Given my strapline is ‘Brit mama with Canadian tendencies‘, I felt it was high time to talk about the Great White North again. I may not refer to her much, but Canada is a huge part of who I am. The Lord and the General are both Canadian and I made some of my best friends out there.
Becoming an expat can be a rollercoaster of emotions – scary, exciting, lonely, challenging; but there are some fantastic resources to tap into and the adrenaline of the adventure can carry you a long way. When you return home however, there is very little to help you readjust. The adventure of an ex-expat is equally as turbulent.
Even though we moved back to a place we know well, with family on our doorstep and old friends aplenty, I really struggled to adjust to life back in the UK:
The fact I would no longer be a novelty was a notion I hadn’t anticipated. I was never short of people to talk to in Toronto (mainly because I had a British accent and cute babies!) I had to abandon all delusions of being an exotic (ha!) foreigner back in the Cotswolds.
Even after 18 months away, I still use Canadian words every day. The Lord still calls lifts ‘elevators‘ and the buggy is and always will be the ‘stroller‘. Washrooms [toilets], bucks [instead of £], soccer [posh people call football soccer so I’ll keep this one], oatmeal [sounds so much nicer than porridge], daycare [nursery or playgroup] are all firm staples in my vocabulary now.
I am that wanker who constantly says when I lived in Toronto… Not because I’m showing off, but because it was a big chunk of my life. It’s still a little pretentious but sod it, I make good cakes!
When I lived in Toronto 😉 my ears would prick up whenever I heard another British accent. There was a sense of solidarity and excitement when you came across a fellow Brit! Similarly, my ears now prick up when I hear a North American accent (closely followed by inane smiling and stalker-like following around until I build up the courage to talk to them!)
Combine the novelty factor with the fact that lots of people in Toronto aren’t actually from Toronto, I found I gathered a big group of friends around me. Some were natives, some were expats but each one was loyal and fun to be with. Now we’re back, those friends remain and, whilst there isn’t such a thing as too many friends, it makes birthdays and staying in touch a much bigger venture!
18 months on and sometimes it’s difficult to believe our Canuck adventure was anything more than a dream. No weekend obligations, incredible activities and scenery on your doorstep and real, actual, full-blown seasons! The decision to move back was incredibly tough. Not only because we loved our life there, but because once you decide to return to your home country, it feels like you’re closing the door on your host country. We could return to Canada, but the stakes are much higher now.
Five years is a long time to be away and it undoubtedly changes you (if only the distance you’re prepared to travel at weekends!) I particularly struggled with the anticlimax of the fact that no one else’s lives had changed. This isn’t a slight on our friends by any means, merely that it makes it hard to share the excitement of your adventures without becoming a pretentious, repetitive tit-head.
Finally, the things I missed the most when we moved out to Toronto were tea, back bacon and spray deodorant. Now we’re back, the things I miss the most are coffee, bacon and solid stick deodorant! The irony is not lost on me.
As always, thanks for listening to my ramblings – I promise to keep the next post shorter!