I meant to write this post long ago. Like in September when we actually moved from Hungary to British Columbia. But I didn’t want to write about it too soon, I wanted to be sure we really get our work permits as we expected, and nothing COVID-related comes to change our plans. Then when we were sure about it, it was already happening, and we were so busy!
And here we are now, living in Burnaby, Greater Vancouver.
We don’t have a simple answer to this. Why would it not be Canada? It’s a great country.
“Never give up on something you can’t go a day without thinking about.” – said Winston Churchill. If we have an answer, it’s this quote.
We lived in California for a year right after our graduation. Our visa could not be extended then, and we moved back to Hungary in 2015. We’ve been thinking about how to move back ever since. Back to California. Back to the West Coast. Back to North America. Live on the ocean coast again. And this is how we managed to make this dream come true: moving to British Columbia this September.
North America is vast, and we are obsessed with its landscapes and national parks. We’ve been thinking about a gap year and a campervan road trip in the past years. But then came COVID, and the borders got closed. And then Csaba got a job opportunity that would allow us to move here as a family. How could we not have said yes?
But it’s not just about traveling. We wanted to live in another country, other than the one where we’ve grown up and spent our whole life so far (excluding that one year in California). We missed how we felt when living in California. Of course, it’s not California, and we’re not the same either. We’re parents now, with a 2 years old boy. This is a different adventure, but one that we’ve been waiting for so long!
So… for how long?
We can’t answer this now, just like we couldn’t before we moved here. Our work permit is for 2 years. One day we feel we never want to leave (we often look up to majestic waterfalls or explore the rainforests with Tomi in these moments), the next day we feel that we couldn’t stay too long, because we miss our friends and family so much. Also, is there no proper cheese here? Or bread? (Culture shock is real, and these examples are only minor things. Well, minor, but part of everyday life. We used to eat delicious bread with delicious cheese every morning. :P)
It’s just natural that we are homesick, and we don’t know anyone here yet (hm… already not true, but friendships take time). Also, the first month was beyond exhausting. And while we say it’s absolutely possible to move to another continent with a toddler, and we are happy we did it, it’s darn hard to settle down in a new country and take care of a toddler and his needs at the same time.
One thing’s for sure though: it was long ago that we didn’t feel the urge to plan a trip abroad. Not that we don’t have a long-long list of all the countries we’d like to visit somewhen. But as for now, we don’t plan to travel abroad, not even out of British Columbia until the end of this year for sure. We don’t even plan weekend getaways, because there’s so much to do here where we live! Everything is new, and our heads are full of the places we’d love to visit in the area. (Okay, maybe I’ll scream for a tropical getaway in a few months. Can’t help it. We write a TRAVEL BLOG for a reason.)
Culture shock, and a few things we love here
Hungary and Canada may not seem to be that different at first. But it’s the minor things that make a huge difference when you look at the whole picture, and you need to live in both countries to actually experience this. Living in a country is so different from visiting it as a tourist, and that’s one reason we longed for moving to Canada instead of just traveling here for a long road trip.
Even though we lived in the USA before, and it’s really not that different from Canada (or is it? our first impressions are quite similar), we are culture shocked again. It’s overwhelming. Both our “love list” and “hate list” are far from complete. I simply highlighted our first impressions or the funniest/strangest things we noticed in the first few months. So let’s start with the good:
Kitchen counters are so big!
Kitchens are big, too. (And houses, and cars…) Since we immediately started house hunting, we noticed quite a few things that are common in all the houses and apartments here, but unusual to us coming from Hungary. And I love the huge kitchen counters the most! Finally, I’ll have all the space I need and even more for preparing everything.
Nature is so close
The largest park in Vancouver is closed during the night because of dangerous coyotes. What?! Coyotes in a city? Yes! Waterfalls, canyons and bears, too. Vancouver also has a 28 kilometres long uninterrupted waterfront path, the Seaside Greenway, that’s dedicated for pedestrians and bikers. It passes many parks, playgrounds and beaches. If we leave the city, we bump into mountains in every direction. If not a mountain, then the ocean. Could we not love a city like that?
Free, clean public toilets
Washrooms, I should say, because that’s how they call them in Canada. It might sound funny to mention toilets among the first things, but we can’t help it, they’re crucial in everyday life, and we notice whether they exist or not and in what condition. And coming from Europe where they are either not free, not clean or doesn’t exist at all, it’s a noticeable upgrade.
When we looked for information on how to pay tolls on certain roads or bridges, we were surprised that there’s no road toll in entire British Columbia. Freeways (motorways) are called that for a reason, and the countless bridges in and near Vancouver are also free. (And car insurance prices are ridiculously expensive, so it turns out there’s no free lunch, after all.)
Lots of used things available in good condition
Like used cars. Used furniture. Used toys. Used kids’s clothes. We could either buy them for a good price, or get them for free in exchange for picking them up. That’s how we were able to furnish our apartment, afford a car and give our son a variety of new toys. We are grateful for all the people who offered them – many of them are from the local Hungarian community, but there were also locals from other nationalities living in the area.
Generally, we noticed that the attitude is to give away things people don’t use instead of the “let’s store them, because one day we might use it” attitude which is typical in Hungary, so the result is that whatever is very cheap or free to take is often not actually usable.
Vancouver is such a livable city!
Okay, we don’t actually live in Vancouver. But we’ve already been to several of the nearby neighborhoods of Greater Vancouver (like Surrey, Langley, North or West Vancouver) and Downtown Vancouver, too. It’s pedestrian- and bike-friendly, with carefully designed public spaces, parks and beaches. It tempts you to spend all your time outside – and it’s not fair that it rains sooo much, could we get some sunshine, please? 😛
A few things we hate here
The reason that culture shock is truly a shock is because in a new country many things don’t work the way we are used to. We haven’t even lived here long enough to really experience differences in traditions or culture, but we immediately noticed a zillion of big and small things that are just different. Of course, there are some that we don’t like.
You need to be in debt to prove that you’re financially reliable
Yes, the credit history. We get it, we read about it. You can’t live a comfortable life in Canada without a decent credit history. (And yes, I finally understood that people with several credit cards in the movies are not just in the movies. People have several credit cards here, and for a reason.) Still, to us the whole concept is strange. Credit cards are not that common in Hungary, and we were taught not to spend more than what we have – which means financial stability and reliability to us. But here, you’re not good if you never had any debt. 😛
Apart from irony, it’s probably the hardest thing when settling down here: we have no credit history.
Bread and cheese
They’re not what we are used to in Europe. The substance and the taste is so different. Much worse, in our biased opinion. We expected we won’t find everything here that we were used to at home, and we’re sure there are things available that we don’t even know of yet, because we didn’t have enough time to explore all the options. But we just can’t help thinking of our bread and our cheese each morning.
So salty, so sweet, so spicy
While we’re at the food topic, what we noticed in general is that food – especially pastries, corn flakes, flavored oatmeals, snacks, candies – are either too salty, too sweet or too spicy to our taste. I know they’re not the healthiest options, anyway, but occasionally they’re the easiest, and I’m trying to find the least unhealthy ones. Not easy.
Many playgrounds are empty
I’d never have noticed this one if I wasn’t a mum of a 2-year-old. Wherever we went in Hungary (and in Central Europe in general), playgrounds were full, or at least busy with kids. Any time of the day, in almost any kind of weather. I’m surprised to see so many well-maintained and well-equipped playgrounds in Burnaby or Surrey, yet so few kids using them.
No life without a car
I could experience this at first hand. Back in California we tried to live without a car, but didn’t manage to do it for long. Here we prepared to buy one as soon as we could, and so we did. But thanks to the ridiculous process of getting our local licenses here, I was without a proper license for weeks after failing my first driving test. Living in the suburbs with a small kid without a car felt like living in a cage. Finally getting my Canadian driving license was like getting my life back. It was a huge relief, but it’s scary. We were not so dependent on a car in Budapest.
So here we are.
And it rains – a lot! But we want to embrace whatever Canada has for us. The new, the strange, the amazing, the complicated. It’ll be our home – it is our home, though we don’t feel it yet. But for how long? Only time will tell.
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