What I Miss About Canada
This week we will celebrate 5 years living in England. There are so many wonderful and challenging things about being an expat but I find as it gets closer to this landmark that I am reflecting more and more about the things that I miss most about Canada. So far I don’t have any regrets about out decision to move abroad. It has been a rather monumental adventure, but in my heart there is still a tug towards my home in Canada. The longer I am away the more I am sure that this yearning never completely leaves you. I love England—the people, the proximity to other countries, London, and hundreds of other things. This isn’t about not loving my new home. It is not meant to discourage people from trying expat living or even complaining about the struggles of moving to a different country. I have simply come to realise that even if I live here for the rest of my life I will always be Canadian.
So I thought that I would take this anniversary to share some of the things that we miss most about the Canada we love.
1. My family
Okay, I know this one is obvious, or it should be, but I ache for nearness to my family more than I thought possible. Before we moved outside of Canada I had never once lived anywhere that didn’t have at least some family. Not once in my whole life did I not have my parents, my siblings, or my aunts and uncles at my ready disposal. If I ever needed anything someone was always nearby to help and I had no idea how dependant I had become on that until this was no longer the case. I also feel very sad and left out whenever I hear of big family gatherings that I know there is no way I can attend or when someone needs help and all I can do is send payers and love. Yup, the thing that we all miss most is family. My kids grew up with cousins as best friend, aunts and uncles as favourite baby-sitters and grandparents as weekend play dates and this has become a huge hole in all of our lives. Thank goodness that we live in the age of FaceTime and Skype or I don’t think we would have made it here despite all the benefits.
2. The Mountains
I don’t want to offend my lovely British friends, I really don’t but you’ll have to take my word for it, you do not have mountains. You have beautiful rolling hills and gorgeous stretches of coastlines and any number of other beautiful scenery but you do not have proper mountains. I spent a lot of my life on the prairies of Canada but it is the time I spent in the mountains that I miss most. Perhaps it is an effect of not being able to experience that here but I miss the snow peaked mountains stretching thousands of feet above you just waiting to climb and explore. I am from a family of nine with an outdoorsy dad, so even when money was tight he took us on the best free adventures in nature. Hiking, or at the very least long walks, were a staple of my childhood and if he could get us to a mountain to do them in you’d better believe he would.
One of the big reasons I was willing to move away from Canada was that I hated dealing with the cold and snow but it is amazing what five years without something can do to you. We actually did get a few big snowfalls this year—by English standards—and I felt a little like a kid in a candy store. Although, this did made me miss how we Canadians deal with the snow so perhaps I am never satisfied. Still, I did love that the whole community seemed to agree to go outside and play in the few inches we got. This was so much fun to watch. I especially miss white Christmases. There is something magical about the snow covering the outside lights, it just feels like Christmas. We haven’t had that in over five years now and I do miss it.
If I am being totally honest with myself though, one year of living with the -20 and I’d be right back to hating it. If I could figure out a way to deliver a Canadian amount of snow for the week of Christmas and then ship it right back out that would be my ideal.
I wouldn’t say that I miss all Canadian food or that food here is so much worse, because it’s not. In fact I happen to think that a lot of things are better here than back home. Even the cheap candy bar chocolate is so much better than North American chocolate, the bread is amazing and the variety and affordability of the cheese here is undoubtedly one of the reasons for my extra weight. Still, I’d be lying if I pretended that I don’t crave foods that they just don’t have here. One of the things that I pay an exorbitant amount of money (at least compared to a shelf price in Canada) to have delivered to me is graham crackers. A British person will try to convince you that digestive biscuits are the same—they are not! My daughter misses proper Kraft Dinner, they have no substitution that measures up. Poutine is hard to even duplicate here because finding the right kind of cheese curd is nearly impossible. We did come across a pub in London that has done a fabulous job of this Canadian delicacy. I have taken to making my own Nanaimo Bars anytime I am asked to bring a treat from home (when I have graham crackers in the house) but I do miss being able to find them in any coffee shop. A blizzard from Dairy Queen is something I have dreamt about, sadly. There aren’t a lot of things really but when I want something that I can’t have it makes me very homesick.
Every day that I am here it feels more comfortable but I do miss the familiarity that comes from living in my home country. I miss knowing what every item I am looking for is called. I can’t count how many times I have been in a shop googling ‘what is fill in the blank called in England’. I foolishly assumed that because I was moving to an English speaking country that there would be no language barrier. This is not so. Not only do they call things by different names they often pull out expressions and terms that I have no idea what they mean. I do miss having conversations where I don’t have to ask ‘what does that mean?’. I don’t know British pop culture from the past and so often they will talk about a star, a program, a singer that I just have no idea who or what it is. I miss knowing things. I miss having a concept of how far apart places are, I miss knowing how to get around, and I miss feeling comfortable driving. I think you learn and grow from being outside your comfort zone but sometimes I just miss the ease of being in a place where everything is familiar.
I do love my new home here in England. I feel very blessed to have two such beautiful countries to call home. I am often overcome by the idea of how lucky I am to live here and to know the amazing people that I have met since moving here. Truly I have formed some of the greatest friendships and I fall in love with new parts of this country almost daily. Expat life can be hard and isolating but it has also forced me to grow in the most unforeseen and amazing ways. If you have the chance to try it I highly recommend it.
Still, five years or fifty, I am proudly Canadian.
Any other expats reading this? What are the things you miss most about your home country? How long have you lived in your new home? The world feels so much smaller when we share so lets talk to each other.