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Edward Lee, Ontario

Who are you?

I am currently a third year university student, living in London, Ontario studying journalism. Funny story is that I am originally from London, UK, so you could say I’ve been living in London my whole life. I have been in London, Ontario for about 4 years now and have most definitely enjoyed the journey and all the ups and downs (mostly ups) of being an expat living in Canada.Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I made the decision to move to London in the summer of 2012 after facing some personal obstacles at home. As cliché as it sounds, I really did need to get out of the UK (as much as I love the country) to get a fresh start to my life. At the time, I really had no idea how long I was going to stay there. Luckily I did have family near London, Ontario which made the move a little easier, and allowed me to settle in quite nicely, in such a hectic time of my life. Now I’m already in my third year of university, excited to finish my degree and eager about looking for a professional job in my field.

What challenges did you face during the move?

Luckily, compared to some expats, I didn’t need to worry about the issue of culture shock or any type of language barrier. I would say the biggest challenge for me definitely was all the added responsibilities of essentially living on my own. The first couple of months, albeit exciting, were extremely difficult for me. I experienced an overwhelming sense of homesickness which led to stress and minor anxiety. I started asking myself in my head if this was all worth it. The whole process of finding a bank, getting a cell phone, filling in many government papers, figuring out transportation, currency exchange etc. were extremely overwhelming in a new country.

In hindsight, I could have prepared a lot better for the move, but it was a valuable learning experience. It’s why I find sites like Expat Focus extremely beneficial for prospective expats to learn from other expats’ mistakes and make sure their move goes as smoothly as possible. To put it mildly for the first couple of months, the smallest problems were the most overwhelming.

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How did you find somewhere to live?

I was extremely fortunate and lucky that I was able to live with extended family for just over a year. I’m aware one of the most common challenges expats face is finding a place to live in a new and foreign country. After settling in for just over a year, I decided it was time to move out and live on my own. The great thing about London, Ontario is there are many resources you can use to find a place to buy, lease, or rent. For myself, I was looking to find a 1 bedroom apartment for rent in London and so I did an extensive search for apartment rentals in London, Ontario on Google and went with a reputable choice. After consulting with family members and close friends, I made the move. The rental property was both close to my school, yet far enough from the downtown core of London in a quiet neighborhood. In addition to having easy access to public transportation, it was a perfect fit for my lifestyle.

Are there many other expats in your area?

Not in my particular neighborhood per se, as I live with a lot of locals, and students who reside in the city. However, there are actually many expats that live close to the downtown core of London, many of them students as well. Most of the expats are from Asia and Europe, and a dedicated Facebook Group makes it simple to meet up with other fellow expats.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

The stereotype and assumption of Canadians was that they were extremely friendly and nice, and sometimes over the top in doing so. I have to say, I absolutely agree with this sentiment and I have had nothing but positive interactions with the locals. In fact, I have become very good friends with many of them which has EASILY been one of the biggest positives of moving to Canada.

What do you like about life where you are?

London, Ontario in general has very nice weather. In the city, you have access to everything. London hosts many community events, features a very diverse population and overall is a very vibrant city. It is tourist friendly, and there are just so many activities you can partake in. Over the years, I’ve taken up ice skating lessons and have even joined my local curling club! These are two things that is virtually impossible to do back home in the UK!

What do you dislike about your expat life?

The feeling of homesickness. In addition to this, I miss my family a ton. Even though technological advances have made it easier to get in touch with them, it still doesn’t get rid of the fact that I miss being around them every day of my life. As much as it is hard on me, I know it is equally as hard on them.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experience between your new country and life back home?

To be honest, there haven’t been many. It’s more the little nuances of what makes Canada unique, but overall, making the jump from UK to Canada isn’t a massive cultural difference. Of course, it can be hard to keep up with my Canadian friends when they talk about hockey or referencing Canadian history or musicians for example, but it isn’t a huge problem. In fact, learning about Canadian culture has been one of the more enjoyable experiences of becoming an expat and I’m sure many others can relate.

What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?

The food and drinks that Canadians enjoy are very similar to the ones we enjoy back in the UK. Food items such as burgers and chips (French fries as they call it here), steak and mash potatoes are popular in both countries. Food items that are particularly unique to Canada are maple syrup and poutine. I have to say I really do enjoy both, although my body might disagree with me at times.

What advice would you give to anyone following your footsteps?

Do as much research as you can about the country you want to live in. I would say Canada is one of the best and easiest countries to move to due to the diversity of cultures that populate most of the country, and the amount of resources that are available here. Make a checklist of items that you need to take care of, and be patient. Being an expat can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, but it can also be one of the worst if you don’t think things through. Seek guidance from other expats, family members and close friends to see what their opinions are. You just never know what kind of advice you may get and best of all, their advice is free of charge.

What are your plans for the future?

My short-term future plans include finishing up my undergraduate degree, followed by perhaps a master’s degree. Further down the road, I wouldn’t mind moving to another country and experiencing a new culture. For me, the desire to travel has become an addiction and as much as I love Canada, the world has so much to offer that I don’t want to miss out. Being an expat has been the biggest learning experience of my life.

You can follow Edward's adventures on Instagram.

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