After the US presidential election, I’ve heard a lot of Americans say that they want to leave the country for the next four years. In fact, they managed to crash the Canadian immigration website. Or maybe Canada just shut it down as a precaution. Even though our move was planned over a year ago, I couldn’t agree more that it’s occurring at the best possible time. I’ve always wanted to live in another country. After all, I love travelling, seeing new places, and learning about different cultures.
There’s just one problem: travelling and living are two completely different concepts. Travelling implies you have somewhere to go back to, a home base, even if you don’t call it home. Living means you *are* home. I never really thought of the consequences behind that.
Obviously, a lot of Americans would choose to move to Canada (I’m willing to guess because of the convenience), but I’ve had my fair share of friends say that they’d like to move to Finland. First of all, you can’t just up and move to a foreign country. There are all sorts of visas, work permits, and in Finland’s case, a letter of invitation required. Not to mention a passport. Apparently only about half of Americans have one. Second, please, let me tell you of the consequences. Of how it feels knowing that when someone speaks to you, you won’t be able to understand them. Of always, ALWAYS, having to ask for things in English. Every. Single. Time. Of not only figuring out a new city, but a new language, especially one that is completely unique to anything you’d hear in the States. Of being the outsider. The square peg. The thing that isn’t like the others. I’m willing to bet most Americans have no idea how that feels: To be the immigrant.
That’s not even close to all the differences, but let’s go ahead and add in the fact that you’re now on the opposite side of the planet from almost everyone you know. I’ve lived in a different time zone than most of my family and friends for eight years. But now I’m eight to ten hours ahead. It’s dinner time for me when my parents are just getting up. I actually have to think about whether or not it’s a good time to call someone.
It’s hard. Plain and simple. This is the hardest thing I’ve done, including having a baby. Less physically painful, sure, but definitely longer lasting. It’s certainly not something I’d recommend entering into lightly, or because you want to throw a temper tantrum because you feel like your team lost. Everyone will tell you that it’s a great opportunity, that you’ll learn so much and have so much fun. And that’s all true. But what they don’t tell you about is the loneliness. How you’ll miss things being simple and easy. How some days you have to force yourself to get out, when something as simple as going to a coffee shop is just that much more difficult.
Eventually, you either get over the fear or push through it. There’s really no other option. Things do get easier, like grocery shopping (thank goodness!), but there are still difficult days. As I sit in this fabulous cafe (really, it’s stunning), I’m reminded of the song “Boston” by Augustana. The line that says, “I think I’ll start a new life, I think I’ll start over, where no one knows my name.” It seemed so romantic when I was younger. Wouldn’t it be nice to have complete anonymity? And now that I have it, I can’t imagine why I ever wanted it in the first place. This sticky toffee latte and cheesecake muffin, however. Where have they been my whole life??