Interview with a British expat Lindsey in Canada

Today’s interview is with Lindsey, a British expat who is living in Canada. As a teenager, Lindsey emigrated with her family from sleepy rural England to the boisterous suburbs of North America in pursuit of new opportunities and experiences. 6 years wiser, she decided to share her adventures and hardships as a young immigrant in her blog The Wandering Rose. Here, she elaborates on how this often harrowing experience guided her to discovering her dormant passions – geography, environmental protection and world travel. Lindsey’s expat blog is called The Wandering Rose.

Where are you originally from?
I was born in Basingstoke, England but remember little, having moved to the beautiful Wye Valley along the border between England and Wales at 4 years old. Ever since then, I’ve called the green fields of Herefordshire my home.


In which country and city are you living now?
Currently I’m living in Oakville, Ontario – just 30 mins shy from Toronto, Canada. I’ve also spent a few scattered months residing in Etobicoke and Hamilton due to a period of university flux.


How long have you lived in Canada and how long are you planning to stay?
My family and I made the big move in late 2007, so we’ve been Canadian residents for 7 years this August and Canadian citizens since 2012. I love my adopted country deeply but I would never rule out one day returning to the motherland or perhaps building a life in another country.


Why did you move to Canada and what do you do?
At 15, the choice to immigrate was in the hands of my parents, who were looking to broaden our horizons with new opportunities and experiences. Since moving, I’ve completed high school and am now finishing my final few stray courses at McMaster University in the Honours Geography and Environmental Studies program.


Did you bring family with you?
My parents and I moved together and my brother followed suit after his graduation from the University of Leicester.


How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Being a teenager is a difficult transition period for anyone. Being a teenager whilst adjusting to a new culture and experiencing extreme isolation from family, friends, familiar customs and a national identity is another level all together. Of course the benefits soon began to outweigh the costs but I won’t pretend that the ongoing transition process is quick and painless. The emotional strains of immigrating as a teenager is an all too neglected topic – and one that I wish to address.


Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Keeping and maintaining meaningful relationships has always been my biggest hurdle as a teenager expat. However, I’ve managed to find myself a small collection of friends (non expats) and a wonderful, understanding boyfriend who satisfies my social requirements.


What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
I’m an outdoorsy person by nature, so I’d have to recommend the conservation trails along the Niagara Escarpment for breathtaking views and a chance to appreciate the beauty in the backyard. A visit into Toronto to experience the endless entertainment options, of course, goes without saying.


What do you enjoy most about living in Canada?
It wasn’t until my immigration to Canada that I felt a definitive change in my outlook on the world. Exposure to an otherwise unprecedented array of cultures through the abundant immigrant population has attuned me to the importance of understanding how others perceive the world and how ones geographical situation influences those perceptions. I’ve found that the best way to do this is to experience it for yourself but studying relevant subject matter (like my beloved geography) when travel is otherwise unavailable is a close runner up.


How does the cost of living in Canada compare to home?
A majority of expensive assets (cars, houses, large-scale electronics) appear to be noticeably cheaper, as does the general price of everyday products. However, there are also additional charges and add-ons that are not included (tax, tips, etc.) so don’t be fooled by the price you see.


What negatives, if any, are there to living in Canada?
The extension and intensity of the cold Canadian winter months is something that drains a lot of mental and physical energy. Yet it was (and still is) the social aspect of being an expat that proves the most difficult. Sometimes you can feel very alone and isolated in a culture that you don’t fully associate with.


If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Canada, what would it be?
Be prepared to purchase an entire new wardrobe! The seasonal temperatures are extreme, especially when coming from moderate, rainy, old England!


What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Letting go of the past and accepting the present situation as it is through new memories and attachments.


When you finally return home, how do you think you’ll cope with repatriation?
It’d be hard to acknowledge that 6 years have passed and that people and places have changed, grown and moved on. In my head, my England will always be stuck in 2007. Once I have come to terms with this hard-hitting fact however, I believe I’d readjust with relative ease.


What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?

  1. Becoming assimilated and accepted into another culture takes time. Don’t expect an overnight miracle conversion.
  2. If moving with friends or family, talk about your feelings. Do not hide emotions or make others feel guilty or alienated if your emotional centers do not align.
  3. There is no shame in being homesick or returning to your home country for a semi-regular dose of identity replenishment.
  4. Join as many clubs and teams, and partake in as many jobs and volunteer activities as possible. Not only does this keep your mind busy but you never know where you will find potential friendships.
  5. If you don’t try, you’ll never know.


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