It has now been almost 4 months since we moved back to Canada and I thought it might be nice to discuss how the adjustment has been.
First off, it is amazing how seamlessly you can slide back into your “other life”. A lot of people asked us if we experienced culture shock living back in Canada. Surprisingly we didn’t; perhaps it was because we were living an expat life where you are physically living in a different country, but your lifestyle is still very Western. After living out of suitcases for the month of July as we slowly made our way across the globe, visiting Sri Lanka, France and Belgium en route, we were thrilled to move back into our house and settle into Canadian life. The three things we missed most while living overseas was definitely family and friends, our house, and Canadian way of life. It felt great to be back in our home with all our stuff. I never felt totally happy with our house in Malaysia as it felt very temporary and we had hardly any of our things there. If I were to do it over again, I would have spent more time making the Malaysian house our home. I would have decorated the kids rooms, painted the walls and bought more decor items. But because we were only going to be in Malaysia for two years I didn’t do these things and as a result our Malaysian house never really felt like home. We spent months finding our Canadian home a few years ago and fell in love with it. So we were so excited to be back in the house. As we unpacked all the things we had left behind, it felt like Christmas discovering long lost toys and treasures. We also realized the excess of “things” we had and the ridiculousness of North American consumerism. While in Malaysia, we lived with minimal things (some of you might remember we almost went without a toaster and BBQ) and once we were back in Canada, we were astounded by all our things. Some were great to have – our photo albums, kitchen gadgets, and decor items. But the amount of toys and clothes that we hadn’t seen in a couple of years, nor missed, was shocking. We were also used to living in a smaller space in Malaysia and now all of a sudden we had this large house and each kids had their own bedroom after 1.5 years of sharing.
Things I miss the most:
1. Summer year round – Now that it is November and chilly, I am missing the heat and not particularly enjoying dealing with snowsuits and the likes. However, since it was so hot in Malaysia, we found spending time outside difficult and throughout August and the fall in Canada, we took every opportunity to be outside. Winter will be another story I think.
2. Financial flexibility – Since we are no longer on an expat salary and since I am not returning back to work until next September and the cost of living in Canada is tremendously higher than Malaysia, I dislike being so budget conscious. I miss the care free way we went out for meals, massages and spa treatments, weekends away.
3. The food – I miss eating out multiple times a week and sampling new and different foods. I miss Asian food. And I mean I miss real Asian food. Sure there are lots of Asian restaurants in Guelph, but it just isn’t the same. White boneless pieces of chicken in my curry – what? Where is my hacked to pieces, bone and all, tiny morsels? (I actually don’t miss Asian meat!) My stomach also seems to be revolting against our Canadian diary, carb, meat heavy diet. My stomach needs more rice!
4. Traveling – the first few months back in Canada were really exciting seeings friends and family again and doing lots of Canadian things we missed (Halloween, apple picking, cottaging, pumpkin picking). But I can feel the itch coming for an exotic trip away. It was pretty nice being able to jet to Thailand for a long weekend.
5. The Exoticness – living in Canada is easy and feels a little vanilla-ish…I know where to find the food I want, I know where to get the services we need, I understand the school system. Living in Malaysia constantly challenged us and I kind of miss that. Trying to converse with the cable installation guy, figuring out where to pay my parking tickets, even coming to terms with my 4 year olds homework. Life was never boring. I miss the excitement of living in a different culture. I even miss being stared at and having my kids photos taken constantly (narcissistic I know). I miss the colour and noise of Asia.
Things that haven’t been too bad:
1. Giving up domestic help – While we miss Nini to pieces and are in contact via email and post, we have adjusted surprisingly well to not having someone helping on a daily basis with cleaning and childcare. After getting used to someone else doing your dishes, washing your floors, helping with the laundry, I anticipated that this would be a difficult transition. However, in large part thanks to Paul being such a super helper, it hasn’t been THAT bad. I do miss having someone at the house to leave the kids with if I want to run out for groceries or a quick pedicure (not in the budget anymore anyway!), but it has been okay. Of course being back in Canada, we have a lot more support via family and friends.
Things I don’t miss:
1. Schooling – initially when we moved to Malaysia, I struggled with the school philosophy and routines. However, I came to terms with it and Ella adapted and did really well there. However, there was a lot of uncertainty about what year (grade) Ella would be in, had we stayed. I have also heard from friends still there, lots of bad experiences this year with the school and I am thankful not to have to be dealing with that. Ella in in senior kindergarden here and I was a bit apprehensive about it being part-time and being so play based and concerned that she would be taking a step back. However, she loves school here and I know deep down that play-based learning is much preferable to the rote learning she was receiving in Malaysia. It has also been great having her home part of the week and the kids get lots of time together. Gavin was going to the international school in Malaysia and since he was so young it wasn’t as regimented as Ella’s experience, however it was still very structured and the children were expected to be very independent. He is now going to daycare two times a week and I think he too enjoys the play-based approach.
2. Paul’s work schedule – we knew this would be a positive change, but it has been so great to have Paul home for the morning rush, home before dinner and not working on Saturdays. Paul has been really busy with work since we have been home, but luckily the work is flexible and he can often work later in the evenings once the kids have gone to bed.
-missing events and get togethers with family and friends
-the time I spent driving in Malaysia (30 min to get to school/grocery store/town and the craziness of the roads)
-the lack of children’s activities. The kids are currently doing dance, soccer, and swimming lessons and there are so many more activities they could choose to do. I am also really enjoying all the children activities offered (playgroups, library programs, open gym time).
-our Malaysian house. Our Canadian house FEELS like home.
We are looking forward to a hopefully white, traditional Christmas at home with family and friends and wish you a very happy holiday season. This blog will likely now take a hiatus until the next great adventure comes along. All the best for 2013!