just like in the movies! There are also lots of high-rise buildings in Toronto where people live in condos. But just some streets away you can find these peaceful town-like houses.

Beautiful houses in Toronto
  • Measures

There are some differences here! In Spain we use the 24:00h clock format. In Canada is more common to use the 12:00h clock and differentiate between am and pm. It feels weird here when I say it is 19:00h instead of 7pm. Same with the metric system and imperial system, I still can’t get used to inches and have to use the converter every time.

  • Public transportation

The subway, buses and public transport in general seem to be older and less maintained than I expected. But as an advantage, the subway is never that crowded. It is funny for me that even in peak hours there is never too many people and you can even get a seat! The price, however, is quite expensive, 156 $ for the monthly pass (109 €) compared to the price in Barcelona 40 € (57 $ ).

Presto Card in Toronto Subway
  • Eating hours

For us in Spain the standard hour for lunch is 2pm and dinner at 9pm. I feel this difference is only compared to Spain as in other places in Europe they have timings similar to Canada. I believe in Canada the hour for lunch is around 12-1 pm and dinner around 6pm. I try but I really don’t get used to it. This is so funny, when most people talk about having dinner at 6pm I am usually having the afternoon snack!

  • Coffee please!

Food is a topic that I could expand about, but I want to make special mention to coffee and the disappointed I was with this when I arrived. I couldn’t understand what “brewed” coffee meant the first days! Regarding Spain and most countries in Europe, the espresso coffee is the regular coffee you can ask for and they have it in every cafeteria you go. That is why I was very shocked to realized brewed coffee was the typical here. Even I enjoy Tim Hortons I prefer a strong flavour and creamy coffee.

Tim Hortons coffee
  • Taxes and tips

And last but not least, the taxes and tips! This is so annoying, why does everything have the taxes not included? If we are paying it anyway there is no point in have it separately. I feel frustrated when paying and having to add taxes and tips to some purchases. We are absolutely not used to give tips in Spain. It is something voluntary if you feel very grateful for the service. If you give a tip, you can choose any amount, there is no % required.

2 thoughts on “Differences between Barcelona and Toronto”

  1. Thanks for this information.
    At 79 yrs old (still fit)I decided to travel solo to Barcelona then on to Paris. At this moment I feel excited however a little nervous. I’ve been to these places before but on a group/guided tour and the time to really enjoy and feel the culture was deprived.
    I hope the weather during the last week of April is moderate.

    1. Thank you for your comment, I really hope you enjoy your solo travel! Both Barcelona and Paris are amazing cities.
      Not sure about Paris, but April is a great time to visit Barcelona as the spring weather is usually mild and perfect for walking and visit.

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