For those of you who have been following my expat adventures around the globe, you may have wondered why my social media feeds have been populated with more footage of the UK than of Canada. Well it hasn’t been because I have been on a long term vacation to the UK but rather that we decided to leave Canada.
This decision to leave Canada certainly wasn’t made lightly. The Northerner and I really did have to sit down with pen and paper (aka a google doc) to outline the pros and cons of the decision we were thinking of making given the cards we had been dealt. Many of you who do read regularly would have known about the sad news our family received at the end of 2017. With the loss of an immediate family member, the Northerner still waiting on residency papers and me working for peanuts, life got put into perspective and we decided that things would just be better if we moved back at home.
The Pros and Cons
Everyone’s pros and cons list will no doubt look different but at the end of the day it is about creating a life that makes you happy. For us, aside from the weather and the education offered in Canada for our fictional children, there wasn’t much swaying us. So here are the six main reasons we decided to leave Canada.
1)The Commute: We don’t like driving
When we returned back from a long weekend road trip to Ottawa, the Nation’s capital, I turned to the Northerner and asked ‘How come you didn’t want to drive?’ He was insured to drive but didn’t pipe up both ways of the very long drive much to my dismay. “I don’t like driving” he said.
Me (slightly seething and exhausted): really? I thought you liked it? You enjoyed it up north when we rented the car.
Northerner: yeah, in general, I don’t like driving. Especially here with the automatic cars.
Me: Just as well, we’ve moved to a country where the only way to get around is by car then and you and I both hate driving!
As I have mentioned in previous rants about Canada, public transport is basically non-existent. And so with such a large country, built upon poor sparse urban planning, the only way to get around is by car.
2) Convenience: We like having amenities on our doorstep
As with the above, we don’t like driving. But more so, we like walking and having things on our door stop. Not just city things like nice pubs and restaurants but even just a corner shop to buy some milk when you’re out. Or a pharmacy within walking distance. In Canada, nothing was within walking distance except your neighbours. And that was something we didn’t enjoy.
3) House and Home: We don’t want to live in a big house
Now of course I would love to have more space than the one bed apartments we’ve lived in over the past 7 years but housing in Canada is on another scale. Reasonable sized homes are mostly available downtown. However, most people can’t afford a modest house in downtown Toronto, what with prices averaging around the 6 figure mark. Further away from from city is no better, with bigger houses available. But, buying off the plot means not getting into a bidding war. None of this sounded appealing to us Brits who came from small, cosy abodes. And so, if living in a house meant living further away from the city centre in a super-sized house with high heating bills and huge property taxes or paying an arm and a leg for a city dwelling then we’d like to pass.
4) The Job: We wanted jobs in our profession
Breaking the Canadian job market isn’t easy as a lot of people know. However, we didn’t think it would be difficult for a Canadian citizen, trained in Canada for said profession. Unfortunately that was the case for me. And having spent all that time and money on developing my career, it was disappointing to experience anything less. What’s more, it wouldn’t have been realistic to afford a life on the jobs available to us. Not to mention the issue of commuting… on the road… to get to jobs on the other side of the city (did I mention we don’t like driving).
5) Travel: We like to travel
Canada is an amazing destination to travel to and on most travellers list for 2018. However the reality for those living in the country is that domestic travel is expensive. Not only that, but with very little annual leave allocated to employers, taking the time to travel the distance is more challenging. Add to that, the distance to travel to most neighbouring countries averaging over an hour in flight and travel ends up being a bit more inaccessible. Of course we knew it was never going to be like living in Europe or Asia, but we had realised that we needed the time to at least head back to Europe for the sake of family. And that just isn’t something we would have the luxury of doing living in Canada.
6) Community: We want to live in a community
I’m sure there are many that would argue against this point and I recognise that community is what you make it. However from what we saw, there wasn’t much mingling outside of one’s home in Canada. Sure there are communities revolving around one’s ethnic background in Canada. But in a way that made neighbourhoods feel all the more isolating. We came from a country of parks, pubs and street parties. Where people come together to drink, eat and be merry together. In Canada, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of that going on. Work was just a place people went to get a paycheck. The neighbourhood was a place that housed your home. Please note, this isn’t to say that people in Canada are not friendly nor that community cannot be created there. But rather, it takes a lot of work for it to exist. For us as expats, it just felt too isolating. There were very few opportunities for people to come together and mingle incidentally. So meeting new people was just that much more harder.
Hanging up the Expat boots
Canada does have a lot of merits such as a good healthcare system, clean environment and generally safer neighbourhoods than the UK. However, the above points for us were too important in our daily lifestyle to pass up. We could have carved out a happy life for ourselves in Canada, but it wouldn’t have been the life we wanted. Perhaps when we first set out upon Expat Life, the perks Canada offered were what we wanted. However, somewhere along the way our expat experiences changed us. And so a decision was made to leave Canada. Mostly driven by circumstance and partly by objective rationale.
I’ve spent the last few months settling back in to life in the UK’s capital. I have to say it feels good to be back. Stay tuned for more on that and the process of repatriating! Something I never thought I would be doing.
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