More on Divided Loyalties

Hey everyone! After I wrote my post on Enjoying Sports as A TCK, I felt it was important to expand more into the topic of divided loyalties. There are a lot of incorrect ideas floating around, and I wish to set the record straight. There are so many famous quotes about how division is bad, so it’s no surprise that we automatically think that something divided is bad. I’m sharing a quote from Abraham Lincoln. It has merit, but here’s why it shouldn’t be taken at face value.

A Little More About the Olympics and Divided Loyalties:

I have seen athletes compete in the Olympics who are originally from one country and end up on another national team. I respect that there are residency and training requirements for being on a national team. The nicest thing though is that there isn’t a lot of media fervour over whether immigrant athletes are loyal to their new national team. If there is, I just ignore it because it’s just hype. I feel sorry for the athletes that are subjected to that though.

The Tokyo Olympics were unique this year. I saw a lot more athletes who used to live in one country and then moved to another and ended up competing on their national team. I got to admit, some athletes’ backgrounds made me think, “Yep! TCK!” One cool thing too was there was a refugee team. One of my friends said that there might be a TCK team someday, and you know what? I believe it! Honestly, when it comes to sporting events, divided loyalties can be fun! I wish it was more accepted in general, though. Another funny thing I noticed is whenever I saw the sign “Tokyo 2020”, my mind kept thinking, “Did it just say TCK yo?”

On a More Serious Note:

TCKs can be judged harshly by monocultural people because they have divided loyalties. There is a common misconception that having TCKs in the military or government, or even business that they can compromise who they represent. In reality, when TCKs act as representatives of a country, they do an even better job because they know how to practice effective intercultural communication. If they know the cultural norms of a country they have to communicate with, even better. Even if they don’t know the cultural norms, they have ways of finding these things out because they have their own little international network.

Additionally, you become a TCK because of the institution your parents belong to. That can include military, missionary, diplomat, corporate or anything else. I might not have said this before, but I’m an academic brat turned corporate brat. Generally, TCKs are against whatever institution their parents were a part of. If they do follow their parents, it’s not without giving it significant thought. I am very anti-corporate BECAUSE WE GOT SCREWED!! I went to university rather late after giving it significant thought. Nailed it!

The Reality:

When TCKs choose to represent a certain culture, they are committed to doing right by that culture. They have thought through the pros and cons. There are certain institutions that demand complete loyalty, like the military. For me, it’s natural to shy away from institutions that demand complete loyalty. I still respect TCKs who can get their minds around being in an institution that demands complete loyalty.

It’s commonly overlooked that TCKs learned from an early age that they are representatives of whatever country they came from. Some of that representation has been imposed by their parents’ institution, and some of that is simply awareness that when you’re overseas, you’re a representative. Learning how to be a representative on a daily basis doesn’t just go away as you get older.

Whenever I have wanted to apply for a job that has a specific cultural twist, my mother always warned me that I might not get it because I’m multicultural and they might doubt my loyalty. At first, I thought she was creating a prejudice that wasn’t there. As it turned out, she was right. This is yet another reason why I’m starting my own business.

A Real-life Example of TCKs Getting Crap:

Unless you’re in the international scene, you probably don’t know that Barack Obama is a TCK. Yep, look at his bio. Kamala Harris is a TCK too. I remember when Obama was running for President, and even though I didn’t know the term TCK at the time, I said, “Finally! Someone I can relate to!” Then, Donald Trump started the Birther Movement and that was insulting to TCKs around the world. That made me question if I could ever go back to the US again. It’s yet another example of TCKs getting crap for their multicultural experience. I had heard mainstream US media and Americans, in general, were trying to put Obama in boxes which he clearly didn’t fit. You can’t put a TCK in a box.

There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that Obama was NOT a security risk! If anything, I found his abilities to relate to leaders from other countries and to connect to people second to none! He’s an incredible role model for all TCKs.

I saw a similar trend in media when Kamala Harris was announced as Biden’s running mate. Of course, since she wasn’t running for president, it was on a lower level. I don’t particularly like Kamala Harris, but I do feel sorry for her on the crap she gets in the media. It’s like, can we move on already? I do think that Obama and Harris are very different people though, but I think I will save my thoughts on that for another post.

I can hear people saying they could never have a TCK in politics. Meryl Streep’s lines are my responses.

If you want to live in a globalized world, those choices are necessary.

And then, I Found a Surprise:

I moved to Canada and found out many Members of Parliament are either multicultural or have dual nationality. Elizabeth May, former leader of the Green Party used to have US citizenship. Additionally, Andrew Scheer, former leader of the Conservative Party has dual Canadian and US citizenship. So, if he had become Prime Minister *GASPS!! We would have had a PM who had dual nationality!

I bet Canadians were looking at the Birther Movement and laughing because if we did that, we would never report on any news because of so many MPs to cover! When the US was like, “Obama wasn’t born in the US! ARGH!!” and I bet Canadians were like, “We don’t give a flying fuck!” Am I right, my fellow Canuks? To be clear, I don’t know if this was true, but I had to inject a little humour here.

Divided Loyalties are More Common than You Think:

I have met people who have fought during WWII and I love their stories. Here’s my one wish though. I wish that I had met a WWII veteran who was German-American or Japanese-American. American soldiers of German or Japanese heritage had divided loyalties too. The Japanese-American unit became the most decorated unit in the American military. However, the soldiers didn’t normally share with their loved ones that they were decorated. Back then, you didn’t talk about how you felt torn with divided loyalties. You just zipped your lip and did your duty.

Sometimes, divided loyalties can be very painful for TCKs and we don’t like to talk about it either. It’s amazing to meet others who can relate to divided loyalties. I feel the bottom line is no one can tell you how much to love a country and what parts to love. You have to figure it out for yourself, and most importantly, not judge others for not loving the same things you love. There are so many diverse and kinetic elements of culture that you can find what you like. Heck, I know monocultural people who never leave a country to like different things about their country and they get along just fine! Why should it be different for multicultural people?

What do you think about what I said? Let me know in the comments! Until next time.

Eighth Month Theme: Blogversary, Second Shot, and News

Before I start this post, I wanted to say that it’s officially my blogversary! Yes, my blog is one year old and I have 100 followers too! I keep thinking back to a year ago when I was preparing to move to Canada. It was at that time that I was discovering what it means to be a Third Culture Kid. This move has been a journey of self-discovery for me and I feel doing a blog has really helped with that. I’m not kidding, there is very little stuff out there that talks about being a TCK. Okay, I have to ask, and please be honest, how many of you knew what a TCK was before you read my blog? If you didn’t know what that was, how much do you think you have learned from reading my blog?

Anyway, I wanted to talk about what my experience was with my second COVID-19 shot. Plus I have an update on the virus situation in Calgary. I haven’t been up to posting as much because of my health. I am getting ANOTHER dental procedure soon and I am SO done with this! This dental procedure will mark my TENTH appointment at a dentist’s office for this past year. I know a lot of people who have postponed their dental appointments this past year or so because of the pandemic. I can honestly say there was nothing to worry about. They are super careful at dentist’s offices because they know patients can’t do masks and social distancing while in the appointment.

Second Shot Logistics:

If you didn’t read my post about my first shot, here it is. Due to supply issues, Canada was prioritizing first shots over second shots, and extending the time between the doses. I wasn’t expecting to get my second shot for 3-4 months. At first, I was concerned about the time frame. Thankfully, my Dad is a scientist, so he knows how to read and interpret scientific studies and can cut through the crap. After I consulted my Dad, he said it’s okay to extend the time between doses. I did research too and agreed with that too. He taught me well!

On June 1st, Alberta opened up second doses to anyone who had their first shot in March. It was in March when the province announced they were stopping second doses, and my Mum got her first dose right of AstraZeneca right after that. At the time, I had to wait until June 14th to book my shot. Canada had just announced that you can mix and match shots, so my Mum decided to get an mRNA shot for her second dose. She got Pfizer at the TELUS Convention Centre.

A Word About Healthcare Here:

I got a surprise right after that. My periodontist’s receptionist contacted me because the local pharmacy had got a supply of Pfizer shots. She wanted to know if Mum and I were interested in getting an appointment. Here’s where it got awkward. When I gave her our information to pass onto the pharmacy, she asked for our Alberta Health numbers. I told her we have temporary ones because we haven’t qualified for healthcare yet. Even though we have temporary healthcare numbers, we couldn’t get the shot through the pharmacy. Our only option to get the shot was booking through the Alberta Health system. We were really bummed out. Still, it was super kind of my periodontist’s receptionist to try and help us.

I have certainly found some things can be awkward when you haven’t qualified for healthcare yet. We’re in a weird situation in terms of qualifying for healthcare. Even though we have lived here for over 6 months (which is one requirement), we’re still on visitor’s status. The other requirement is to have certain work visas to qualify for healthcare. Okay, I completely understand why Canada has the 6-month residency requirement. A lot of Americans travel to Canada to get cheaper healthcare and/or prescriptions, so of course, Canada’s going to have a residency requirement for healthcare. At least I haven’t heard any propaganda here that immigrants are bankrupting healthcare as I have heard in other countries where I have resided. Healthcare eligibility requirements for immigrants aren’t perfect in a lot of countries, and that needs to be changed.

My Mum’s Experience:

When my Mum got AstraZeneca, she didn’t feel any side effects at all. Adding the Pfizer shot 8 weeks later was a different story. I had heard of the second shot causing a lot of fatigue, but my Mum slept for 21 hours with a few breaks in between! I was able to talk her through the other side effects because I had already had one dose of Pfizer. It took her a few days to feel normal again, but she has been keeping up on sleeping.

I wrote my post about the first Pfizer shot very shortly after getting the shot, so I didn’t include the fact that something happened to me four days after the shot. I don’t want to say what it is, but I do want to say that I couldn’t ignore it. Seeing my Mum go through the side effects reminded me of what happened to me. I realized I needed help with getting the second shot. I’m not kidding, I was THIS close to saying no to the second shot!

I went to my doctor about my concerns and he assessed whether it was too risky for me to get the second shot. In the end, he said it was minimal risk, so I was happy about that. When I was studying econometrics, I learned about this study a university did on their students to assess how to boost vaccination rates. The study compared a group who were given leaflets about vaccinations versus a group that got a vaccine consult. They found the vaccine consult group had a much higher vaccination rate. Seriously, if I was in charge, I would incentivize doctors’ offices to prioritize vaccine consults for patients. There is no shame in needing a consult.

So I Booked My Shot:

Alberta opened vaccinations to people who got their shot in April four days earlier than they originally said. I booked mine as soon as possible because the first shot rate was pushing 70%. Once the vaccination rate reached 70%, it would start a two-week countdown to full reopening in Alberta. My goal was to be fully vaxxed (antibodies kicked in and everything) by the time reopening happened. I went to the TELUS Convention Centre for my shot again. I thought I was going to have to wait in line for an hour like I did last time. Appointments for second shots were increasing like crazy, but it didn’t affect waiting in line at the TELUS Convention Centre. My Mum wasn’t allowed to come in with me, for some reason. It probably depends on who is the security guard at the door.

Waiting in line to book my shot

I had the best nurse that I could have asked for with this shot! I was honest with her about the problems I had with the first shot, so she did the shot in a private area in the clinic. Lying down while getting the shot was a new experience. I highly recommend it! The nurse stayed with me for the 15 minute period after the shot as well. When I said Canada is the fifth country I have lived in, she said, “I’m curious now! Where have you lived?” I gave her the long version of my TCK story. She had some cool stories too. She had been travelling around to different vaccine clinics in Alberta and told me about a bear in the clinic parking lot in Banff.

Side Effect Time!:

I was feeling happy after my shot. I’m glad that even though the TELUS Convention Centre is a mass vaccination site, they take care of patients who have problems with the shot. After an hour though, I started to feel it. I went home and slept it off. Before I got my shot, I took two ibuprofen. It helped immensely because the nausea wasn’t so bad and it stopped my arm from hurting so much. I have never had a shot hurt my arm more than the Pfizer shot. The other side effects lingered for about 36-48 hours, but the fatigue stayed. At first, I thought I was okay, and then I had to SLEEP! It took me NINE days to feel normal again!

I have a theory why the fatigue lingered though. I have had a major viral infection before, as well as a major bacterial infection. When I was at university, I got hand foot and mouth disease at the time when outbreaks were happening on university campuses. Plus, I have had appendicitis. Both those things took a LONG time to recover from! I get impatient when I’m sick and when I got impatient with the above health issues, I physically crashed. I’m pretty sure my body remembers that, so it was telling me to sleep off this shot. Am I glad I got the shot? Yes! Am I ecstatic that I got through a pandemic without getting sick? I can’t even describe it!! Am I enjoying the amazing wifi thanks to the 5G implant from the shot? Heck yeah! You know I just trolled a conspiracy theorist there right?

A Reflective Time:

Now that I’m fully vaxxed, I have been reflecting a lot on what I want to keep from the pandemic and what I want to reject. On June 18, Alberta announced that it hit the 70% first dose rate, and it’s now in the two-week countdown to reopening. The announcement went like this:

I wish that had actually happened though!

How do I feel about that? Well, cautiously optimistic. The Calgary Stampede is happening as scheduled from July 9-18 and who knows if the vaccination rate will be enough? The Delta variant has already hit Calgary. As far as I know, it’s under control, and cases are still going down. Even so, experts are saying it’s too early to have the Stampede. One singer who used to be a pediatric nurse said he won’t perform at the Stampede until it’s safe.

What’s the best thing about being fully vaxxed? I can now explore Calgary more! In fact, I am doing a challenge. My idea for this challenge came from a talk about how Calgary was designed for walking. Parks and green spaces are a point of pride here. When I looked at the city of Calgary website, it said there were 73 parks in Calgary. So, my challenge is to see a new park every 7-10 days. I am going to randomly select (when possible) where to go next and once I have done the walk, I will do a post about it. I just went to a new park and I will be posting about it soon! Watch this space!

Cultural Adjustment Update:

Remember how I said in my post about my seventh month that I was going through the phase where I don’t like my new country? Well, it went on for about two months. I did what I could to help myself through it and gave myself space to think through things. Even so, there was only so much I could do. So, I was waiting for a moment that would let me know that things would be okay here. I kept waiting and trying to be patient. Then, when I helped those goose parents reunite with their goslings after they were stuck, I realized that was the moment that made everything okay.

The bench where the geese were

Additionally, I saw this comedy routine from comedian Darryl Lenox that really hit home for me. As someone moving from the USA to Canada, there were some things that were just so real! I can’t find the routine on YouTube though, so I have to tell you what it said that was so relatable.

Darryl Lenox was talking about how he learned this calmness that Canadians have. He saw this news story in Winnipeg about this young guy who was raising dangerous snakes. One day, a snake went down his plumbing and ended up in the toilet of this guy who was about 65 or 70 years old. The reporter asked the older guy what he did when he saw the dangerous snake and the guy replied, “Close the lid”. Darryl Lenox talked about how that phrase became a metaphor. Sometimes you just have to close the lid. He also did a story about how things would have been completely different in the Bible Belt of the southern USA.

What I Learned:

I keep watching that comedy routine whenever I need it, but even before I saw it, I started closing the lid. I don’t engage with trolls or any insulting or spamming comments on my blog or my IG page anymore. You want to unfollow me? Bye! I’m just going to close the lid. I got to the point I can’t live in this state of constant anxiety anymore and I had to detox from that as well.

Darryl Lennox describes how this NFL player got hammered drunk at a Kenney Chesney concert and started a racist rant. He said thanks to his new prairie found calm, he was able to think through how he felt about it more clearly.

Even though there are tough things going on in the world, sometimes the prairie calm is the best thing to do. The important thing to ask is, “At what point do you just close the lid?”

Latest News from Canada:

Before I proceed, here’s a heads up. I am going to talk about finding these mass, unmarked graves of Indigenous children from residential schools. So, don’t feel like you have to read about that if you don’t want to. That’s a content warning in its own right. Additionally, please keep comments respectful on this subject. We’re talking child victims of cultural genocide who died of grievous abuse here.

Last month, a mass, unmarked grave of 215 Indigenous children was discovered near a former residential school in Kamloops, BC. Since then a few more mass, unmarked graves have been found. The latest one was in Saskatchewan of 751 children, which brought the total to 1,323. After the Kamloops discovery, there were vigils around the country and flags were lowered to half-mast. Plus, there were lots of other calls to action.

There was a vigil site outside Calgary City Hall. My Mum and I went there to pay our respects. We agreed when we were there we would do a two-minute silence as we do on November 11 at 11 am. There were poems, signs and 215 pairs of children’s shoes. The report said the kids in the Kamloops grave were between 2 and 15 years old, and the shoes fitted that typical age range too. I thought the shoes were a good touch. When you looked at the shoes, you get an image in your head of children running, jumping or moving around like kids do. It was like seeing the ghosts of children who never met family members in their community and parents that never got to see their children doing kiddy things. I didn’t take any photos of the vigil site out of respect for the situation.

A Seismic Cultural Shift:

I have experienced enough cultures to know that Canada is in the middle of a seismic cultural shift here. Usually, cultural shifts happen gradually, but sometimes, they can happen like a volcanic eruption. The eruptions happen because the country has been suppressing something for too long. Ergo, when it explodes, it EXPLODES! This is like Krakatoa here.

Last I heard, the International Criminal Court has taken a case to investigate Canada and the Catholic Church for cultural genocide of Indigenous people. I guess we’ll find out soon how this will go. Additionally, Canada Day is coming up on July 1st. A lot of areas have cancelled their celebrations out of respect for this time of mourning among First Nations. Other people are planning a day of reflection out of respect, and that’s what my Mum and I are doing too. There is a certain amount of resistance to cancelling or changing Canada Day celebrations. At first, I didn’t know what to think because this is my first Canada Day and I am still learning the norms, but the culture is changing, so I decided to roll with it. It’s not the first time I have had to adapt to something like this.

Thanks for reading and remember to close the lid!

Seventh Month Theme: Mishmash

Hey everyone, didn’t know how to title this theme even though I gave it a lot of thought. It’s really been a mishmash!

Health is A Factor:

A week after I got my COVID-19 shot, I had gum graft surgery. Fortunately, the pain was FAR less than it was the first time I got it and I recovered faster! I have been super happy with the healthcare I have received in Calgary so far, and this was no exception. At least during my recovery, I was able to let my immunity develop after getting the shot without having to worry about going outside.How do I feel now that I got my first shot? Weird. There is a certain mental block I have after getting it. When the pandemic started, I got the attitude, “I’m not f***ing around with that s**t!” and I would overthink following COVID protocols. Now, even though I do still follow them, I don’t worry if I make a mistake. Even the best of us screw up sometimes, but the shot gives me peace of mind that I didn’t have before when I screwed up. Also, I read this New York Times article about languishing. Wow! Nailed it! There are lots of things I want to do, but I guess I have been locked down too long. I’ll get past it though.It doesn’t help that cases have been exploding in Alberta. I was recovering from surgery when new restrictions came in. My reaction was, “Fine with me! I’m home anyway!” I’m glad that vaccine eligibility has been expanded. Still, if you need tips, feel free to read my post about getting my shot!

Travel Update:

Thank you to everyone who gave me some travel recommendations last month! Word is that the Calgary Stampede is going to happen. Considering the current COVID-19 situation, it’s like “Oh no!” The plan is to definitely get out of dodge. I know how international events can take over cities. I was in London when the 2012 Olympics happened and there wasn’t a pandemic on top of it. Plus, there might be trouble if there are restrictions on the event because of COVID-19, so I feel it’s best to step away this year.So far, I am in the planning stage of a trip, and I don’t think anything will be finalized for a while. Restrictions keep changing all the time. At least I will be able to travel a bit (safely, of course) and hopefully, be able to see my Dad! Hopefully, next year will mean better times, and I will be able to see what the fuss is about with the Stampede.

More On Cultural Adjustment:

Normally, after the honeymoon period, there is a phase where you don’t like your new home. I found out I was going through that this past month. It’s one of those things I haven’t mentioned before in the past for various reasons, but I am breaking this cycle. There are many misconceptions about this phase, so let me clear some things up.

  1. As a general rule, this phase is really nothing personal against a new country. On the other hand, after this phase, if you STILL don’t like your new home, there is something more going on than meets the eye.
  2. You can tell when you’re going through the phase if your feelings are going to be temporary or permanent.
  3. This phase is completely normal! A country can be absolutely perfect for you and it will still happen!
  4. When you are feeling bad about your new home, it’s not necessarily what people say or do, or things going on in the country. Anything can set this off. Of course, things like the pandemic don’t necessarily help.
  5. You can get it with reverse culture shock too.
  6. A certain amount of homesickness contributes to it.

Case in point

I know I am going to get past this, and once I do, I am going to love Canada more! I saw the movie, Brooklyn recently. It’s so real about moving to a new country! My Irish side was saying, “I’m not crying! You’re crying!”

Some Other Cool Cultural Things:

Note the featured photo on my post. I find it touching how people are still saying “Welcome to Canada!” to me even after several months. I have also learned more about foods in Canada after watching the Great Canadian Baking Show. Despite my current phase of cultural adjustment, I am still trying to find hidden cultural gems!Funny story, I was with my Mum in Uber once and the driver asked us, “So where are you ladies from?” I don’t know if I have said this before, but TCKs have a weird relationship with that question. We can tend to dread being asked that. The general advice is to have a short version answer, a medium version answer, and a long version answer. What I tend to do is start with my short answer and if I get a good response, expand on my medium or long answer. I vary it depending on how people respond to me.This time, I gave my long response. My long response includes that I moved to Canada because the situation was getting pretty desperate in the USA. The Uber driver was very direct with how he felt about the USA and I took it. I said I completely agreed, but also added, “Having lived in other countries, I do understand those sentiments, and it’s okay with me.” I can’t believe I had never said anything like that before, but then again in England, there was a lot about American culture I didn’t know because of growing up there. Although I had some variation on that phrase, it fell flat.I think now that I have actually seen how American culture is after being away for so long, I can imply that it’s okay to say how you feel about the USA to me. I can also implicitly slide in the warning, “Don’t treat all Americans this way!”

Canadian Country Music In Time for Summer:

I stumbled on the following song and had to look it up!

How perfect that summer is coming and found the song. Killed the replay button! I’m starting to learn more about Canadian country music (hey, I’m in Calgary)! Is it different from American country music? That’s a big yes! I am listening to Dean Brody as I write this post. I like his song Canadian Girls as well. One of my biggest hopes is that I will see Dean Brody perform (hopefully at the Calgary Stampede)!

Spring!!

I can’t get enough green things now!! I have waited 7 months for blossoms to appear! Lately, I have gone crazy with the camera photographing flowers, baby bunnies, goslings, and other signs of spring!

I saw a bobcat!

I want to take the black bunny home!

Right now, Victoria Day weekend is about to happen, and the weather has turned. It’s now what I call snailing: a mixture of snow, rain, and hail. Only hardcore campers go camping this weekend. This is apparently the last gasp of winter and then June 1st is a whole different story!To my fellow Canadians, have a nice Victoria Day weekend!

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?

Second Month Theme: Hot Mess and Confusion

After the euphoria of the first month wore off, some things went upside down for a while. Here’s what really stood out:

Meltdown:

Even if everything went perfectly with the move, I still would have had a meltdown eventually. It happened when I moved before and I know different things have the potential to set it off. For me personally, it’s normal for me to have a meltdown after a month or so in a new country. I can’t speak for other expats though. I think there should be more transparency about the are ups and downs in the process because immigrants aren’t robots.

My first post-international move meltdown was two months after moving to England. I was in school and I hated it because I was being bullied for my accent. I didn’t expect to have a meltdown after repatriating to the USA because it was my home country and I wasn’t expecting to go through culture shock. Soon after I wrote my post about the theme for my first month here in Canada, I had a meltdown.

The thing that set me off was: a toxic American. It hit me that Trump has brought out the absolute worst of Americans. It takes different forms, but the fact of the matter is, it’s been traumatizing dealing with it for the past four years. I got to the point it’s been hard to distinguish rhyme from reason. I have lost friends who I initially thought were good people, but then it was like they had turned bad almost overnight. People aren’t who they say they are. That’s what you get when you’re part of an entire culture of people who are hurting for one reason or another.

I’m not saying I’m perfect though. I have lashed out too. Generally, I like to be low-key and get on with life. However, it doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes. I have forgiven the people who have hurt me though, and even though I wish I could be forgiven for my mistakes, I have accepted it might not happen.

It hurts me to see a country I used to love imploding. I asked my Mum, “Why does this hurt so much??” And she said, “Because you care.” I never thought of that before. Even so, I’m not going to put myself in a situation where I have to deal with toxic Americans. I have put up my own personal boundaries and I. AM. DONE.

The most important thing I can do when I’m having one of those meltdowns is to listen to what my intuition is trying to tell me. For example, when I was in England, my intuition was saying to me, “I don’t want to stay here forever.” When I repatriated to the US, my intuition said to me, “Maybe this was a bad idea.” Now, when I had a meltdown, my intuition said to me, “I CANNOT go back to the USA! I just can’t!” And get this, my intuition has ultimately been right. I didn’t stay in England forever. It was a bad idea to repatriate. And now, I have been thinking about what I can do so that I don’t have to return to the USA. While I was going through the meltdown, I didn’t have the room in my feelings to say that I love Canada. Once I felt better, I was able to express the fact that I genuinely love it here and I’m going to do everything I possibly can to stay!

I was also incredibly lonely. It’s not like I can go out and meet people because of the pandemic like I used to before. I missed my friends and just being around people.

Getting Settled:

I’m going to be real with you. It takes a MINIMUM of two months to get settled in a new country! I kid you not, it took almost a year to feel settled when I repatriated to the US. Of course, there is more to getting settled in a new country than meets the eye.

Getting settled goes faster if everyone involved pitches in and helps. If you have a job or have to study, it goes slower. Even though getting physically settled makes a difference in how you feel settled mentally, there is a mental side to adjusting to a new country that takes a lot longer.

I have been taking advantage of counselling services this time while I’m in transition. I have never done that before, but I knew I had to this time. Since I’m new to Canada, I am still trying to figure out what services to find and where. I was able to find crisis counselling where you get six free sessions. My counsellor has told me how I can find expat resources and other important information that citizens use too.

When you’re getting settled in a new country, there is a considerable amount of running around and doing chores. During our mandatory quarantine, we had to buy everything we needed online which was less tiring but also had its disadvantages. Once we got out of quarantine, we were going outside almost every day. We were feeling under pressure to get things done because we had no idea how COVID restrictions were going to change. Even the days we’re at home, there are still a lot of chores to do online.

My Mum and I have been efficient at getting chores done, but we also realized we burned ourselves out. We’re deliberately going to have a low-key, quiet Christmas and make a point of taking a break for a while. COVID restrictions have tightened in Alberta anyway, so we think it’s best to lie low for a while.

Additionally, I have had some issues going independent on my blog, so I’m going to take some time to improve it when I’m laying low. I’m hoping I can do some posts and also work on the book I hope to publish in a year! We’ll see though. I need to do some improvments.

COVID-19:

Speaking of COVID, if the pandemic situation in Calgary was as bad as California, it would have taken a lot longer to get settled. Since starting my pain treatment, I have had to go out a lot more, and my treatment plan has been switched up so I am seeing more healthcare providers. I don’t worry about COVID when getting treatment. It’s just that usually we stop at stores to get whatever we need. Although, I am happy that I will be getting a bit of a break for treatment soon. In some ways, these restrictions are going to affect my treatment, but I’m okay with that.

Since the end of our quarantine, my Mum and I have had a couple of scares where we thought we might have been exposed. My biggest scare happened when I went to the post office. The guy at the desk said he didn’t normally work at that branch. He had been called in because a couple of days before, the post office had to close because one of the regular staff had contracted COVID. I was glad I had my KN95 mask on. When I left, I went to the nearby mall and practically washed the skin off my hands!

Now, we’re prioritizing our outdoor chores more carefully. We decide if we both need to do them and we spread out the time between them.

I will say this about dealing with the pandemic in California. My family had some emergency N95/KN95 masks on hand long before the pandemic because we’ve been getting once-in-a-generation wildfires every year! Who wants to breathe that crap from the fires or contract the virus? Not me!Β 

I have noticed my bandwidth has been a lot lower overall from getting settled. Someone hacked one of my social media accounts because I didn’t spot the warning signs. Normally, I don’t fall for scams, but I guess this was a clue to how vulnerable I was. I found myself checking the weather forecast a lot during this time because I kept thinking, “Where’s the snow? I need something beautiful!”

Last week, we had a chinook that broke an 81-year-old temperature record! Did I bring California winter with me?

And then we finally got a bit of snow! For me, that’s a better end to a rough month! Will there be a White Calgarian Christmas? Watch this space!

First Month Theme: Is This A Thing?

Calgary Quarantine Diaries: Week 1

Calgary Quarantine Diaries: Week 2

Self-Care