I recently returned to the UK for the first time in over two years. It’s a funny kind of holiday really, going back to your home country after so long. It felt strange to explain I was ‘just visiting’ to my neighbour on the plane, and even stranger to not have to worry or even think about immigration at my destination.
Strange or not, it was a wonderful experience to finally arrive back in stormy southern England. I even welcomed the rain, since I had not seen it for months. I soon found myself exclaiming at ancient castles, visiting as many pubs as possible and converting prices in the supermarket to Canadian dollars — basically doing very much as my Canadian boyfriend did four years ago when he moved to the UK to live with me.
As much as I enjoyed the delights of cheap cheese, familiar faces and tax-inclusive prices during my two-week trip, I began to miss certain parts of my Canadian lifestyle. I exclaimed ‘you don’t have that here?!’ a few times, much to my own surprise. After living in a different country for a few years it is easy to forget the tiny intricacies of life that once were so normal. Aside from the little quirks, there are also some larger differences that would have an impact on my life in a big way if I moved back to the UK. Big and small, here is what I would miss from Canada if I moved back to my home country.
Asian food. I would not have guessed this one before moving to Canada since the UK (in general) does have such a diverse and expansive food range, but I found myself frustrated in Sainsbury’s, trying to find rice noodles, extra-firm tofu and edamame.
Relaxed driving. After experiencing the M25, narrow roads and endless roundabouts, I became a little nostalgic for Canada’s wide, straight highways and four-way stops, despite being far less pretty on the eye than country lanes. Also, cheap gas/petrol — the UK costs made my eyes water. No wonder fewer people go on road trips!
Fewer people and less space. The population density of Southern England was overwhelming after living on quiet Northern Vancouver Island for the past couple of years.
Wilderness. Hand in hand with the ‘fewer people’ issue – you have to go further to find real peace and quiet. Everything is on a different scale in Canada, from lakes to mountains, as well as outdoor pursuits such as hiking and climbing. Camping is also a different experience entirely.
Free parking. Aside from the absolute centre of Vancouver, I’ve never had to pay to park anywhere in Canada. The concept seems a bit silly now.
French labeling. Maybe I like the novelty of searching for ‘fort’ (strong) cheese too much. I also like to pretend it helps me with learning French.
Splitting the bill in restaurants. It’s standard to be asked how you wish to split the bill when dining in a group. It makes everything so much easier, especially when eating with friends.
Bigger fridges. Seriously, how did I once manage on such a small fridge?!
I will probably live in the UK again one day (and suffer the small fridges) but for now I am enjoying my Canadian lifestyle and all of its own intricacies. When asked at the check-in desk at Gatwick whether I was visiting Canada, I was excited and somewhat proud to answer ‘no, I live there.’
Gemma lives, works, and road-trips her way around the world with her French Canadian boyfriend, but they’ve settled on Vancouver Island for the time being. They label their form of voyaging ‘slow travel’, and her blog, Off Track Travel, focuses on hidden gems found off the beaten path.