Today is a momentous day for me because exactly 6 months ago I left London on a flight bound for Vancouver to embark on the dream of a lifetime, moving to Canada.
As I sit here writing this I can’t quite believe it has gone so fast nor can I believe that it hasn’t been longer, which I know are completely contradictory. In some respects it doesn’t feel like 6 months has passed because I’ve been so busy with life that I’ve been in a bit of a time warp but in other ways it feels like I’ve always lived here or, at the very least, I’ve been here considerably longer than 6 months.
When I first arrived in Vancouver it was really bizarre because it almost felt like I had come home, which is utterly ridiculous because I had never visited Canada before, let alone knew anyone who lived here when I arrived. The only thing I can think of that made me feel that way is I came here with a determined attitude to live the dream I always wanted, I sold a lot of my possessions back home and I came equipped with all my essentials to start living my life here rather than just with the bare essentials. I also came with a very different attitude to a lot of people on working holiday visas, I had the attitude that this is a new beginning in my life and I want to settle here rather than seeing this is a two year holiday.
At the time of arriving I had no job, no friends, no certainty about anything. To an extent there is still a lack of certainty. I also think that what helped me settle in quickly was I booked to stay in an Airbnb for the whole of my first month so my first venture into this new life started in a home rather than in a hostel; I wasn’t thrown into this crazy place where everyone is either coming or going, I just moved into a home where people did come and go but it was more like living with friends where people change from time to time rather than from day to day. My Airbnb place was also in a completely residential area full of family homes and peace and quiet rather than in the middle of the city where it’s full of hustle and bustle and tower blocks in all directions (I do love Downtown Vancouver but I also like living out of it in the suburbs).
Have things gone to plan?
In a word, no! However, that is not a bad thing. In the beginning there was a bit of a panic to find work and make sure I got some income coming in sooner rather than later because my survival here was going to boil down to being able to afford food and shelter, which is neigh-on impossible without a job. It did take me longer to get a job than I hoped primarily because I had to wait for references from the UK, which took forever to come through, especially with the time difference and loss of 2 business day a week.
My first job in Canada was contract work to the main utility provider in British Columbia, BC Hydro. The company I was employed by as a contractor was enormous and extremely corporate. You were essentially a statistic rather than a person, which I really disliked.
My current job is working for a leading clothing and accessory company, Helly Hansen. The job is only temporary for 4 months as the department I am in is closing at the end of June but already I feel much happier, I enjoy my job and I work with some great people who I am actually getting to know properly.
In my last job we were in phone booths and there were no team-building exercises or events organised to build camaraderie. Although the department I am in is closing I am hoping to make good enough friends and contacts to be able to move on with some of them into the companies they end up working in. I am currently working in Customer Operations which is a different side to customer service for me and I am really enjoying it. I also like the industry of clothing and apparel so things are looking good.
Aside from work related things my health has also dramatically improved. I am 11.5kg (25.3lb) lighter than when I arrived, I am a lot fitter, my blood pressure and pulse are the lowest they’ve been my entire adult life and are all within the normal range. I feel so much more alive out here and the views surrounding Vancouver are incredible.
What do I miss from the UK?
First and foremost I miss my girlfriend. It was awesome having her out here for 2 weeks in February and I really am keeping everything crossed she gets a visa and decides to come out here too. Although a long distance relationship is tough we are both very committed to each other and we are making it work, which is great. Update – after almost 12 months of long-distance relationship we decided to end our relationship. Long distance definitely can put a strain on a relationship. Fortunately, it was an amicable decision but it didn’t stop it hurting any less.
I miss my family and friends from back in the UK too. I am very pleased to have Skype and FaceTime as this makes the distance feel a lot smaller but it’s not the same as actually being with them. I am very much looking forward to going to the UK to visit in July and seeing them all again, it will be 10 months since I left by then.
Holiday entitlement sucks in Canada. Typically you get between 10-15 days per year with statutory holidays on top. Coming from the UK this was a shock as I don’t think I have ever worked anywhere where I get less that 20 days plus statutory holidays (or holiday in lieu as I have spent most of my working career working in hospitality where you work statutory holidays). This sucks for travelling out of Canada but thankfully living in Vancouver you can easily do breaks away and get out and about without having to travel too far.
Bacon, cheese, roast dinners, and proper clotted cream (and not together before anyone thinks I’ve totally lost the plot). Canada does not know how to do decent bacon or cheese, it’s all streaky bacon (usually smoked) or Canadian bacon, which is better than streaky but not great, and the cheese is like rubber. Proper British cheese that doesn’t cost the earth and bacon rashers will be on the menu when I visit the UK for sure.
Also roast dinners, I have not found one yet. A friend from the UK says her friend knows of a couple of places so I cannot wait to try them and I hope they are decent. And finally, proper cream does not seem to exist in Canada, especially clotteed cream. You can buy whipping cream and if you’re lucky might find heavy cream (equivalent to UK double cream) but you really have to go hunting for it. Growing up for a large part of my life in Cornwall I really miss proper clotted cream and rich pouring cream. Part of me feels I should start an underground cheese and cream making plant. The problem in North America is that you cannot buy unpasturised milk, which is used to make some of the best cheese and clotted cream.
What do I love about Canada?
I love the outdoorsy lifestyle – I spend a lot more time outside walking and the views are spectacular.
Canadian people are really friendly and are very easy to approach without any concerns about being told to take a hike.
Overall, I love life here. I am happy, healthier, and I am enjoying my life a lot more. As mentioned throughout there are things I miss from the UK but I certainly don’t see myself leaving Canada for a very long time to come, it feels like my home.
Bizarrely I have just finished writing this and am publishing it almost 6 months to the minute from when I arrived. It’s very geeky but I don’t care!
Update – 18 months later I got my Permanent Residency and I still live in Canada. If you are not already, sign up to follow my continuing life here in Canada.