…is complete. Whew!
I can now honestly say that if I had any idea how much work that was going to be, I would have done it anyway. At least that’s what I say from the distance of a few weeks in Leeds, settling in at our new place and exploring the city. When I was finishing up at the house in Toronto, I was singing a fairly different tune, but once all of the boxes were packed, the donations made and my life reduced to two suitcases and a carry-on bag, excitement took over and I was finally on my way.
Now that we’re here, it’s interesting to note what was easier than we thought and what ended up being surprisingly frustrating, despite careful planning.
Finding a place to live – Difficult until it was Easy
Thanks to some scheduling issues, Jeff flew over a week ahead of me and started our search for a flat. He had a very stressful week in which we learned that pets are not always welcome and had many applications rejected solely because of the cat. We had spent so much time researching the process of getting Leela over here with us – noting that the six-month quarantine requirements were removed in 2012 and working with an agency that specializes in transporting pets to different countries, but we failed to do proper research on English law regarding tenancy and pets, having basked for all of our adult lives in the Ontario Tenant Protection Act or the Residential Tenancies Act, in which landlords cannot prohibit pets.
Here in England it’s a little less clear-cut, and right when we were frantically considering re-homing Leela in Toronto at the last minute, our real estate agents found us an unfurnished place (many flats are rented furnished here) where the landlord didn’t mind the cat. And the house was move-in ready and available within a few days. It was a real lesson in how the game can change THAT quickly. Yes, we had to rush out and buy a few sticks of furniture, but we figure we spent less at IKEA than two more weeks in the short-term rental or a cheap hotel would have cost.
It’s interesting to note that without the cat debacle, finding a place to live would have been very, very easy.
Banking – Easy
Some banks didn’t want to have anything to do with Jeff until he was officially registered and enrolled in school, but calling in at various banks led us to Lloyd’s, who were happy to open a joint account for us once we had a local address. I think they end up with a lot of international business as a result of their policies.
Internet and mobile phone – Frustrating
I know everyone in Canada has a huge hate-on for Rogers and Bell Canada, and I agree – I absolutely hate Bell with the intensity of a thousand suns. But at least Rogers, whom I merely loathe and cancelled years ago in favour of TekSavvy, has an army of contractors who can provide installation within a couple of days of contacting them – especially if you’re switching from Bell. So we had some consternation when we discovered we were going to have to wait over 2 weeks for the internet. I should have unlocked my smartphone before leaving Canada, but I put it off, thinking that I would just do it once we were settled and had secure internet for the backup and unlocking process. Boy howdy was that a mistake. I had a small euro plan from my cell provider, spent a lot of time in Starbucks (best wi-fi I could find), looking for wi-fi in pubs, or begging Jeff (who did unlock his phone in Canada and quickly got a UK sim card) to create yet another hotspot so I could check Facebook and Twitter.
But this is really about me and my internet habits and I am thankful for the lesson in how completely addicted I am. We don’t have a television here, so no internet also meant no Netflix, no YouTube, no streaming. With a new city to explore and and a deep love of reading I did okay, but I realized how much I depend on being able to veg in front of a TV show after a busy day, quickly look something up on the web or research transportation options. Also, messaging and emailing friends and family was a great way to stave off homesickness, so that probably coloured things for me too.
So now, for less money than we would have spent in Canada, we have unlimited internet at home, and I found a pay-as-you-go UK sim card that has unlimited data too. Good things come to those who wait! I like being connected to everyone again, and I am addicted to starring interesting places in Google Maps, knowing where I am at all times and how to get to the next place I want to go. Especially when I’m on my own.
Housewares and Groceries – Easy
Thanks to friendly suggestions from people working in various shops, I have been able to outfit our kitchen and bathroom on the cheap. TK Maxx is basically Winners, right down to the housewares section, Wilko is like Target without the clothing, IKEA is, umm, IKEA. I am working hard to only pick up the absolute necessities, partly because we don’t know how long we are going to live here, and partly because I am still traumatized by packing up all of the stuff we have in Toronto after years of nesting and decorating. The look we are going for is FBI Safehouse Chic. Think Witness Relocation program, or the way a temporary office worker fails to decorate their cubicle.
Grocery stores here are brilliant – we have two within a few minutes’ walk of our place, and in general they are bright, clean and well organized. There seems to be much more of a focus on ready-made meals than I am used to, but then in Toronto my nearest grocery store was Italian and marketed toward a generation of Nonnas that makes everything from scratch. To my chagrin I keep purchasing these meals rather than cooking, as they are reasonably priced and bloody delicious – no whiff of frat boy or lonely singleton making do like I used to feel while browsing the freezer section at Loblaw’s. And, although I miss the LCBO intensely (both my old job and the store), I must say it’s nice to grab a bottle of wine in the same place I buy tea and Nutella.
Culture – Easy, with caveats
Having visited the UK several times and adoring British culture in general meant that our transition has been quite painless – a fair amount of slang and vocabulary make sense to us and we’re not having any problems with most accents, not that we thought we would – I mean, we’re not from a flyover state in America, exactly.
What I’m having trouble with is greeting people in a local sort of way. I’m so used to standard Canadian greetings – saying “Hi, how are you?” and “thanks, have a great day” etc. that I am failing to greet people the way locals would – I’m not talking about putting on a fake accent, more that I am having trouble with when I should say “hiya” or “alright?” (“how are you?”) and addressing everyone using “love” or “darlin'”. And I keep forgetting to finish off texts and messages with a kiss!
Now I’m worried that everyone thinks I’m “not very affectionate” – and “have that whole cold, repressed, emotionless thing going on”! 😳