We’ve just passed our two year anniversary since moving to Canada and I still can’t quite get my head around it. For two reasons:
Firstly, that we are lucky enough to live here; with a spectacular mountain vista surrounding us, pretty provincial ski resorts and lovely pine-forested beaches within an hour’s drive, and the glorious little seaside town of White Rock, two miles down the road.
And secondly, that it really feels like home already, and more so than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. The weird bit is trying to reconcile these two feelings, because they seem to be mutually exclusive. How can I feel at home, if it all still seems so new and magical at the same time?
It used to irritate my mother that I had no affinity with the place we called home in England, and where I spent most of my young life growing up. We lived in a pleasant, affluent UK seaside town, I enjoyed my school years and I had some lovely friends. But I always looked forward to eventually leaving, even though I didn’t know where I wanted to go.
As a child we’d moved overseas on a few occasions, but during the 80s few people recognised the long-term effect this can have on a child’s sense of belonging. And besides I wasn’t unhappy, and I loved living in the US and Sweden – it was coming home that I dreaded and life seemed crashingly dull in comparison.
It was only when we moved to the Netherlands in 2008 and I started reading books and literature for expats and Third Culture Kids that I began to make sense of the way I had felt all my life. And despite loathing Deliverance – the small Dutch village we lived in prior to Canada – I still had no desire to return to England, I just wanted to find a ‘forever’ place far far away.
Looking back I think I have always been a closet Canadian, I just didn’t realise it. So many of my favourite people and things are Canadian:
The scenery - I adore big sky country. Can’t get enough of it. Rolling English countryside and the pan-flat polder-sodden bogs of Westfriesland just didn’t do it for me.
Vancouver – Is there a more stunning ‘new’ city on earth? Framed by the magnificent North Shore mountains and in spite of the crappy weather I still think it knocks spots off Sydney, its nearest rival.
Trucks - Seriously, I always wanted one. But in the UK people assume you must be achav, or tarmac driveways for a living if you own one… I love our shiny red truck, it’s like driving a Tonka Toy.
Music - Some of my faves include Nelly Furtado, Nickelback, Barenaked Ladies and Bryan Adams (yup, I liked THAT song, even after 19 weeks at No. 1), none of whom I realised were Canadians until I lived here (shame on me!).
Ryan Reynolds and Ryan Gosling - Absolutely no explanation should be necessary here.
Terry Fox - has there ever been a more inspirational human being? Every September his poignant story is remembered at schools across Canada. And how come no one’s heard of him outside of Canada?
Canada is like the US - but without the tackiness and the crazy gun laws.
BUT THERE’S ALWAYS ONE…
Canadian Immigration Department – now this is the one thing that gets a robust two-fingered salute (UK equivalent of flicking the bird). May I strongly declare that their blatant incompetence and endless delays rival even the most blundering UK bureaucracy (and takes some beating). I expected more from a department run by Canadians who seem to efficiently run the country in every other way. That two years on, we are still waiting for our PR cards, is bloody annoying and despite submitting perfect paperwork before every deadline, there is still no end in sight.
But when one door closes another one opens and while my plans to start a business were thwarted for the above reason (because I’m not yet a permanent resident), I’ve gone back to writing and reviewing books, one of which was published on Dubai-basedExpatWoman.com this week.
Written for anyone who’s lived abroad and at times struggled to overcome the difficulties of starting a new life in a foreign country, then this one’s for you: THE EMOTIONALLY RESILIENT EXPAT.