Other than driving past it a few times, and taking in a Prince concert back when Budweiser
Gardens was called the John Labatt Centre, Sameer Vasta readily admits he didn’t know much
about London back two-plus years ago.
Even so, when his wife came to him and said she had a great opportunity at St. Joseph’s Health
Care, he was quick to tell her to take the job.
The couple has been in London for more than two years — originally moving from Toronto to
Wortley Village before buying a home in Byron around a year ago — and Sameer explains the
timing of the move was actually ideal.
“I wanted something a little healthier for myself, particularly mentally and emotionally where I
didn’t feel like I was always on and didn’t feel overwhelmed all the time,” he said. “So, when
she said London — not knowing anything about it other than knowing full well it was smaller
than Toronto — I said this sounds like a good idea.”
Sameer quickly grew accustomed to London, something he at least partially credits to “landing
in Old South,” which he quickly realized meant he could almost walk anywhere he needed to
Saying it was “a perfect way” for him to understand what his place could be in the city, Sameer
said he quickly acclimatize himself to a new way of living, not just a new place to live.
“If anyone asks me, I’m a Londoner through and through,” he said. “I’m no longer a
Torontonian. The thing is, I don’t know exactly when that change happened.”
Sameer, who works as lead of employee experience for the Ontario Digital Service, is no
stranger to moving from place to place.
Born in Tanzania, Sameer moved to New York for “a short while” when he was young, before
moving to Toronto where his parents still live today. He later went to school in Washington D.C.
before spending some time in, “the other London.”
He then bounced around from place to place for work before returning to Washington D.C., and
then eventually Toronto, before beginning his Forest City adventure.
Through all of that, Sameer said he considers London the first place he found himself saying he
never wants to leave.
“The great thing about this city is its smallness and its bigness at the same time. If we ever got
rid of the Forest City as our motto, I really think we should call it the In-between City,” he said.
“It’s in-between small and big, it’s in-between Detroit and Toronto, it’s in between urban and
rural; it’s this really interesting place where it almost acts as a liminal space where you can
make it anything you want it to be.”
As to how he fit into the city so smoothly, Sameer credits having quit his job before moving — a
situation he understands he was very privileged to be in — with giving him the time to explore
London, to meet new people, and find his place.
Joining organizations like the Urban League of London and the Forest City’s branch of the
Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, also helped him feel like he was contributing to the
growth of his new home.
That said, one of the best parts about the move was the welcome Sameer said he received
almost from day one.
“I was shocked by how welcoming people were, to the extent that people reached out to me,”
he said. “It was, hey, I heard from this person you are new to town, let me take you for coffee.
That wouldn’t happen in most other cities; that’s one of the joys of this city.”