Category Archives: Immigration

The Gallery – Into the Archives

Tara at Sticky Fingers has asked us to delve into the archives for our old photos this week.  So as we are celebrating the two-year anniversary since our arrival in Canada on Saturday, I thought I’d share the 30 year old photos that started this whole journey.

1979 – Hubbie at the Niagara Gorge, aged 7

 

 

Hubbie & Sister in law carving pumpkins

This is my Husband and Sister-In-law on their first family holiday to Canada back in 1979. Who knew that this holiday would have such a profound effect on the life of that little 7 year old boy? As my Sister-in-law tells it they stood together looking out over the Niagara Falls when her younger brother announced that he would live in Canada one day and here we are some 34 years later about to celebrate 2 years as permanent residents.

Rainbow at Niagara Falls, 1979

The dream he had back then has now become a reality for our family, although it took the rest of us about 30 years to catch up.  We had our own trip to Toronto in 2006 that acted as a catalyst for the rest of us to decide that we also wanted to give the expat life a go.  I often wonder what would have happened if he never went on this holiday, where would we be now and would we have had the desire to move continents….?  Who knows? I aced my Geography A level due to a natural curiosity for people and places so maybe we would.

Niagara Gorge

What I do know with an absolute certainty that comes from my very core is that I am where I am supposed to be right now, for whatever reason fate has up her sleeve, this always was my destiny.

 

 

Things I Don’t Miss About England

I can list a whole lot of things I miss about England but that would be an obvious post and not really surprising to anyone. Family and friends would be right at the top of my list along with the British resilience, that attitude that got Londoners through the Blitz. I miss the history and old buildings that ooze character. I miss fish and chips, the smell of the sea, sarcasm and the self deprecating British sense of humour to name but a few however there are a few things about England and the mindset of many Brits that I do not miss at all.

False Friends

Boy did I have more than my fair share of those, I’m sure you know the type, they take advantage, constantly want you to drop everything and go running when they need something, constantly want from you and never give back.   They are life’s takers, they wanted me to run their kids around or look after them all the time or bail them out financially and then despite this they used me as a source of ridicule and showed no respect.  I blame myself for allowing that behavior to continue and I wonder if they miss my constant help or whether they found some other sucker to fill my place until they bled them dry too. So to those people I say goodbye and good riddance, I am so much happier without you and your neediness and drama in my life.

Grey days

Those depressing dull weeks you get when you need to put the lights on as soon as you get up and don’t turn them off until you go to bed. I don’t miss the lack of seasons that happen some years, when the winter is mild and the summer is cool and you can’t really tell the difference between them.

Traffic & Road Rage

Too many cars squished into too few roads resulting in traffic chaos and people freaking out every two minutes. I understand there’s not much that can be done about old roads and infrastructure but I don’t miss a 60 mile journey into London taking 3 hours and the level of aggression from other drivers that goes along with it.

Total Collapse in Adverse Weather

The inability of local authorities to deal with any kind of adverse weather is a bit of a joke.  Snow, heat or rain can bring the whole country to a standstill and I can’t understand why.  Many countries all over the world need to deal with more extreme weather and manage it perfectly well, including here in Canada where my region hasn’t closed a school in over 20 years due to weather despite extreme conditions so why in Britain do they close schools and airports when they get an inch of snow?

 

Bureaucracy

This is another British phenomenon which baffles me, why is it a drama to open a bank account, enroll you kid in school or buy a house when it can be done in a fraction of the time in other places in the world?  Unnecessary red tape turns a relatively simple transaction into a traumatic experience.

 

The Youth of Today

Whilst I try not to sound like an grumpy old woman and probably failing miserably I really don’t get the youth culture which is prevalent in much of the UK.  Chavs and the ‘too cool for school’ attitude baffles me, don’t these kids realise how much they are limiting themselves by not going to school?  I don’t understand why kids put on fake accents either, what’s wrong with being proud of where you come from? Why put on a fake accent to try to sound like you’re from somewhere else?

 

Jealous People

What is it about Brits in particular that have that attitude where it’s seen as a bad thing to be ambitious, successful, good at something or work hard.  If you have nice things or get on in life you are gossiped about or looked down on or regarded as having ideas above your station or that if you come from a working class background then you should stay there.  Where is the ‘good for you’ attitude that is so prevalent here in North America, why support the underdog all the time, why not celebrate peoples achievements?  A prime example of this was some derogatory comments about Andy Murray just a few hours after his Wimbledon victory.  Brits have moaned about not having a Wimbledon Champion in decades and when they get one they’re still not happy.  I am completely non-judgmental of people’s choices, desires and lifestyles and I love to celebrate the achievements of people I care about, if you’re happy then I’m happy for you, please afford me the same courtesy.

 

Hypocrisy

British people that moan about immigrants yet constantly speak of a desire to spend their twilight years in spain…seriously?

 

So there you have my little rant and I feel so much better for getting all that off my chest! 😀

 

 

 

 

Magic Moments – The Day We Emigrated Part 1

This is the first of a few posts celebrating the two-year anniversary of our emigration to Canada which is coming up next weekend.  So for today’s Magic Moment I want to share the first part in the story of the day we landed in Canada.

It was July 19th 2011, the container was packed and shipped and we’d done the emotional goodbyes and we headed off in a taxi to the Hotel in Gatwick Airport.  I think as soon as we arrive at the hotel we could close the door on the negative emotions associated with leaving and being to get excited about the start of our adventure.  All we had to do was survive the next day’s trip through the airport with excess baggage, our two (endangered species) tortoises and Hubbies three shotguns.   We basically had all three categories of potential problems to deal with all at once, oh joy!

The first thing to do was meet the Pet Transportation Agent in the Cargo Area at the airport, that was pretty straight forward, he had all the paperwork done and the pet carrier too.

Next was walking through the airport with 8 cases and three firearms, hmmmm this was going to be a tricky one.  Gatwick was undergoing major renovations (of course it was, it wasn’t like things were going to be easy for us!) so a little more chaotic than usual.  We went straight to check in which, understandably took hours and after paying for our extra baggage we got our very own escort to walk us through the airport with the shotguns.  Finally after a stop off at customs to fill out more paperwork and check in the guns we were free to proceed through security.

The Magic Moment was as we finally boarded the plane, I was expecting to be more emotional than I was but it was more of a sense of relief that we were finally on our way and for the next 8 blissful hours I didn’t need to think, I had no forms to fill out, nothing to organize and the biggest decision was whether I wanted fish or chicken and whether I was going to have a second glass of wine with dinner, although that was more of a foregone conclusion. 😉  Next stop, Toronto!

 

 

The Expat to Expat Q & A – Travel

For the second time I am joining in with The Expat to Expat Q & A hosted by Belinda at Found Love Now What and Bailie at the Hembourg Wife.

This months questions are all about Travel.

1. Which airport would you like to never see again?

Sharm El Sheik International Airport in Egypt, the staff were rude, unhelpful and disorgnised. We had to queue for literally hours to check in and barely made the plane. To top it off the man that checked our passports at the gate refused to hand them back to me and literally leaned across me to hand our passports to my husband. Grrrrrr!

2. What is your travel nightmare?

Being stuck somewhere because of adverse weather.  I’m pretty organised so I would never miss a flight by being late or forgetting something but Mother Nature is something you can’t control.

3. Would your rather stay in a fancy hotel and do less activities or stay in a hostel and do more activities?

I love fancy hotels but sitting about drives me stir crazy, especially on holiday so it would be somewhere in the middle.  I think it’s a complete waste of money and energy to go to a new part of the world and not get out and explore it.

4. Do you have any pre-travel rituals?

We have a leather wallet that holds our passports, tickets, money & travel documents. I always hand that over to my husband the night before we leave for him to pack in his hand luggage.  He is never in charge of the money apart from the night before we travel!

5. What is your favorite airline to fly with?

Air Canada. Never had a problem with them, fabulous service, great staff, decent entertainment and food and the seats are usually quite roomy which is really important for my tall Husband and eldest Son.

6. If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?

That’s a hard one because we have a tonne of places on our bucket list including many here in Canada and in the States but as we’ve haven’t seen our family and friends since we left the UK two years ago I’d have to say back to England for a couple of weeks to spend some time with them.

7.  How do you survive long haul flights?

A good book, my Ipod and noise cancelling headphones.  I have a couple of albums of new age/meditation type music which keeps me calm and doesn’t distract me from what I’m reading.  I drink lots of water always have a Burts Bees lip balm and I wear layers because I hate being cold.

8. What is your favorite stamp in your passport and why?

The one from our official landing in Canada in April 2010. It represents the start of our adventure and the end of years of stress trying to get there.

Questions from Lisa at Meanderings, Adventures & Crafty Inspirations

1. What are your top 3 necessary items for travel?

My Camera, to snap away at all the sights

A Travel Guide. I like to research and get the inside scoop before I go anywhere. I like the  Lonely Planet ones best.

My Straighteners. I know it’s sad and a bit vain but I can’t be without them. 😀

 

2. What is your off the beaten track trip in your current home?

One of the big advantages of living in such a huge country is that you don’t have to go very far to be ‘off the beaten track’ about 90% of this country is unpopulated.  One of the  places I really want to go which is off the beaten track is Churchill in Manitoba to see the Northern Lights and the Polar Bears.

Feel free to comment with any of your own travel related experiences.

Buying our first Canadian home – Magic Moments #4

Sold sign outside our new house

It was two years ago this month that I took a blind leap of faith and packed off my husband to go solo to Canada and buy us a house.  We had built a trusted relationship with our Realtor during our fact-finding trip a few months before and together they had a set of strict instructions.

Our wish list was this:

The house had to be in the catchment for the good school

It must have an open fire

It must have a guest bedroom and bathroom in the basement for our overseas visitors

The basement must be accessible from outside to allow hubbie to get his airplanes, tools and all manner of random crap his prized possessions in and out without going through the house.

Simple!

I’d made viewing appointments for the houses I wanted him to see and was in constant contact via email and skype and when he thought he’d found ‘the one’ he filmed the house and posted a video to YouTube for my approval.

 

This was that magic moment

 

Next came the negotiations, which unlike the UK happens at an office with both parties present and in reality only took an hour.  What an amazing moment when my husband called to say the deal was done and we could move in a little over  5 weeks later. Finally we could book our flights, enroll the boys in school and visualize our new lives.  This was our reality check that it was all really happening. We had an address, an exact destination and we were raring to go.

The Container Arrived! – Magic Moment #3

My first two magic moments posts have been about things that have recently happened but I came across this picture which reminded me of a magic moment in our emigration journey.  This was the day our container arrived.

On July 19th 2011 we packed all of our worldly goods except 6 suitcases, three shotguns and two tortoises (but that’s a story for another day!) in a container, bid our loved ones a tearful goodbye and set off for pastures new in Canada.  We had booked ourselves into a hotel for a few days while we rushed around like crazy people sorting the last few technicalities before our house purchase completed on July 25th  and buying a few essentials like beds. We moved into our house with just the 6 suitcases we brought on the plane plus a car full of things we had bought in the previous few days.  We  had a couple of sofas, some kitchen stuff and a TV and that was pretty much all while we waited for our container to cross the Atlantic.  It was a pretty nerve wracking time, I’d heard stories of containers falling off ships never to be seen again so we waited nervously for some news.

We were pleasantly surprised to hear from the shipping company after about three weeks but our joy was short lived when they told us our container had been taken off the ship in Montreal by customs and was being ripped apart as we speak.  We cringed as we thought of our carefully packed container with our methodically numbered and packed boxes being unpacked by uncaring strangers.  Not only did this delay our container by weeks as they cleaned everything that had already been disinfected we also had to pay $1400 for the privilege! After days of stress, delivering paperwork to customs making phone calls and trips across the city we got the call that the container had been released, then we had to wait while it was loaded on a truck and transported to us by road.  Finally on 29th August our container arrived at our new home. Our contents had been battered, some things had been broken, a few bits went missing but nothing could dampen our spirits at finally having all our things in our new home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changing Lives

As I stood looking out on Canisbay Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park last Saturday I literally had to pinch myself.  I couldn’t help but exclaim out loud. “I live here, I live HERE”.  

After almost two years of our expat life I’m finally starting to feel more content with our new lives, dare I even say settled?  The bad bits are still there of course but the bouts of homesickness are now becoming less severe and shorter.  Chatting with my family on skype now seems as normal as popping round for a cup of tea would have felt two years ago.

It’s been quite a journey to get this far and I admit there has been many a time when I wanted to get off the expat emotional roller coaster, I wanted to throw my hands up in surrender and say ‘I give up, I can’t cope with living in a different continent to my family and friends’. There are still days when I would give anything to have Sunday dinner at my parents house surrounded by family or have a glass of wine or five with my friends and chat into the early hours.

As I stood on that beach looking at that spectacular place, that is only a couple of hours from our new home, I began to reflect on our journey and how far we have come.  Little remains of our former lives now and for the most part that is not a bad thing.  I don’t miss the days of 12 hours in the office and trying to juggle the needs of our business with the needs of our boys.  I don’t miss barely keeping up with the housework or running out in the middle of sports day to take a call from an important client. I am a ‘stay at home mum’ right now, I am there to take the boys to school and pick them up afterwards.  All four of us have dinner together every single night. We are relaxed and calm and spend more time together than ever before.

I have discovered more about myself in the last two years than I ever thought possible, when you live outside of your comfort zone your strengths and weaknesses become so apparent.  I have surprised myself with my own bravery and realized I can live perfectly well without constant reassurance from my nearest and dearest.  I have become more assertive and more decisive.

The boys are blossoming in a newfound confidence.  Something that happens with migrant kids is they develop skills to cope with change and the experience of living in different cultures broadens their horizons.

Emigrating was the toughest decision of my life but it has been the most exhilarating journey

 

 

The Gallery – New

I’m kind of spoilt for choice with Tara’s theme this week for The Gallery but nevertheless I still spent the best part of two days deciding what photo I would use or what new thing I would talk about.

 

So I chose this photo of a new shoot that was taken last week when my husband was giving me some instruction on the use of my camera.  I thought it represents us perfectly.

Part and parcel of expat life is the newness of it all.  New experiences and new discoveries are still everyday occurrences: driving down a new street, finding something new in the grocery store or meeting a new person.  As we rapidly approach the two-year mark since our move we still have that feeling of being brand new immigrants and we’re still trying to find our feet in many respects.  The upcoming summer months promise to continue on this trend of newness.  My husband is unhappy in his job so is looking for a change either he’ll change his role at work or we’ll go ahead with our own business again.  Eldest son leaves high school and is off to College and we’re planning on exploring some more of this amazing country we live in.  So that new little green shoot represents our family who are just at the beginning of our expat journey with the promise of it blossoming into something amazing.

The Expat Emotional Roller-coaster

In my 39 years I have never experienced the emotional range as intensely as I have in the last 2 years since our departure from England.  Every feeling from sadness to happiness, dread to anticipation and everything in between crops up on a regular basis.

I remember walking the kids to school with my best friend about a week before we left England and saying to her how I was “done with the last times” and how I wanted to look forward to the “first times”.  Seeing people and doing things for the last time prior to leaving England exhausted me emotionally like I had never experienced.  Watching my granddad walk down my driveway for the last time, the last meal with my sister and my girlfriends, the final day with my parents were obviously terribly sad occasions but at the same time I was looking forward to seeing my new home for the first time and beginning our new life. I was both excited about our arrival in Canada and very upset at our departure from England.

Niagara Falls, Canada

Tower Bridge, London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expat life brings with it a ride on an emotional roller-coaster and the bizarre thing is that often contrasting emotions come at the same time.  An example of this was the intense excitement I felt a fortnight ago as I was eagerly anticipating the arrival of my sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew but before they even arrived I was already dreading them leaving.  The happy times we had together were all too soon followed by a tearful goodbye and now the house which just a short week ago was noisy, excited and crammed full is now quiet, calm and feels too roomy.  I really love where I live but miss my old home, I’m enjoying all the new experiences we have but I crave the familiar too.

 

Niagara Falls 2013

London Eye 2005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I have discovered in the last 20 months of being an expat is that expat life is a series of ‘trade offs’, you exchange regular brief visits with longer times together that are far fewer and further between but on the whole much more memorable. I suppose the phrase ‘quality time’ comes into play here.  Learning to cope with the twists and turns, highs and lows is all part of the journey.  I hope that as time passes I become more adept at riding the emotional roller-coaster, accepting the downsides of expat life is the price we have to pay for this lifestyle we have chosen.

 

“Missing someone gets easier every day because even though it’s one day further from the last time you saw each other, it’s one day closer to the next time you will” – Anonymous

 

The Gallery – The Letter C


This is my first time joining in with The Gallery linky, as soon as I saw the theme this week I knew it was for me because: C is for Canada

 

This is my absolute favourite photograph taken in Canada, in fact I have an enlarged version hanging in my dining room.  It was taken during our second holiday here during the Christmas holidays in 2006. We were visiting Banff, Alberta for the first time and were totally awestruck by the beauty of the place.

During the fortnight away we began to reassess our lives and we looked at where we wanted to be in the future.  2006 was a really tough year, which culminated in the loss of my Mother-In-Law. I also had a major fall out with a close friend so life in general had been pretty awful.  This holiday was an ideal opportunity for us to reconnect as a family, to re-evaluate our lifestyle and marked a turning point in our lives, within a few months of returning from this trip we made the decision to emigrate to Canada.