We just passed the 3-year mark of living in Vancouver a couple of months ago, and I honestly can't believe this time has flown by so fast! It feels like yesterday that we were packing up ready for our 15-month adventure in Asia and Canada (we only intended on staying a year, believe it or not) yet here we are, more than 3 years on with our PR visa in-process and a lifestyle that we really love.
However, while I do absolutely love living here and the life we've created, that's not to say there aren't some things that I miss about England. It's currently Easter weekend and I can't tell you how much it's bummed me out that we don't have proper big chocolate Easter Eggs here in Canada! Perhaps they can be found somewhere out of the city, but i've had no luck in finding any and so it's got me thinking about some of the other things that I miss about home and what i'm really looking forward to the next time I visit.
Most of the things I miss are trivial and actually just involve food or shopping (admittedly, two very important things!). It's funny how little things like a good pub roast and Christmas chocolate and British TV and shops like Boots - things that were always just part of everyday life - have somehow become some of the things that I miss the most. Of course, Canada still has those things and we do have pubs and decent chocolate and good shops and everything like that, but if you've ever lived abroad you'll know what I mean when I say that some things just aren't the same as they are at home.
So if you're also living abroad or you've once lived in the UK, perhaps you might be able to relate to some of these things I miss about living in England. I also want to say now that I'm in no way complaining about living here, but I think you'll always miss those home comforts especially if you've been away for a while! I'd also love to know your thoughts and if there's anything specific you miss about home, let me know in the comment box at the bottom!
Style + Online Shopping
I never realised just how good England is for style and shopping until we moved to Canada. We have a lot of the same stores in Vancouver like Topshop, Zara + H&M, but it simply isn't the same and I miss online shopping SO much! I used to order from ASOS literally every week and with free delivery and shipping it was never a big deal, but here, you've got unpredictable taxes + duties and shipping costs and i'm always a strange size and it's lengthy to return anything so the whole online shopping process is more difficult.
Even in Topshop, the selection of clothes is much safer and more boring and often just a bit strange, so shopping is definitely one thing I look forward to whenever I go home as the selection is SO much better. I also miss places like Primark for socks and random finds and shops like Kurt Geiger for shoes. The majority of my shoes are now from Aldo as it's one of the only shops that actually does nice shoes, but it'd be nice to have a bit more variety!
We spent last Christmas here in Vancouver and I realised just how many fun traditions I miss that we have in England. Firstly, in my 25 years of being alive, this was the first year I fully appreciated selection boxes. They're so simple yet SO good and Canada doesn't seem to do anything similar.
Finding finger food like tiny sausages or pigs in blankets or mini quiches or dips and other bits and bobs we'd normally have was really difficult to find (and also expensive), and I think in general England just does better chocolate + food. British TV, especially at Christmas, is amazing. Shows like The Royal Family, Only Fools, Wallace & Gromit & Mr Bean are such great classics and while they're all golden oldies, they always seem to be on TV around Christmas.
Is it just me, or are English Airports just so good? I feel like everything's always so organised, the loos are nice, you've always got Boots there when you need some emergency mini shampoos or a Meal Deal, Pret A Manger for a fancier and healthier plane lunch and Accessorize for when you need some last-minute holiday essentials or you just want to start spending your holiday cash.
A Good Cuppa Tea
Not to state the obvious or anything, but England rules when it comes to tea, and for someone who basically survives off cups of tea, this is quite a big deal for me!! You can find Tetleys here and while it's good, it's nothing like the cuppas you get back home. Plus, we don't have the one thing that makes cups of tea THAT bit better, which brings me to my next point...
Biscuits + Chocolate + Dessert
If there's one thing I moan about the most, it's how much I miss English biscuits and chocolate!! In Tesco's and Asda, you'll find FULL AISLES dedicated to biscuits. And then a SEPARATE aisle dedicated to chocolates and sweets - it's serious business. You can find similar biscuits in Canada, but they are quite literally 10x the price. You can find a tiny pack of 10 bourbons for a bargain price of $6.99 (to compare, you can buy a pack of 40 in Asda for about £1), so it really is daylight robbery. Similarly with chocolate, the selection in England is so much better, especially at Easter and Christmas, and I really miss brands like Galaxy and Cadbury (which, to the people who tell me Cadburys is the same here, it's really not)! While we're on the topic of sweet stuff, I now appreciate how amazing English desserts are. Butterscotch Tarts, Cornflake Cakes, Sponge with Custard, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Flapjack, to name a few...they're all divine.
Only when I actually listen to some of the words and colloquialisms I use do I realise how funny British phrases are. My Canadian friends always make fun of the way I say things or the phrases I use, and it's hilarious looking at their faces when I say something like "What's for tea?" (i.e. dinner) or talk about "wellies" or "queues" or that i'm "chuffed" or "knackered" or "gobsmacked", and the list goes on. I've realised how many funny and strange words we use that are so iconically British and I love it.
I'm not a huge drinker but I actually really miss pubs. I miss being able to walk into a pub for a drink or a cheap dinner, sit wherever you want and be able to walk up to the bar and order a drink yourself. I also miss pub gardens in summer and I think that's one of the key things that Vancouver/Canada is lacking. We do have craft beer pubs, but they're sometimes kinda fancy and there are times when you just want to go to a simple, cosy pub for a casual drink and a good roast or a simple steak sandwich. Know what I mean?
Marks & Sparks & Tesco's
I really miss M&S and Tesco's and English supermarkets. I miss M&S for when you're having a party or wine night or you just want some finger food and sandwiches for a picnic, and Tesco's for all of your day-to-day stuff. I don't know whether it's just Vancouver or the whole of Canada, but food is SO pricey here (especially meat, dairy and medicine), and so it kills me when I return to England and see a packet of Beets for 50p or paracetamol for even less than that.
Banter + Jokes
I never realised how funny British people are until I moved away. Banter is something I miss a lot and if you know me, you'll know i'm sarcastic 90% of the time. Often my jokes are received with a straight face or people think i'm being serious or simply don't get my humour, so it's a good job i've got Matt at home who actually does find me funny (OR maybe i'm just not funny at all and we have a warped sense of humour? Ha ha, who knows). Obviously, i'm not saying that Canadians aren't funny, but I do think Brits rule when it comes to dry humour and sarcasm and banter.
Boots is just one of those places that has everything you need. Lost all your hair grips? Go to Boots. Need a cheap lunch? Go to Boots. Looking for some Christmas pressies or make-up or a new hairdryer or medicine or a low-cal brownie bar? You got it, Boots! Canada is ridiculously expensive for cosmetics, and it always breaks my heart a little paying $14 for something you can easily find for £2 at Boots.
Whenever I go back to England, especially London, i'm always so fascinated by the architecture and how beautiful all the buildings are. Vancouver has so much natural beauty with the mountains and the ocean, but all the buildings are new so they aren't anything as gorgeous as they are in England. I love cute little English villages especially in the Peak District, so I definitely appreciate that a lot more now.
Tax is included
There's nothing more soul-crushing than getting to the counter to pay for your clothes (that you already can't really afford) and then finding there's another $35 tagged on top because of tax. I always feel deceived and pretty much everything is plus tax, and although tax is just included in England, I always feel like i'm paying way more because it's added on top.
Ahhhh, another food point but hey, let's face it, England does well in the food department. I really do miss Roast Dinners and the fact that every pub offers a good Roast on a Sunday. I've yet to perfect my Yorkshire Pudding recipe and unfortunately, Aunt Bessie hasn't made her way over to Canada yet, so even though I do make a mean Roast, without Yorkshire Puds it just isn't the same. I do, however, get my family to bring over Bisto gravy (+ biscuits of course) whenever they come over, so at least we have that!!
I always kick myself that I never fully made the most of England's amazingly cheap travel before we moved. Don't get me wrong, Canada is gorgeous and there are so many insane places to see, but it's not cheap to get around! A flight from Vancouver to Calgary can cost you $300/$400, yet a flight from Nottingham to Paris used to cost me £40 and it's basically the same distance. Now that I travel so much, it really kills me that flights are so pricey and I do miss England for its super cheap airlines such as Ryan Air and Easy Jet.
Fortunately, it's easy for us to hop into the States and fly from Seattle which is often cheaper, and sometimes it's actually cheaper to leave Canada than it is to fly within the country. It's understandable I guess as Canada is so big, but I still find it crazy that it can cost you $900 to fly to Montreal when it's the same price to get to England. There are however SO many incredible places within driving distance of Vancouver (Whistler, Vancouver Island, the Rockies, the Okanagan etc), so it's not like we're short of places to adventure and I love that those places are on our doorstep, but cheaper flights would also be nice too!
Friends & Family
And finally, the thing I miss the most! A lot of people assume that I must not be close to my people back home otherwise I wouldn't move so far away. In fact, it's the opposite - my friends and family are my world. I am incredibly close with my parents and my siblings as well as my extended family + Matt's family. We're very fortunate in that everyone is so supportive and they just want us to be happy, and we've actually managed to see each other a lot within the last 3 years.
We try to go back as much as possible for things like Christmas and the important events, but I do miss family get-togethers and having those tea + biscuit + catch up nights with my girlfriends. Fortunately, the babies and the weddings haven't really kicked off yet so we're not missing out on too much, and nowadays, the world is small so it's nice to know they're only ever a phone call or a flight away. I actually think i've spent more quality time with my family since i've been away than when I lived at home as we've taken so many holidays together in the last 3 years!
Ultimately, moving away involves making sacrifices and there will always be things that you miss, whether it's family or food or shopping or lifestyle. Personally, I am so in love with our lifestyle here in Vancouver and the ocean and mountains and city and nature and weather, and that lifestyle isn't something we can recreate back in England. In an ideal world, i'd get all my family and friends to live in Canada (and they'd bring the biscuit and chocolate aisles over with them too, obvs), but that's unlikely to happen so we just have to balance what's most important to us at this time in our lives.
Will we stay in Canada forever? To be honest, I don't know! My heart is so invested in both places and we're in a really fortunate position to be able to call both countries home. For now, our lifestyle is our priority and we're so focused on our work and doing what we love and exploring as much as we can. Perhaps later down the line when we have kids our priorities will change - who knows what will happen? The way I look at it is that it's just about making the decision that's right for you at that time and just doing whatever you can to make it work, or until it no longer makes sense.
Things I Don't Miss About England
Okay, so while we're on the topic, I thought i'd mention a few of the things that I don't miss about England as well to balance things out!
The weather! The weather in Vancouver can be fairly similar to the UK and our weather patterns are the same, however we still have clear and definitive seasons. It rains in winter but you can easily head up to the mountains for snow, I love the spring cherry blossoms and the autumnal colours, and the summers here are beautiful with lots of sunshine and actual consistent weather (which we all know is a rarity in England)!
The landscapes. While I do find England pretty, it really is nothing compared to Canada and the landscapes here are insane. I'm constantly in awe of how naturally beautiful it is especially with the mountains and the ocean and the islands and everything else so close to the city. It still blows my mind that we can drive for 30 minutes and be in the middle of the mountains - that's not something you get in England!
How much people moan! It's actually quite hilarious how much people moan in England, and also, how much people LOVE to moan. 3 weeks of rain? Moan about how wet it is. 3 weeks of sunshine? Moan about how hot it is. Find a hair in your dish at a restaurant? Spend the entire meal moaning about it but not actually send the dish back or complain or do anything about it. I feel like Brits love to moan but are quite happy to still keep things as they are, you know? Okay, I know that's a massive generalisation but if you're from England you know what I'm talking about!! British people can always find something to be grumpy about (to be honest, myself included on occasion), which I guess makes it a very iconically British trait and while it's bloody annoying, it's also rather hilarious too.
If you're an expat living abroad, what are some of the things you miss about living in England? Let me know in the comments below!