COVID-19 Shot #1: All Pfizer-ed Up!

I got the COVID-19 shot! Get my pun about being all Pfizer-ed (fired) up? I thought of it while I was waiting in line. And yes, I got Pfizer.

I am writing this because I believe my experience is applicable regardless of the country you live in. Disclaimer: I know vaccination is a sensitive topic, but please keep comments respectful. Please see my page My Site is A Safe Space for more information.

Pre-shot Information:

I initially thought I would be one of the last people to get the shot. Then, as things started to progress with the vaccine rollout in Alberta, things changed.

I knew some people who got the shot early on for various reasons. I know it’s normal to have vaccine hesitancy with this COVID-19 shot because it was developed so fast. However, I do appreciate there has been a lot of information out there to dissipate people’s fears.

Then the Rollout Changes Happened:

On March 30, Alberta started Phase 2B of the vaccine rollout. It includes anyone between ages 16 and 64 with eligible health conditions. I disregarded it. I want to mention by then, I knew that systems about being contacted for when it’s your turn to be vaccinated were useless!

My Mum was eligible for Phase 2D, which include people between 55 and 64. We initially thought she would get her shot in May and I would get mine in June. Then, the AstraZeneca shot came on the scene. They started booking by birth year in late February, so I was on standby for news for them booking my Mum’s birth year. I read COVID-19 updates for Alberta every morning. One day in early March, I saw on the news that people of my Mum’s birth year could book the AstraZeneca shot! So, my Mum had a choice of AstraZeneca immediately or Pfizer/Moderna in May. She chose AstraZeneca immediately. And no, she didn’t get blood clots. Do you know what the sad thing is? My Mum never got an email notification saying she could book a shot. I only knew about it because I saw the news update.

Meanwhile, I understand that the US was in a similar situation. My Dad had signed up for vaccine alerts, but they never happened. It got to the point that friends my age were getting vaccinated there and he wasn’t. We had to tell him to keep calling about a vaccine appointment. My Dad got the Johnson and Johnson shot at the end of March. It wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t told him to be proactive about it.

Then, I had An Idea:

I was concerned about getting gum graft surgery without getting the shot. My Mum and I started talking about upping our game with hygiene protocols during my recovery period. I decided on a whim to email my periodontist’s receptionist to ask if it was possible for me to get the shot before my surgery. 

As a bit of a backstory, my Mum always told me to get to know receptionists and show them appreciation. Receptionists carry around SO much information and they can pull strings for you! I have worked as an office assistant during my university career, and I can verify that if you’re nice to people who have a lot of information at their fingertips, they help you. If you aren’t nice to them, well, let’s just say revenge is a dish best served cold.

My periodontist’s receptionist had helped me a lot with all this crap of getting my dental records from the US. So, I gave her some macarons from my favourite patisserie to say “Thank you!” I love talking to her when I am waiting for my appointments at the office as well. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask her if I could possibly get the shot before my surgery.

Surprise, Surprise:

She told me I was eligible under Phase 2B. I don’t have a full-blown condition, like the ones listed. But I do have a problem that is a precursor to one of the conditions though. I never thought having precursors to eligible conditions that you have to medically manage qualified. This is why you ask the receptionist!

One tip my periodontist’s receptionist gave me was to try going to a pharmacy after about 8 pm. She said that pharmacies may have spare shots at the end of the day. Vaccine vials come in packs of 10 and they have a finite time on them once the pack is opened and kept at refrigerator temperature. So, some pharmacies have some spare vials at the end of the day if people don’t show up for their appointments.

I tried going to my local Shopper’s Drug Mart and they said they don’t have spare shots at the end of the day. It was fairly recently when pharmacies started booking appointments for shots. Now, they are so swamped that they don’t even create waitlists. I tried to get onto the waitlist for my local Shopper’s Drug Mart, but I couldn’t. My periodontist’s receptionist encouraged me to keep trying to go to the pharmacy after 8 pm. I guess the strategy is to wear them down. In the end, I decided to book the appointment through Alberta Health Services.

Ethics:

I can’t write a post like this without saying something about vaccine rollout ethics. I noticed that there were articles and social media posts questioning whether people were just jumping the line to get the shot. Vaccine shaming was becoming more of a thing, and in the US there were vaccine shortages. One important thing to remember is that the majority of disabilities are invisible, and it’s important not to judge people for that. Actually, what I said about my eligibility before applies in this situation. I don’t look like I have a precursor to an eligible condition because I am managing it medically and it works beautifully.

Additionally, you can find from a Google Search how there have been distribution issues. The trouble is so many shots go to waste when there are problems with distribution. You know the thing I mentioned about going to a pharmacy after 8 pm to see if they have spare shots? Well, that’s how Millenials and Gen Z over 18 have been getting shots, even if they aren’t eligible yet. Deena Henshaw, the doctor for the government of Alberta has said people shouldn’t do this. Um, if you have a distribution issue that is causing vaccines to go to waste, sort that out first! You can find a lot of news articles about how medical professionals realized vaccines would go to waste if they didn’t use them up so they found a way to do so. I say good for them! Healthcare workers have seen the havoc this pandemic has wreaked.

So, I Booked My Shot:

I do want to say when I booked my shot, I did worry about whether I was jumping the line. My Mum assured me that my periodontist’s receptionist thought I was well within my rights to get the shot, or she wouldn’t have told me the information I needed to get it. I made sure to have paperwork on me about my eligibility, just in case. Early in April, the TELUS Convention Centre opened a clinic in its building for mass vaccination. At first, not a lot of people showed up there. I booked my shot at that location, and when I double-checked my booking, I was able to bring the appointment forward by 3 days. Pfizer was the only shot available for my age group, which I was happy about.

The Day of My Shot:

I was more worried about having my paperwork in order than I was about the shot. I got to the TELUS Convention Centre right before my appointment time. There was a long line outside, which I was happy to see. I realized I had underdressed for the weather because it snowed a bit when I was standing in line. I felt so Canadian!

Then, I got inside and I realized there was another big part of the line. We had to zigzag between two or three large rooms and then go upstairs. The stairs were for people who could manage them and the escalator was for people with mobility issues. I don’t know if there is an elevator for people in wheelchairs though. Once we got to the second floor, we had to cross the pedestrian footbridge, zigzag again and finally, we could get into the final zigzag line!

One of the people doing crowd control said it takes less time to get through this line than to wait at Disneyland. Never been to Disneyland, but sounds very helpful. Conversations in the line were cool. In the final zigzag line, we sanitized our hands, changed our masks, and sanitized our hands again. 

The nurse did check my eligibility, but I didn’t have to prove it. It took longer to do my paperwork because I’m not on Alberta Healthcare yet. The nurse who checked me in said that they don’t refuse people shots at the TELUS Convention Centre after they have waited in line for an hour. I didn’t even feel the needle when the nurse injected me. That was a first! So, after waiting 15 minutes, I left. I grabbed two bottles of complimentary hand sanitizer on my way out! All Pfizer-ed up and ready to go!

Technology Stories While Waiting In Line and Some Other Things:

There are some tech things I should note about getting my shot at the TELUS Convention Centre. There was a playlist you could download to listen to while you wait. I didn’t take advantage of it, but I kind of wish I had. 

Inside the building, I saw these posters on the wall with these factoids about the world. I have to say, I do admire how TELUS is creative. For my non-Canadian readers, TELUS is a cell phone provider in Canada. TELUS has a building in Calgary that has a light show every night. It’s amazing to see what they come up with for the light shows. Now, I can remember my shot with facts about the world’s shortest novel and also that turkeys blush.

Another thing they did tech-wise was when you were waiting, they had you scan a QR Code to do your pre-shot questionnaire. So I am glad I didn’t forget my cell phone!

I noticed the majority of people there were probably between 18 and 50. Right before my appointment, Alberta lowered the eligibility for AstraZeneca to age 40 and now bookings are going like hotcakes. I don’t know how much that had to do with it though because I had to wait 2 weeks for my appointment. The day I was there, 5,000 people had been vaccinated. Word in the line was, they don’t check your eligibility. Not entirely true, but okay. As I said, I am among those who have invisible eligibility in Phase 2B. If other Millennials and Gen Z are jumping the line, so what? There’s a mass vaccination site now. I could tell the nurses there were just happy to get shots in arms.

How I Felt Afterwards:

I had a sore arm for about 36 hours. I made a point of resting for a couple of days and kept drinking water. One thing I regret doing is making a shopping trip to Safeway the day after my shot. It wiped me out. On my second day, I took a long nap. How much of the fatigue was emotional though? I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

I posted on IG that I got my shot and have been encouraging people I know in Calgary to go to the TELUS Convention Centre for their shots. 

Oh, and you know how Brazil’s President Bolsonaro said people turn into crocodiles with the Pfizer vaccine? Well, it happened. This used to be me, and now I’m a crocodile. At least I’m friendly.

How do you like my trolling?

In Summary, My Personal Tips For Getting A Shot Are:

  1. If you’re having trouble getting a shot, ask a receptionist you have a good rapport with.
  2. Even if you have a precursor to an eligible condition, you’re still eligible.
  3. See if you can get a spare shot leftover at the pharmacy.
  4. If the pharmacy doesn’t work, go to a mass vaccination site.
  5. Don’t do anything unethical to get your shot.
  6. Drink lots of water for the next two days.
  7. I forgot to mention this in my post, but if you’re a person who has periods, try not to get your shot the week of your period. It can make your symptoms worse, but the research is inconclusive on that. I have mainly heard about this from other friends of mine.
  8. Be proactive about getting your shot. Don’t rely on email alerts or pharmacies.
  9. Troll President Bolsonaro with a photo of you turned into a crocodile.
  10. Take care of yourself after your shot physically and emotionally.

Have you got your shot yet? How did it go?

Women’s History Month 2021: One Letdown After Another

Hi everyone, I have been feeling the need to vent about gender inequality of late. The pandemic has exposed rampant discrimination towards women and there have been SO many failures especially during Women’s History Month.

One thing I wanted to mention is I changed my site from UCan2 to Third Culture Kid Can in case you got confused. It’s still me!

Note: I am going to share my own personal experiences of discrimination, particularly as an expat.

Content Warning: Gender and racial-based violence.

Harry and Meghan Interview with Oprah:

After living in England for 13 years, I could write an entire post about the Royal Family. I can say where I was when (insert here) happened. Let me give a summary here. The interview confirmed what I already knew about the Royal Family. Combine Wallace Simpson with Princess Diana. Add a dose of racism. Voila! The racism part was only new in the sense that it’s a new tune than it’s been. After all, no person of colour has ever married into the Royal Family before.

In case you missed the interview, here’s a link: http://box720p.com/play.php?movie=tt141172ttttt88

I was able to see what my friends in England were posting on Facebook about the impending nuptials. There were articles that weren’t making it into international news. My friends were commenting on how disgustingly racist and xenophobic those articles were. The bottom line of our views was, “It’s the 21st century! Stop this crap!” I hope someday, racist and xenophobic media lose their credibility. This interview exposed what media sources we shouldn’t trust. Look for the temper tantrums and ignore the source for good!

My American friends know that I am seriously disillusioned with the Royal Family. One of my friends told me, “I watched Harry and Meghan’s wedding.” I said, “Okay.” That was the end of that conversation. I don’t mind hearing about the Royal Family per se. People know that I only talk about them if I want to talk about them. It’s a mixed bag for me. I do keep up with what’s going on in the UK because it is my passport country. On the other hand, you can only hear so much about the Royal Family. Although, these days I feel it’s important to have these conversations, especially after the interview.

Sexual Harassment Statistics in the UK:

UN Women UK released a statistic that 97% of women in the UK have been sexually harassed. I’m one of them and I certainly believe it when they say how rampant it is. Please note, the following is my own personal experience, but I honestly believe I am not the only one who has experienced these types of harassment. I am talking about this because this is NOT okay!

I was a pre-teen when I moved to London. Within my first year, I had to be careful of what I said or did. I could just be minding my own business, and somehow that showed a guy I was into him and he would totally hit on me! This happened so frequently and it confused me terribly. I was going through culture shock at the same time. I found myself wondering, “Is this normal in England? Or is it normal everywhere?” I didn’t tell my parents what was going on because the shame was overwhelming!

Fortunately, my Mum figured out what was going on. One time at school, this boy in my class called me a “Stupid American Bitch”. I didn’t even know what that word meant at the time. My Mum called the school to yell at them and eventually pulled me out! Later on, she noticed guys would make eyes at me and she would give them dirty looks.

I went to a girls’ school for a while because I didn’t want to deal with boys. It wasn’t any better because they were bullies in their own way. Plus, they just accepted sexual harassment from boys and men as normal and I didn’t. I developed the attitude, “I don’t care if this is culturally acceptable! This is not okay!”

It Never Got Better:

As I got older and began to look more like a woman, the harassment came thick and fast. Guys kept making eyes at me or whistling at me whenever I was out. I was walking down my street and I got hit on SIX TIMES by SIX DIFFERENT MEN! I turned around and went home ready to punch any guy that hit on me again!

One time, I was at the pharmacy picking up medicine for my Mum and the guy serving me hit on me! I refused to go to that pharmacy again. Another time, this homeless guy grabbed me after he asked me for money. Fortunately, I broke free and ran away! There were a lot more incidents where that came from.

The only support I could rely on was my Mum. My friends told me I should be flattered that I get hit on so much. I developed my own survival skills. If anyone tried to stop me in the street, I would either outright ignore them, or yell, “NO!” before they had a chance to say anything. I know now that sometimes, it was rude because the person meant no harm. On the other hand, I was traumatized. I developed my “DON’T MESS WITH ME” look and used it all the time when I was out.

Then I Started Working As A Chef:

Sexual harassment got absolutely brutal once I entered the workplace! Plus, being in a kitchen where there are hot and sharp things, you fear for your safety if you speak up. One time, I used physical force on a guy who was sexually harassing me at work, and who got disciplinary action? Me. By now, I was on medication for panic attacks. The trauma from harassment had compounded after several years. I eventually stopped working as a chef because I learned sexual harassment and assault is an occupational hazard for female chefs.

Here’s one of the biggest ironies I learned. The most significant change I had made as a teenager was to dress in bulky clothes and look ugly. Okay, I know now it’s an outdated view that women’s clothes provoke men. I thought the people who were slut-shaming me were right. I’m not saying they were right, but I will say this. Dressing down definitely reduced the number of street harassment incidents I experienced. I was willing to do it as long as it happened less.

Trouble is, I HATE wearing bulky clothes all the time! It makes my body hurt and sometimes, I just wanted to wear a dress or take my sweater off or something. I mean, come on! Just let women wear what they want! Their clothing is NOT their consent! When I moved to California, I started to relax more with my clothing.

After I was sexually harassed at work, I knew the clothes assumption was wrong. I wore chef whites like everyone else and I was still harassed! Now, I just wear what I want. I have my own style and I’m proud of it!

When I Repatriated:

I learned the hard way how American guys were toxic. Culture definitely influences toxic behaviour patterns in people. I was used to how guys were toxic in England. Guys in America seemed to have a more violent side to their toxic behaviour. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that guns are legal in the US.

Additionally, it was surprising to me to learn that women in the US are far more supportive of each other than in the UK. It was hard for me to develop close female friendships in the UK. Plus, I feel women in the US are aware of how toxic men can be, and they know they have to stick up for each other. I was in two abusive relationships after I repatriated. It was out of the frying pan and into the fire for me. Fortunately, I learned to develop close female friendships and that helped me heal. I don’t like Madeline Albright per se, but her quote that I used for my post is so right!

I decided to apply to go to Mills College in Oakland because I needed a safe place to continue healing. It worked! It was the best decision I could have made and it has set me up with a lot of skills for life. That was why I was so upset when my senior year got cut short because of the pandemic. See my previous post, COVID-19: One Year On. What’s My Story?

And Then This Past Week Happened:

Last Tuesday, there the shootings in Atlanta happened where six Asian sex workers were killed. When the domestic terrorist blamed his violent actions on his sex addiction, uh no. Just no! Other people deal with addiction and they aren’t out and about shooting people. Also, yellow fever much? I thought this was about the worst it could get with Women’s History Month. I was wrong.

The next day, I got an announcement that my beloved Alma Mater is going to close. I was inconsolable. I know that universities have been suffering because of the pandemic, but Mills was suffering financially even before the pandemic. The amount of information I have about why Mills is closing is a whole other post. Basically, Mills was in financial trouble a few years ago. Therefore, the vultures descended and finished the school off. I have been getting information the last few days that makes me angry and sad and hurt that the president and Board of Trustees have killed Mills. It’s like in Guardians of the Galaxy when Rocket yells, “You killed Groot!”

I am working to fight against this along with other alums. To me, Mills is forever! Plus, after all the crap that has happened during Women’s History Month, Mills’ work is FAR from done! Mills closing is just another reason why I never want to live in the US again. Someone said to me that it’s super expensive to live in the Bay Area now and he doesn’t see how any school can survive there long-term anymore. I definitely agree. Income inequality is through the roof there and it’s hard to see it getting better any time soon!

Okay, rant over. What are your thoughts on Women’s History Month this year and progress on women’s rights?

COVID-19: One Year On. What’s My Story?

One year ago, it was my last normal week before going on lockdown in California. What happened to me? Read on.

Before The Last Week Hit:

There were signs that the pandemic was on the way. At the time, I was still in my last semester at university. I had BAD senioritis! Plus, I was trying to deal with the rest of my required classes, and having as much fun with my friends as possible. I had done my senior thesis the previous semester. The topic was the opioid epidemic, and after all my research, that was the only epidemic that was on my mind.

I had my plans for after university. I was in the process of looking for a job. My parents were going to move to Calgary. I decided to stay in the US but move out of California because it was too expensive. After all these international moves I had done and living in countries where I didn’t fit in, I didn’t want to go through that process again only to have it not work out. Anyone who knows me knows my favourite dog ever is the black labrador. I vowed to get one after I graduated and I was excited at the prospect!

Then it all went to hell, and I don’t want to talk about what I wanted before anymore.

Whispers of A Nameless Fear:

I had heard of COVID-19 in almost a mythical sense. I think there was a certain amount of cognitive dissonance for a while. My professors said faculty had to be prepared to change their lesson structure in case classes went online. I didn’t want to believe it at first. As a student, my main transport method was BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit. Not Bart Simpson. Yes, I get that joke a lot!). During February, there was a steady trickle of people wearing masks on BART trains.

I heard people talking about COVID-19 on campus. It was almost laughable when we got a notice about how cleaning procedures had changed because of COVID-19. People were thinking, “Really? You’re taking cleaning seriously?” My campus was rather small and isolated, so the mindset was more of, the virus is “out there”. Although, when people went off-campus, they started taking more precautions. News travels fast on a small campus, so when I heard that someone who was sick sat at a certain place in the cafeteria, I was like, “I hope it’s not what I think it is!” I had been keeping up with news on COVID-19, but it just sounded like something that was heard on the news. The craziest news story for me was all the passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship getting infected with COVID-19.

Monday, March 9, 2020:

By now, the WHO had declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. I woke up to the news that the Diamond Princess cruise ship with all the infected passengers had docked in the Port of Oakland. That was not too far from my school! I felt panic on campus that day. Suddenly, the likelihood of getting COVID-19 had become real. It was like in the Two Towers when Faramir takes Frodo and Sam to Gondor. The Nazgul arrive and Frodo says, “They’re here.” Even though there were cases of COVID-19 in California already, the Diamond Princess cruise ship was our symbolic Patient Zero. The question on everyone’s minds now was, “what’s going to happen?”

I overheard someone say this about the person who decided to dock the ship in the Port of Oakland. “Why don’t they just admit they’re racist?” I have to agree with that statement. I saw a video from a dockworker who said that the cruise ship workers tried to evade hygiene protocols and I wasn’t surprised by that. Was there any other port they could have chosen that was not in a predominately POC area? I wish I knew that off the top of my head.

I should also mention that I had been trying for a long time to schedule wisdom tooth surgery. My insurance finally approved it and I was good to go for surgery in two days. Additionally, my parents convinced me to get the surgery ASAP because we didn’t know if I would get another chance. I spent the rest of the day getting ready for my impending surgery.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020:

I didn’t know this at the time, but this was the last day I saw my closest friends. Plus, it was my last full day on that campus before I graduated. I had lunch with three of my friends that day. Coronavirus was not far from our minds. We talked about our concerns if classes didn’t go online. The administration was certainly dragging its feet. Other local universities had already gone online. While we were eating lunch, we got an email from the administration. They weren’t going to move all the classes online. Only classes with 30 people or more would move online. We were appalled at the administration’s response! Their solution wasn’t going to do anything to stop the spread of the virus! The vast majority of my university classes were less than 30 people!

It was awkward thinking of how to say goodbye to my friends. I said, “I don’t know what’s going to happen and I don’t know if I will be coming back after my surgery, but take care!” Then, I hugged them for the last time. I went home that night because I had to be in surgery early the next morning. I took Lyft home because I was scared of possibly contracting COVID-19 on BART. My university wasn’t distributing masks, so I could only get a mask at home. Luckily, we already had a stash of KN95s. We had them for whenever a wildfire hit. It was a happy accident we had them for the pandemic too.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020:

My parents and I travelled to UCSF early in the morning for my surgery. We were on BART and there were a lot more people wearing masks. It was the first day my parents and I started wearing masks. While I was waiting for surgery, I got an email from my fellow students petitioning the administration to move classes online. I signed it while fuming because I couldn’t believe it had come to this.

My surgery went pretty smoothly, even though I didn’t have sedation. I was only getting my upper wisdom teeth out, so it didn’t take very long. The surgeon had to really dig to get my right tooth out. I felt like my head was going to split open afterwards.

We took Lyft home and I was cradling my head the whole way. We passed by the Port of Oakland and this silence fell over the car when we saw the Diamond Princess cruise ship. I managed to take a couple of photos of the ship so that I can honestly say that I was in California at the start of the pandemic when the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked. My Dad made a cross with his fingers at the ship. If I hadn’t been in pain, I would have said, “Dad. That only works in movies.”

We watched movies that night so I could distract myself from my head throbbing. I was living on painkillers at this point.

Thursday, March 12, 2020:

I rested all day thanks to my head still feeling like it was going to split open. I got an email from my uni administration saying that classes were going online. Apparently, there was going to be a shelter-in-place announcement for the state of California. I know putting classes online was the right thing to do, but I couldn’t stop crying.

The week before, I had ordered my hood and stole for Commencement. I received them now and I couldn’t look at them. My last year was cruelly snatched away and I had no idea if Commencement would take place. That moment when you’re in physical pain and then you get emotional pain from bad news on top of that is the worst!

I continued to have moments where I mourned this loss of my school experience. I savoured every moment at that beautiful campus and made some wonderful friends. Later on, we found out Commencement wouldn’t happen. I still don’t know if it will happen. The alums sent my class messages of encouragement and that was another waterworks moment.

Friday, March 13, 2020:

Friday the 13th. What else is new?

Did you know you can get a black eye from upper wisdom tooth removal? Yes, I got one. No surprises there! My head was still throbbing from the surgeon digging deeply around my right tooth. You should see the other guy!

I began to feel better about my classes going online. I got some nice messages from my professors. Classes were resuming on Tuesday. Monday was the day the faculty had to test run the tech they needed for their classes. Glad I got an extra day to recover! One of my professors sent a friendly class invite that said, “Join us for puppets and fun!”

California went on lockdown. We got a phone call outlining details of the shelter-in-place order. I can’t even begin to describe how eerie it felt. You think of shelter-in-place for times like WWII in London during the Blitz or for global thermonuclear war.

The Next Three Days:

My recovery went well. I didn’t get a follow-up appointment because UCSF locked down. At least I didn’t have any complications.

My parents and I began to prepare for the shelter-in-place order. And no, we didn’t buy out all the toilet paper in the store. This was our new life now. I was scared, but now I think that fear has been helpful. Neither I nor my parents have got COVID-19. It doesn’t hurt that my parents have science backgrounds and I studied Data Science. So here’s what I think when I hear about reopening too early.

Well, that’s the story of my last week before lockdown a year ago. What’s yours?

Finances: Part II- In Transition

Hey everyone! I just wanted to say before starting this post that I have had trouble with my self-hosted website system. So, thanks to those who have notified me about not being able to interact on my blog. I will be switching to a new host soon, so bear with me! Fingers crossed it works out this time!

This is a continuation of my posts on expat finances. I am learning a lot as I go, especially now that I’m an adult and have more financial responsibility than I did when I previously moved to another country. See my previous post Finances: Part I- The Basics for my first post on this subject. Now, without further ado, let’s bust these money taboos!

Previous Experiences:

I was really young with my first two international moves. However, when I was old enough, my parents told me stories of their money experiences while transitioning and adjusting to a new culture.

When I repatriated to the US, things were relatively easy for me. I didn’t have assets in the UK, so I decided to move all my money to the US. Additionally, the exchange rates were favourable between the US Dollar and the Pound Sterling at that time.Β 

Financially Transitioning to A New Country:

There is a common misconception that Third Culture Kids are wealthy because of their mobile lifestyle. Family wealth is not always a factor in being able to move overseas. There are a variety of factors that make a mobile lifestyle possible. Companies can pay expenses for transitioning overseas, and include other perks for expats, so that’s a big deal. Additionally, it depends on where you are moving and how you move. Believe me, moving across an ocean and most, or all of another country can really compound the costs of moving. Plus, everyone’s situation is different, and people handle money differently.

As an example, I had to cancel my cell phone number in England before I moved. So far, I have been able to keep my US number while living in Canada. I had to upgrade my cell phone plan to allow calls within Canada and also be able to call the US when I have needed to do so. My initial plan was to change to a Canadian cell phone number after a month. However, Canada has some of the most expensive cell phone plans of any country, and I still have to make calls to the US now and then. I decided to keep my US cell phone number for a little while until I feel more financially stable.

Open A Bank Account Before or After Moving?

That’s a critical decision. When I moved to the US, there was no urgent need for me to have money there, so I waited until after I moved to open a bank account. However, with moving to Canada during the pandemic, I knew that I would have to quarantine for two weeks and I needed to be sure I had a bank account there. My Mum decided to wait to open one until after we arrived.

I bank with HSBC, so I was able to set up a bank account in Canada to be ready for when I got there. I had to go through an application and setup process that took some time, but it was worth it. Plus, I was able to sort out any problems before I moved! On the other hand, I couldn’t get a debit card for the account until I had arrived in Canada. After quarantine, I had to go to my branch to sign a couple more papers, and then I could get a debit card.

We realized later that I had the right idea all along. Additionally, we learned that the finances with moving to another country never really end, and it’s too much for one person to bear. Mum decided to take on extra tasks with moving so that I would have more bandwidth to deal with the finances. The reason why the situation ultimately worked out was that my Mum and I communicate well.Β 

Striking A Balance:

When you’re in transition, it’s not a time to cut corners. If you need to pay for something, suck it up and do it! I’ve had to pay more for my US cell phone plan, but so what? It works here in Canada and that’s all I ask! Plus, in my Quarantine Diaries Week 1 and Week 2, I talked about my Mum and I not getting our mattresses from Overstock. I caved and ordered them from Amazon because we had been sleeping on the floor for NINE days! We needed mattresses so badly we didn’t care about buying them again. Overstock delivered the mattresses a month later.

At the same time, unimportant costs can add up. As I said in my Finances Part I post, you are one decision away from making a financial mistake. I learned over the years to save any potential discounts for a time when I might really need them. There is no better time to use discounts than doing an international move.Β 

Want to know how much it cost me and my Mum to fly from San Francisco to Calgary via Vancouver? Nothing. We saved our credit card points for a time we really needed them. Of course, I offset our carbon emissions, and I was happy to put a little money towards it. My attitude was, “Sorry Mother Earth! I know you’re hurting, but my Mum and I need to get out of a crappy situation! Here’s a little something for you to say thanks.”

What You Need to Get Settled:

Again, it depends on your personal circumstances. You need to decide how much furniture you need to get and whether you actually need it. If your place is already furnished, great!

Sometimes, you can’t know what you need until you actually get there. My Mum and I had to buy PROPER winter clothes when we arrived. When my Mum was talking about getting winter clothes in California, I said, “You don’t go to California to get winter clothes.” Get what I mean?

Additionally, you have to get used to what shops are around when you move to a new country. I had to ask a Canadian friend what the difference is between Canadian Tire and Home Depot. Plus, when I discovered Co-ops in Calgary, I felt like a kid in a candy store! It was the best Co-op I had ever seen! Your general daily expenses are not going to settle until you decide where you like to shop and for what.

A Note on Healthcare:

Getting used to a new country’s medical system is something you need to budget for! Different countries have different rules for when new immigrants qualify for healthcare. That is if they have a government healthcare system.

In the UK, it took about a year to qualify for healthcare. Although, from what I saw with my family and friends, they don’t give quality healthcare to new immigrants until they have paid taxes for a while. In the US, you have to pay ALL medical bills until you get insurance! You absolutely MUST read the fine print of what your insurance covers! Plus, medical costs there are sneaky! You learn a lot of soft skills to save money on healthcare costs. For example, I decided early on what hospital I would want to go to if I had an emergency. I was certain of their quality care, but they didn’t charge me any out-of-pocket costs for using their resources like a hospital gown, or soap. It pisses me off that hospitals charge unreasonable costs that your insurance doesn’t cover!

How I feel when I hear about being absurdly overcharged for out-of-pocket costs:

Canada has a law that you cannot enter without health insurance. Plus, you have to live there a minimum of six months and one day to qualify for their government healthcare. That system works well because it’s a good time to get acquainted with a healthcare system before you qualify for care.

There are Cultural Ways of Dealing with M0ney:

You CANNOT ignore this! Countries will have different ways of banking, managing and transferring money and you have to work with it. It can feel overwhelming at times.Β 

Before my Mum and I moved to Canada, we had to put a deposit on our new apartment. The landlord told us how to send the money, but at first, I didn’t understand the instructions. I thought it was a simple wire transfer and the instructions didn’t make sense. Google didn’t help too much when I tried to find “what does ______ mean??” I figured because my ISP was in the US, I couldn’t access it.Β 

Eventually, I figured out the banking feature I had to use was called Interac eTransfer. Even though I had my Canadian bank account, I hadn’t really explored the features since I was busy moving. Then, I suddenly had to do a rent deposit and I was FREAKING OUT!!!! Plus, it seemed counterintuitive to me that there is actually a banking feature that doesn’t charge you fees for using it?! What kind of a country IS this where they don’t charge you for every banking service you use?! After a failed attempt at the Interac eTransfer the first time, I was going to blow like a volcano! Finally, I found a page on HSBC Canada about Interac eTransfer that explained it.Β 

Mum said, “you’re going to love this service someday!” She was right. There was so much stress the first time, but now I love it! Now, I look back on this story and laugh. That story is another reason why I was glad to open a Canadian bank account before I moved there. I don’t know what I would have done about the deposit if I didn’t have a Canadian bank account!

Final Notes:

Bottom line: It takes a MINIMUM of a few grand per person to get settled in a new country. The more you move to a new country, the better you get at making financial decisions. Mistakes don’t completely go away, but you’re less likely to make a serious one if you go by past precedent.

Additionally, it was a lovely surprise to find the best French patisserie in Calgary. Whenever someone does something nice for me or my Mum we get a box of macarons. When you’re an expat, you need a lot of help, and it’s really touching when people come through for you. There’s no better reward than seeing their faces light up when we give them macarons. You’re probably asking, “You have money for that?” The answer, “Yes, I have money for that.” I’m new here, and I’m building connections. Sometimes, I have moved and really been thrown into the deep end because people weren’t willing to help. Canadians are among the most generous people I have had the pleasure of living with, and I have given out a lot of boxes of macarons to say thank you!

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with what I have to say about finances as an expat?

Crossing A Border? Here Are Some TCK Pro Tips!

Who has had a supremely pleasant experience crossing a border where the officers are kind, welcoming and let you in with no problems? No? Me neither. Let’s just say, there’s a reason comedians make fun of border patrol and airport security. I included my favourite comedy routines on the subject in this post to help lighten this heavy subject.

I grew up between two of the most hostile countries when it comes to border patrol and security. So, I got really good at dealing with it. My parents said France and Switzerland border patrol care the most about paperwork. As long as you have that in order, they are usually okay with you. That sounds mild compared to my passport countries. Okay, Napoleon, I don’t appreciate the paperwork headache, but as long as I don’t get a hard time at the border, thank you!

Whether you are crossing a border for travel or immigration purposes, it’s helpful to know how to deal with border patrol. I will include tips on dealing with airport security too. Border patrol and airport security is a content warning in its own right. However, I want to mention I will include some examples of stories that people may find disturbing.

Before You Leave:

Do any necessary paperwork. I know that doesn’t sound like fun, but it will save you an enormous headache later. Make sure your passport is still valid too. If it isn’t or if you have less than 6 months on it, renew it! Being born in Switzerland and living in France, it was my birthright to learn how to fill in paperwork properly. It was one of those cultural things my parents made sure to teach me. That served me well when I moved to England and I expect it will serve me well here in Canada too. I remember when I was old enough to do paperwork, and my Mum gave me practice forms to fill in. She made me practise… and practise… and PRACTISE until I was almost tearing my hair out.

My Mum was sympathetic but also strict about the fact that I needed to know this. She told me stories later about how she learned how to deal with paperwork in France/Switzerland. This was before the internet really took off too, so hey, I learned paperwork from a master!

This is why I love Roz’s character from Monsters Inc. Every scene with her makes paperwork and border patrol a little easier to handle.

It really helps to think of border patrol officers like Roz, or even like in Life is Beautiful, Guido and Joshua call the concentration camp guards, “Mean Guys Who Yell.”

One More Thing:

Check the laws, regulations and rights when you cross the border. I’m serious. Anyone can get stopped at the border and you have to be prepared in case it happens. Additionally, if you are arriving in a country that has questionable (or dare I say abusive in some cases) human rights practices, you have to be even more prepared. More on that later.

Check requirements for airport security and customs too. If you’re in doubt about taking something with you, either don’t take it or ask at security or customs if it’s allowed. I heard a story once about this elderly German guy who was flying into the USA. He brought baking soda with him to brush his teeth. He was detained for hours while security tested it. They came back and said, “it’s baking soda.” Um, they could have figured it out by pouring apple cider vinegar on it and creating a mini volcano!

Case in point: what happens when you take fruit across the US/Canada border.

Now that you’re prepared, here’s are my tips when you are going through security or crossing the border.

Golden Rule: Do NOT Use Humour!

Just DON’T! When I was younger, my Mum told me this story to remind me not to use humour. Groucho Marx said that he was a smuggler when he went through the border. They detained him even though they knew who he was. Plus, the previous video with Leland Klassen conveys that message of not using humour too.

One time, my Dad used humour with Border Patrol. We had just got permanent residence in the UK, and my Dad was arriving back in the UK after a trip to the US. He was having his papers checked at Border Patrol and they asked him how he got permanent residence. Side Note: One of our family discussions at the time was about this guy who gave Β£1,000,000 to the Labour Party to obtain UK citizenship.

Anyway, Border Patrol asked my Dad, “How did you get your permanent residence?”

He joked, “I gave Β£1,000,000 to the Labour Party!”

The woman questioning him looked blank and said, “Good for you.”

Okay, that worked out in the end. Still, I don’t advocate using humour. Border Patrol has NO sense of humour! They just get on with the job.

Honesty is the Best Policy:

If you are familiar with typical questions you are asked, I suggest you practice your answers if you have ANY uncertainty of what you are going to say! Border Patrol may try to throw you off with an atypical comment or question. It’s normal to freeze when that happens. I don’t have any right answer for when that happens. Just be kind to yourself, especially if you say something that you feel like you shouldn’t have said in retrospect. Frankly, I get panic attacks when that happens. Sometimes, I can come up with a good save in answer to an awkward question, but it takes practice. It didn’t happen overnight for me.

Here’s something people don’t often tell you. Sometimes, you have to tell the border officers which law(s) is/are applicable to your case. Border officers have to keep track of MANY different laws. I had a situation once where I had to tell the border officer the law that applied to me. Sometimes, you wonder if they really don’t know that law, and it’s true that it can be the case. Other times, it can likely be just needing to know all these different laws and it’s hard to recall them at the drop of a hat.

I’m glad Trevor Noah makes the situation lighter in this video.

If You Make A Mistake, Own It:

You might make a mistake in your paperwork or answer a question wrongly. In that case, admit the mistake. Don’t try to flatter the officers, like how Mike Wazowzki tries to flatter Roz. Yes, there will be consequences. I made a mistake once. I thought one regulation applied to me, but it turned out there was a new one. Because I was preparing to move I didn’t check for updates. It takes a while to go through those regulations, and it’s one of those things you only want to do once when you move.

Decide Which Information is Important to Share and Which Isn’t:

To be clear, I’m NOT saying you should hide information! Far from it! What I am saying is you should prioritize what information you should share. When I got dual nationality, I learned that I have to decide on a case by case basis whether I should disclose it. I don’t say I’m a dual citizen if I am entering one of my passport countries. They don’t need to know that. They just need to see my passport. I disclosed my dual nationality to Canadian immigration when I moved. When you look at immigration forms, they ask if you’re a dual citizen. Canada’s the first country I have seen who does this! That makes me very happy that they are recognizing that a lot of people are dual citizens.

When I repatriated to the US, my Dad sat me down and had a serious talk with me about being careful who I tell that I’m a dual citizen when I’m in the US. Basically, if anyone asks me if I’m a US citizen while on US soil, I have to say yes. You’re considered a security risk if you’re a dual citizen in the US. Honestly, I find that completely disgusting and backwards! There are more TCKs in the world than ever before because of globalization and more people are getting dual nationality than before! Frankly, the US and other countries need to catch up!

Know Your Rights:

This is where it can really get ugly. Your rights can still be violated if you’re a citizen of a country that you are entering. My uncle re-entered the US after a trip to a country in South America that the US deemed a security risk. They threatened to do something that would have violated his rights as a US citizen. He said, “I’m a US citizen. You can’t do this to me!” It worked because my uncle knew his rights. If you don’t know your rights, it’s easier for border patrol to exploit you!

Here are two more tips I have. First, check if you can ask to speak to a lawyer at no extra cost to you before you leave. Certain countries are legally required to provide you with a lawyer at no extra cost upon request. Check if that applies to the country you’re entering. I only recently learned about this. I had problems entering Canada. My Dad said, later on, I should have asked to speak to a lawyer. Glad I know that for future reference!

My second tip is to find out their discrimination laws. If you can find a reason why they can’t discriminate against you, use it!

Other Stories:

After 9/11, border patrol and airport security in the US got even scarier. I vowed to myself that I would visit there as little as possible. This wasn’t something that would calm down after a few years either. There were a lot of personal stories going around of US border patrol and airport security being more abusive overall. Things only got slightly better because of people complaining about their experiences.

I have heard of UK citizens being stopped at the border if they are naturalized citizens and questioned about the legitimacy of their citizenship. That’s one reason why I am leery about entering the UK again. Additionally, I have heard stories of Canadians who are Muslim being stopped at the US border because of Trump’s Islamaphobic travel bans!

Take Care of Yourself Afterwards:

I’m serious. In my post, Flying Internationally and Locally During COVID-19, I describe how I was feeling after going through Border Control. My Mum and I had to make our flight to Calgary right after that! Adrenaline was pumping SO hard then! I thought I was either going to throw up or pass out! I had to use the flight to Calgary to recover from that ordeal. The airplane views were beautiful, so I watched out the window.

If I hadn’t had to catch a plane, I would have taken care of myself. First, I would have gone into the bathroom to come down from the massive panic attack I was having. Then, I would have drunk a lot of water and maybe had some food once I felt better.

My point is that your body is going to respond to the stress of going through border patrol. It’s important to do whatever you need to do to manage it.

Laugh About It:

At some point, I can’t take what happens too seriously. I also remember that these border officers are people too and sometimes, you can see their human side. Then, it’s almost comical when something is way too easy. Listen to this last comedy routine to find out why!

What do you think of my tips and stories? Do you agree? Disagree? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments!