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5 Best Things About Being an Expat

I was inspired by Maria over at Iwasanexpatwife (who is a true expert of all things expat) to write a personal list of the best and worst parts about being an expat.


1. You learn something new everyday.

I know this is an old saying but when you start a new life abroad it becomes true.  In the first few weeks it’s a bit of information overload when every sense is bombarded with new things.  The learning curve it at it steepest as you learn huge life altering lessons like how to drive on the other side of the road or where the best schools are.  After a while they become smaller and less significant like discovering some new restaurant or finding a little pharmacy that stocks your favourite shampoo but the learning is constant.  My husband and I would often start our conversation when he comes home from work with “you won’t believe what I discovered today…”

2. You find out who you really are

I’m brave! Who knew? Certainly not me but moving overseas is a sure way to find out about your character.  It was more of a surprise to me than anyone that I didn’t have a complete panic on the way to the airport or lose my marbles during the emigration process. I have discovered that I can actually handle an awful lot of stress and more importantly get through it relatively unscathed.  In our first 18 months in Canada I have discovered all kinds of character traits that I had never acknowledged.  I wouldn’t go as far to say I didn’t know they were there but I just hadn’t taken the time to really think about who I was.

3. You can change everything and reinvent yourself

We you first arrive in a new country no one has any preconceptions of who you are and what you are like, no one there will be expecting you to be the same old person you always were so you have the freedom to be exactly who you want.  I have learned that I being the reliable ‘yes’ person was draining me, I had a tendency to do anything for anyone even if it meant I didn’t have time to do what I really wanted or needed to do, not anymore.  I can say no if something doesn’t suit me and I don’t want to do it.  You can change everything about yourself, what you do for a living and how you live. You have the perfect opportunity to start afresh, put aside what doesn’t serve you and move on.  Forget bad experiences and fear and embrace a fresh start and a new way of life.


4. You learn what’s really important in life.

Any contact I have with my family and friends back in England is so precious now, a simple email, skype call or Facebook message means so much more than it did two years ago.   The last 18 months has taught me to really value the relationships that I used to take for granted.

I have learnt how important time is: we have a family dinner together every night now because we’re not inundated with work or commuting for hours. I am more aware of what is happening in the life of our boys more than ever before.

Exploring the city with family

5. You have a whole new part of the world to explore

It starts with learning your immediate area, where the shops are, where the school is and then your horizons broaden into the nearest city and what it has to offer.  Next you begin to explore further afield as you discover new places to drive to on a sunny day or for a weekend break and eventually you are exploring neighbouring countries and new holiday destinations.  Every trip is a brand new exciting experience and if you’re lucky enough to get visitors you get to explore these places with family and friends too.

Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom

Chateau Lake Louise, Alberta

So there you have it, my top 5 things about expat life.  Coming up next the five worst things…get the Kleenex ready!

The Holidays-Canadian Style

I am pleased to say this Holiday season was a vast improvement on the previous year.  Not that our first Christmas in Canada was a bad one it was just different I suppose. We decided to spend our first Christmas in Canada at home, which is the first year we hadn’t been away for the holidays in 6 years.  In hindsight that wasn’t the best idea.  We were used to being way from our families at Christmas but we were always busy exploring somewhere new. So last year as the four of us sat down for a quiet Christmas dinner in our own home it didn’t really feel much different from a normal Sunday lunch.  I think the festive season is the toughest time of year for expats as the media bombards you with images of the perfect family Christmas surrounded by your loved ones and sentimental music on the radio just acts as a constant reminder that you wont be ‘driving home for Christmas’ Chris Rea style and I swear if I heard that song once more in December the radio was going to end up in the garden!  So this year we decided it would be different.


I started my preparations early by making my own mincemeat so I could make some mince pies.  You can’t buy them here very easily and the ones you do find are pretty gross.  Thanks to a Delia Smith recipe they turned out pretty darn good and were a hit with the Canadian relatives on Christmas day after they were assured several times that they did NOT in fact contain any type of meat! The Festive Cupcakes went down pretty well too.

I got the boys decorating cookies on Christmas Eve and we finally started to get in the spirit of things.

We had a lovely, (almost) traditional Turkey dinner on Christmas day and at the crack of dawn on Boxing Day we hit the road to drive south to spend a week in Florida, now that’s my type of Christmas!


Our first blip in the journey was only 2 hours in when we had to cross the border into the States.  We always get a bit of hassle as we are travelling on our UK passports but I stupidly thought going over at 6.30am on Boxing day would be straight forward, WRONG!  After receiving the usual million questions, being photographed and finger printed again they finally let us through.  It’s funny really, we are British Citizens resident in Canada, both countries have a far superior economic situation than in the states and they honestly treat you like you are going to try to stay there illegally or something?  Don’t figure.


After an uneventful drive through New York State we entered Pennsylvania and the terrain began to change as we started to climb into the Appalachian Mountain Range.  Within about 30 minutes of driving we went from this




To this





We hit a huge snowstorm through the mountains and the traffic came to crawling speed.  The snowflakes were the biggest I’ve ever seen but instead of hitting the window with a ’splat’ like they would in England the snow was hard, brittle and icy.  We crawled on for a couple more hours before it finally cleared up as we passed through West Virginia.  By the time we entered North Carolina we’d had enough driving for one day and stopped in a hotel for some sleep.


I’ve had a few comments about the sense in driving all that way when we could just as easily fly.  My thoughts on that are this: firstly I had no intention of flying through the holiday season and dealing with the possibility of flight cancellations or diversions due to inclement weather.  Secondly, I hate trying to weigh all my clothes to make them fit in with my baggage allowance and finally, it would still take a whole day when you consider driving to the airport, parking, checking in, security, customs etc etc.   Driving could be done at our pace, we could go where we wanted when we wanted and we got to see albeit a small part of the states but it gave you a real sense of the scale of the place.  The mountains in Viriginia were really pretty, not quite ‘Rocky Mountain Spectacular’ but really lovely nonetheless. Also a road trip to Florida is almost a right of passage here, in this part of the country it seems everyone has done it as a child, almost every adult has fond memories of road trips ‘down south’ and I wanted to boys to have the same memories.  Anyway we didn’t mind the drive because we knew this was at the end of it!