Guest Post from Sarah of Scribbles From Overseas
I recently moved to Toronto from the UK – following my partner across the pond for work. It’s fair to say my first few months wearing expat partner shoes have had their ups and downs. And although I don’t really believe any amount of preparing will truly prepare you, these are five things I wish I’d known before making the leap!
Don’t Ship So Much Stuff!
I am glad we shipped over some of our things from the UK to Toronto. It really did feel unbelievably exciting unpacking the boxes when they arrived – and it is nice to have a few more homely, personal touches around the place.
However, we definitely could have cut down on a few boxes, and consequently saved ourselves a few bob.
We are now the proud owners of about a zillion pans, three ladles, multiple cutlery sets and around ten oven dishes.
Don’t pack kitchen stuff – well unless you really love it. Shipping always takes longer than you expect, and you forget what you packed with in the first place whilst waiting. You will end up buying it all again and like us, will have overflowing cupboards with two of everything.
It Is Hard Work
Expect life to be an emotional rollercoaster for a few months. Some days are exciting, others are daunting – and overall the whole thing is an exhausting experience.
Expect to not feel settled straight away. You realise how much is involved in everyday life when you have to start again completely from scratch – setting up bank accounts, working out where your closest stores are, buying furniture, sorting out a phone contract. The list is endless.
After four months we are still not quite there yet (having made our tenth Toronto IKEA trip today to get a few more bits we have come to realise we are missing).
It Is Not Travelling
It may seem obvious but moving abroad is not the same as going travelling or going on holiday.
And even though I always knew that to be true, it is one of the things I struggled with the most when I first moved abroad (and still actually struggle with a little bit now!).
You are in a new country full of amazing things to do and see, and all you want to do is explore. But you can’t – or are limited in your exploring to some extent – because you have to do the ‘everyday life’ things like going to work.
If only I could win the lottery.
I guess it depends to some extent what country you are in, but in Canada, you generally get much less holiday allowance with work than you do in the UK. About 2 weeks total per year plus bank holidays.
That straight off restricts the amount of travelling one can do!
Plus, you are busy trying to make yourself feel settled in your new city.
It Will Test You
This one may apply slightly more to people in an ‘expat spouse’ kind of situation (like me).
Moving abroad with my partner has tested me emotionally from so many different angles.
It has tested my self-esteem, my confidence, my relationships with others, my ability to be resilient, and my ability to try and stay positive….
I found it really difficult coming over and not having work immediately. I felt a little lost, and didn’t really know what to do with my days. That was a big test in itself. I was given the challenge of trying to find an identity in a new place.
And as hard as it is, rather than seeing it as a negative that I have to start again with my career, I am trying to look at the positives too. For instance, this is an opportunity for me to try out different directions to what I was doing at home.
Laughing Will Get You A Long Way
Being able to laugh at almost any situation will certainly help on those days when you are craving home.
See the novelty in those quirky differences.
Like when you spend 10 minutes trying to explain to the man in Best Buys you want to buy an aerial (blank face) – only to realise the magic word is antenna.
I have come to accept that Toronto sells milk in bags, have miniature public toilet doors, and has waitresses in pubs (you can’t buy a drink at the bar and then sit down!?)
Although these things still baffle me slightly, I have come to enjoy these things as part of Toronto.
(And I secretly quite like not having to fight my way to the front of a rammed bar!)
Sarah Hunter works in the student support sector, enjoys drinking tea and long conversations. Having recently moved to Toronto from the UK, she hopes to use the opportunity to follow her dreams of becoming a writer. Find her at Scribbles From Overseas or over on Instagram here.