Having never left Europe before, the shift to a North American lifestyle from the UK was always going to be a bit of a shock. Having mentally prepared myself with a year of nail-biting visa ‘yes / no’ possibilities, the golden ticket was granted and I had three weeks to pack-up and say goodbye.
Once a series of ‘work’/‘flat’/ ‘family’/‘friends’/ ‘Toronto’ to-do-lists were completed, I found myself sitting on a plane realizing what little time had been given to thinking about what I was doing, where I was really going, and what I was actually letting myself in for.
So, funnily enough, the biggest surprise upon arrival wasn’t the different pace or newfound size and scale of everything. Instead, it was the barrage of questions received from anyone who could detect a slightly different accent and unfamiliar / lost face: why are you here… who do you know… where are you staying…. they questioned, when really, this was all I could ask myself.
Now five months in and feeling fairly settled I find myself asking the same questions as I walk to and from work - especially when the thermometer plunges to minus 20 degrees. But rather than gasping in shock I almost laugh at the sheer improbability and brilliance of this opportunity. Though it’s still early days, every ounce of fear experienced in those first few weeks has already been rewarded with an immeasurable experience which goes beyond anything words could ever describe.
Undertaking such a radical career and cultural shift not only forces you to look at things as they really are, but it helps you realize what you want and encourages you to work towards achieving it.
I sometimes think that becoming an expat is a bit like reaching graduation: it’s a turning point where you are rewarded with an open road and the choice is yours: rev up the engine and get going or sit back and enjoy the ride.