England to Canada - Expat Interview With Lou

Published: 25 Nov at 1 PM
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Filed: Interviews,Canada
Lou, her husband and two sons (then aged age 16 & 10) moved from a sleepy village on the east coast of England to the Toronto suburbs on the shores of Lake Ontario in July 2011. Former business owner turned ‘Stay at home mum’ she has transformed her life from stressed out, frozen dinner reheating shopaholic to baking, volunteering, yoga lover. Her blog, Lou’s lake Views (see listing here), explores their experience of the immigration process, the beginning of their new life as expats, adapting to a different lifestyle as well as her life as the only female in a testosterone-ridden home.

Lou's Lake Views

Here's the interview with Lou...

Where are you originally from?
I am from a small seaside town on the East Coast of England

In which country and city are you living now?
I am living in the suburbs of Toronto, Canada right on the shores of Lake Ontario, it’s such a lovely spot

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
16 months, I moved here last summer, our move was a permanent one so we’re here for good

Why did you move and what do you do?
My husband and I had our own business back in England but our success came at a price, we were stressed, exhausted and had little time to enjoy the fruits of our labour. One of our main reasons for moving was for the lifestyle change, Canada on the whole has a much better work/life balance than England. We also wanted a more secure future for our boys and Canada has a much more stable economy than England with many more opportunities for our Sons.

Lou's Lake ViewsDid you bring family with you?
Yes, I moved here with my Husband of nearly 19 years and our two sons aged 18 and 11. They were 16 and 10 when we moved and so many people said to us ‘oh that’s a tricky age to move’ but you know what they were completely settled here within a few short weeks of arriving, I couldn’t drag them back to England now if I wanted to

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
The culture is pretty much the same, although it’s far more laid back here so I can’t honestly say that it was a big transition. Canada is more family oriented than England and that suited our lifestyle so we just fitted straight in

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
It's probably a 50/50 split. It’s not easy making friends as an adult, but we were lucky enough to have my husband’s cousin living pretty close, (His Aunt and Uncle emigrated here 40 years ago) so we spend most of our free time with them. I have a childhood friend who moved to Toronto a couple of years before us, she’s been great helping me settle. Our boys however only have Canadian friends and lots of them, they have both found having an English accent is a big advantage! To be honest I didn’t really think I would want to have many expat friends but you can’t help but feel more comfortable being around people who understand what you have been through.

Lou's Lake ViewsWhat are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Here we have the best of both worlds living in the suburbs. We have beautiful walking/cycling trails along the lakeshore, beaches and open spaces. Our community offers excellent sporting facilities with everything from volleyball to skiing. We have the train, which can have you downtown in 40 minutes. Toronto is a great city with a real vibrant multicultural atmosphere with fabulous restaurants, shops & museums.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
We enjoy pretty much everything about being here but if I had to say one thing in particular I suppose it would be the space we have. Canada is a huge country and I think that impacts everything. The houses are bigger and more spread out, the roads are wide, the shops and car parks are big. It makes everything you do so much easier when you aren’t crammed in or fighting for space. I think also it leads to a sense of freedom, like you have room to breathe.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
It’s really strange actually and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason it but some things are way more costly like food, alcohol, car insurance even some household items like bedding, but then other things like petrol, houses, going to the movies are a lot cheaper

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
The only draw back it that our family and friends are so far away.

Lou's Lake ViewsIf you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Don’t refer to your original country as ‘home’. When we visited Canada before we moved here we always noticed how expats referred to their birthplaces as ‘home’ even if they had lived here for 45 years, twice as long in fact than the length of time they lived in their ‘home country’. That always struck me as a bit odd, how can you possibly feel settled in a place that you don’t call you home? We made a conscious effort never to do that. This is our home now. The day we go back for a holiday we will be ‘going to England’ not ‘going home’

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Starting from scratch is probably the hardest thing, having 20 years experience with something, whether it be work or driving does not means as much I’d hoped. Your credit rating will disappear too. Most car insurance companies, for instance, will insure you as a brand new driver with little experience. Canadian work experience is a big thing regardless of how long you may have been doing your job elsewhere.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Bring everything. We were foolish and threw away so many things that we wish we hadn’t and consequently spent a small fortune replacing things. The average Canadian home is much bigger than English homes, so it will soon swallow up your possessions. It’s not necessarily true that electrical appliances don’t travel well, we have managed to get loads of things working with a little electrical knowledge.
  2. Get Skype. Seeing a friendly face when you want a chat is fantastic and best of all free!
  3. Save up as much money as possible. We had to pay deposits on all of our utilities and mobile phones as we had no credit rating here. We also had to invest in a savings account to guarantee our credit cards which seemed bizarre to us as we had a fantastic credit rating in England. All you will do in the first few weeks is spend money as you set up your home, buy a car etc. be prepared for that.
  4. Give it 100%. I lost count of the people that asked us if we would rent out our house when we emigrated??? Can you imagine how easy it would be to run back to the familiar surroundings of your former home the minute things got tough if it was just sitting there waiting for you? We sold up lock, stock and barrel. If we ever do decide to return to England we will have the peace of mind knowing we gave it our best shot and didn’t run at the first sign of trouble. Embrace every new experience whether good or bad. Go for it. I know it’s a bit of a cliché but it’s true, I know from personal experience that life is too short. Don’t live your life regretting what you didn’t do, if you try emigrating and it doesn’t work out, so what? Life is for living and there is no shame in returning if things don’t work out but it could turn out to be the best decision you have ever made. There will be days when you think to yourself ‘what have I done?’ but there will be more days when you think “I am so lucky to be doing this”
  5. Be patient. Settling into a new lifestyle takes time. In fact everything you do takes time, shopping for groceries takes time when you don’t recognise any of the packaging! You may need to retrain to continue working in your field, you may not be able to walk straight into an equivalent job. We’ve been in Toronto for nearly 16 months it all still feels so new, give yourself time to adjust and remember to enjoy the journey.

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I’m pretty new in the blogosphere, I blog about our expat experiences, how we got to be here and what we have discovered. I don’t profess to be an expat in any capacity but I’d like to say how we did it and it’s up to the reader to decide if we did it the right way or the wrong way. It’s been great to connect with other expats going through similar experiences and to share our story

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Email me at lou{at}louslakeviews{dot}com or via twitter @Lloopylou

Lou blogs at http://louslakeviews.com/ which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. Lou's Lake Views has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Lou, please also drop her a quick comment below.
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