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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Reflections on the expatriate life so far

I've been in the U.S. for most of the last month on business and family matters, but will leave next week to return to Toronto and the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood I now call home.

Being back in Seattle has been nice, though I have to admit it is a little disconcerting to cope with all that changes while I'm away. I've mentioned the phenomenon in the past - where an immigrant loses touch; and now I am living it. For instance, on this visit I noticed two restaurants I used to dine in had closed down, due to the economy. News to me. Also news that they had actually closed down a few months ago. How was I to know? I was in Toronto. A major highway I used to travel has been dismantled. Another has become a toll way.

All the change that happens daily, in small doses, I can only experience in big gulps when I finally get back to visit. It goes for friends and their lives too. I guess it comes with the turf. It's the price paid for leaving and old life for a new one.

I don't know how I could have prepared for this aspect of the expatriate life. I knew it was coming. I guess in the knowing, it's impact is softened.

I do miss the life I had here in the States. But I love the life I have now in Canada too. It seems true that once left, you can never go home.  


  1. "For instance, on this visit I noticed two restaurants I used to dine in had closed down, due to the economy. News to me. Also news that they had actually closed down a few months ago. How was I to know? I was in Toronto."

    It's things like that that are the biggest pokes in the eye, so to speak. My best friend emigrated six or seven years back now and when she came back for a visit, she was absolutely shocked to find that one of the restaurants we used to go to was under new management and the menu was completely different. Two pubs were missing, and houses had been built on them. And I hadn't told her about them because, to use your description, these changes were happening in small doses, in the background. Small details, not anything worth talking about. When my friend came back, it was like a meteorite had hit the town and I'd neglected to tell her about it.

    It was strange when she came back. It was like looking at a memory through cloudy glass, like she didn't really belong here any more. And for me at least, that was the defining moment where I realised that somewhere else was her home, that she really was just a visitor, not someone coming home. When she first moved over there, I have to admit, I had my doubts about whether she was going to stay there. While her parents were worrying about visas, overseas medical insurance, passports, permits and all the top level stuff, my friend was worried about making friends, whether her accent was going to make her stand out, whether she'd be able to be herself, whether she'd lose her friends back here. It go so back that her parents said that if she wasn't feeling better at the end of the year, she could go back to England.

    But somewhere along the line, things did get better and England's no longer her home. I've no idea when it happened, only that it has happened. She's now pretty critical of England in general, and that does wind me up, but letting England go was the price she paid for her new life. And to be honest, I'm not sure she sees it as a price. More of a grubby old banknote that you're glad to see the back of.

  2. Wait until tax season is over and you see how much crap you have to fill out for the IRS this year.

  3. I already did my taxes, and they weren't so bad...It's the price paid and something to be accepted. There may come a day when the tax burden the US asks doesn't make economic sense for us, at which point we'll have to rethink my relationship to my home country - but for now? Everything's fine. Funny thing is, I paid tax on my US return (based on worldwide earnings), but I'm getting a refund on my Canadian taxes! Go figure.