It’s now six months since I left England to start a new life in Canada. As much as I love my new home and have put down roots here, I also find myself reflecting on what I miss about the place I left behind.
Living in an old country
I live in rural eastern Ontario, an area first settled by Irish and Scottish emigrants in the mid-nineteenth century. In a Canadian context, and apart from clusters of new housing and big box stores, it’s a heritage landscape, dotted with quaint small towns, stone buildings, split-rail log fences and peaceful rural cemeteries.
In a British context, however, it’s new. In my English village, the High Street boasts two buildings, still in use, which date from the seventeenth century. Down the road is a parish church built in the late twelfth century.
I miss the English sensibility wherein the far distant past is still a real part of everyday life.
Popping to the shops
England is often referred to as “a nation of shopkeepers.” Although there are shops in Canada, many and vast, few sell clothes that fit me.
In the UK, I was considered tall. In Canada, I’m of average height but have a more petite frame than most North American women. Popping to the shops to pick up a pair of jeans or a top, which I took for granted in England, is more of a challenge here.
Yet, there is hope. UK fashion retailer, Next, now has a dedicated Canadian website. A beacon in what is for me a sartorial wilderness of billowing fabric and ill-fitting garments.
The British devotion to the queue (forming a line to wait one’s turn for service) is legendary.
Canadians are less accustomed to lining up in an orderly manner. On occasions when a queue is sorely needed, or I’m confronted with queue jumpers, I find myself feeling unexpectedly British. And, like any true Briton, I repress my anger with stoicism.
A bit of cake and more
There are cakes in Canada of many descriptions. What I can’t buy here is the Victoria sponge cake that is a staple of tea rooms and church fêtes the length and breadth of the British Isles.
Yes, I can make a Victoria sponge, but I can’t pick one up in my local grocery store if I have a sudden fancy for a bit of cake.
I also miss Yeo Valley yoghurt and have connected with the company on social media solely to glimpse happy British cows grazing in pastoral, green fields.
Repatriation and return
In repatriating to Canada, I’ve come back to my home country. Yet, I haven’t returned to my point of departure. I’ve changed, and Canada has changed, too. As I find a middle ground between the two countries I’m proud to call home, I hope I can integrate the best of both into my future.
On my next trip to England, though, one of my first stops will be British retail icon, Marks & Spencer. No matter what life throws at me, I want to face it in comfy knickers that wash well. Still, M&S does ship to Canada….
It’s always hard to find a balance between old and new. Good luck as you continue to settle in.
Thanks very much, Jennifer. I find repatriation is a gradual process, best approached one day at a time.
How lovely to think that you have taken so much of your UK life back to Canada with you, Jen. I suppose you hadn’t realised how much British culture you had absorbed until you went moved home again. I do enjoy your ‘repatriation’ posts – keep them coming!
Thank you, Susanna. I’m glad you’re enjoying this series of ‘repatriation posts.’ There will indeed be more in the future. Because I’ve spent so much of my adult life in the UK, I’ve come to think of myself as occupying a ‘mid-Atlantic’ space, benefiting from the best of both Canadian and British culture.