I am writing this at 2.30am in the morning, because I can’t get to sleep. As nice as the Airbnb is, the guy who lives here snores so badly, it keeps me awake every single night. But sleep deprivation isn’t the reason why I decided to come back (I realise that by the time this will have been published, I’ll have been back in the UK for about three weeks). Although I’m not going to lie, it’s INCREDIBLY frustrating when you’re lying in bed so tired, yet you can’t sleep. Honestly, I tried earplugs, I played music loudly, and I even downloaded a white noise app on my phone and I STILL could hear the snores. I even took my duvet downstairs and tried to sleep with the cats… but despite there being a floor and several walls to separate us, I could still hear him. OK, I’m going to stop talking about the snoring now.
So, a few months ago, I posted an article announcing my move to Toronto. It had been a move I’d been planning for a while – almost a year in fact, when the invitation to apply for my IEC visa came through. My whole life I’d been moaning about the UK, and admittedly, Copenhagen was always my first choice of places to live, but Brexit put a stop to that.
Nevertheless, Canada seemed like a great alternative option. Despite never having visited the country before, I’d heard about its excellent tolerance towards foreigners, and kind of imagined it to be a bridge between America and England (because there’s absolutely noooo way I could ever have lived in the US).
Toronto seemed like the perfect city: it was big, I imagined there to be lots happening there, and of course, there would be lots of digital marketing jobs.
So, on September 2nd 2018 I waved goodbye to my family and (with great difficulty) manoeuvred my three suitcases across the Atlantic Ocean – this was no mean feat, one of my cases weighed 30kg!
I’d booked myself an Airbnb in Long Branch, Etobicoke. A half an hour train ride from Union Station, and positioned by Lake Ontario, I thought it would be the ideal positioning to settle myself into life in Canada. OK, so the swaying factor were the two cats that lived there (and if I’m being honest, they were the best thing about Toronto).
I didn’t have a plan as such about my life in Canada. I suppose I thought I’d stick the two years there, and if I liked it, I would eventually apply for permanent residency. At the very least, I would stay there until Christmas, as my parents had booked their flights to see me.
Except I landed back in the UK on October 2nd, and I don’t think I ever felt more relieved to be back in the UK.
The first day I arrived in Toronto, I basically said hi to the cats, and slept. The second day, I woke up super early due to jetlag, and went for a really long walk by the lake (it was Labour Day, so everywhere was shut). The next few days I kept myself busy: I got my SIN number, opened a bank account, and got a Canadian phone number. I had an interview with a recruitment agency, and a phone interview with a marketing agency, which then turned into a second stage interview the week after. I even looked at apartments, and got accepted for a room in a luxury condo by the CN tower on the 41st floor.
I discovered Downtown: walked through the Eaton Centre multiple times, and down Yonge Street more than I care to remember. I went up the CN tower, caught the ferry to the islands, and sunbathed by the harbour. I went to Tim Hortons every single day (YES English breakfast tea!), and ate beavertails (amazing). Sadly, I didn’t have a drop of maple syrup.
I kept myself busy, and I tried to like the city… but I didn’t. It was very hard for me – I thought I was fine with my own company, but if this trip taught me anything, it’s that I don’t do well totally on my own. I need conversation, and I need my friends.
I knew this would improve with time – start working, start ballet, join Meetup groups. But the thing is, I didn’t want to. All I wanted to do was go back home, see all my friends, and get my old job back.
You know when you visit a city and you just pick up on this atmosphere, like there’s something exciting going on around you, and you want to be a part of it? Or, you just kind of get a vibe, and you instantly know you like the place? I didn’t get that at all with Toronto.
Now, I hope I don’t offend any Canadians or Americans here, but I kind of assumed that Toronto would be a mixture of American and British… and the fact that 50% of people living in the city aren’t Canadian, I thought I would experience culture around me, but I didn’t. There were huge skyscrapers and wide, open streets, but with nothing on them.
I think if I’d had a group of friends that I could have out drinking and eating with, I would have felt differently and enjoyed it more; but as I mentioned, I didn’t want to have to wait to make friends. I just wanted to go back to Nottingham and be with my old friends.
It was a tough decision deciding to come back home. I felt a little sad knowing that Toronto hadn’t worked out for me, but I felt so much happier knowing I was coming home. Two weeks doesn’t sound like a long time, but it is when you’re in a place you don’t like with no one you know.
It’s not that it couldn’t work out – it so could, but I didn’t want it. In the first week and a half, I’d said yes to a room in a luxury condo and was about to pay the deposit, I’d gone for a second interview for a job that I was pretty sure I was going to get. The great thing about Canada is they truly are welcoming to immigrants – I can’t image getting a job and a place to live is as easy as that in many other countries (probably the UK included).
So, I spent a month in Canada (and America) in total. I hate to think about how much money I spent. It took me two and a half years to save for this, and in a month blew half of it… it wasn’t even like I went crazy spending, or even have anything to show for it – just a top from Urban Outfitters and a Canadian flag.
Still, at least I got to spend my money travelling (can I just say how crazily expensive flights in Canada and America are?! It’s one reason why I love Europe so much). On a Monday evening, I flew from Toronto to Portland, caught the train to Seattle, and then Vancouver. I then flew to Montreal, caught the train to Quebec, before flying back to Toronto.
I had one full day in Toronto, before flying back to Manchester.
It’s been an experience. I’m glad I went, I just wish it hadn’t been so expensive – I hadn’t realised Canada was as expensive as it was. And if anything good came out of it, it’s the fact that I did some solo travelling, which is something I never would have considered BC (Before Canada).
Now, I’m back in Nottingham, I got a promotion (with a different company), and I’m moving into my own flat at the end of the month (rented, not owned). This time last year, I never would have imagined this would be my situation. I’m not sad that I left Toronto – or Canada – because I really don’t want to live there. I guess I’m just a little sad that it wasn’t as nice as I expected it to be.
Only I would move across a whole continent to realise all the stuff that I’d left behind. Sure, Nottingham isn’t great, but it’s where my friends and family are… and I now realise that’s more important to me than living abroad. So, that’s why I decided to move home.