I am writing this blogpost from my temporary apartment in the middle of Vancouver (Canada) to celebrate my first 6 months as a Lebanese expatriate.
Yes! Celebrate. Why? Because it wasn’t exactly easy. And that’s why I decided to share my experience (before, moving, and after) in this post as a celebration and a motivation to everyone who decides to leave his country and build his life somewhere else.
Before going into details, you can follow my journey on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) by following #Cee2C (Pre-move) and #1YearCee (First year events and progress).
BEFORE NOVEMBER 13TH 2015
The decision to leave the country is usually pretty simple for any Lebanese (or middle eastern) who dreams to live, not just survive. But the execution is never that simple. It’s bigger than getting married and certainly bigger than planning a child. So, here’s a very shortened list of the things you need to consider when choosing where to move to:
- Economic status: we all know Europe is technically bankrupt.
- Distance: How far are you ready/want/interested to go? Europe is just around the corner, but the world is way more interesting.
- Permanent? If you’re not thinking for long term, skip this. Permanent means for more than 15 years. Are you ready for that kind of commitment? If yes, where do you think is best for you?
- Budget Budget Budget: If the official papers ask you for a certain amount of funds, double it, if not triple. You never know what kind of surprises you’ll get once you land.
D-DAY: NOVEMBER 13TH 2015
- I got my visa/Permanent Residence to Canada some time in September 2015, but I chose to leave a month and a half later for simple reasons:
Calculated and planned arrival: I always like to plan things way ahead. In this case, it was a plan for 4 months after landing.
- Packing: you’re always going to forget something, so don’t over think it. Pack what you can’t live without and get the rest from your new home.
- Don’t panic! I know it’s a big move and I know the feeling (Been there, done that), but take it easy and enjoy every second of it. Especially the trip from Lebanon to wherever you’re going! In my case, it was a 5h flight to London, 4 hours of layover in Heathrow Airport, then an almost 11h flight to Vancouver. And I loved every second of it. (Thank you for not losing my luggage dear MEA/Air Canada).
- The next item on the list is a no-brainer to any Lebanese (but some people will think it’s outrageous): DO NOT TAKE A LONG FLIGHT ON MEA. They are simply NEVER on time.
- Goodbyes? It’s never easy! But believe me, Skype, WhatsApp and every single other thing helps. After some time, it becomes a routine thing to not see that someone on Tuesday and change your daily routine to something/someone else.
AFTER NOVEMBER 13TH 2015
DO NOT BE AFRAID ON THE UNKNOWN
Your friends will forget you, you will miss some things (food, some traditions and details, language, Haifa Wehbe), but some things will make it up!
Labneh sandwich in Tacos bread with Brazilian lettuce. Because #Canada.
— Cee يغرد (@CeeTalks) April 27, 2016
Do not be afraid to ask for help, gain new friends, go alone and discover your new home. I won’t lie and say it wasn’t hard, especially in the first 2 months, but determination and planning can make anything happen. Make a list of what you have to achieve in your first week, first month, first year. (I thank the existence of Wunderlist for that).
Cultural shock? Yes, there’s that, but if you’re like me and trained yourself to have very low to no expectations, then it’ll pass very easily.
Now let’s get to Canadian specifics. I’m sure some of it applies to other countries.
- Everyone has an accent, so don’t be afraid to speak and show yours: you’re not the only one in the city, or country who have an English accent. Actually most people around you are not originally from here.
- United Nations (Special edition): Walking for 2 minutes in the street can prove you that the religious lives next to the homosexual who’s kissing his/her partner across the street from the Indian who’s the manager in a company owned by a Mexican. Just an image of what you can expect around here.
- It is hard to start somewhere new: your first year is going to be hard! You may want to cry, hug someone, think of going back, but you have to know 1 thing: it gets better. Nothing is easy in life, and you already took the decision and did the biggest part of the plan, so stick to it and you’ll get rewarded.
- Don’t expect to move to Canada (or any other country) and maintain the same job or the same level of seniority. In my case, 5 years of work experience in Lebanon were basically equivalent to 6 months in Canada. Yeah that sucks! But it’s life. I basically had to start from the ground up again! So swallow your pride (yeah that Lebanese shit show-off thing we call pride) and start working hard to rebuild yourself.
- Learn how to cook: preferably before moving here, or you’ll end up with a lot of Tim Hortons, Subway, McDonald’s, etc.
- Be ready to lose weight: no I didn’t do any kind of diet, I kept eating the same way as I used to do, yet I lost 8 KG since my move. #LiveLoveWalking and Public transportation. (If you don’t know what that is since we never had it in Lebanon, please refer to google.com).
What’s next is pretty simple: live life and enjoy it instead of barely surviving and making ends. Travel the world, learn how to cook Italian and Mexican food, learn a new language (or 2), Skydive above Haiti or Miami (or San Francisco or Rio De Janero).
A photo posted by Cee (@crouhana) on
I would never lie and say it was easy or it will be any easier, but that’s life. Your priorities change. Mine changed from barely surviving in Lebanon to trying to live life to the fullest possible way all the way on the other side of the world.
I hope you liked this post. Even if you’re not planning to move.
But I promise you that you will miss the slow internet, the absence of water, the ON/OFF of the electricity and generator, and the neighbours gossip whenever you’re bringing a guy/girl home.