Help us write a handbook of Toronto etiquette

Social norms vary from city to city. In Marrakech it’s perfectly normal for a shopkeeper to offer mint tea to a potential customer before setting off on a lengthy barter. In Montreal, friends greet one another with kisses to the cheeks.

So what, then, are Toronto’s social norms? When is it okay to strike up conversation with a stranger? (At a bus stop?)  How do you fit in while strolling through Chinatown, or on a night out on College Street, or while shopping for seafood in Kensington? And speaking of Kensington, should you ever drive there — and if so, where and how do you park? What about avoiding SUV strollers on Roncesvalles or the Beaches: what do the locals do? Is Toronto truly the cold, impersonal place that certain people in other parts of Canada believe it to be, or are we more complex?

In an attempt to put together a handbook of Toronto etiquette, we are asking for insights about the unspoken conventions that shape how people act in Toronto. From greetings to transit — in London, riders always exit the back doors on a bus, but not here — what are our city’s social rules?

We’ll use the results of this exercise in participatory journalism in the next issue of Spacing.

Photo by Damien D.


  1. Stand Right; Walk Left. That’s all we need to keep things orderly.

  2. In the fast paced city you stand right/walk left of escalators (especially in the no longer signed TTC). An exception is made for the Eaton’s Centre where you can assume everyone will act like they’ve never ridden an escalator before and that standing in front of or behind their friend is a ridiculous imposition. But you shouldn’t be in a hurry there anyway.

  3. The question of Toronto’s impersonal character is a question of relativity – ask someone from the East Coast and yes Toronto is very impersonal, but compared with other cities in other countries, people are quite friendly.

    Since moving to Toronto 4 years ago I’ve noticed a couple of things:
    1) on escalators, people don’t automatically keep to the right to let those in a rush move up the left.
    2) people are generally pretty orderly drivers (compared to cities like Montreal, Boston, or Rome I should add) – if you signal to get in a lane, usually people will let you in.

    As for the Roncesvalles SUV stroller situation, this local recommends looking straight ahead so as not to impale yourself on one, and if you do encounter one, simply smile and politely ask if you can get through.

    Torontonians are not proactively helpful like in other smaller cities but if you do ask for something, people usually do comply without much resistance.

  4. On escalators, stand on the right, walk on the left.

  5. Stand Left. Walk Right.

    This simple maxim would alleviate a lot of frustration, congestion and confusion in Toronto’s public spaces.

  6. Hi,

    In re: Kensington, you park in the 3 (4?) storey parkade between Nassau and the street the city’s oldest synagogue is on (forget the name.. Scottish name). Anyways, the parking is covered and super-cheap.

    I’m from Mtl, the only time I greet people is when I cross fellow dogowners, when the bus takes a long time, when I’m in a shop or when someone looks like they just want to talk to me. Otherwise, I’m told by a BC person that he found Torontonians reacted with suspicion upon innocent approach.

    The reverse is true in that if you’re attractive, you’re begging for abuse upon approach by a Torontonian. They often throw their neuroses at you, and you walk away overburdened.

    Good luck!

  7. The third question you should ask a new acquaintance at a party is, “What do you do?” It helps each of you advertise your class, income, education and politics, without needing the honesty to address these directly. If you are single woman looking to change your marital status, this is the first or second question you ask.

  8. As long as we’re all clear on the escalator rules! (Keep right, the left side is for passing.)

  9. Must always move to the back of the streetcar/bus.

    Never hold up an overloaded streetcar when the driver is being sticky about being “behind the line”.

    Must always walk on the right side of the sidewalk/hallway.

    On escalators, always stand right/walk left.

    Never walk slowly, three-abreast, preventing faster walkers from “passing”.

    When in line at a checkout, count your change out beforehand so the line moves more quickly.

    All of my etiquette items above seem to deal with speed/movement in some way.

  10. “Sorry” doesn’t always mean what you think it means.

    Don’t sit on the aisle seat in transit leaving the window seat free.

    If you’re not going to sit in that empty seat in the bus/streetcar/train, don’t block it for other people.

    Feel free to stand in the doorway of a train as people try to get in or out if you’re okay with your fellow commuters hoping to see your stabbed and bleeding corpse fall onto the platform at the next station stop.

    (oh wait, that last one was a bit harsh.)

  11. There is usually no formal line at a bus stop, just a chaotic-seeming clump of people. However, when the bus does come, the people who have been waiting the longest get to go on first. This casual approach results in a very polite boarding experience 98% of the time.

    On transit, giving people personal space is considered polite – it’s not that we’re unfriendly, we just really aren’t that into having dozens of small-talk conversations with strangers each day. However, I wish people would look at/acknowledge each others’ presence more in this city – in London UK people make eye contact on the tube and no one gets freaked out (or thinks it’s an invitation to start blathering.)

  12. My apologies, my pre-coffee half slumbering brain got it back asswards…

  13. I know your probably looking to keep this article positive and illustrate acceptable behaviors, however I just can’t help think about this topic without thinking about the deplorable behavior I have seen on the TTC, in the last year. Which include:

    1. Toe nail cutting on the subway.
    2. Spitting seeds from a piece of fruit on the seat ahead, some some unsuspecting person sits in them.
    3. Coughing without covering one’s mouth in somebody else’s face
    4. Refusing to give up a seat for a pregnant woman
    5. My all time favorite… projectile snotting.

    Which are not just unacceptable but disgusting and unsanitary, with the exception of the pregnant woman thing and that’s just rude.

  14. Stand right, walk left on escalators!

    Walk on the right side of corridors, sidewalks, and stairs. Leave room for people traveling in the opposite direction. Similarly, when going through a set of doors, use the doors on the right hand side.

    Don’t use the automatic door opener button unless you really need to. It’s much faster to just open then door.

    If you arrive at a door at the same time as someone else, hold the door open for them. (But not if they are far enough away from the door that you are holding the door for more than a couple seconds)

    Turn you ipod down.

    Move to the back of the bus.

    Move down the subway platform. Everyone does not need to stand right by the stairs.

    Let people exit the train first before you rush on. Don’t block the doors of the train.

    If there is a “window seat” and an “aisle seat” side by side, sit in the window seat, so someone else can easily use the aisle seat.

    Walk in a consistent and predictable way. If you stop suddenly the person behind you might run into you.

  15. It could be 4 am on a Sunday in the middle of winter and I swear just about every Torontonian would wait for the walk signal at an intersection (note: pedestrians seem to follow this, but not necessarily bicyclists).

  16. I’ve always been amused when asked “what do you do” because I wear so many hats (although dropped one off when I retired last year). People’s eyes glaze over when I reach the third or fourth paragraph of the answer.

  17. Always exit the rear doors of a bus/streetcar unless you are:

    a) genuinely afraid of the neighbourhood that awaits you upon disembarking
    b) an elderly person or someone with mobility difficulties (eg: disability, pregnancy) sitting in the frontmost seats
    c) confronted by an obstacle that blocks exit from the rear doors, such as
    i) a large snowbank or icy patch
    ii) broken rear doors

    For all other reasons, please, for the love of God, exit through the back doors. It speeds up the boarding process so much for others.

  18. The comments so far seem to be about what etiquette *should* be than what it is. Here are mine

    – Is is unusual for inappropriate behaviour to be directly addressed publicly (aka called out). No one says anything to the person spitting out seeds on the subway or talking to themselves on the street or cutting in line
    – Strangers are generally afraid or completely ignored unexpected verbal contact, whether from a panhandler, or a friendly passer-by (or someone asking them to pick up the litter they just dropped)
    – Lines (instead of mobs) form quickly and orderly
    – You need to meet someone a few times before you can be openly nice to them, or invite them to your home.
    – Take off your shoes when entering a home, unless the host indicates it is OK not to
    – On the street, making eye contact without smile (aka staring) is sometimes equivalent to a smile in friendlier places. This is meant as a friendly gesture. People are not trying to be creepy or aggressive, this is the convention. Smiling at someone often indicates you want something (money, time) from them.
    – Complaints about winter (whether current weather, what it was, or what it will be) is a very common topic of small talk year-round
    – Echo the above – very common for a pedestrian to wait at a light on empty street, uncommon for cyclist

  19. “There is usually no formal line at a bus stop, just a chaotic-seeming clump of people.”

    Interestingly there usually is a lineup for the 77 Swansea bus at Runnymede station, but only in the summer. In winter the line up suddenly forms when the bus pulls into the station.

  20. Everyone (including myself) wants “walk left, stand right” back because TTC just follows others blindly and never explains its rationales. It is in fact copying HK’s MTR (or maybe other subway systems). But when I was in HK, everyone complies with the new “hold the handrail” rules and very few people try to walk.

    Why? The difference is the in HK, MTR explained the rationale behind the new rule: they found that on the whole, everyone standing moves people faster. The rule change was perceived there as sensible. Therefore people didn’t have problems with it.

    But here, they just changed the rule, without any explanation or even an announcement. We just feel that this is illogical, and so no one (even people who know the reason behind the change) follows the new rule, because no one wants to follow illogical rules.

    Rather than being a Toronto etiquette, I think this speaks very loudly against TTC’s “blind follower” and (dare I say) disrespect for passengers mentalities.

  21. On the bus or subway, remove your giant backpack. I’m looking at you, high school students.

    If you must stand by the subway doors, get out at stops and then back in again if it’s busy.

    When cycling, do not pass faster riders at the lights, because then they just have to pass *you* once you start riding again. Dangerous and really annoying.

  22. When you see a forgotten/lost mitten/glove/hat on the ground in the snow, pick it up and place it on slightly higher ground such as a fencepost or newspaper box. This is so that the mitten/glove/hat may have a chance to stay dry from the snow and/or not be stepped on while awaiting the return of its owner.

  23. Oh, the TTC. I think you need a separate handbook just for that. How about:

    – don’t just go to the back of the bus, go *up the stairs* too. The people at the next stop don’t want to walk just because you’re lazy.

    – Turn down your iPod? How about don’t listen to music without headphones? Is it just me, or has this been spreading lately?

    – The best thing I ever saw was a guy throwing his garbage out the closing subway doors onto the platform, over people’s heads.

    Toronto, in general, doesn’t have common etiquette rules, which I think is the problem. Sidewalk behaviour is atrocious too.

    But here’s some good etiquette that will pay it forward: smile and say hello to your bus/streetcar driver. If just some of us did that, think of how much happier the drivers would be, and how that would spread to a happier TTC overall.

  24. Interesting that the Marrakech and Montreal examples were ones of true social interaction and most of the examples in the comments could be codified into a bylaw. We’re still Toronto The Prim then… 🙂

  25. I’ve found that the inside of downtown works like the streets… people walk as if there were two lanes on the cement, with any medians (e.g. planters or benches) acting as medians on highways.

    Striking up a conversation is rarely acceptable during rush-hour transit… in fact, it’s best to avoid eye contact and keep your armpits below others’ nose levels.

  26. How about drivers that try to squeak through a yellow light, and get hung up in the intersection?

    Is it proper etiquette to start booting in their windshield, or should I open their door to urinate on them?

  27. Not sure the scope of what you’re trying to achieve here – is it ‘what people do in Toronto’ or ‘what people SHOULD do in Toronto.’

    Also interesting to note the cultural norms that are imported from other countries, such as the ‘gotta push my way to the front of the line or risk not being served/every man for himself’ mentality from overcrowded Asian countries.

  28. i think that toronto’s etiquette is interesting because many rules are site-specific. for example:

    – “ladies first”: torontonians do not observe this rule except when passing through doorways in skyscrapers around king and bay (particularly exiting elevators)

    – lining up: people are expected to form lines when waiting for something, except for boarding ttc vehicles, unless you are at a stop where people ALWAYS line up without fail (e.g., for the bathurst bus at bathurst station, for the westbound wellesley bus at rose ave.)

    – sleeping in public: this is generally frowned upon, unless you are on the ttc.

    of course there are general social rules that have not been mentioned yet, such as:

    – parking: the first driver to signal an intention to take a parking spot should get the parking spot.

    – snow and ice: it is socially unacceptable (and, of course, contrary to by-laws) to avoid shovelling the sidewalk promptly after a snowfall or to avoid dealing with ice.

    – physical contact with strangers: not acceptable, unless the contact is accidental in which case an apology is expected, even on the ttc.

    – public drunkenness: generally frowned upon as a moral issue.

  29. Seems most of the suggestions so far have been what the etiquette should be, and most of these have to do with movement. I’m having a hard time coming up with a Toronto-specific etiquette from observation… perhaps that people always wait for people to get off the subway they get on.

    When I lived in Victoria BC, everyone (and I mean everyone!) said “Thanks!” when they got off the bus. Even when a bus full of students all got off at the university, the driver would get a “thanks” from each person!

  30. In Don Mills it is the convention for pedestrians to wish each other “good morning” on weekends. You could meet the same people on a weekday morning and not say anything, but it is considered very rude not to greet them on a saturday or sunday morning. Took me forever to get use to this, but now that I am, I like it.

  31. Having only moved to Toronto 10 months ago, I was happily surprised with all the help you get from people when you’re trying to manoeuvre a stroller around the subway. There’s always someone happy to help you get up/down stairs or that will open a door for you. Great stuff!
    The taking off your shoes when you visit someone takes some getting used to, though…..

  32. It’s looking like “Stand Right; Walk Left” should be the title of the handbook 🙂

    I heartily agree with everyone who’s already suggested that point, btw – it’s one of those things that really grinds my gears on my particularly grumpy mornings. Like most commenters here, I’m afraid the majority of my suggestions will be transit-related.

    Also (and this is directed most particularly to TTC passengers at Yonge/Bloor station), do not crowd the doors. There is absolutely no sense at all standing right in front of the doors through which my fellow passengers and I are attempting to exit – you certainly won’t get on the train any faster, but you will, just as certainly, severely irritate everyone trying to get off.

    Take your backpack OFF when using a crowded subway/streetcar/bus. Wearing a bulky backpack means you take up almost as much space as two people, plus did you realise you just hit me with that thing?

    Seats are for sitting on – one arse at a time. They’re not for your feet, your shopping, your newspaper, your backpack. And please – unless you’re just naturally large – don’t use up two available seats by spreading yourself out unnecessarily.

    Before you leave the house with an MP3 player on, take the headphones out and cover the speakers with your thumbs. Can you still hear the music? Does it sound annoyingly like small insects being tortured inside an empty coffee can? Yes? Then TURN THE DAMN THING DOWN. When you’re able to hear without straining the first soft joyful gurgles of your beautiful grandchild, many years from now, you’ll be thanking me.

    Pick up after your dog. I have a dog. I love my dog. I also love being able to walk the streets without having to keep my eyes glued to the sidewalk, scanning for messy underfoot surprises. That’s just nasty. Don’t want to clean up animal crap? Then get a fish – you’re not qualified to own a dog.

    Snow shovel: buy one. Learn how to use it. Do so. Properly.

    In the PATH (and elsewhere), especially at busy times when the traffic flow is heavy and constant, hold the door for the person behind you. It only adds a second to your forward progress, it will make you feel good about yourself, and it’s just the right thing to do.

    On garbage/recycling days, try – please – not to completely block the sidewalk with your giant stinky wheelie bins. I know it’s hard, sometimes – particularly in the snow. And yes, we’re proud of you for having chosen the giant-size blue bin and diligently filling it with cleaned, properly recyclable stuff. But people with strollers, wheelchair users, and just pedestrians in general will really thank you for leaving some room to manoeuvre.

  33. @Carbonman – I tried to do that once. If you have a giant backpack, it takes more time to take it off than to squeeze in. The result is you get more insults trying to take off your backpack than squeezing through.

    So. Taking off giant backpack – 0. Squeezing through – 1.

  34. @ambrose – I disagree. Generally, you know when you’re about to get on a crowded subway car, bus or streetcar, so prepare ahead and take off the back-pack before you get on. Hold it in front of you so that, even though it still takes up space, at least you won’t wack someone with it whenever you move or turn around.

  35. If you see a dog owner failing to pick up after their dog, a firm “Do you need a bag?” will sometimes do the trick. (This harks back to the “not calling out bad behaviour” note above… I think the lesson is we are somewhat passive-aggressive as a city.) Only works if you actually have a bag, obviously.

  36. If someone holds a door open for the next person, most of those enjoying the courtesy will say thanks. When they do not I usually call “thank you” after them, hoping to jar them from their selfish absorption or worse, rudeness.

  37. Hello Torontonians!

    First off, thank you SPACING for giving us this opportunity to have a voice.

    My $0.02 are as follows:

    – please let people out of the subway car, streetcar or bus before you try to get on it. Who are we kidding here? How do you really expect to get onto the train if you do not let people off first. It’s simple physics, it just doesn’t work in reverse!

    – we all know the general rule of the escalators: Walk Left, Stand Right. However, If you see someone who is seemingly not aware of this simple but very important aspect of human traffic flow within our transit system, kindly tell them in a very polite manner. let’s face it, not everyone CAN read a sign that everyone should!

    – personal hygiene. Do I really need to say more? if it goes on in your bathroom at home, it should NOT happen in public on the ttc – including but not limited to: projectile snotting, spitting, nose picking or nail clipping.

    – so much more to say but I must exercise restraint as much of it is being said already.

    Lastly, I would ask all of you who know about this wonderful exercise in participatory journalism to pass it on to as many people who live in this great city that you know who can comment. The more people who live in Toronto who can see this comment thread, the closer we are to a more respectful Toronto and a safer, cleaner more efficient transit ride!!

    Thank you all.

  38. As a pedestrian it feels strange saying this, but could the remaining 75% of cyclists that I see actually follow some sort of cycling rules of the road?

    I know there are a lot of passionate cyclists out there that don’t fall into this category and I know the situation for bikes in the city really sucks and sometimes it is unavoidable to have to go on the sidewalks in the downtown core. I am not hating on that.

    But could the majority of you at least wear a helmet or invest in a bell or horn so I know you are coming? I have been run over or nearly run over four times in the past 5 months by people who have no concept of their own personal safety or the safety of those around them. It has gotten to the point where I am so frustrated that if a cyclist who isn’t taking proper precautions cuts me off on the sidewalk, it ruins my day entirely.

    Having gotten that out of my system, actually lining up for things is another good one. It only gets worse in the winter months. The “stand right, walk left” problem that everyone seems to be up in arms almost never poses a problem for me. Of course, I also tend to avoid the TTC during rush hour on principle if I can avoid it.

    As for the right time for a conversation with a stranger, a good rule of thumb is if you make eye contact with the other person and you both smile. Even then, don’t force it. If someone has something to say, then say it.

    Other problems:
    People and businesses that use salt as a substitute for shoveling. It looks terrible and takes a toll on the roads and sidewalks. It isn’t any safer and it ruins shoes easily.
    If you accidentally bump into someone while in a rush, at least make an attempt to take two seconds and say you are sorry.
    If you sit in an aisle seat on the TTC and someone needs a seat, move so the person can sit there. It just makes you look arrogant and standoffish if you don’t at least attempt to let someone sit next to you.
    I know you like your morning coffee before work, but if you know you are traveling during rush hour and are elbow to elbow with people, can you please wait until you get to work or put it in a reusable mug? Those paper cups don’t hold up very long against the pushing throngs.
    Learn where the doors open on the subway stops and don’t stand in front of them to block people getting on and off if you can help it.

  39. Do not offer your own opinions on politics, race, or sexuality, until you have determined the homogenized ‘views’ of bourgeois Torontonians: then regurgitate only those memes. Do not imagine these ‘views’ reflect their own, which they’ll never have the courage to express; if the ‘views’ matched their unexpressed opinions we’d have a society where a black girl from Regent Park had the same chances as a white one from Rosedale, wouldn’t we?

  40. I’ve lived in most major cities in Canada, and I can say definitively that Toronto drivers are atrociously ignorant and rude, compared to the rest of the country.

    It’s common Toronto behavior to run a red and block the interesection, cut off pedestrians, and ignore ‘lane closed ahead’ sign until the *last* second, upon which time it’s apparently acceptable to just cut someone off without signalling.

    Oh, and my absolutely biggest pet peeve – when someone slows down, or otherwise goes out of their way to let you in, get that lazy hand in the air and make sure they see you wave. Makes everyones day a little brighter.

    Also agree with above comment from Steve, about people holding open doors. If someone doesn’t hold open a door, especially with someone right behind them they get called out on it.

  41. One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that Torontonians are always happy to help with directions and the like – but only if it’s obvious they’re not being asked for money. “Excuse me…” does nothing, “excuse me, can I ask you a question?” is even worse and will be summarily ignored. “Excuse me, which direction is Front St.?” (all in one sentence) will nearly always get a friendly and helpful response.

  42. Torontonians say sorry with any accidental physical contact with anyone, even if it is the other person’s fault.

    If you want to get by someone, say sorry instead of excuse me. Torontonians seem to think that saying excuse me is impolite / pushy / demanding.

  43. it drives me nuts to see able bodied people using automatic door openers. Kids and seniors are fine, but to see a healthy adult be too lazy to open a door. Sheesh

  44. @ Michael O’Connor Clarke – I wholeheartedly agree that there’s no point in crowding the doors. Unfortunately I don’t see that there will be any improvement any time soon.

    The way I see it is that TTC has been subconsciously programming its passengers to (1) charge the doors, (2) hold the doors, and (3) crowd the doors DESPITE the appearance of trying to stop these practices. The simple reason people are doing these things are simply: (1) there is not enough time for people to get on and off, and (2) there is no predictability in when the next train will come.

    (1) People charge the doors because they subconsciously feel that if they don’t, then the next train will arrive who-knows-when.

    (2) People hold the doors whenever the operator close the doors before people finish getting on (and sometimes getting off, and I’ve seen people being physically knocked down onto the ground and they still try to close the doors before the victim, an old lady, had got back on her feet).

    (3) People subconsciously crowd the doors because they don’t trust that TTC will give them enough time to get on.

    If TTC can give a consistent, predictable board time a la MTR in HK (at least 15 to 30 seconds at each station even if the station looks empty), and be more consistent in its train frequency, I’m sure these problems will then become addressable.

  45. There is one thing I have noticed in Toronto that boils my blood. Here is a suggestion:
    – If you see an elderly person or pregnant woman, stand up from your seat on the TTC. It happens frequently that an elderly person will get on a streetcar, only to be met with the newspapers and books that suddenly cover people’s faces: “oh- I’m so absorbed in my reading of this paper that I do not see this person in front of me who clearly needs a seat!” Guess what? Everyone sees you not giving your seat up. We are all giving you dirty looks. Be aware!

    Thank you to all of those who DO give up their precious seats to those who need it. I smile at you.

  46. @ Rachel at 2:41 pm

    When I see people staring at a map or guide book,
    I go up to them and ask them if I can help them
    in any way.

    Most of these people are grateful for the inter-
    vention and others say they’re studying the map to
    figure out where next to go.

    This habit of mine has ended in my learning about
    the visitors and their homelands or home cities.
    If I can, I’ll make suggestions that may provide
    them with a destination that’s off the beaten
    path and to their liking.

    All of us come away from this enriched.

  47. Nail clipping and nail filing are bathroom activities not transit ones- I don’t want you toe flying at me in the subway!

  48. Cyclists form an orderly queue at traffic lights. No sneaking up to poll position, even if there’s plenty of room.

    Be generous to pedestrians. But whatever you do, don’t let another car in. It’s better to get a bit closer to that red traffic light than to let another driver get by.

    Don’t bother lining up for a streetcar. Unless you are at a TTC station, in which case the line should be dead straight, exactly 90 degrees from the road with no space for passing.

    When waiting for an ATM, ensure that you are at least five metres away from the person currently using it. God forbid that you should catch a glimpse of their pin code.

    When you arrive at the TTC kiosk on a Monday morning and are told that there are no weekly passes left, smile and say thank you.

    As someone who moved from London (England) a year ago, I actually find Toronto a very polite and accommodating city.

  49. Elevators. We’re largely past the time when men took off their hats in elevators, though not perhaps too far gone to invite ladies, baby carriages and the elderly to exit first.
    Those standing nearest to the control panel when new people get on should show common courtesy by asking which floor they want, rather than wait to be asked to punch in a stop. The latter, if necessary, should be followed by ‘please.’

  50. It is an unspoken convention in Toronto that you never strike up a conversation with a partly-clad stranger standing next to you in the changing room at the gym. I thought that was a universal convention, actually, and then I moved to the middle east where chatting in the change room is completely the norm.

  51. When attending a festival, concert or sporting event, try to remain as quiet and motionless as possible. Always remember that others have paid ‘good money’ to watch the performance, not to watch you. If you don’t sit/stand quietly, it will be assumed that you are either ‘drunk’ or ‘on something’.

    Avoid talking to, touching, smiling at, making eye contact with anyone. Any of these gestures could lead to conversation. Conversation could lead to lost time, lost time to lost productivity, lost productivity to lost money.

    Don’t be alarmed when people ask what you do for a living, where you live, what kind of car you drive, what breed of dog you own: this is the norm, they are only trying to determine whether or not you are worth talking to. If you don’t own a car, make it clear that that you can easily afford any car you like, you simply don’t need one as you dropped a substantial sum on your subway-handy condo.

    Try to drop as many ethnicities into your conversation as possible Ex: “My hard-working Kazak neighbour recommended a new Laotian restaurant near Greektown. I usually go to this little Burmese place near Koreatown that my darling Sri Lankan workmate recommended, but I’m going to give this a try after I stop by my delightful Armenian cleaners, located next to that cute little Jamaican place by my favourite Kurdish-owned corner store.” This will really impress people, particularly out-of-towners.

  52. If you’re sitting on the TTC and a pregnant woman, elderly person, or a person with small children is standing near you, stand up and let them take your seat. DO NOT ASK if they would like your seat, because they will say no to avoid bothering you. But if you simply stand, they will usually say thank you and take your seat.

    (It’s confusing, but that’s what happens.)

    Don’t start conversations with strangers, because you never know if that person will speak the same language as you, and you don’t want to create awkwardness.

    When walking through a busy doorway, hold the door open for the next person. Don’t forget to smile. Torontonians really value the door thing, possibly because it’s one of the few ways we can help strangers without speaking.

    (In general, Torontonians prefer wordless interactions with strangers, probably to avoid language difficulties.)

  53. Further to leanord @ 11:29 —

    On those damn Orion 7 buses, I wish people would exit via the front at low-volume stops. The rear doors take forever to open and close — most people are usually out by the time the doors are fully open, and then it’s another 7 or 8 seconds before they close — and it can be the difference between making or missing a green light at the next intersection.

  54. Seems most of the suggestions so far have been what the etiquette should be

    See, but that’s part of Toronto etiquette: when asked how things are, we lament how they *should* be.

    I have to say, hand-in-hand with the failure to “stand right, walk left” my pet peeve is people who congregate at the very bottom of the escalator or outside a door, so as to impede the flow of people around them…

  55. Pedestrian Sense:

    An elaborate system of traffic managment has been developed to keep the flow of cars orderly and relatively collision-free. In a city where the sidewalks are all to often too narrow, we need to do the same thing for pedestrian traffic. With the stakes not being as high (we don’t die or lose limbs when we bump into other people) this doesn’t have to be iron-clad, but as a general guide, I think it would be good for everyone to learn.

    So rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, why don’t we simply adopt the same general rules for sidewalk traffic?

    #1. Pay Attention! Watch where you are going, get your nose out of your damn book or blackberry or whatever. Don’t blithely ignore other people on the sidewalk in the hope that they will all get out of Your Majesty’s way. Take responsibility, and be considerate of others.

    #2. Keep to the right-hand side of the sidewalk.

    #3. Don’t suddenly stop dead in the middle of a busy sidewalk. Look around and if necessary, step off the sidewalk onto the street, or preferably into a doorway.

    #4. If you are with a group, don’t arrange yourself in a sidewalk-blocking line.

    #5. If you are walking your pet, please do not use one of those leashes that just spools out so that you have a 20-foot sidewalk barrier blocking everybody else.

    #6. Don’t be afraid to look people in the eye and speak with them if you are trying to work out who goes where in a crowded situation. There’s nothing wrong with simply polite and forthright.

    #7. On escalators, walk left, stand right.

    #8. Pay Attention redux. If you can’t do anything else, please do this one thing.

  56. 1. Acknowledge the drivers who stop for pedestrians at a cross walk.
    2. Stay out of the seats reserved for elderly or disabled passengers.
    3. If you see a tourist puzzling over a map and obviously lost, ask if they need directions.

  57. The TTC fare thing. When people delay those behind them by emptying their pockets or purses to find change, or tie up the collector with a lengthy question, it is acceptable for those who have a token or ticket (and perhaps the exact fare needed) to go to the head of the line, suck in their girth, make their deposit in the box and squeeze past in one flowing movement, muttering ‘excuse me’ as they do so.

  58. @peter – You obvious has never been to North York Centre station.

    In any case, how can you judge an apparent “able bodied person”? The person could be sick/injured/exhausted, or has an invisible disability. And how about able bodied persons what are carrying lots of things? These doors openers are for anyone who for any reason needs the accessibility, not just for disabled people.

  59. The well-established Toronto norm for driving on the city’s highways, and the 401 in particular, is to pull into the leftmost available lane at your soonest opportunity, and stay there until you reach your exit. This makes safe passing essentially impossible and forces everyone to slow down to the speed of the car in front of them, thus allowing drivers to focus on their cell phone conversations about how important they are.

    I thought I should point this out as the norm in most other places is to keep right except to pass, allowing cars to travel at different speeds and producing a more efficient flow of traffic. Newcomers to the city unaware of our convention will certainly end up rather frustrated as they end up stuck behind someone doing 110 in the leftmost of six westbound lanes during the middle of the day.

  60. It’s okay to leave your newspaper behind when you leave the subway. Someone else will read it.

    People who want to smoke almost always go outside, even if they’re in a private home.

    If you’re turning left at an intersection, nobody seems to mind if you follow the vehicle in front of you, even after the light turns red.

  61. We say sorry. Constantly.
    *you bump someone* Sorry!
    *someone bumps you* Sorry! *uh… Why did I say sorry?*
    *Need help at a store?* Sorry? *I’m not certain why I’m sorry they have to do there job*

    etc etc

    I think this city is very well mannered all things considered. And we have a very small ego. Don’t bruise it. Stroke it. Tell us how mighty we are! Do not scoff! grovel!

    I think we embody the Canadian spirit of “As long as you aren’t infringing on my rights, Do what you want, and so will i. Comment and criticize at will”.

    This city really is helpful. I have heard that there is a problem with making movies set in USA here. They have to liter the streets to make it look grimy. consequently when they leave the sets, they get cleaned up by both the city and good Samaritans. I remember after math of kids drinking in parks getting cleaned up by people taking walks.

    This city truly is clean and friendly.
    The true clean home of Superman 🙂

    I have also heard that this cities number 1 pet peeve:
    People jumping lines!

    So pick up trash, say sorry excessively and LITERALLY stay in line!

  62. Also. Don’t point out that the local Toronto inhabitants think they are New York.We do not think we are New York. We think we are something grander. Canadian’s city made in it’s image!

    So let us know this. Do not challenge it. I suppose this goes back to my point before about not scoffing and to tell us we are mighty.

  63. One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that Torontonians are always happy to help with directions and the like – but only if it’s obvious they’re not being asked for money. “Excuse me…” does nothing, “excuse me, can I ask you a question?” is even worse and will be summarily ignored. “Excuse me, which direction is Front St.?” (all in one sentence) will nearly always get a friendly and helpful response.

    Comment by Rachel
    January 11, 2010 @ 2:41 pm

    The above is very true.

    Also… you can tell someone is not from Toronto is they don’t form a queue (anywhere, it doesn’t matter, a few people waiting for something will line up).

    Torontonians generally do not speak to strangers in public. Unless they are a dog owner meeting another dog owner. Then you must smile and make chit chat.

    Torontonians will not call out others on breaches of etiquette (even if everyone else around is obviously fuming at some indiscretion).

    “What do you do?” I try very hard not to do this one, but hear it all the time.

    Waiting for the light to change… guilty as charged.

    Always bring wine or some other gift to a party.

    Always take your shoes off in someone’s home.

    Need to think more about what the social norms are… hard when you’re from a place and just do things because that’s what people do…

  64. My New Year’s wish for every pedestrian, cyclist, and driver of our fair city:

    Grow peripheral vision. Etiquette will naturally follow.

  65. Instead of looking someone in the eye when you pass them on the street, check out their shoes – it’s a more superficial way of judging someone’s character.

  66. Stand back of the subway doors. Actually, this applies to elevators as well. Pay attention, and don’t just charge the door. Let people off first.

    Also, don’t race to get a seat on the subway. Be courteous. Walk at a normal pace, and look for a seat. If you have to stand, it won’t kill you.

  67. Don’t walk four-wide on the sidewalks. Toronto sidewalks are typically quite narrow.

  68. How the rules are (instead of should be)

    -On highways cut into the exit lane at busy exits at the last possible moment, even over solid lines in order to cut in front of everyone else and slow down traffic significantly (by far the worst at DVP/404 and 401)

    -I agree with those who said we line up for everything in Toronto

    -Acceptable for people to save seats with coats for all types of seats (fast food places, movie theaters, etc). But only coats or winter attire, no one ever leaves anything else down (i.e. purses, sunglasses)

    -Leaving your laptop unattended at libraries is normal and accepted behavior

    -Be sanitary at all times… by all means alcohol hand wash at all times, and paper towels to open bathroom doors, etc.

    -If turning left, always veer slowly into the turning lane as slow as possible and without signaling in order to block people behind you

    -Always ask people ‘where are you from?’ as the first question when meeting someone or as small-talk

    -Always admit that you have many multicultural friends, have your favorite multicultural food places and shopping areas as well

    -It’s okay to say the Leafs suck, as even Leaf fans will agree willingly, and be the most vocal about it. Applies to all Toronto sports teams

    -Blame the mayor for everything you don’t like

    -Whenever blaming the government for anything, always end with ‘back home we wouldn’t have done it like this’ or if born in Canada, talk about how ‘in Europe/Asia it isn’t like this when I visited’

    -Spraypaint perfectly nice sidewalks for no good reason. Cut up perfectly nice sidewalks and fill it in with crappy asphalt patches

    -Take off your shoes before entering someone’s home

    -Don’t smoke except outside main doors of buildings

  69. While this may be forgotten during our snow free winter, I think the snow really brings out good qualities in people, especially early in the winter. Could it be considered social convention to always stop and help push cars out of the snow when stuck, or to help shovel for an elderly or sickly neighbour?

  70. Not sure if this has been mentioned yet, but how about the infamous Toronto U-turn. Toronto is the only city in Canada where you can get away with a U-turn at anytime and almost any place, without police bothering you or dirty looks from other drivers.

  71. It’s quite a nerve you’ve hooked into!

    Isn’t this invitation to rant showing Toronto its own worst self?

  72. My comment concerns talking to people.

    I used to paint out on the street while I was a student.

    I found that without fail I could not paint for more than a few minutes without people coming to talk to me, which I ended up really enjoying. I realized that people in Toronto are not unfriendly or unsociable they are introverted. All they need is a point of access and then the conversation flows easily. The artist painting on the street was an easy and acceptable reason to strike up a conversation.

    One Rule I REALLY want to enforce is “TURN YOUR DAMN iPod DOWN!!!” No one should be forced to listen to other people’s music. There is really nothing worse.

  73. Here’s another one about the Orion 7s. When the bus empties out at a subway station, passengers exiting via the single-flow rear door will alternate between those from the front section and those from the rear.

  74. Drivers making eye contact with me when I’m on my bike so I know that they’ve seen me: is good.

  75. This may be the opposite of etiquette, but since moving to Toronto I’ve noticed an epidemic of people shoveling their snow onto the roads. It’s not people who have nowhere else to put it either, the worst offenders are those with sizable lawns. I’ve never seen it be acceptable anywhere else.

    Eventually this leads up to huge snow drifts blocking the streets for months at a time. Its a big problem for people like me without a driveway who relies on street parking. It’s hard enough to find a spot in the summer.

    I wonder if people buy permits for their drifts.

  76. Besides walk left stand right:

    It’s friendly to shovel your the sidewalk in front of your neighbour(s) houses, in downtown, where houses are narrow, but presumptuous or overbearing to extend this to shoveling their front walk or stairs.

    Torontonians are generally pretty good at pushing cars that get stuck in snow. Sometimes they will grab a shovel and shovel the wheels out.

    It’s considerate to leave your wine/beer bottles out, but not mixed in with other recycling, so that scavengers can pick them up noiselessly in the night.

    Polite Torontonians don’t wear backpacks on the TTC.
    They also help people with strollers/buggies carry these things down streetcar steps.

    This city is populated with people who hold doors for other people they notice coming behind them – exterior doors, elevator doors.

  77. I moved here (Toronto’s West End) from Montreal two and a half years ago. I expected to find what non- Torontonian Canadians all seem to insist is the “cold and impersonal city-where-fun-forgot”. In fact, I’ve found Toronto to be quite the opposite. (Perhaps things have improved here in recent years and national public opinion has been unable or unwilling to catch up…in Canada? No…).

    From a pedestrian point of view, the public space culture (streets and sidewalks are public spaces, after all) in central Toronto is relatively friendly and positive when you consider the scale and pace of the city. People smile and open doors for each other all the time. People are happy to give directions and one rarely comes across aggressive behaviour. I would like to see more creative and impromptu USE of existing public spaces, but that appears to be on the rise. Torontonians need more room to practice public etiquette (pedestrian-only zones, street festivals). But that’s an aside…

    Car culture here (as everywhere!) is where I notice the most aggressive and inconsiderate behaviour.

  78. Holding doors open in TO is a more complicated issue than it first appears. It varies from situation to situation.

    In transit or other high traffic situations, the big city defining philosophy kicks in though : truncated politeness.

    If it’s 7:45 am on a work day, and you’re at a downtown subway station entering from the mall (there almost always is one), holding the door for one person means 50 will walk through, a few eying you suspiciously looking for the outstretched hand with change cup.



    Walk ahead of the person you’re helping (or just whoever happens to be behind you), push the door open and then do one of two things: give it an extra shove so it’ll stay open for the person right behind you, or slow down a step and hold the door with your fingers for an extra half second. Don’t stop moving for long, if at all.

    My second suggestion is around meeting people in the street.

    In other cities people tend to make eye contact, smile and say ‘hi’ and ‘thanks’ on the street. Most Torontonians are usually too hurried and/or suspicious for that to work out well. The biggest exception to this is The Nod.

    The Nod occurs most often late at night on a well lit street or on transit, or in any situation where someone’s helped you out, or just generally deserving of respect for what they’re doing. I most frequently use it when exiting a streetcar in the ‘Blue Night’ hours.

    It works like this:

    Look the person directly in the eye, and nod. It’s a simple matter of acknowledging their existence, but it works wonders.

    I also use it when I see homeless people on the street. Simple respect can go a long way.

  79. I would like to offer a few observations based on 2 1/2 years of living in Toronto. I’ve never lived anywhere else in Canada, so I’m not sure if these hold true for other places in the country.

    *Audiences at concerts in Toronto don’t flinch. I may get a few looks when I’m wriggling in my seat or going crazy on the dance floor, but I don’t care!

    *Even when you instruct them not to bring a thing, dinner guests in Toronto bring way more gifts, and more lavish gifts, than in any other city I’ve lived in. They also are way more likely to send a thank you afterwards (usually by email, but a surprising number by snail mail) and to reciprocate with an invitation.

    *I never used the phrase “no worries” until moving here and now I say it daily.

    *People frequently complain about how Torontonians don’t talk to strangers, but I haven’t found that to be the case. Although I admit that 9 times out of 10, I’m the one who initiates it.

    *The longer I live here, the more evident it is that this city suffers from a serious self-esteem problem (or prefers to portray itself that way, anyway) frequently framed in comparison to other places, and always viewing itself as “lesser than”. I collect documentation of this phenomenon – mainly from newspaper clippings and online articles so far – and have amassed quite a pile in a very short period of time. Actually, I have two piles – one just for pieces by or about Richard Florida.

    *Transplants to Toronto from other places are way more likely to go on and on about how great the city is than people who are from here.

    (By the way, I’m a TTC rider but figured there were plenty of transit-related comments already…)

  80. Only one rule is needed: the Golden Rule. Be considerate of others and do what you would want others to do for you if the situation is reversed.

    Don’t block the flow of movement, anywhere. It’s inconsiderate.

    Don’t intrude on other people’s privacy. It’s rude.

    As far as old rules of etiquette based on gender and social standing etc, it’s passe and illogical. Women can be and should be treated the same as any man.

    Don’t be too judgmental; if someone was having a bad day and skipped a ‘thank you’ or ‘excuse me’, don’t hold it against the person.

    Do unto others as you would others do unto you. That’s the Golden Rule. All else is commentary.

  81. – Move to the back of the bus/streetcar.
    – Let travellers get off the subway first before entering.
    – Don’t stand/block the sidewalk and have a conversation. Move to the side or out of the way.
    – Don’t abruptly stop at a doorway/entrance/exitway when people are walking behind you.
    – You don’t throw your garbage on the floor of your living room, bedroom or kitchen, don’t do the same with Toronto and other cities. Municipalities, parks and many businesses (gas stations, grocery stores, Tim Hortons, Starbucks, etc.) have garbage/recycling bins inside and outside of their businesses. PLEASE USE THEM. Don’t throw your litter on the ground.
    – Cycling is great for body and mind as well as the environment. Cyclist should obey traffic laws.
    – If you’re healthy, young and able to stand. Please give your seat up for the eldery and someone who is pregnent. Just remember you’ve or will be in this situation one day (directly or indirectly), you would want someone to offer you there seat.

  82. @Andrew Parker

    Bicycles should almost never need to use a bell or horn. What they should be doing is respecting pedestrian traffic rather than ringing a bell to have people jump out of the way.
    There is a pecking order in the motive world: Train, Truck, Auto, Motorcycle, Bicycle, Pedestrian. Each of them that is higher in the pecking order has a duty of responsibility to the ones below. To beep a horn and expect everyone to get out of the way is just selfish.

  83. Women using public toilets: don’t pee all over the toilet seat and leave it there for someone else to clean up or accidentally sit on. It’s disgusting.

    Re. holding open doors: if I open a door for me and my child or spouse to go through, don’t rush in from behind me to squeeze in ahead of us. It’s rude. I wasn’t opening the door for you but I would have held it open after I’d gotten through. Oh, and when I do hold a door open for you: say “thank you”, you ingrate.

    If you’re in a group of people, even if there are just two of you on a narrow sidewalk, don’t walk side-by-side and expect the one person walking towards you to duck and take cover in a doorway or step into the street until you’ve passed. Move over, for heaven’s sake — the sidewalk doesn’t belong only to you. Didn’t you learn to walk single-file in Kindergarten?

    Don’t spit on the sidewalk or anywhere else for that matter, especially if you have some kind of illness or sinus infection. Don’t hork into a garbage pail or onto the subway tracks, either.

    Don’t pull out your stinky food and eat it on the subway or bus. Did you ever consider that the rest of us might be hungry, too? We don’t want to see or smell your food and we most definitely don’t want to hear you eating it. We also don’t want to see or hear you lick your fingers, slowly and repeatedly, one by one, from knuckle to fingertip, each time you eat a piece of sticky something-or-other. Were you raised in a barn?

    Stop clicking your pen 100 times in rapid succession in between each word on your crossword puzzle. Don’t tell me your teacher lets you get away with that in class.

    Turn down the volume on your music-machine. Even though you’re wearing earphones, I can still hear it and it’s giving me a headache.

    Don’t bring your radio or music-player onto the bus and then turn it on so the rest of us have to listen to your favourite atonal noise.

    Government employees: stop allowing our libraries to be used as hang-outs and hostels for the homeless and/or mentally disturbed. They’re noisy, they smell bad and they’re scary. I don’t feel sorry for them because they’re homeless: I feel sorry for me because I can’t take quiet pleasure in using a library anywhere in the city anymore. How does my having a miserable time and losing my rights make their world a better place?

    Don’t stand in a group of people at the top or bottom of the stairs or escalator. Have that fascinating conversation while standing near the wall over there and get out of the way.

    Women with large purses and people with large backpacks: pay attention. It hurts when you hit me with those things. I don’t believe you don’t feel the purse or backpack shift when it knocks into me. Say sorry, for heaven’s sake. It is not alright for you to hit me with your large bags. This public space belongs to me as much as it does to you.

    Don’t put your bags on the subway or bus seat beside you and then avoid eye contact. I will tap on your shoulder and ask you to move them so I can sit down.

    In the movie theatre: turn off your cell phones or stay at home. My family didn’t pay 75 bucks for tickets and popcorn to listen to you talk on the phone throughout the entire movie. Oh, and for those people seated too far away for me to hear your fascinating conversation (“then he says, then I say, then he says, he says, and I say, no way, and he says, no way…”) the bright light on your phone is extremely distracting, too. Stop kicking the back of my seat.

    When putting on your coat in a public place, look around. It hurts when you whip your coat in a circle that I just happen to be standing in. When you do whip me with your coat, apologize: don’t ignore me as if it doesn’t matter that you’ve just hurt me. I’m not a chair or a wall.

  84. Sidewalk etiquette: Walk On Your Right-Hand Side!

    Otherwise you will be walking into the path of those who are walking correctly!
    There is an important safety aspect to this: when walking on the curb side, you will be facing traffic flow and at intersections you will be facing the turning traffic. Rather like the rural rule of walking facing the traffic.
    This always used to be taught in school; I think the reason that people often walk on the left-hand side of the sidewalk is due to much immigration from countries where traffic drives on the left, and old habits are hard to shake. Same issue over there: safety.
    I found this out many times in my overseas travel, where the opposite rule applies. Having the habit of walking on the RH side, when stepping off the curb and at intersections, many times I was just about hit by a vehicle coming from behind. Old habits are difficult to overcome.

  85. Bicycle etiquette, much improvement needed.
    Bicycle riders in the city are probably the most ignorant and ill-mannered users of the road one could hope to see.
    To see a bicycle rider actually obey the rules of the road is unusual. There is some small percentage of bike riders, who do. Yes, I do obey the rules.
    Bicycle etiquette quick check list:
    -Stop at crosswalks
    -Stop at red lights
    -Stop at stop signs
    -Do not race on the sidewalk, causing pedestrians to have to jump out of the way
    -Do not ring your bell and expect people to jump out of the way; you should be exercising caution to avoid threatening them, especially if approaching from behind
    -Do not race up and squeeze between cars in between the traffic lanes and then scream obscenities at car drivers because they didn’t see you. Cars have blind spots, and no matter how many times the driver may check around him, you may not be seen, especially if approaching quickly.
    -Similarly, do not race up in the curb lane beside drivers who are making a right turn on a red light, with the intention of going straight through the red light without even hesitating.

  86. another norm that seems to exist in toronto is that gardening invites conversation, just like dog ownership. when i garden my front yard, a stranger stops to chat every 20 minutes or so to talk about particular plants or neighbourhood history or to ask whether there is an apartment available in my house. if i do any other activity at the front of my house, nobody ever speaks to me (i live on a major street).

  87. When walking through a doorway and someone is holding the door for you you then hold the door open for the person behind you, who will then hold the door for the person behind him/her. Almost like handing over a baton in track. Don’t breeze through the doorway. That’s rude.

  88. 1. Do not clip your toenails on the bus

    2. Picking your nose, inspecting the results and flicking your dried snot about in public, especially when I’m in a captive situation (like the TTC) and forced to watch you do it, is rude.

  89. I’ve noticed that Scarborough has some distinctly different (and usually better) etiquette, especially with regards to transit.

    During rush hour at Kennedy station to board the SRT, form an orderly TWO BY TWO line where the doors line up. Give dirty looks to and elbow people who, once the line is 10 deep, try to stand at the front of the platform and then try to jump the line when the train arrives. You can always tell which people don’t regularly use the SRT by how flabbergasted they are by the orderly lines. If there is only one person standing in the “line up” spot on the platform, stand next to them, not behind them. The door fits two people at a time and you waste precious boarding space by lining up single file.

    When arriving at Kennedy on the SRT in the morning rush, it is perfectly acceptable to use both sides of the train to exit in the first car since there is almost nobody waiting to board. This is not acceptable at any other time (there are people waiting to board), or in any other car (there are no stairs on the “boarding” side for the other cars). Unless you have a stroller, in which case, you are excused because the elevator is only on the boarding side.

    Stand right, walk left does not apply in the Scarborough SRT stations during rush hour. Everybody walks, even if you’re 80 years old with a cane. However, the right side of the escalator is the “slow lane”.

    If it’s after 10pm and you’re on the bus in Scarborough and not a thug, you say goodnight to your bus driver when you disembark (from the front, naturally. Nobody gets off at the back late at night in Scarborough unless you want to get jumped).

    Always say “thanks” or “have a good day” to the GO bus drivers.

    People seem to wait until after the announcer-lady has said the next stop to pull the yellow cord on the bus. Before the announcements, people used to just pull it the second it pulled past the previous stop. We’re so polite, we wait for the recorded announcer to finish speaking instead of interrupting with the “ding” of the cord.

  90. Public Washroom Ettiquite

    1. When using public washrooms, flush the toilette after yourself.

    2. If a stain is left flush and flush until it’s all gone.

    3. if you sprinkle when you winkle be a sweety and wipe the seaty.

    4.when leaving the washroom cover the door handle with a tissue to avoid contact, however do not throw the said tissue behind the door.

    5. The TTC washrooms are for emergency use only

    Everyone likes a clean washroom.

  91. If we’re talking about things Torontonians actually -do-, instead of what we wish they would, this is my list.

    — The TTC —
    -Stand right, walk left on escalators

    -Let people out of Buses, Subways and streetcars first before boarding

    -Feel free to leave your newspaper on the subway for the next person to read, but only if it is properly folded and left neatly on the seat.

    — Doors —

    -In the PATH system during rush hour times (including lunch), tap the automatic entrance button at doorways between buildings, especially when the door is already open. The people before and after you will do this as well ensuring the door remains in the open position and keeps the flow of traffic moving.

    – With doors that don’t have buttons, don’t allow doors to slam in the face of those behind you. Hold it as long as you can without slowing down.

    – As the person on the receiving end of a door hold, for the love of God, use a free hand to hold the door yourself as you get close, relieving the person in front of you. If you don’t, fully expect the door to be closed in your face as the person in front of you lets go.

    – The only time you should expect the person ahead of you to stop moving forward to continue holding a door for you is if your hands are genuinely full (usually because you’re carrying a bunch of Tim Horton’s coffee – See below) or if you have some sort of mobility problem

    — Coffee —

    – If you are going out to get Tim Horton’s coffee, you -WILL- ask your colleagues if they want you to pick them up anything and you will not demand money up front. The promise to get the coffee the next time is acceptable payment. This only applies to Tim Hortons or other coffee that is similarily priced.

    – The requirement to ask is null if those you’re asking always say they will get the next round and never do. Feel free to enjoy your single coffee, guilt free.

    – If someone asks you if you want them to pick you up a coffee you must not complicate your order and you absolutely must not go beyond the original offer and ask for a sandwich, chili, soup or bagel. Asking for a donut is a grey area; You should probably refrain and hope that the person brings back a box of complimentary Timbits or donuts. An example of a complex drink would be “Venti, no-fat, no-water, extra-hot, extra-foam, soy chai latte with chocolate dusting” Order something like that and don’t be surprised if you’re not asked if you want a coffee again. Regardless of what you order, you will not complain if your coffee comes back with cream instead of milk or other minor details. Receiving a chicken noodle soup instead of a double double is an acceptable complaint.

    — Snow —

    – If a neighbour (or the ocassional perfect stranger) gets their vehicle stuck in the snow, this is to be viewed as a challenge. Even if there are already half a dozen people helping, you will stand idly by and offer your suggestions.

  92. Must agree about the Toronto-style U-turn. We moved here eight years ago from another Canadian city and were shocked to see drivers do this on Bloor, College, etc. But it really works because other drivers understand and we quickly adapted. On a visit home we tried it and the single other driver who had to wait while we completed the maneuver gaped at us as if we were drunk.

    In Toronto you need to know where is east, west, north, south if directions are to mean anything. I grew up never using these words to describe how to get somewhere but after moving here, I use them all the time. It helps that the streets are a pretty orderly grid and the lake is always south.

  93. Some really interesting observations here – Robyn’s about Scarborough stands out.

    Some of my observations:
    – When walking on a sidewalk on a quiet side street and someone else ends up walking on the same sidewalk in the same direction, one person will often cross the street to the other sidewalk. I think this happens when the person behind has a slightly quicker pace and passing would take some time so the two strangers end up walking side-by-side. Awwkwaarrrd!

    – When on busy sidewalks, many slower walkers, like myself, often notice when they’re holding up people behind them and step off to the side and stop to let people pass. It’s funny how when you’re on a busy sidewalk that you can just stop and look at store’s window display for a few seconds and suddenly find yourself pretty much alone!

    – When a car honks or gets pushy towards a pedestrian or cyclist, other pedestrians and cyclists will often look at each other and shake their heads or make a face of understanding and ‘solidarity.’

    – I’ll ‘co-sign’ with the observation that people at concerts here do not dance or even move. At best, a band will get the audience doing a repetitive ‘full body nod.’ True fans can be identified as those with arms crossed and feet firmly planted. They might bend a knee. At DJ shows there will be a few who mark out a territory in front of the DJ booth and dance really well, making others feel inadequate and unable to move around at all. (In Montreal, I’ve found everyone moves and very few will seriously ‘cut a rug.’)

    – Finally, based on the disconnect between my experience in the city and what I read in comment threads, I can only assume that when a cyclist does something perceived as “crazy,” people do not say or do anything but instead make a (mental?) note and then post this incident in a comment thread, peppered with inflamed rhetoric.

  94. yyzgirl said, “The longer I live here, the more evident it is that this city suffers from a serious self-esteem problem”

    There is a whole movie dedicated to this called Let’s All Hate Toronto.

  95. One cannot write about Toronto’s etiquette without mentioning the city’s cyclist subculture. I have been a cyclist in Toronto for almost 20 years, and hence have observed, and participated in, cycling behaviour that has the status of rules:

    1) If there is no traffic, cyclists do not stop at red lights, stop signs, and have no problem going the opposite way on a one way street. The unspoken reasons is simple: if there is no traffic, than it is not unsafe to break these rules. Another reason is:

    2) Cyclists typically feel morally superior to automobile drivers, and this manifests itself in a number of ways, from the cyclist giving a dirty look to that SUV driver driving uncomfortably close to the bike lane, to behaving according to #1 (see above)

    3)so many cyclists have gotten so used to those annoying drivers who turn right without signaling that we’ve adapted by automatically assuming that the driver of the car directly ahead of us will turn right; we will respond by riding towards the left side of the car in front of us, avoiding any impact

    4) another cyclist adaptation to the fact many Toronto car drivers do not signal their intentions is to look through the window of the car and focus on the driver’s face and body language to look for signals of intent. For example, if the driver is looking into his right side review mirror, this is often a signal that he will turn right.

  96. “Transplants to Toronto from other places are way more likely to go on and on about how great the city is than people who are from here.”

    Comment by yyzgirl
    January 12, 2010 @ 2:20 am

    This is because Torontonians are repeatedly told by the rest of the country that we’re full of ourselves, think we’re the “centre of the universe”, and that we don’t care about others. Couldn’t be further from the truth, but it’s hard to show civic pride under these conditions.

  97. More TTC:

    If the subway car is crowded, it’s considerate not to lean beside the door to support yourself — doing so means others have little place to hold on the poles and they are already contorting themselves to avoid the forced intimacy of a packed car.

    On non-crowded conveyances, don’t put your feet up on the seat and don’t encourage small children to stand on seats (the slush and dirt from their footwear is no more cute or sanitary than adults’).

  98. Wow, this sure generated a lot of responses!

    Torontonians don’t honk their horns much compared to most other places in the world.

    Gay men seem a little more uptight, a little less confident, and don’t cruise particularly well. Overall, cruising seems more hesitant (fear of rejection?) and more serious (goal-oriented?) — the fun and flirty part seems to be reduced.

    Torontonians seem to take longer to go from polite conversation to the unguarded genuinely friendly stuff. And first-off conversation seems to slip more quickly towards work and housing than what I’m used to. However, Torontonians aren’t like New Yorkers who rattle off their whole life story — with particular insistance on all the cool people and places they know — in an exhausting 30 seconds.

  99. It’s interesting how almost everything is about transit… but I guess that shows how passionate Torontonians are about the TTC!

    Here is my transit etiquette guide (each point likely already mentioned at some point above).

    – Standing in the doors is perfectly acceptable, despite the TTC’s insistence that it’s not. However, you should stand on the side where the doors do not open, and if you don’t, be prepared to move.

    – Regardless of where you are in the train, you should always make yourself aware of your surroundings when at a station. Don’t just assume that no one behind you is trying to navigate around to exit and force people to keep saying “excuse me” louder and louder and start gently pushing people out of the way. A quick glance is all it takes to know whether you have to move out of the way or not.

    – Related to the above (it’s more realistic when the above is followed), navigating the vehicle toward the exit is preferred after the train has stopped rather than before. It’s more difficult to move out of the way when the train is moving, and there are likely people in front of you who are going to exit at the same station anyway. You need to be a more frequent subway rider to be really confident in your ability to make it out in those seconds before the doors close, but it’s doable for most people! This is more of a guide than a hard rule.

    – Don’t freak out at other passengers because the train is full. No one should expect a luxuriously spacious ride during rush hour given the current system. Yelling “there’s no room for you to get on!” at someone is unfair unless the doors are unable to close. Just because you happened to get on the train first doesn’t make you any more important! We all need to get to work.

    Aside from transit…

    – Always be aware of how loud your headphones are. No one wants to listen to your music on public transit or in an elevator. If you’re not sure, take the buds out of your ears and have a listen.

    I agree with one of the above commenters that male and female Torontonians should be treated equally. Going out of your way to hold a door open for an extended time is common if people are elderly or holding a lot of things. Whether they’re male or female shouldn’t matter. Insisting that women are the first to pass through a door because of their sex is wrong. Treating women like they are delicate precious creatures is insulting despite good intentions and I like to think most Torontonians would agree.

  100. The number of these replies and the content of a lot of them – especially all the “walk right” comments – suggests that one distinctive aspect of Toronto’s public space etiquette is that Torontonians tend to expect public behaviour to be governed by clear rules, and want people to obey them. I don’t think this is necessarily true of all cities – some are much more comfortable with chaos and just sorting things out as they go.

  101. Re. transit queues – it’s fascinating, at Spadina Station waiting for the Spadina streetcar, how orderly double lines form during rush hour, when there are lots of people, but not at quieter times. In between, there’s some kind of critical number of people at which point a line will coalesce suddenly out of random standing around.

  102. Etiquette is based on rules of order meant for the convenience of all.
    Kindness is the what you want in the public realm. The city needs no more rules of order for behaviour. If you have kindness, you have mindfulness of others.

    I’m amazed at the many blog contributions that amount to a young people’s version of political correctness. It’s clear that Torontonians want “civility” at best, without getting at the discomfort and elation begotten of crossed boundaries.

  103. Some norms (at least in my world-of-Toronto):
    – splitting the bill on a first date
    – asking to share a table at a busy coffee shop
    – leaving a tip at a coffee shop, as long as that coffee shop doesn’t also serve donuts
    – lining up for a bus at TTC station or suburban stop, mobbing the door at downtown stop
    – not taking calls when you’re out dinner with friends; stepping out or asking permission of your company if you really really have to take or make a call
    – picking up after your dog
    – jaywalking, except when there are children around
    – arriving on time for a pub or dinner meet up (out), up to 30 minutes late for dinner at someone’s house, but at least 30 minutes to an hour after the appointed time (until whenever) for a party at someone’s home

  104. Even though deep down, we all know there is a lot of amazing things about Toronto- it seems like the etiquette is to wait for someone from somewhere else to tell us that they like something about our city before we admit to liking it ourselves.

    I always wondered if this comes from how the rest of Canada hates Toronto. Like we should feel guilty for some reason but we don’t know what that is.

  105. On the TTC, behaviour changes considerably depending on time of day and how crowded the vehicle is.

    – If you’re on a nearly empty bus, you may exit through the front, but must thank the bus driver. If it’s a busy route, people exit through the back.
    – If you’ve boarded the subway when there are few passengers on board, you may put your bag on the seat beside you as long as there are “optimal” empty seats available for other passengers to take. As soon as the only available places in your part of the car are middle seats or seats beside shady-looking passengers, you must put it on your lap.
    – On the Yonge or Bloor night buses on weekends, normal conversational restrictions go out the window. You are free to talk with other passengers about how crazy your night is going.

  106. Now that you’ve opened up a can of worms for everyone to air their grievances, here’s mine in full-blown sarcasm:

    – I know the Orion bus is ergonomic nightmare… but on a half-empty bus, DON’T BLOCK THE F-ING ENTRANCE AND EXITS! I don’t care how (rushed/lazy/too fat for the seats) you are, show some respect and clear a path!

    – A subway doorway is not a very good place to stop in your tracks. If possible, move away from the subway doorway before you make up your fickle little mind where to sit/stand.

  107. Totally agree with above sorry/excuse me/direction comments – most downtowners will ask if you need help when you pull out a map assuming you’re a tourist.

  108. Oh and gardening/dog ownership/night bus travel are all proper conversation starters

  109. Don’t be sorry, just get the hell out of the way! and remember for next time, there are other people using that staircase, sidewalk, door, and they are waiting right behind you for you to finish your conversation/call/thumb-rectal self exam or digital nasal cavity search.

    Do not leave your newspaper on transit, the next person throws it under the seat and not many will touch it after that.

    on the TTC: i am not a structure, you cannot use me to lean against because you have 4 purses and a coffee to contend with. Drink the coffee once you get there and leave a free hand open for stability duringthe commute.

  110. Very few answers; some musings…

    There seem to be some pretty strict unspoken etiquette about how close one may stand behind the next customer at a bank machine. And what’s the etiquette for using a bank machine next to a sleeping homeless person?

    Is it rude to sit in the middle of the three-person subway seat with the vertical bar if the left and right seats are taken?

    Has anyone else mentioned the case of two friends (including a hand-holding couple) or three friends walking abreast who force a single pedestrian coming in the opposite direction to step onto the road? Ah, I see that they have. It’s a problem.

    It is polite or presumptious to clear your neighbour’s sidewalk of snow? (Oh, I see kathleen, above, addressed this one rather sensibly and I think I may agree with her.)

    Is it impolite or merely practical to squeeze past someone buying tokens in the TTC if you have correct fare?

    Should there be any limitations as to where parents can use / park baby chariots?

    Is it rude or kind to leave a newspaper one has finished neatly on a transit vehicle seat?

    Oddly, we seem to think it normal, if someone else bumps us and says “Excuse me”, to reply “Sorry!”

    While watching buskers or parades, children are pretty much invariably allowed to squeeze into the front row. As a short person, I’d love it if all the 5’5″-plussers would also consider making way for us shorties.

    Toplessness is legal for women, but is it socially acceptable? And, on a related subject, most people would likely say that women should be free to breastfeed babies whenever and wherever it’s convenient for them. But do we in fact impose limitations on public breastfeeding by unwritten code?

    Music in backyards in the summer. Noise limits? Should music listeners turn the tunes down every 90 minutes or so to give other people a change of pace?

    So many possible topics!!!

  111. Oh yah, it’s polite for the person in front to place the division bar behind their own groceries at the checkout counter. It’s just a little bit rude for the person behind to do it. (Extra politeness points for the person in front if they arrange their own groceries so as to make a little bit of room at the end of the conveyor belt for the person behind them.)

  112. Andrew wrote:
    “Only one rule is needed: the Golden Rule. Be considerate of others and do what you would want others to do for you if the situation is reversed.”

    Agreed! No surprise here, I’ve seen the Golden Rule followed many, many times over the last 15 years I’ve lived in Toronto. My commentary based on personal experience is as follows…

    Torontonians are good to each other when it comes to: Stopping to assist when they see an accident, pulling over to the right so that emergency vehicles or funeral processions can easily pass, shoveling snow for neighbours, digging vehicles out of snowbanks, helping take out each other’s garbage/recycling/green bins, actually using recycling/green bins, looking after each other’s homes or pets when the person/family is out of town, taking the time to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies and Canadian repatriation processions, sharing last minute ingredients with you so you can finish cooking a meal, thanking police/fire/EMS workers, acknowledging those less fortunate instead of awkwardly ignoring them, exchanging cookies and treats during the holidays, hosing down laneway garages to save them from burning during a fire, walking each other’s dogs, saying “good morning” or “hello” or “thank you” to each other, holding doors open, helping people with strollers or mobility devices get on and off of public transit, supporting our local sports teams no matter where they are in the standings, donating to their local food bank, moving over to the right and/or stopping when walking so that faster pedestrians can easily pass, supporting businesses in their neighbourhoods, organizing community events/teams/organizations, giving up public transit seating for those who need it more than you do, obeying the rules of the road when driving/cycling/walking, shoveling snow off of neighbourhood hockey rinks, always bringing gifts to dinner parties, offering up a nickel or two to help someone pay their bill or for their ride on transit… I could go on.

    Truth is that even if some Torontonians are behaving badly and some of our “should” lists are lengthy, there are a heck of a lot of folks who are already doing all these things, being kind, understanding and helpful each and every day.

    And – just a thought – maybe the rest of the country gangs up on Toronto because they don’t want to admit that there aren’t as many differences between us and them as they would care to have everyone else believe.*

    *except when it comes to our NHL team.

  113. don’t litter. most people don’t. some do. sometimes it bugs me so much i forget my torontoist nature of ignoring your socially irresponsible behaviour and call you out…you know who you are UPS driver with coffee cup and suburban visitors to gerrard india bazaar and your paper plates and corncobs.

    let folks with one or two items ahead of you in the grocery line. especially elderly and those with crying babies.

    talk about the weather- actually, people are usually complaining about the weather. it is usually “too” hot or too cold. rarely are we satisfied. speaking of which- we overheat our transit and malls in the winter and overchill them in the summer- so be prepared to experience the opposite of the weather outdoors when indoors.

    you let the person who was at the streetcar star stop ahead of you board first. you strike up a conversation when a full streetcar (or three) drives past your stop. remove backpacks on transit. wait until the cars stop before stepping down from open streetcar door- they often don’t. similarly, when crossing at cross walk wait for cars to stop – they often don’t. and even though the sign says ‘look and point’ most people don’t point. i like to give a wave of appreciation when people do stop.

    when another car lets your car into their lane- give a little wave in front of the rearview mirror. this is very effective at diffusing someone who is annoyed when cut off.

    and finally, hold the door open for the person entering behind you when entering a building- and if someone holds that door open- be sure to say ‘thank you’ or face possibility of snide mutterings…

  114. My 2 cents worth:

    Cyclists: STAY OFF THE SIDEWALKS! If you think the road is too busy for you to ride your bike, then walk. And don’t swear at me for not moving off the sidewalk so that you can zoom by. I’ve got three small kids. Sorry, but even though I try to make them walk single file, they shouldn’t think walking on the sidewalk can be dangerous.


    Enough with the narcolepsy. If you’re sitting on an aisle seat with an empty window seat, don’t pretend you’re asleep. Unless you paid for two fares, move your lazy ass over. This goes double for people in the front bus seats not moving for blind, pregnant or disabled individuals. Get up, you could be in that situation some day.

    You know that flat platform just behind the front doors on the new buses? Believe it or not, it wasn’t put there for you to put your 12 bags of groceries there, then stand right at the front blocking everyone from getting on the bus.

    As people get off the bus, MOVE BACK. Also, if you don’t move back, don’t get mad if I push you out of the way so that I can move back.

    When you’re at a bus platform and you see two long lines, one for the front door and one for the back door, don’t start your own line for the “mystery door”, then cut in on the line once the bus shows up. Your not special, get in line like the rest of us.

    If the bus stops 5 feet away from these pre-made lines, STAY IN LINE! This doesn’t give you the right to run ahead of me, just because the driver can’t stop the bus on a dime.

    Elevators are there for people who can’t walk, not for people too damn lazy to walk that extra 15 feet to the escalator. When I had my twins in a double stroller and needed the elevators, I had to wait for three trips or more before I could get on. Everyone should be made to spend a day in a wheelchair or with a double stroller to see just how aggravating this gets.

    People do NOT want to hear your crappy music from your earbuds or headphones, and it’s NEVER EVER appropriate to use your cellphone’s speaker phone feature on the TTC. It’s bad enough we have to put up with your half of the conversation, we don’t want to hear the other guy too.


    You are NOT the only person shopping. Don’t park your cart in the middle of the aisle where I can’t pass, then shop throughout the entire aisle.

    Kids SHOULD NEVER be in the shopping cart, except little kids that are sitting in their appropriate seats in the front. This includes hanging on the outside of the cart,

    If the express lane says “8 items or less”, don’t line up there with 12 items. Also, Interac only please. I don;t want to stand there while your counting out exact change and reminiscing when these bananas use to cost 9 cents a pound.

  115. Don’t ride your bike on sidewalks. Get off your bike and walk it.

  116. Many people do the following things, but everyone should adopt them to create a “world-class” Toronto etiquette system:
    -Move back to the rear of the streetcar. No, really, move your ass. And leave via the rear doors so everybody else can get on and not sit at the stop for 5 minutes.
    -While you’re at it, offer your hard-won seat to elderly folks/pregnant ladies.
    -Say hello/thanks to TTC drivers. They’ve invariably had a rough day.
    -Hold the door (any door) open for that person two seconds behind you – male female, young, old.
    -Say thanks/goodbye when you leave a store, particularly a small, owner-operated boutique (same goes for local restaurants and bars. Those people pour their hearts into those spaces, just for us. Now you’re a regular!
    -Break before turning right on a red. Injured pedestrians/cyclists are never okay.
    -Peeling tires/loud bass is so 1990s.
    -And speaking of cyclists, stick to the streets. Obey traffic laws, including flow of traffic. Riding the wrong way down a busy street with parked cars should be punishable by death (and sometimes is).
    -If you open your door on a cyclist, don’t reply with “yeah yeah yeah.” Be apologetic for almost smashing that person’s jaw to bloody chunks. Offer a free trip to the hospital if needed. Don’t vent about it at the gym later – it was your fault, you ass.
    -If you’re going to jaywalk, do it with style, i.e. shoulder check.
    -Unless your mom is following you around 24/7, put your garbage in the garbage can/recycling.
    -Take it easy. What’s your rush, Halle Berry? Enjoy life a little bit, even if it means a deep breath or two in line at the grocery store.

  117. I’m a Beaches local, responding to ‘SUV strollers’ – what does that mean? It sounds negative, and it’s hostile towards everyone with a stroller, regardless of the make/model. My assumption is that it refers to larger-than-umbrella strollers, and clearly the writer is not a parent or they’d know that a light, compact umbrella stroller is a) not suitable in the snow b) not suitable when the mom & child are walking long distances, i.e. – is typically used when they’re driving from place to place, and surely the writer is supportive of pedestrian vs. vehicular traffic? (I realize they’re often used on the TTC as well, but the TTC is often inaccessible with more than one child, regardless of stroller style). The actual width of strollers today are no wider (unless a side by side model, which are the minority, not the norm) than older-model prams. They don’t take up more sidewalk space, so if there’s hostility towards parents with strollers, it should be framed in a different context: choice to have a child perhaps, or increasing number of them, rather than hiding behind an easy (but false) ‘SUV’ association.

  118. Torontonians are full of contradictions: We hold the door open for each other and but also body check one another as we wrestle for space on a busy sidewalk. It’s happen to me more than once, ouch.
    We don’t make eye contact often when passing people on the street, but can have spontaneous conversations with strangers when the mood strikes us such as the Summer Blackout of ’05 or waiting for a streetcar in -30 weather.
    My advice: smile and be polite. It makes the big city more livable.
    Make conversation and interact with people, not just store clerks, waiters and bus drivers. And don’t spit, clip your nails, floss your teeth on transit. Don’t litter. And slow down and pay attention. Too many times cyclists, drivers and pedestrians do dangerous things because they are in a hurry or not paying attention to their surroundings or expect others to watch out for them.

  119. Here is one that people need to learn. I constantly have to step out  
    onto the road around lineup’s of people standing in the middle of the  
    sidewalk at the local Cora’s on Saturday. The rule should be to at  
    least stand to the side when waiting. If I say ‘excuse me’ loudly I  
    usually get defiant glares from grumpy breakfast seekers. I think  
    sometimes we believe our politeness affords some moral authority to do  
    whatever you want, or people are just grumpy.

    Do not block the cross sidewalk when waiting for pedestrian signals  
    downtown. Everyone always stands as close as possible to the edge,  
    which makes it difficult for people walking the cross direction to  
    squeeze by. We should haves don’t block the pedestrian block rule.

    it is normal to line up exactly perpendicular to the counter for service, especially when you are blocking a hallway in a large public facility by virtue of a large human chain.

    it is normal to expect everyone on a streetcar/bus to wait for you while you flag down a departing streetcar/bus and not wait for the one directly behind that one. It is then acceptable to finger the driver if he/she continues departing.

  120. Thus far the comments have centred on expediting movement lavishly spiced with a tension warranted only by subsequent violence.

    Is there any hope for a city that wants speed, more speed and nothing else? You want a cold city? Keep at this. Why the hurry? Rather than just telling everybody to leave earlier we truly ought to tell everybody to calm down — seriously.

    Here’s hoping that all that tense and nervous energy can be channelled to comments other than just homilies ad hominem (sadly directed at some vague nemesis) — ad nauseum. Good luck, Toronto!

  121. What a great exercise, Spacing! My 2 cents..

    * Give up your seat on the TTC when someone needs it. This pretenting to sleep thing, or suddenly becoming engrossed in the Metro as soon as someone who needs a seat climbs aboard…I am calling your bluff

    *While on the TTC, move to the back and do not hover around the door. People will let you off at your stop – I promise

    *Turn down your iPods while in public spaces. Whatever is playing in your ear does not make you immune to what is going on around you. Ie. repeating “excuse me” several times to someone who can’t hear because of those white buds in their ears, can often lead to an unnecessary, escalated encounter with a stranger.

    *make eye contact with drivers – it’s the only way to ensure they will see you when crossing the street. (What they choose to do after that is another issue…)

  122. I’ll bet these have been mentioned already: when entering a subway car, don’t stop the moment you cross the threshold – there are people behind you who would like to get on as well; don’t try to get on when people are still trying to get off.

  123. It might be wise to acknowledge that Toronto is home to extremely diverse groups. Easy exchanges between
    people in a slow line may be welcome in some Toronto sites/events/groups of some cultural or economic backgrounds. But in others….!

    Sit in bleachers for a fireworks display and watch parental expectations of excited children. One end of the seating has a section thrilled to see the children so delighted but the other end may put heavy stress on sitting properly or not dropping popcorn on their clothing.

  124. Queue or crowd at Spadina station when waiting for a southbound streetcar? Queueing seems more disruptive to the subway traffic.

  125. Also riders taking the aisle seat when there’s an empty window seat is one of my biggest pet peeves. Not as bad a nail clipping, or sunflower seed shell spitting, but up there.

  126. Slightly counterintutive (but accurate):
    – In winter, do NOT hold a restaurant door open for others. Instead (to be respectful of those who are dining) make sure to open and close the door quickly to avoid cold drafts.

  127. We’re on the TTC. You are sitting, and I’ve been standing in front of you. When you need to get from your seat to the door, could you please do so calmly and carefully while the bus, streetcar, or subway is not in motion rather than leaping up during the rapid deceleration just moments before you need to exit?

    You have been sitting this whole time at (realtive!) ease, whereas I am gripping the pole to stay upright. If you force me to let go at this precise moment in order to dodge you, I (thanks to my bum knee and my increasingly weaksauce balance) may topple. But I am (relatively) young and (relatively) tall and (being relatively rehabilitated) do not walk with my cane, and so I get stink eye for being “in the way”.

    I know I am only proving Pier Giorgio Di Cicco’s point putting it this way, but I think that’s only fair.

    tl;dr – people holding on to handholds on the TTC are probably doing so because they need to! Try not to make them let go while the vehicle is still in motion.

  128. One of the things that I wish Torontonians would implement in their daily etiquette would be LINING UP for the bus/street car. The massive mess that piles up while people wait for the bus or street car just leads to chaos where people bump into each other while trying to vie for the best spot on the the bus.
    We could learn a thing or two from the very straight and orderly line ups that other cities have while waiting for their turn to board the bus. It just makes the trip less stressful- everyone gets on the bus and no one has to get trampled while they do it. (The stop at Dufferin and Bloor is particularly nasty for this type of thing, and sometimes at rush hour I fear that I will actually get trampled.)
    LINE UPS! It’s a simple concept really.

  129. When you’re holding a door for someone and that person does not put their hand or arm out to hold it for the person behind them and instead just scooches through leaving you standing there holding the door for the next person so it doesn’t hit them in the face. And if that person does the same thing, well. . . grrr.

    Another peeve is people who use the city streets as their own personal garbage can. I will sometimes pick up the gum wrapper or whatever I see being thrown away and hand it to the litter bug and say “Excuse me, I think you dropped this.” It’s a little passive aggressive perhaps but I do it to encourage people to think. The dirty looks don’t bother me;it’s better than dirty streets.

    Riding bicycles on the sidewalks makes my blood boil. Get off and walk it!

  130. Although I find that many times people do try to be polite with pregnant people, there are some people that simply are desensitized to the state. A year ago when I was about 7months pregant, on my way from the doctor I had to wait in the rain for a street car that wasnt as packed with people, because I knew that it would be a little too much for me. The thing is, I end up having to wait longer because some busy people decided that theire time was more precious and should ignore the fact that it was raining – they came much later and still just forced themselves into the street car without regard for the pregnatn woman waiting there for longer (me)

    Plus once I was able to get into a street car, I was deliberately pushed around because some other busy people wanted to catch that already packed ride. I mean… have some consideration.

  131. To echo what many have said… People should give up their seat for pregnant women, elderly people and folks who are obviously unusually encumbered/handicapped. I write *should* because many Torontonians are pretty damn crap at doing this. In fact, my experience suggests that the only Torontonians who understand this principal are the new immigrants — not those who either grew up here or moved from other places in Canada. Without exception, when I was pregnant, it was new immigrants who gave up their seats for me while the anglos pretended not to see.

    And yes, I am an immigrant — but a white anglophone from New York so I don’t stand out, until I talk at least 😉

  132. It looks behaviour on public transit is a big issue. It is for me, too. I am really sick of people who mob the doors, especially if they are not even getting off for several stops. And if people want to sit on the aisle seat, they should be prepared to stand up and let people in to the window seat. Just moving knees to the side is not enough, especially if the person trying to get in or out of the window seat has a lot of bags.

  133. Compass Rosers v. Bilaterally Symmetrical

    I’ve lived in Toronto since 1980 but hail from northern Ontario. A few years ago my childhood chums told me I give directions in a Toronto way, by the compass rose.

    Up north they give directions using primarily left/right orientation: “turn left”; “it’s on the right side of the street.” I seem to recall I did so, too, before I became torontofied.

    Local em/pha/sis on wrong syl/la/ble (a la “Howston St.” in NYC):
    I only recently found out Baby Point is pronounced “Bey-bey” and still struggle with pronunciation of “Tichester St.” (“Tie-chester”? “Tie-ster”?), so I’m still not entirely frum deez parts, eh?

    TTC stop announcements: Will the ubiquitous lady who enunciates all street names on TTC buses flatten us into one received pronunciation? Who is she, BTW?

  134. I noticed an interesting gesture Torontonians make in the PATH under the financial district. During the busy and crowded working day (especially the morning rush, lunch, and evening rush hour) many people will press the “Door Open” button AFTER walking through one of the many doors that link the different sections of the PATH. This ensures that the door stays open for the stream of people who closely follow.

    Even if the door is open wide for someone and they do not have to touch the door themselves several people will press the “Door Open” button as a polite gesture to make sure it stays open for those directly behind them.

  135. I was road-scholared not to make eye contact after I moved here. Back home you were expected to make eye contact and smile or say hello to passers-by or you were considered rude. When I did that the first few months after moving here, I consistently received the most horrendous glares, so that I quickly learned not to look at–let alone acknowledge–oncoming pedestrians or fellow shoppers. When I visit home, I have to remind myself to switch back to general eye contact, a smile or hello on the street, at the cash register, in the aisles of stores, etc., or I’m being rude.

  136. Please remove your giant backpack when you’re on the crowded streetcar, bus or subway. There would be room for another person to squeeze in there if you had the courtesy to place it at your feet. That way, it won’t hit anyone either.

    Please don’t get off the escalator or get out of the elevator and just stand there. If you need to get your bearings, kindly step to one side out of the path of others.

    Please don’t stand in the door way of the subway. You’re clogging the whole system and possibly making some elderly, or less assertive person miss their stop.

    Please don’t clip or file your fingernails, pluck your eyebrows, blow your nose, hawk a loogie or pop your pimples on any of the TTC vehicles. Those things are meant to be done behind a closed washroom door. Alone.

    Similarily, please don’t eat your Big Macs, tuna subs or peanut butter sandwiches on the TTC. They smell and aren’t the place to eat considering the germs floating around in there (and the aforementioned pimple-popper). Are you the same person who then takes time to neatly fold up the packaging of your take away lunch and jam it in between the seats? Come on, would you do that in your car? At home? You know someone has to clean that, right? And you can’t argue that it’s taking away a job from someone by putting it in the trash yourself. The person who has to pick up your dirty tissue from the TTC floor, or unwedge your Big Mac box from between the seats probably makes a lot less money than you and probably gets less enjoyment out of his or her job than you.

    Same thing goes for movie theatres. While there is obviously a cleaning crew at the end of your action packed romantic comedy ready to bag the Reeses Pieces-nacho-popcorn with extra butter-frozen yogurt-800 ml Coke trash you’ve left behind you brought it all in there…so you can take it to the bin yourself. The exercise is just what you need after all of that.

    Please don’t ride your bicycle on the sidewalk and then ring your little bell at me to move. Isn’t there a by law about that? If you’re brave enough to ride your bike in this city (and for that I salute you) you should know the rules of the road and be on them.

    Please consider the sidewalk is a place for traffic in all directions. Walking 6-people wide, or simply standing in a group and chatting is inconsiderate. Break away from the pack or simply move to the side.

    All I’m saying is consider how your actions affect those in the spaces we all share. Pick up after yourself. Move out of the way. Be aware of yourself.

  137. And on a more positive note…
    Torontonians strike up conversations with one another about the game (Leafs, Raps, Jays), the weather, the dog we’re walking, the winter coat we’re wearing that we got at the best sale ever–these things are our social glue. We look for connections in what can sometimes feel like a city full of strangers.

  138. This is the only city I know where pedestrians are supposed to POINT when the want to cross at crosswalks. It is also fairly unique in having official crosswalks without zebra stripes on the pavement.

  139. A new bit of “ettiquette” that I’m seeing, now that the city’s introduced the 5 cent bag tax, is that although you are encouraged to bring your own bag(s) to put your purchases into — usually you are expected to do it yourself. There seems to be a kind of taboo against checkout people actually filling your bags for you if they are not the plastic bags provided by the store.

  140. I commute into Toronto everyday and see the incredible mix of people in the city. Here’s my two cents worth:
    1) all personal grooming should be done in the privacy of your own home and not in public;
    2) respect the queue; don’t cut in from the side to get to your destination faster; everyone else is just as important as you;
    3) clear away from the escalator upon exiting; then you can stop and get your bearings;
    4) pause just a moment to hold the door for the person behind you; and
    5) smile once in a while; you’ll feel better!

    Thanks – best of luck with the book!

  141. Complaining about the weather, TTC service, Americans and the current federal government are always acceptable topics for small talk.

  142. Public clocks that don’t work. It’s getting better but for years I marvelled at a stunning irony: Toronto is so time-obsessed but try to find a public clock that could tell the correct time! Most were broken. TTC time displays have alleviated that to some extent, but there’s usually either no public clocks when I need them, or if I find one they’re not even right twice a day, i.e. not stopped but running the wrong time.
    Toronto’s tacit prohibition on public displays of the correct time creates “justified false beliefs” about what time it is in a city that is intolerant of lost seconds.

  143. The problem with this concept for a guide, is that like so many other guides, it could lead to stereotyping. As such, this is not progressive.

  144. 2 Things could really fix walking around dynamics in this city :

    1. STOP SAYING ‘SORRY’ after barging into someone or getting in their space! Say excuse me first, then pass them or move along or whatever.

    Sorry is a ridiculous anachronism that destroys smooth moevement through the city. You could even argue that it’s the kind of stuff that makes Toronto a b-grade self-conscious city.

    Look, the sidewalk works like the road – and not the roads of Mumbai, Tokyo, or Seoul. That means keep right, except to pass, not left. So simple, and yet so unheeded.

  145. When inside, take off your hat, touque or other headgear. I don’t care how stylish you think it is or that your hair is now messy. If you don’t want hat-head then don’t wear a hat.

    No Spitting. No horking before spitting. No blasting snot out onto the street. There is nothing in your mouth, throat or nose that does not belong there or cannot wait.

    Pick up your feet. The sound of you dragging your crocs for block after block is not musical.

    Look in the mirror. Use some judgement. If you are aware enough to know that you should own some skinny jeans because they are “in” then you should know enough to know that, on you, they are always and forever “out”. “I’ll just wear pajama pants” is not the other option.

    Adults do not use back packs.

    Adults do not wear cargo pants. Cargo pants’ pockets are purely asthetic. They are not for the storing of tools, lunch or your vast collection of pocket change.

    Ditch the ipod. I’ve seen you dance and I’ve heard you sing. Music is NOT your life.

    When talking to someone, take out your ear buds – always.

    There is nothing on that cell-phone screen right now that matters… or now….or now.

    Having a cell phone is not an excuse to be late or to change plans at the last minute. Be there when you said you’d be there.

    Don’t call me because you are waiting somewhere. I am not a time-killer.

    Making a shopping list is acceptable. Caling your mate and asking about each item you see on the shelf -loudly – is not.

    Yes, you need to keep your landline.

    Be quiet. Listen. Watch. Think.

  146. Stand Right; Walk Left. On escalators.

    Stay on the right side when walking down the street and keep up with the flow of traffic.

    Efficiency is key.

  147. @Michael (January 29, 2010 @ 9:38 am):

    You mix some sensible sensible advice with some ridiculous edicts based on arbitrary personal taste. I bet even you can tell which is which.

  148. Mark (January 31st @ 3:05)

    Yes, I can guess which ones you think are ridiculous but I can assure you that none of them are arbitrary.

  149. IMHO, the simplest cure for Toronto’s ills is for each and every one of us should stop thinking of, boasting about or even aspiring for Toronto as a “world class” city. I believe the problems we are currently having can be traced to the mid- to late-80s when we got it into our little heads to be “world class.” Now, whether there is causality there is up for debate — nevertheless, it is pathetic to continue with the practice!

  150. @Mark Wickens (January 31, 2010 @ 3:05 pm)

    @Michael (January 29, 2010 @ 9:38 am):

    You mix some sensible sensible advice with some ridiculous edicts based on arbitrary personal taste. I bet even you can tell which is which.

    Hear, hear!

  151. Thanks for the opportunity to comment and for thinking of this great idea – City etiquette definitely needs improvement.

    While these issues may seems obvious,the growing number of occurrences suggests that good manners have gone out the window, specifically:

    – Don’t spit on the sidewealk – it’s a health hazard. How about just keeping some tissue with you?

    – Ever notice the number of unsightly black blotches on the sidewalk? That’s from people spitting out their gum. Roll it up in a tissue and toss it in the garbage can instead.

    – If you’re a smoker, please drop your butt in a trash receptacle rather than stubbing it out on the sidewalk and walking away.

    Your fellow citizens will thank you!

  152. – Keep your feet off the seats on TTC.
    – Don’t put your bag on the seat if it was on the floor/ground before.
    – Don’t spill coffee on the seats.
    – Do not litter anywhere.

  153. “So what, then, are Toronto’s social norms? When is it okay to strike up conversation with a stranger? ”

    I didn’t (still don’t) know whether to laugh or cry as I read the above comment, taken from an email sent to me from Spacing. I immediately said to myself: “here we go again”. I have a web site that focuses on the design of Public Open Space ( ).

    I cover information on design of Public Open Space, done by people who do have the required skill sets versus designs or concepts from people who lack those same skill sets. For example, the Dane, Jan Gehl has the required skill sets; and his 45 years of research and resultant implementations of his designs and/or redesigns of Public Open Space in dozens of cities on three continents – repeatedly demonstrate those skill sets. On the other hand, a government study clearly shows that, 99.99% of urban planners, architects, traffic engineers, politicians, bloggers, journalists, as well as the self appointed Elite (that in fact control the design of cities) lack Gehl’s require skill sets and need to go back to school ( ). Yes, Spacing obviously falls into this latter category and accompanies the Elite. Why do I think so?

    Anyone who has done primary research on Public Open Space or secondary research (reading primary research done by others on Public Open Space) would know that there is a 500 year historical pattern in cities in the Western World, of why and how people use of Public Open Space.

    Moreover, talking to strangers is one of the key/prime purposes of Public Open Space. Gehl’s research in cities around the Western World (including Toronto, Melbourne, London, Copenhagen, Berkley and so on) all show the EXACT same pattern of public behaviour/discourse with respect to talking strangers in Public Open Space!

    Anyone implying that Torontonians are somehow different from people in the rest of the Western World, simply demonstrates their own lack of skill sets with respect to the how’s and why’s of Public Open Space!)

    P.S. If one wants to do primary research (but’s it’s all been done) on Public Open Space; one doesn’t ask questions, one observes behaviour in Non-Obtrusive structured methodologies (Social Research 101.)

  154. I was in Buenos Aires recently and realize that we in Toronto are quite polite in queues. Even when we cut in we do it disceetly and gently. In Buenos Aires I almost got knocked over a couple of times when I hesitated (as a foreigner and travel tired I was a bit slower than usual) in public lines. In Toronto, people are tolerant of foreigners and those who don’t understand what is going on and don’t push ahead of them (at least in a harsh way!).

    Couldn’t help noticing how white BA is. Yes there are some American Indian faces but I didn’t see one person from the Indian sub-continent and I could count the blacks and Chinese I saw on my two hands (including 3 people I know from Toronto). Sandra

  155. When someone tells you they recently moved here from elsewhere in Canada, do not automatically speak slower and ask them if the “big city” is “scary”.

    When posting on a Canadian internet forum or messageboard, and you’re sharing something only of interest to Torontonians, indicate that in your subject line. Nobody in Red Deer cares about your gallery opening on Queen W.

    If you insist on picking up a Metro or 24 Hours, don’t leave it laying on the seat. Take it with you. Recycle.

    If you have more than 1 piece of luggage, don’t take the TTC to Pearson in rush hour.

  156. Please do not walk more than two people horizontal on the sidewalk. There’s nothing worse than being around Younge/Dundas when you have to get somewhere, and there’s a line of 3-4 people linked arms or shoulder-to-shoulder walking down the sidewalk. The same goes for large packs of people walking in a clump, forcing everyone else off of the sidewalk.

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