Friday, March 03, 2006

The hardest thing to get used to...

I've been tagged TWICE this week, but I think that today I am going to focus on the one that Claudia sent me. I think that it is more in keeping with my brain today. Tomorrow I'll make another list. (p.s. The photo is of a ski trail in Algonquin Park. My Dad is in the picture if you look really closely! Those are some BIG trees!!)

This tag is: The hardest thing to get used to... When coming to a new country.


Truly my first and gut reaction to this question was: never fitting in ever again. I know that sounds negative and a little bit sad and wistful. I think it is those things, but there are positives as well.

When I first took the scary plunge and moved to another country I didn't know anyone else who had done it. Many people asked me what I was doing. They would look at me with a mixture of jealousy and distrust. They were never quite certain how to take me. I wasn't playing by the rules. I wasn't doing what they thought I would do. People who were parents would be secretly afraid that I would somehow bewitch their children to follow in my footsteps. People my own age were happy with their stability and their path. Many of them had thought about traveling but decided to do it once they were working full time. I didn't want to buy a house, get a dog, settle down, become financially stable right out of university? What was wrong with me?

Now that my life includes someone else, people are even more frightened. "Wait - she's in love? Does that mean she'll NEVER come back?" People have been slowly disappearing from my life, unsure of how to deal with me, unable to understand my choices and unable to deal with a long-distance relationship. When Mark and I are home we are strange. People have a kind of image of our life as being this romantic, artsy idyll. In theory they are jealous but in practice they ask us practical probing personal questions about money and which country we will end up in - hoping that we will say Canada because it is safer for them. In making the choices I have I have become either exotic or irresponsible or inspiring or frightening depending on who you ask.

In Canada I am someone who uses British words. It takes me about a week to stop saying things like 'trousers' and 'loo.' I try very hard not to talk about 'taking the piss,' and have to remember that we don't have 'bins.' In the UK I am always asked which part of America I am from. They ask how on earth I ended up in this part of the country. They ask how long I am on holiday for. One woman I met who moved here from Canada TWENTY-FIVE years ago says that she has started telling people that she's 'here for another week' because it's easier than constantly telling people your life story. When you are from somewhere else you can never just blend in and get on with it.

The other hard thing about moving to another country is the loneliness for family and friends. Babies are born and people die and you miss it. Kids grow up without you watching. Friends forget you. Like Claudia said, there is also the tendency to idealize home. You forget that things were just as hard and just as good for different reasons. And homesickness is a real bitch.

Ahhh... but there are some positives. This post was supposed to be about the hardest things. I can't leave it sad though because there are lots of things I love about my double life. I love how much quality time I do get with people when we are home. I love that people really are interested in who I am and what I am doing. I love that I am experiencing two cultures. I love that people can come and visit me. I love building a life with Mark. I love that because I have already broken some rules I can get away with breaking more! I love that my life is unusual.

But I still miss Canada and Canadians and my home every single day.

(I'd like to tag Kerstin - if anyone knows about moving to another country, it's her!)

9 comments:

Caroline said...

I've never lived in another country but this post reminds me of the phrase "the past is another country"...

Glad you found the courage to follow your heart!

Sharon K said...

I so enjoyed your post and you are very good with words. I am sure missing family and friends would be so hard to do, but it sounds like you are at home.

Karen said...

We haven't forgotten you and never will.xoxooxo k

tara dawn said...

I love this post...the window it gives us into your life, and your being. Perhaps it is because I am so far removed from your personal experience that I have never even questioned what took you to the UK in the beginning.
You certainly are inspiring to me...but the inspiration you evoke comes not from your choices of geographical location...it comes from your brilliant and moving soul.
Sending love and hugs!!

M said...

This post is brilliant! Having lived in various countries, including England, I can totally relate. For some reason though, I felt more at home in England than I do here in Canada sometimes...do you get that too? I loved being the exotic one, being different. Going against the norm is a tough thing, but so worth it. And you sound like you have definitely made the right choice for you right now! I believe living in different cultures only deepens our understanding of them and enriches our own lives in ways we may never have expected. And its so brave...well done!

chest of drawers said...

You have such an amazing way with words - I can so relate to all you´ve written.

andrea said...

I "get you" totally, though I cut my own experiences short (way too short). However, the questions you get -- have you ever noticed that Canadians don't ask the same questions of people with an English accent? I think it's because, as a newer country, we're so used to people moving *to* Canada. My best friend is a Mancunian with a very pronounced accent but I don't think it even occurred to me to ask her about it until I knew her well enough.

Laini Taylor said...

My best friend from highschool moved to Amsterdam after college and married a Dutchman and has been there now 10 or 11 years. Many of their friends are international -- it's probably really different to be in a city like Amsterdam or London than in your village. I think in a village, you can be from 2 hours away in the same country, and never "belong". I have a dream of owning a villa in Italy some day, and I used to want to live there full time, but I realized that exact thing: I would always be an outsider there. And as much as I don't like the direction my country is headed in, it is my country, and as someone who moved around constantly as a kid, I really want to put down roots now and be part of a community. I just hope that I'll be able to afford a second home! But I empathize with your situation, because you and Mark will have to choose. At least it's England and Canada though, and not, say, Lapland and Congo. You know? You Canadians and Brits can't be SO different!! At least you don't have a language to learn! (And I AM sorry you get mistaken for a Yank. When we travel now we want to claim to be Canadians out of shame!)

Alexandra S said...

Hi Megg! Its so good to be back and have Internet access again as of today and now I have all your posts to catch up on for the last TWELVE days! (Right now I am only going to read this one because I'm heading out the door shortly!) but I could so relate to this post having lived overseas myself. I would get so excrutiatingly homesick sometimes, but them once home, after a week or two, I was ready to leap back over the ocean. I'm so nostalgic for the pre-Bush days you can't imagine. In the end, no matter where we live, it will always be the person or people in our lives who make us feel most alive that is the most important piece, and the life you are creating with Mark seems so beautiful and creative and real and in the end thats where your heart will likely want to call itself home.