My First Year in the UK

A few days ago, on the commute home, we drove past that spot where we used to go to watch the sunset when I first arrived and we were still living with my in-laws. It reminded us of what life was like a year ago, before I moved here – the endless phone chats, the snaps and selfies we would send each other through the day, the date nights on Skype, etc. – and the first couple of months after I did. It’s amazing what difference 365 days can make!

I would be lying if I said it was easy – moving from one country to another is everything but easy – but I still believe it was the best decision I’ve ever made. It was a challenging year for sure, but a rewarding one too. And, as cliché as it sounds, I think I got out of it stronger.

Do you know what a foreign accent is? It’s a sign of bravery.
― Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

I landed at Heathrow twelve months ago with nothing except for my cat and two suitcases… I had no house, no job, no support network. To be honest, I felt absolutely lost and that feeling lasted for months. In June, I decided to see a therapist and it helped a lot. With her help, I regained some confidence in myself and learned to redefine who I am.

This is something nobody tells you when you move halfway across the globe… Your identity changes. You remain the same person but those ‘tags’ that were always associated to you back home suddenly disappear and you are surrounded by people who have yet to give you a label. It sounds good in theory – a new start, a blank slate – but it’s actually quite difficult. It felt like being no one and it was a struggle at first, but I try to embrace it now. I also had to accept that, for many people, I would remain ‘the girl with the pink hair’ or ‘the girl with the accent’ and that’s okay.

She was nobody here. It was not just that she had no friends and family; it was rather that she was a ghost in this room, in the streets on the way to work, on the shop floor. Nothing meant anything.
― Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn

There were many other challenges – finding a job, building a solid relationship with Edward whilst living with his parents and dealing with his divorce, learning to drive on the wrong side of the road – but they only make me more grateful for what I have now.

I do miss ‘home’ sometimes but I don’t think it will ever feel like home again. Despite all the difficulties of moving to the UK and building a new life here, I have not once wanted to go back. I will certainly visit from time to time, but ‘home’ is here now. Somehow, even on the days when I feel the distance and curse my foreign accent, I cannot imagine moving back to Canada. I still define myself as French-Canadian, I laugh when people say it’s cold outside (though the English cold is so unpleasant, I’d take a Canadian cold any time instead) and I have an unhealthy obsession with maple syrup but a big chunk of my heart belongs to England now.

It’s said that you can never go home again, and it’s true enough, of course. But the opposite is also true. You must go back, and you always go back, and you can never stop going back, no matter how hard you try.
— Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram

I celebrated my first ‘UK anniversary’ a few days ago and I felt proud to do so; I overcame many fears this past year, I became more confident in myself and as Edward puts it, ‘I kicked butts’.

Life has changed a lot since February but only for the best. To this year, and to many more!

14 thoughts on “My First Year in the UK

    1. Hi my name is Kelly. Well said! I know exactly how you felt. Even though I’ve moved here in 2013, I still miss home. I miss my kids, friends and the four seasons. Honestly, I go home as often as possible. I miss jumping in my car and meeting up with a friend just for a coffee. Or hanging out at each other’s house for a BBQ or drinks. Our plan is to live here for six months and home for six months when my husband retires in under two years. Honestly though, Canada will always be my home. ❤ Good luck. Xo

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      1. Hi Kelly, thank you for your comment! :) I still miss home sometimes but home is really the UK for me now… I guess I am not very close to my family back home so I have less to miss. I hope you enjoy your time back in Canada! :) x

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  1. What an encouraging post! (And hello from a fellow copywriter who once sported pink hair! Haha.)

    I relate to a lot of this… I attempted to move to the UK this past autumn but felt incredibly directionless and ended up back in Canada and in therapy for a couple of months. Just returned to the UK this week and now feel much more able to navigate the challenges that come with it. The self-consciousness about one’s accent is too real… sigh.

    All the best to you and thank you for sharing your experiences. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A fellow flamingo, Canadian and writer? The world is small! ;) I think I was lucky to have such an understanding and patient boyfriend to help me with the transition… It is not easy. I’m from Quebec so the accent is even thicker. Most people cannot guess where I’m from (which was all but fun during the whole Brexit/immigration debate!). If you ever need support/someone who gets it, don’t hesitate to get in touch… :) x

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  2. I’m going through this right now. I’ve been here in the UK for 2 months now, and I feel absolutely lost. I feel like i made a big mistake. I landed here with my 4 cats and my baby daughter, to live with my mom..
    Not having our own place is just horrible. I hate it. I’m considering going back to Canada because I just can’t do this anymore, I feel weak.. even though everyone says I’m strong..
    How did you make yourself keep going here??
    Advice????

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    1. Thank you for your comment Lesley. I think I remember seeing your story on the Canadian in the UK group? It was hard for me too at first… Living my in-laws (as nice as they are) was incredibly difficult. There was a clash of culture and of generation, and my BF and I had no intimacy at all. I think getting our own place made it much easier! There was still challenges, but at least we had our own space and intimacy. Are you able to move out? Maybe not immediately, but step by step… Finding a job (are you on a work visa?), finding a place… I think starting to work was the second thing that helped me the most to settle in. I had a routine, I was earning money and I was learning the “British way” of doing stuff. I’m truly sorry to hear it is so difficult for you… But I am certain that everyone is right and you are strong! Difficult moments are not meant to last and I’m sur eyou can find a way. For me, going back was never an option as I ha dnothing to go back too, and my BF was here… But I can understand how you feel. I hope it gets better, and if you eve rneed to talk, you know where to find me. :) Good luck! x

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