Canadian Expat Living in England - Interview with Amy

Published: 13 Aug at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,England
Amy is a Canadian freelancer who's recently relocated to England via Australia and Ireland, while writing an expat blog along the way at notesfromanotherland.com. She has been an expat for five years (and counting!) and she shares her candid conversations with strangers, observations of new surroundings, and overseas adventures as her and her Irish husband build their life together abroad. With over a decade of experience in marketing and communications, Amy is passionate about politics, equality, education, the arts, and making the most of her local community. You’ll often find her exploring new neighbourhoods in London, thrift shopping with a flat white in one hand and taking travel snaps with the other. Amy is keen to connect with other expats, travellers, and anyone with great tips to help her make the most of her new home in London! Amy's expat blog is called Notes From Another Land (see listing here)

Here's the interview with Amy...


Where are you originally from?
I grew up on a dairy farm near a small country town outside of Ottawa, Ontario (the capital city in Canada).

In which country and city are you living now?
London, UK

How long have you lived in England and how long are you planning to stay?
Three months to date, with a plan to stay indefinitely. But life is what happens when you're busy making plans, eh? So we're happy to be here right now and not planning any future moves.

Get the inside scoop on life in London as an expat on notesfromanotherland.com
Get the inside scoop on life in London as an expat on notesfromanotherland.com
Why did you move to England and what do you do?
Work opportunities mixed with the city lifestyle and our connections here. I am the freelance editor for an Australian education and training company and dabble a bit in other projects in North America as they arise. Since we've only just moved, I haven't found my feet yet but it has given me a lot of time to explore the local areas and soak up the London summer sunshine! We also have a good group of friends who have been living in the city for a while, so it is already feeling like another home away from home.

Did you bring family with you?
My husband of course! And I think once we're more settled we will be acting as London tour guides for visiting family and friends.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Third time's a charm, right? I have found it surprisingly easy - from the transportation network to navigating the city, everything seems to make sense so far. Visas and paperwork can sometimes distract you from how great things are in your new country but luckily, we have a good solid network of friends and family nearby that have helped show us around our new city. Spring and summer in London are great seasons to settle in and there is always something happening day or night. I don't think we'll get bored anytime soon!

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
The majority of our friends are Australian or Irish so I suppose you would call them expats, although when you meet people who have lived here for a while and adopted London as their home city, it seems odd to think of them that way. We are gradually getting to know more English people and I am meant to go for coffee with a Canadian contact but we don't seek out expat events or friends. We are trying to integrate ourselves through hobbies and work that we would be doing regardless of our location. That worked well for us in Australia and Ireland and helps you settle into a place.

Taking in the view at Dublin Castle
Taking in the view at Dublin Castle
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
The list is endless! I have mentioned a few things I've been up to since we moved on my blog but I always refer to Time Out London or the London Evening Standard for what's happening each day or week. I have been walking in Hampstead Heath, Regent's Park, and Hyde Park and I think they are all beautiful. Coming from a small town but wanting to live in a big city, I find I always seek out river walks, beaches and green spaces for a break from all of the noise and people. All of those parks make you feel like you've been transported out of the chaos. If I'm shopping on Oxford Street, Borough Market or having a look around Southbank one day, then I will spend a few hours in a relaxing place to take a break.

What do you enjoy most about living in England?
The best thing about London is having it all at your fingertips! You could be shopping on the high street in the morning, have a picnic lunch in the park, walk around Westminister, catch a show in West End and have dinner and a night out in Soho, all in the one day. Or you could just people watch - you will never be bored! It is a really easy city to walk around and the transit options are great.

How does the cost of living in England compare to home?
It's one of the most expensive cities in the world, so it is sky high compared to home. I once mistakenly ordered a flat white coffee at a Michelin Star restaurant, not realising it was a Michelin Star. So £5 for one coffee later (that's $10 Canadian or Australian!) I had learnt my lesson. Look at the menu before you order and remember the gratuity is optional. I tip for good service but I don't feel obligated to if I order at the bar, unlike Canada. As for the rent, property, transit, and grocery prices, I advise you to save before you move to London. You should expect to pay a lot of upfront fees for tenancy deposits and the like and if you haven't sorted out your work situation before you arrive, you could end up short on funds. Groceries are cheaper than eating out (depending on which supermarket you shop in) and alcohol is almost always cheaper to buy and drink at home. But when you live in a city with a big pub culture, it is fairly common to go out for a drink, bite to eat, or a table quiz with friends. So keep some change on you, I'm positive you will always find a place to spend it in London.

Australia's beaches ruined me and I now want all summers to look like the Gold Coast
Australia's beaches ruined me and I now want all summers to look like the Gold Coast
What negatives, if any, are there to living in England?
In large cities a lack of housing, crowded public transportation, and crime rates are always considered issues compared to small towns. I think the positives are the diversity of the population, the frequency of the public transit, and the presence of authorities appears to be pretty high in urban areas, close to the city centre. Anywhere you choose to live will have negative qualities, it's whether the positives outweigh those negatives, how you react to them, and what you're willing to accept.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to England, what would it be?
Bring good walking shoes and a positive, confident attitude.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Explaining my elevator pitch as a Canadian, married to an Irish man, having lived and worked in Canada, Australia, and Ireland. Summarising my life and experience to date with new acquaintances in two minutes or less has its' challenges and always results in more questions asked than answered! I love our life together, however confusing or challenging it may appear to others and I wouldn’t trade the past five years as an expat for anything.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
Since we don't have an expiry or return date in mind and we're both not from the same country, I don't think I can answer this one. London is home for us both right now.

Getting back to my Canadian farming roots in rural Ireland
Getting back to my Canadian farming roots in rural Ireland
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. 1) Get your paperwork in order: whether it's a visa, further education course, or rental application you're filling out, they could require banking statements, transcripts, proof of address for up to the last five years, and reliable references. Try to organise as much as possible before your big move so that you don't have to arrange for things to be posted to you via someone else or you're left searching for original copies of documents you misplaced. Same goes for when you live abroad - scan those bills, pieces of mail, and save them somewhere online so you can access your proof of identity as an expat from any location, any time!
  2. Work hard, stay humble. I totally stole this quote from a Creative Mornings workshop I attended in London but I love it. If you are a grafter and come from a farming background like me, then you should do fine when placed in new situations where you may feel out of your depth. Remember to work hard, be nice, and good things should happen for you, regardless of your location.
  3. 3) Never complain. Never explain. Another one I am stealing, this time from Kate Moss. When in London, right? It may be easier said than done but I love this one too. When life gives you lemons, don't spend all your time giving out about it. Make that lemonade or do that tequila shot, do something! As for the explaining, your new life will get questions and raise eyebrows wherever you go. Career path? Life plans? Future children? Where will you buy a house? Explain if you want but as my time abroad has grown longer, I am resolving to stay silent for some probing questions. Unless it is asked by a good friend or beloved family member, inside thoughts are there for a reason and it should be perfectly acceptable to keep it that way. Sometimes you don't know the answer to something until you've already figured it out and are living it. By then, you will be wondering what was their question again?
  4. Fake it till you make it. Tried and true so I’m sticking with it. Depending on where you’re going, no one will know you. Reinvent yourself or stay the same, the choice is yours! Take a new course, change careers or volunteer somewhere different to get a feel for the local culture. If the self-doubt is creeping in, kick it to the curb. This is your life and you can live it however and wherever you see fit. So press on, my fellow expat.
  5. Enjoy your life! Homesickness will come and go. New friends and old ones will come and go. You’re living a bit of a transient life but it’s a great one full of adventure and new experiences you wouldn’t have at home. So make the most of it, whether you’re abroad for a short time or an unlimited one, take each day as it comes and remember to appreciate the little things.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
Great conversations with strangers and stories that must be retold are things that strike me often. I regularly stop in my tracks to photograph moments in time, events I attend and new places I explore. Notesfromanotherland.com is an online space where I can share those candid photos, conversations, things I covet and others I create. This year we’re taking the plunge back into big city life in London and have trips planned on both sides of the Atlantic and in the Southern Hemisphere. As we adjust to our new life half-way around the world (again), join me as I jot down a few Notes From Another Land.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
You can connect with me via my blog notesfromanotherland.com and I also share my expat adventures on Facebook and Instagram, just search for: notesfromanotherland. I would love to hear from you and London tips to help me make the most of my new city are always welcome!

About the author

Expat Blog ListingAmy is a Canadian expat living in England. Blog description: Five years as an expat and counting: Country hopper and foreign city explorer, I'm a Canadian expat who's lived in Brisbane, rural Ireland and recently made the move to my biggest city yet - London.
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