You’re from Australia? What are you doing here?

I have been asked this question by Canadians more often than any other one since I stepped off the plane at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport on March 22nd, 2012.

The question usually precedes a discussion about the weather in Canada and how much nicer the weather in Australia is. Most Canadians dream of escaping winter so they can’t fathom why someone would choose to make it part of their life.

Seven years later, I still don’t have an answer.

I love Australia and it’s so easy to live there. I grew up in Sydney, close to the CBD, so moving to another big city wasn’t a big deal for me. But Australia is an isolated country, so far away from the other big players in the world, that often its residents get itchy feet and want to go out and see how the rest of the world works, what it’s like to share a border, speak another language, and so on.

It’s not uncommon for Aussies to leave the country for 6 months to 2 years to live overseas, so what I did was not unusual.  Working holiday visas exist for a reason!

But I’ll be honest with you. I haven’t had the greatest time living here. Part of it was timing (when I moved over here, Canada and the rest of the world were in a recession following the financial crisis of 2008, something Australia swiftly avoided), part of it was what I did while living here (working for a tiny airline on Toronto Island for $12 an hour with a 1.5 to 2 hour commute each way), and part of it is the city itself.

But a lot of Australians live here, love it and never want to leave. And I am still here, so it can’t be that bad.

I can’t speak for other Aussies, but for me there is something about the challenge of living here that has kept me going long enough to still be trying to make it work.

If I could go back in time, I probably wouldn’t have done it. Or maybe I wouldn’t have stayed here as long. Or I would have planned it better, so I didn’t make the age-old mistake that anyone new to a country makes, which is spending a tonne of money and wasting a lot of time, as well as frustrating the heck out of myself,  when there was a better, cheaper way to do something.

When I made the move, there was no help, advice, Facebook groups, or anyone I could ask for ideas. Or maybe there was, but I was too busy channeling my inner Christina Aguilera and trying to do everything independently, to even think about looking into any resources that would help me.

I know there were plenty of books about moving to Canada, and I remember flicking through one at the library and reading, “Canada has long, harsh winters that last about 6 months.” I understood the words, but I didn’t really grasp the idea of living through a 6 month winter until I actually had to do it, because I have this need to experience things myself before I believe them,  but boy is enduring those winters ever the cornerstone of life here. Canadians will tell you that winter is really only January and February, but coming from the coast of Australia, anything below 10 degrees is winter to me!

If you can’t tell whether or not I like living here; if you don’t know whether or not you would like living here, or if you want more details on some of the things I touched on in this post, follow this blog for my next posts where I explain the dos, don’ts, ups and downs of living in the biggest and busiest city in the great white north!

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