Does the sound of Noddy Holder yelling “It’s CHRRRIIIISTMAAASSSS” ring in your ears every time you think of the festive season? Do coloured Christmas lights and tinsel (the proper kind, not that lamenta shite. If you know what lamenta is extra points) adorn your tree? Are your cupboards stocked with minced pies? Is Christmas Eve best spent in the pub with your mates resulting in the cruel and unusual punishment of having a hangover with young children on Christmas morning? Do you like sprouts? Does your mother shout “not a sausage pricked, not a pot washed?” If you answered yes to many or all of these, you are indeed British. If you spend a lot of your Christmas explaining these things to others, you are probably a British expat.
Top 5 things a British Expat misses at Christmas
- Truly British Christmas songs.
Cliff, Slade, Wizard, The Darkness to name a few. I just don’t hear these festive classics in Canada and they are one of my favourite things about going home for the holidays. Turning BBC radio 2 on in the car and belting these bad boys out. British festive culture 101.
- The food.
– Good minced pies are hard to come by in Canada and I wont even try to make them after the
penis unicorn cake debacle at my daughter’s second birthday (that’s another blog post).
– Pickled onions. They cost an arm and a bloody leg here ($8.99 for a jar of sweet skins? Pisstake) and they’re quite hard to find.
– Selection boxes don’t exist and that my friends is a SHAME. Remember the joy of a selection box for breakfast followed by lamenting the cost of a freddo?
– Brandy cream is something I’ve never seen here. I’m beginning to think Canadian’s don’t douse everything in booze the same way we do.
– Cadbury’s minature heros. Enough said on that matter.
- The pub on Christmas Eve. Now maybe this is just a Swansea thing but we go to the pub every Christmas Eve, drink too much and then go home for my parents’ annual Christmas gathering. I know at least several other people who silent sob into their stockings and knock back the buckfizz hair of the dog on a Christmas morning while putting on a brave face as their kids push screaming toys into their faces.
- The anticipation of a white Christmas. If you’re from most of the UK, Wales in particular, the papers go into a frenzy leading up to Christmas about “Snowmaggedon” and the chances of a “white Christmas”. It never happens but we don’t give up hope each year. That my friends is the British optimism that I love so much.
- British Christmas TV specials.
-The Vicar of Dibley when she eats all those dinners. Still laugh every time.
– The Royle Family – Classic.
– Nigella. She’s just so saucy in her black nightie scoffing food from her fridge with her plummy accent.
– Bo’selecta. Now I might be dating myself here but who remembers that show. HILARITY!
I go back home soon and I am SOOOOO excited for a British Christmas.
So fellow Brits, what am I missing? What do you yearn for the most at Christmas? Other expats join in, what do you miss?
P.s I’m holding out for a white Christmas in Wales this year!
She’s crying in the British food aisle again
A few days ago I found myself staring wistfully at a jar of pickled onions on the shelf at my local
supermarket grocery store. I had an ache inside me that I hadn’t really felt for a long time. It was back again, homesickness. It all sounds a bit crazy doesn’t it, to be tearing up over a British delicacy? However, when I’m in the trenches of homesickness anything can set me off. I moved to Canada almost a decade ago after meeting my husband on a trip in Australia. My husband tried unsuccessfully to move to Wales shortly after we met but the recession and lack of agricultural opportunities meant that he quickly ran out of money and patience from sitting in our flat all day with no car and no where to go. So I stepped up and offered to move to Canada to allow him to return to his dream job farming as I was a bright eyed 23 year old who was eager for adventure and a way out of the omnipresent rain that plagued Wales. So I booked my ticket, got my working holiday visa and after a tearful farewell at Heathrow to my mum I boarded my flight to Canada, not really believing that I would truly become an expat.
I’m going on an adventure!
When I got to Canada it was the blazing heat of summer and I had a wonderful century farm house to decorate as I pleased. My husband got me a puggle puppy we named Darwin (after where we met) and I quickly got a job at a local gym where I met a few friends to keep me occupied. We got engaged a few months later and married less than a year after that. After returning from honeymoon I eagerly applied for my permanent residency and was excited at the life that lay ahead in Canada. I got my PR (permanent resident) status fairly quickly and decided it was time to set down some roots and a career. I wanted to be a lawyer in Wales but it became apparent that wouldn’t fit with the amount of travel I would need to do and getting into law school here is about as easy as getting a toddler to eat anything that you provide them with for dinner. I decided to head to teachers college and after a few years I got a permanent contract. Sounds like everything went perfectly for me doesn’t it? Honestly, on paper everything is perfect. I have a wonderful job, a beautiful family, a husband who I apparently love so much I’ll move across the world for and a gorgeous home that I could only dream about in the UK. However, I would be lying if I said that late at night when my husband in harvesting late, when I’m shoveling a foot of snow off my car, when I yearn to meet my mum for a coffee and a chat, when I see my friends going out back home that I don’t feel the sledgehammer blow of homesickness. It has been a decade and it is still as strong as when I first came here at times and it takes me by surprise.
The harsh reality of being the “trailing spouse”
Life is hard as the “trailing spouse” (a kind of brutal term for the person in the relationship that moves for love). I miss home a lot, I have found it hard to make meaningful friendships with people that I have things in common with, my British humor is quite often lost on people and I have to repeat myself several times at the drive thru at Tims when people don’t understand my accent (“can I have a croissant please?” “a what sorry m’am, do you mean a chocolate donut?” repeat ad nauseam). Another thing I have struggled with intermittently is finding purpose in my new life. Having children gave me purpose as a mum but I don’t find myself completely comfortable in my new life in Canada all the time. Sometimes there is a feeling of being shoved into someone else’s life and you just have to carve out a little space for yourself.
Here are a few things that I wish I knew before I moved here:
- The honeymoon period will end at some point and no matter how grim life was, you will miss some aspect of it at some point.
- You will miss your family more than you can put into words and no amount of Facetime will make up for it.
- If you have children, you will have to deal with the guilt of them missing out on grandparent time.
- Homesickness will strike you hard at random moments. Teary at the pickled onions? Weeping at the sound of a British accent on a commercial? Sobbing over a pound you found in your wallet? Standing out in the rain because it feels like Wales? Watching any old shite that was made in Britain? YUP, you’re homesick.
- Snow for almost half the year SUCKS. Invest in a good jacket, boots and a shovel (OK so I don’t shovel too much snow so maybe work on being REALLY busy whenever your spouse walks out of the door to clear the driveway. Kind of like he does when you pick up the hoover or talk about going shopping).But there are positives..
- Your children will be international travelers before they are one. What a rich life they will lead.
- You get more than one passport which makes you look interesting and important at the airport.
You will meet awesome people who you would never have crossed lives with otherwise.
- You get to enrich yourself and grow as a person by immersing yourself in another culture. I really think meeting people from different parts of the world and living amongst people different to me (you’d be surprised how many cultural differences I encounter) has helped me grow as a person.
- Your relationship with your spouse is stronger than most as you rely on each other so much.
- You realize how much you truly love your family and make every second count when you’re with them (WOW that sounded like a Disney movie).
So hang in there expat wives, mums and dads. It is a hard journey and maybe not the life you always wanted in some respects but you can do it. Try to remember why you moved to your current country and at the same time honour and celebrate your roots. You beautiful, multicultural global unicorn you.
P.s in case you have never had the pleasure of a pickled onion I’ll show you what I’m banging on about. Brits, you’re welcome for the food porn.