Tom and I have been friends for a few years. We met through work and collaborated closely on many projects. He is a talent in his own right and one of the best creatives I’ve worked with, in the media business. He’s also a family man, a dad to Seth, 5 and Ruby, 2. I’m incredibly pleased to share Tom’s story with you today as he talks about some of the ups and downs that come with moving his family abroad and what life is like as a British Expat.
Thanks for talking to Dishevelled Dad. It’s been just over 1 Year since you’ve moved your family from the UK to live in Canada. What’s family life been like for you?
We were fortunate that we moved to the place where my wife grew up so instantly had family and friends around us who helped us to quickly settle in.
It’s obviously been an interesting year due to reasons we’re all aware of and certainly not how we imagined year 1! That being said, I can't complain too much about how things have gone. The kids quickly settled into school and daycare which they both love and even when the pandemic lockdown kicked in, the kids adapted quickly to being at home most of the time. Once lockdown restrictions were relaxed we were able to split our time between our apartment in Toronto and my wife’s family cottage about 2 hours north by a lake - which was amazing and great for the kids to be able to roam free.
"This was a huge factor, firstly in deciding to make the move and then also making the transition an easy one"
What made you do it? Why leave a comfortable life in the UK to live abroad?
As mentioned, my wife grew up here so this move had been an option we had discussed for a few years now. With our eldest approaching school age and a possibility for me to transfer office at the same company, we decided the time was right to give it a go.
Apart from family and friends, what do you miss most of all about the UK?
As you say, family and friends are by far the main thing that we miss (particularly as we have now had to postpone 2 trips back to see everybody due to the pandemic). Aside from that, from time to time you miss certain routines and traditions - foods, sporting events - but on the whole, there aren’t too many things you can’t get over here.
How have you and your family adjusted to life in Canada?
We settled in very quickly. Obviously being surrounded by family and friends played a huge part in that - and also the fact we have been coming here for visits for over 10 years, we were pretty familiar with Canadian life and knew what to expect.
"Kids are more resilient and adaptable than you realise, especially when they are young"
What's the one thing about living in a foreign country that you find most challenging?
To be honest, Canada is not too different from the UK - people speak English, there’s a lot of British influence and similar traditions so there really hasn’t been any major challenges. Figuring out the banking and tax systems was one challenge that took a while to get my head around as it's quite different from the UK but I think I’ve cracked that now!
You were lucky enough to have the support of your company to help with the relocation. How important was that for you?
This was a huge factor, firstly in deciding to make the move and then also making the transition an easy one. I already knew most of the team here in Canada as I had been lining up the move for a while so that made things much easier and one less thing to stress about.
Are the kids starting to pick up the local accent?
A little. The eldest has a definite Canadian twang when he says certain words. The youngest wasn’t talking much when we moved out here so she’ll probably have more of a full-blown accent. I’m starting to develop a bit of a hybrid accent too. Need to head back home at some point and reset!
What would your advice be to other dads and families looking to up sticks?
Do your research. We were fortunate to have the family and work in place before we moved which was a huge factor, but aside from that, we spent months looking into visas, schooling, cost of living, removal costs, etc. The more you do, the smoother and less stressful the whole experience will be.
Finally, if you’re undecided about making the move I’d encourage you to give it a go. Provided you have done your research properly, you’ll find a way to make it work. A couple of things the past year has taught me are: 1) Life is short - make the most of things and seize opportunities for adventure and 2) kids are more resilient and adaptable than you realise, especially when they are young. It’s likely they will adjust quickly to a change in environment and quickly thrive in their new surroundings….