There is a very apparent strand of wanderlust and adventuring in both our families, so the urge to live somewhere other than the land of our birth is perhaps not surprising. So some of our motivation was simply about the challenge of new learning, new experiences and new opportunities.
We started examining the possibilities almost a decade ago, deciding to concentrate on the English speaking world as Paul was never going to find it easy to become fluent in another language and an expatriate enclave was not really what we were looking for.
Canada soon emerged as a front-runner for so many reasons. Although it is inevitable that many issues are common across the developed world, it did (and still does) feel to us that Canada retained more of the values that matter to us.
Included on lists that we wrote in 2005 were:
- A sense that people were more open. Recent reading suggests that young people are encouraged far more than in the UK to be informed and have opinions, but also to listen to the opinions of others.
- Linked to this, a friendliness and mannerliness with apparent concern for the wellbeing of others.
- A better work/life balance, despite shorter vacations (holidays) – this suggests that Canadians are good at making the most of what is on offer.
- A sense of a genuine basis for multi-ethnic fusion – the cultural mosaic.
- An impression that commitment to the community remains a central part of Canadian culture, even in its cities. In the UK my perception is that the constant focus on individual rights has skewed collective consciousness to the point where awareness of the responsibility of that individual to society has almost disappeared.
- Distinct seasons – yes, we know that current temperatures of up to 17C are not representative of a normal November in Toronto! It is going to get cold. But we have also met Canadians who have experienced the British winter and acknowledge that even in Toronto’s ‘vicious’ winter, they have never felt so cold as in the much less extreme damp cold in the UK and that the lack of sunlight saps the spirit. Talk to us in March . . .
- Cleaner air – even in Toronto, this feels to be the case and certainly out of the city it is wonderful.
- Empty roads – OK, again not in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), but driving to and from Georgian Bay in July was a delight and a recent trip out to Niagara so much less stressful than a similar expedition in England.
- Open spaces, glorious scenery, lakes, mountains – so much to explore!
- The wide range of physical activities available – skating, snow-shoeing, skiing, snowmobiles, sailing, canoeing, cycling, blading, hiking – many of them possible even in the city and certainly available within an easy drive.
- Social and cultural opportunities – in particular with the shift from our original focus of the Kootenay Rockies (Nelson) to Toronto, we have wonderful access to theatre, art galleries and local art and artisan culture, film, music and more.
- Intellectual stimulation – Paul has already been to a conference the like of which he did not have access to in the UK and has three meet-up groups on his schedule in the next couple of weeks. I am beginning to tap into talks organised by the Library, Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and others.
Our main difficulty as incomers is to find enough focus and not to be ‘kids in a candy shop’, either cramming our lives too full or unable to choose. We still need to schedule in sleep time!