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From London to Vancouver: In, Around and In Spite of my Family

23 February, 2012 11:26  Erin Erin

pomomama Howdy. I’m Amanda, but I blog/twitter/facebook as pomo mama, or sometimes as ebbandflo. I live near Vancouver, BC and moved from London, UK over ten years ago. I was born in Scotland.

1. Why did you move abroad?

I moved for love - sigh – my husband got a secondment. We’d always wondered “How do we get to live here?” as we travelled through Vancouver in airport transfer buses on our way to Whistler. So when he was offered the chance there were no second thoughts! I cheerfully resigned my way to expat unemployment.

2. How do you make a living?
When we first moved here, his relocation package meant I didn’t need to work (yes, yes – the stereotypical expat wife) so I packed in as much volunteer work as I could during what was meant to be a two-year overseas posting. Then our son was born, and I’ve been the stay-at-home parent ever since. I still volunteer in the community in addition to running my own business as a mixed media artist. I’m also a part-time student at a local college, gaining that all-important Canadian educational qualification.

3. How often do you communicate with home and how?

This is home! Email, Facebook and skype are all useful tools to keep in touch with the UK. I visit every two years to see family and friends.

4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Canada?
Compared with London, it’s the space and the great outdoors and the relative lack of people I love about being an expat here (yes, I know I’m near Vancouver, a large city). There’s a real optimistic “can do” attitude which I find refreshing. Rubbishing people is virtually unheard of and crowing over failures is rare. It’s a marked contrast with what I see back in the UK each time I visit.

5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Canada?
The worst thing? Polo mints are expensive. Scratches head. Alcohol is strictly controlled i.e., not available in supermarkets, and expensive. Hmmm. Customer service is so laid back it can be ineffectual and almost horizontal. It rains. Lots.

Bears. It’s difficult to convince yourself to go for a hike when you’ve grown up with nothing bigger than a fox to encounter en route (though I did meet some quite large cows in the Lake District).

6. What do you miss most?
Rudeness. It’s so damn polite here. I miss good old fashioned rudeness because, without it, you don’t really know what people are thinking. I miss cussing and swearing too. I watch quaint British Channel 4 films to get my fix, and then I feel homesick. I also miss the UK sense-of-humour; when I pine, it’s for a good old UK belly laugh with friends about something totally off-the-wall. On the whole, it’s far too sensible round here.

7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
When I first arrived, my husband was out at work all day (and occasionally travelling for business) so I looked for volunteer work. We both volunteered as coaches for an adaptive snowboarding organization which was great fun and very social. We still have friends made during our first year with the group. I also helped organize continuing professional development sessions for the local veterinary association which helped me stay in touch with previous career roots. My best experience however, was volunteering with the Vancouver Aquarium. They have an excellent volunteer training course so I learned a huge amount about marine conservation and the local waters. I delivered educational programs to schools, brushed up my office skills, and even helped an author with interview transcription, research and photo indexing for a book. I had a wonderful time and met some truly amazing people. Volunteering meant that I adapted to our new home faster than my husband, who just swapped one office desk for another one.

8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
I still get caught out with pricing; tax is added on top! I still forget.

I’m still getting used to the language too. It might be English but not as I know it! I’ve had some very embarrassing moments … huge sniggers when I talk about people being sacked, for example. No, I’m not going to elaborate.

9. What is a myth about your adopted country?

I saw a Mountie in full uniform at my citizenship ceremony … and that has been the only time in over a decade of living in Canada.

Beavers? Likewise a complete myth, except in zoos.

William Shatner however, is real.

10. What advice would you give other expats?
Volunteer.
Don’t laugh out loud when no one else is.
Keep to the speed limit.

11. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog in 2006 (with one post) when I started my jewelry business. It was primarily for marketing but during 2009 it morphed into a litany of woes about finding my midlife way back to sanity/meaningful life/productivity as a mature mum. It’s a real fun read.

12.  How has the blog been beneficial?pomamama canada
The blog has also been a great way to network in my new home. It was my first foray into social media and through it, I’ve learned how to flickr, twitter and facebook. Writing the posts two or more times every week has shown me how much I do enjoy getting the words down on a page. I enjoy the creativity and the self-imposed discipline. I’ve made a few good friends through the blog and it can be a great icebreaker. It can also be somewhat intimidating meeting someone who admits they read the blog, or even quotes back a few phrases from that day’s post.

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