If you are bound for Toronto, you’ll soon notice districts like Chinatown, Little Italy or Little Jamaica. It seems like every nation has found it’s place in the city. It goes without saying, England and France, the former colonial powers, are present everywhere. Though, if you are looking for Germans in Toronto, you need endurance.
Approximately ten per cent of all Canadians have a German background. Most of the ethnic Germans live in Ontario. In Toronto they are obviously well integrated and they seem to hide their origin from public – if I want to get real German bread, I must travel to the edge of the city.
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German pioneers helped to build Canada
German immigrants have not only shaped Toronto, they also helped to build the nation. William Moll-Berzy for example, who originates from Nördlingen, helped John Graves Simcoe to found the City of Toronto. With his German settlers, William Moll-Bercy also built a large part of Yonge Street – the longest and arguably most important street in the city.
Today, Toronto accommodates several German institutions, such as the German-Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Goethe Institute, several religious communities and one of three German Consulates General in Canada. Many German companies and financial institutions, such as Siemens, Deutsche Bank, BASF and Mercedes Benz coordinate their Canadian businesses in the GTA.
This could be a good point of departure for a stable German community in Toronto. Despite that I had to search until I connected to German groups. Fortunately there are search engines and internet based social networks which help to connect the German community.
If you are looking for Germans, you must go online
There are two very active German groups at Meetup: The German Meetup Toronto and the Greater Toronto German Club. Both provide frequent events, such as a regulars’ table at a pub and an afternoon for German parents with their kids. The meetings are casual, most of the participants want to make new contacts, they look for advice or they just like conversations in German. I’ve never been to a boring meeting, met many interesting people there and became acquainted to exciting life stories.
German immigrants found a new home in Kitchener
Actually the centre of the German-Canadian community is based northwest of Toronto, about one hour and a half away if you drive by car. German immigrants nestled themselves in Kitchener and Waterloo. Even today they maintain German traditions there. Kitchener boasts to have the second biggest Oktoberfest in the world.
There are also several German clubs and societies which are located in this region. If you set aside the official German institutions in Toronto, most of the initiatives that promote German culture come from those two cities.
Since 2000, German Pioneers Day has officially been celebrated in Ontario : Every year, one day after Thanksgiving, the accomplishments of German pioneers in Canada are honoured and German flags fly in Toronto and Kitchener. The German Pioneers Day is recognized by law in Ontario due to an initiative of Wayne Wettlaufer, resident of Kitchener and former member of the parliament of Ontario.
German-Canadians in Kitchener and Waterloo have been celebrating their German origin and culture, which strengthens their identity for generations. It seems to me that this consciousness of national identity is less important for Germans that have recently arrived in Canada. It’s a pity they hide their origin – especially because many Canadians have old fashioned stereotypes in mind, if they think about Germany. I’ll report about these stereotypes in the following post.