A couple of weeks ago, I asked on Instagram what posts people were interested in reading over here on Hayley on Holiday. Quite a few followers commented that they’d love to read more about life as an expat. Seeing as I’ve done the expat experience twice now in Canada, I thought I’d write about the things that happened to me when I became an expat. Moving abroad (and in particular moving abroad alone) is life changing, in both hilarious and unforgettable ways.
Grocery shopping was never the same
Okay, let’s start with one of the more funny things that happen when you become an expat. As you might know from travelling abroad, grocery shopping is so hard in foreign places. I mean, I even spoke the language and found it difficult, so I couldn’t imagine being an expat in a non-English speaking country. In the beginning, it becomes your most dreaded chore, because it takes twice as long to find things. Like why doesn’t Canada have self-raising flour? Why is ice cream in a cardboard container? And don’t even get me started on the vegetable situation (Coles, I love you and your pre-packaged EVERYTHING).
Eventually, you get used to visiting the same supermarket like you do at home and no where your most purchased products belong. Then once you get home, you’ll buy all of your favourite products and be the happiest Coles (or Woolworths) customer there is. Thank you Masterfoods for making Promite. Thank you whomever for inventing chicken salt. And thank you Maggi for your delicious recipe bases. Okay, I’m done writing about groceries now.
I did a lot more travel than when based in Australia
I do love Australia, but man is it far away from everything. I loved that being an expat in Canada allowed me to visit so many cities in North America. Some of the highlights: Portland (of course), my LA trip with my friends, visiting New York for the first time, doing a solo trip to Hawaii and exploring America’s south.
I forgot how to speak Australian
When I first started working in Vancouver, I realised pretty quickly that I needed to stop using so much Australian slang in my sentences. Although my new co-workers did enjoy my Australian slang word of the day lessons, I tried to start using Canadian terminology when I spoke. For example, no more rubbish, loonies and toonies instead of $1 and $2 coins, and then there was learning Canadian coffee language at Starbucks too. When I returned home, it was difficult to start “speaking Australian” again. To think it was okay to say arvo (afternoon), no worries and reckon if I wanted to.
I had very interesting jobs
I mean, if it wasn’t for working at Starbucks, I probably wouldn’t have applied for barista positions in Melbourne. It was at Hudsons where I met some of my closest friends in the city now. If it wasn’t for working at Etihad Stadium, I wouldn’t have applied to work at Rogers Arena. That job was a lot of fun. Then there was the fact I worked on a food truck selling Australian meat pies. Being surrounded by Australians and being able to share this delicacy with Canadians was the best. Finally, if I didn’t move back to Vancouver I probably wouldn’t have applied for a writing position at The Culture Trip, which has been a dream. Thank you expat life.
Completing everyday tasks felt like a celebration
You will never feel so proud of yourself than when you complete menial tasks as an expat. Yes, I opened a bank account today! Hooray, I actually filed my tax correctly! Boom, I went grocery shopping and didn’t leave in tears (just kidding, guys). But seriously, you will feel so good when you complete the simplest everyday tasks.
I missed the silliest things from Australia
I’m not kidding. I mean, of course I missed my family. But I also craved Grill’d burgers. All I wanted to do was furnish my entire room and wardrobe at Kmart (sorry Walmart, but Kmart is life). I would’ve spent a lot of money to enjoy some Australian lollies (candy) and chocolate while I was in Canada too. Sorry Canadians, but you haven’t had chocolate until you’ve tasted Cadbury. Specifically, a block of Topdeck. Now I’m getting hungry typing this…
I became more independent and confident
This is a big one. Before I moved to Vancouver the first time, I was mentally not in the best place. I had been involved in two car accidents, was going through the biggest work debacle in existence, and had lost my grandma. I needed a change and I decided that was going to be moving abroad alone. All of a sudden, it was up to me and me only to get my new life in order. I did have a breakdown or three to my parents, wondering what the hell I was doing with my life. But it all worked out, didn’t it? That inner belief and self confidence has only grown since my first working holiday. Now I have no qualms about travelling across Europe by myself or moving to a new city in Australia.
I was okay being alone
This was a more personal thing that happened to me when I became an expat, and is linked to the above point. But moving abroad alone was kind of the first time I’d ever really been alone. Before this I had lived in my hometown or with family in Brisbane. All of a sudden it was just me, myself and I in a brand new city in a brand new country. But I survived and somewhat thrived alone in Vancouver. And I was okay with it.
I was okay travelling across the border alone to Seattle. I was okay spending my first Christmas ever alone while in Vancouver; where I spent the day walking through the snow in my neighbourhood and bingeing Christmas movies. Being alone is different to being lonely, but fortunately I rarely felt either during my working holiday.
My friends became a surrogate family
I basically had my Starbucks friends and my Australian friends in Vancouver. Both of them made me feel so welcomed and loved. Just like family, they were always there for me — whether I wanted to go on an adventure or participate in a traditional Thanksgiving meal. The friends I made in Canada were hands down one of the biggest highlights of my expat experience.
P.S. If you want tips on how to meet people in new cities, check out this guide.
I fell more in love with Australia
It’s true. I found myself talking about Australia a lot more in Canada. When you spend so much time talking about a place, you start to appreciate it a lot more. Australia, I appreciate your beaches, I appreciate Melbourne, I appreciate the fact my parents live on a beautiful tropical island. I also most definitely appreciate your minimum wage 😉 Sometimes it takes moving away to realise just how good you’ve got it at home. I don’t regret moving abroad at all, but I am happy to be back home in Australia. Even if Melbourne is rainy and cold right now.
I learned to just breathe and trust the universe
The inner trust I developed while working abroad in Canada is something that I still carry with me to this day. Life can sometimes throw you curveballs, whether it’s work, friends or travel related. But it doesn’t matter the situation. All you can do is breathe and trust the path you’re on. I have always believed that everything happens for a reason.
Are you a fellow expat?
I’d love to hear what happened when you became an expat. If you also have any suggestions for other expat posts on Hayley on Holiday, let me know in the comments below.
♥ All you need to know about moving to Vancouver as an expat
♥ Why working abroad is the best thing you’ll ever do
♥ Three ways my first working holiday changed me