Finances: Part II- In Transition

Hey everyone! I just wanted to say before starting this post that I have had trouble with my self-hosted website system. So, thanks to those who have notified me about not being able to interact on my blog. I will be switching to a new host soon, so bear with me! Fingers crossed it works out this time!

This is a continuation of my posts on expat finances. I am learning a lot as I go, especially now that I’m an adult and have more financial responsibility than I did when I previously moved to another country. See my previous post Finances: Part I- The Basics for my first post on this subject. Now, without further ado, let’s bust these money taboos!

Previous Experiences:

I was really young with my first two international moves. However, when I was old enough, my parents told me stories of their money experiences while transitioning and adjusting to a new culture.

When I repatriated to the US, things were relatively easy for me. I didn’t have assets in the UK, so I decided to move all my money to the US. Additionally, the exchange rates were favourable between the US Dollar and the Pound Sterling at that time. 

Financially Transitioning to A New Country:

There is a common misconception that Third Culture Kids are wealthy because of their mobile lifestyle. Family wealth is not always a factor in being able to move overseas. There are a variety of factors that make a mobile lifestyle possible. Companies can pay expenses for transitioning overseas, and include other perks for expats, so that’s a big deal. Additionally, it depends on where you are moving and how you move. Believe me, moving across an ocean and most, or all of another country can really compound the costs of moving. Plus, everyone’s situation is different, and people handle money differently.

As an example, I had to cancel my cell phone number in England before I moved. So far, I have been able to keep my US number while living in Canada. I had to upgrade my cell phone plan to allow calls within Canada and also be able to call the US when I have needed to do so. My initial plan was to change to a Canadian cell phone number after a month. However, Canada has some of the most expensive cell phone plans of any country, and I still have to make calls to the US now and then. I decided to keep my US cell phone number for a little while until I feel more financially stable.

Open A Bank Account Before or After Moving?

That’s a critical decision. When I moved to the US, there was no urgent need for me to have money there, so I waited until after I moved to open a bank account. However, with moving to Canada during the pandemic, I knew that I would have to quarantine for two weeks and I needed to be sure I had a bank account there. My Mum decided to wait to open one until after we arrived.

I bank with HSBC, so I was able to set up a bank account in Canada to be ready for when I got there. I had to go through an application and setup process that took some time, but it was worth it. Plus, I was able to sort out any problems before I moved! On the other hand, I couldn’t get a debit card for the account until I had arrived in Canada. After quarantine, I had to go to my branch to sign a couple more papers, and then I could get a debit card.

We realized later that I had the right idea all along. Additionally, we learned that the finances with moving to another country never really end, and it’s too much for one person to bear. Mum decided to take on extra tasks with moving so that I would have more bandwidth to deal with the finances. The reason why the situation ultimately worked out was that my Mum and I communicate well. 

Striking A Balance:

When you’re in transition, it’s not a time to cut corners. If you need to pay for something, suck it up and do it! I’ve had to pay more for my US cell phone plan, but so what? It works here in Canada and that’s all I ask! Plus, in my Quarantine Diaries Week 1 and Week 2, I talked about my Mum and I not getting our mattresses from Overstock. I caved and ordered them from Amazon because we had been sleeping on the floor for NINE days! We needed mattresses so badly we didn’t care about buying them again. Overstock delivered the mattresses a month later.

At the same time, unimportant costs can add up. As I said in my Finances Part I post, you are one decision away from making a financial mistake. I learned over the years to save any potential discounts for a time when I might really need them. There is no better time to use discounts than doing an international move. 

Want to know how much it cost me and my Mum to fly from San Francisco to Calgary via Vancouver? Nothing. We saved our credit card points for a time we really needed them. Of course, I offset our carbon emissions, and I was happy to put a little money towards it. My attitude was, “Sorry Mother Earth! I know you’re hurting, but my Mum and I need to get out of a crappy situation! Here’s a little something for you to say thanks.”

What You Need to Get Settled:

Again, it depends on your personal circumstances. You need to decide how much furniture you need to get and whether you actually need it. If your place is already furnished, great!

Sometimes, you can’t know what you need until you actually get there. My Mum and I had to buy PROPER winter clothes when we arrived. When my Mum was talking about getting winter clothes in California, I said, “You don’t go to California to get winter clothes.” Get what I mean?

Additionally, you have to get used to what shops are around when you move to a new country. I had to ask a Canadian friend what the difference is between Canadian Tire and Home Depot. Plus, when I discovered Co-ops in Calgary, I felt like a kid in a candy store! It was the best Co-op I had ever seen! Your general daily expenses are not going to settle until you decide where you like to shop and for what.

A Note on Healthcare:

Getting used to a new country’s medical system is something you need to budget for! Different countries have different rules for when new immigrants qualify for healthcare. That is if they have a government healthcare system.

In the UK, it took about a year to qualify for healthcare. Although, from what I saw with my family and friends, they don’t give quality healthcare to new immigrants until they have paid taxes for a while. In the US, you have to pay ALL medical bills until you get insurance and read the fine print of what it covers. Plus, medical costs there are sneaky! You learn a lot of soft skills to save money on healthcare costs. For example, I decided early on what hospital I would want to go to if I had an emergency. I was certain of their quality care, but they didn’t charge me any out-of-pocket costs for using their resources like a hospital gown, or soap. It pisses me off that hospitals charge unreasonable costs that your insurance doesn’t cover!

How I feel when I hear about being absurdly overcharged for out-of-pocket costs:

Canada has a law that you cannot enter without health insurance. Plus, you have to live there a minimum of six months and one day to qualify for their government healthcare. That works very well actually because it’s a good time to get acquainted with a healthcare system.

There are Cultural Ways of Dealing with M0ney:

You CANNOT ignore this! Countries will have different ways of banking, managing and transferring money and you have to work with it. It can feel overwhelming at times. 

Before my Mum and I moved to Canada, we had to put a deposit on our new apartment. The landlord told us how to send the money, but at first, I didn’t understand the instructions. I thought it was a simple wire transfer and the instructions didn’t make sense. Google didn’t help too much when I tried to find “what does ______ mean??” I figured because my ISP was in the US, I couldn’t access it. 

Eventually, I figured out the banking feature I had to use was called Interac eTransfer. Even though I had my Canadian bank account, I hadn’t really explored the features since I was busy moving. Then, I suddenly had to do a rent deposit and I was FREAKING OUT!!!! Plus, it seemed counterintuitive to me that there is actually a banking feature that doesn’t charge you fees for using it?! What kind of a country IS this where they don’t charge you for every banking service you use?! After a failed attempt at the Interac eTransfer the first time, I was going to blow like a volcano! Finally, I found a page on HSBC Canada about Interac eTransfer that explained it. 

Mum said, “you’re going to love this service someday!” She was right. There was so much stress the first time, but now I love it! Now, I look back on this story and laugh. That story is another reason why I was glad to open a Canadian bank account before I moved there. I don’t know what I would have done about the deposit if I didn’t have a Canadian bank account!

Final Notes:

The way I see it is it takes a MINIMUM of a few grand per person to get settled in a new country. The more you move to a new country, the better you get at making financial decisions. Mistakes don’t completely go away, but you’re less likely to make a serious one if you go by past precedent.

Additionally, it was a lovely surprise to find the best French patisserie in Calgary. Whenever someone does something nice for me or my Mum we get a box of macarons. When you’re an expat, you need a lot of help, and it’s really touching when people come through for you. There’s no better reward than seeing their faces light up when we give them macarons. You’re probably asking, “You have money for that?” The answer, “Yes, I have money for that.” I’m new here, and I’m building connections. Sometimes, I have moved and really been thrown into the deep end because people weren’t willing to help. Canadians are among the most generous people I have had the pleasure of living with, and I have given out a lot of boxes of macarons to say thank you!

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with what I have to say about finances as an expat?

Crossing A Border? Here Are Some TCK Pro Tips!

Who has had a supremely pleasant experience crossing a border where the officers are kind, welcoming and let you in with no problems? No? Me neither. Let’s just say, there’s a reason comedians make fun of border patrol and airport security. I included my favourite comedy routines on the subject in this post to help lighten this heavy subject.

I grew up between two of the most hostile countries when it comes to border patrol and security. So, I got really good at dealing with it. My parents said France and Switzerland border patrol care the most about paperwork. As long as you have that in order, they are usually okay with you. That sounds mild compared to my passport countries. Okay, Napoleon, I don’t appreciate the paperwork headache, but as long as I don’t get a hard time at the border, thank you!

Whether you are crossing a border for travel or immigration purposes, it’s helpful to know how to deal with border patrol. I will include tips on dealing with airport security too. Border patrol and airport security is a content warning in its own right. However, I want to mention I will include some examples of stories that people may find disturbing.

Before You Leave:

Do any necessary paperwork. I know that doesn’t sound like fun, but it will save you an enormous headache later. Make sure your passport is still valid too. If it isn’t or if you have less than 6 months on it, renew it! Being born in Switzerland and living in France, it was my birthright to learn how to fill in paperwork properly. It was one of those cultural things my parents made sure to teach me. That served me well when I moved to England and I expect it will serve me well here in Canada too. I remember when I was old enough to do paperwork, and my Mum gave me practice forms to fill in. She made me practise… and practise… and PRACTISE until I was almost tearing my hair out.

My Mum was sympathetic but also strict about the fact that I needed to know this. She told me stories later about how she learned how to deal with paperwork in France/Switzerland. This was before the internet really took off too, so hey, I learned paperwork from a master!

This is why I love Roz’s character from Monsters Inc. Every scene with her makes paperwork and border patrol a little easier to handle.

It really helps to think of border patrol officers like Roz, or even like in Life is Beautiful, Guido and Joshua call the concentration camp guards, “Mean Guys Who Yell.”

One More Thing:

Check the laws, regulations and rights when you cross the border. I’m serious. Anyone can get stopped at the border and you have to be prepared in case it happens. Additionally, if you are arriving in a country that has questionable (or dare I say abusive in some cases) human rights practices, you have to be even more prepared. More on that later.

Check requirements for airport security and customs too. If you’re in doubt about taking something with you, either don’t take it or ask at security or customs if it’s allowed. I heard a story once about this elderly German guy who was flying into the USA. He brought baking soda with him to brush his teeth. He was detained for hours while security tested it. They came back and said, “it’s baking soda.” Um, they could have figured it out by pouring apple cider vinegar on it and creating a mini volcano!

Case in point: what happens when you take fruit across the US/Canada border.

Now that you’re prepared, here’s are my tips when you are going through security or crossing the border.

Golden Rule: Do NOT Use Humour!

Just DON’T! When I was younger, my Mum told me this story to remind me not to use humour. Groucho Marx said that he was a smuggler when he went through the border. They detained him even though they knew who he was. Plus, the previous video with Leland Klassen conveys that message of not using humour too.

One time, my Dad used humour with Border Patrol. We had just got permanent residence in the UK, and my Dad was arriving back in the UK after a trip to the US. He was having his papers checked at Border Patrol and they asked him how he got permanent residence. Side Note: One of our family discussions at the time was about this guy who gave £1,000,000 to the Labour Party to obtain UK citizenship.

Anyway, Border Patrol asked my Dad, “How did you get your permanent residence?”

He joked, “I gave £1,000,000 to the Labour Party!”

The woman questioning him looked blank and said, “Good for you.”

Okay, that worked out in the end. Still, I don’t advocate using humour. Border Patrol has NO sense of humour! They just get on with the job.

Honesty is the Best Policy:

If you are familiar with typical questions you are asked, I suggest you practice your answers if you have ANY uncertainty of what you are going to say! Border Patrol may try to throw you off with an atypical comment or question. It’s normal to freeze when that happens. I don’t have any right answer for when that happens. Just be kind to yourself, especially if you say something that you feel like you shouldn’t have said in retrospect. Frankly, I get panic attacks when that happens. Sometimes, I can come up with a good save in answer to an awkward question, but it takes practice. It didn’t happen overnight for me.

Here’s something people don’t often tell you. Sometimes, you have to tell the border officers which law(s) is/are applicable to your case. Border officers have to keep track of MANY different laws. I had a situation once where I had to tell the border officer the law that applied to me. Sometimes, you wonder if they really don’t know that law, and it’s true that it can be the case. Other times, it can likely be just needing to know all these different laws and it’s hard to recall them at the drop of a hat.

I’m glad Trevor Noah makes the situation lighter in this video.

If You Make A Mistake, Own It:

You might make a mistake in your paperwork or answer a question wrongly. In that case, admit the mistake. Don’t try to flatter the officers, like how Mike Wazowzki tries to flatter Roz. Yes, there will be consequences. I made a mistake once. I thought one regulation applied to me, but it turned out there was a new one. Because I was preparing to move I didn’t check for updates. It takes a while to go through those regulations, and it’s one of those things you only want to do once when you move.

Decide Which Information is Important to Share and Which Isn’t:

To be clear, I’m NOT saying you should hide information! Far from it! What I am saying is you should prioritize what information you should share. When I got dual nationality, I learned that I have to decide on a case by case basis whether I should disclose it. I don’t say I’m a dual citizen if I am entering one of my passport countries. They don’t need to know that. They just need to see my passport. I disclosed my dual nationality to Canadian immigration when I moved. When you look at immigration forms, they ask if you’re a dual citizen. Canada’s the first country I have seen who does this! That makes me very happy that they are recognizing that a lot of people are dual citizens.

When I repatriated to the US, my Dad sat me down and had a serious talk with me about being careful who I tell that I’m a dual citizen when I’m in the US. Basically, if anyone asks me if I’m a US citizen while on US soil, I have to say yes. You’re considered a security risk if you’re a dual citizen in the US. Honestly, I find that completely disgusting and backwards! There are more TCKs in the world than ever before because of globalization and more people are getting dual nationality than before! Frankly, the US and other countries need to catch up!

Know Your Rights:

This is where it can really get ugly. Your rights can still be violated if you’re a citizen of a country that you are entering. My uncle re-entered the US after a trip to a country in South America that the US deemed a security risk. They threatened to do something that would have violated his rights as a US citizen. He said, “I’m a US citizen. You can’t do this to me!” It worked because my uncle knew his rights. If you don’t know your rights, it’s easier to be exploited.

Here are two more tips I have. First, check if you can ask to speak to a lawyer at no extra cost to you before you leave. Certain countries are legally required to provide you with a lawyer at no extra cost upon request. Check if that applies to the country you’re entering. I only recently learned about this. I had problems entering Canada. My Dad said, later on, I should have asked to speak to a lawyer. Glad I know that for future reference!

My second tip is to find out their discrimination laws. If you can find a reason why they can’t discriminate against you, use it!

Other Stories:

After 9/11, border patrol and airport security in the US got even scarier. I vowed to myself that I would visit there as little as possible. This wasn’t something that would calm down after a few years either. There were a lot of personal stories going around of US border patrol and airport security being more abusive overall. Things only got slightly better because of people complaining about their experiences.

I have heard of UK citizens being stopped at the border if they are naturalized citizens and questioned about the legitimacy of their citizenship. That’s one reason why I am leery about entering the UK again. Additionally, I have heard stories of Canadians who are Muslim being stopped at the US border because of Trump’s Islamaphobic travel bans!

Take Care of Yourself Afterwards:

I’m serious. In my post, Flying Internationally and Locally During COVID-19, I describe how I was feeling after going through Border Control. My Mum and I had to make our flight to Calgary right after that! Adrenaline was pumping SO hard then! I thought I was either going to throw up or pass out! I had to use the flight to Calgary to recover from that ordeal. The airplane views were beautiful, so I watched out the window.

If I hadn’t had to catch a plane, I would have taken care of myself. First, I would have gone into the bathroom to come down from the massive panic attack I was having. Then, I would have drunk a lot of water and maybe had some food once I felt better.

My point is that your body is going to respond to the stress of going through border patrol. It’s important to do whatever you need to do to manage it.

Laugh About It:

At some point, I can’t take what happens too seriously. I also remember that these border officers are people too and sometimes, you can see their human side. Then, it’s almost comical when something is way too easy. Listen to this last comedy routine to find out why!

What do you think of my tips and stories? Do you agree? Disagree? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments!

Third Month Theme: Rest, Reflect and Observe New Things

I’m about 80% settled here! There’s more time to relax! I can reflect more on how the last three months have gone. It was kind of been a blur up until Christmas. This is the point where I can observe and absorb my new country now.

Calgary Baptism of Fire

Here’s another weird Calgary weather story! I had to go out at about 8 am in mid-January. I checked the temperature on my phone and didn’t see indicators of the previous day’s forecast of snow in the morning. It was still, clear and looked like it would be sunny later. Yes, in mid-January, the sun STILL rises late! It wasn’t too cold, so I was on the fence as to whether I needed my down parka. I decided not to wear it and left my hat behind too…

Ten minutes out the door I was suddenly hit with this bone-chilling Arctic wind and hail! “HOLY S**T!!!” was my first thought! It was too late now to go home for my parka! Fortunately, I had a cashmere sweater that I pulled over my head as I walked. The blast didn’t last too long though. Calgary had JUST avoided a blizzard! The temperature dropped too. In other words, I saw an immediate barometric pressure change firsthand!

Okay, what just happened? Was this a baptism of fire for living in Calgary or something? What did I learn from this? Check the radar map too if I’m going out! Checking the current forecast, temperature and windchill are not enough! Weather reports are never entirely reliable, especially on a cell phone. Regardless, I need to know how much to layer up. I learned the phrase, “Don’t like the weather? Wait 20 minutes.” within my first month here. You can replace “don’t” with “do” in that sentence too. I laughed before. I have actually lived it now! It’s VERY real for me!

Everything Else is Boring by Comparison

Just kidding! The temperature is dropping more. We’re in the -10s and sometimes the windchill makes it feel in the-20s at this point! I hear a lot about the -30 degree temperatures but haven’t experienced it yet. Watch this space! Walks help me learn what I should wear at what temperatures before I have to go do chores. One example was when I took the photos for this post. It was -14 degrees with a windchill of -18 and it was hard to leave my gloves off for more than a minute or two! I tried buying gloves that had a grip on them for your cell phone screen, but it was a rip off!

Recently, we got a dusting of new snow along with hoarfrost. I can’t imagine anything more beautiful! When I walked by the river, there was a stretch that was completely frozen. The river gets more frozen by the day. I have never lived anywhere where the river freezes before. I was tempted to walk on it but decided not to. I’m not fully Canadian yet, so I don’t have the intuition to judge ice thickness.

I see SO many geese flying over every day to congregate at the river! It’s crazy! Why haven’t those birdbrains flown south yet?

I Admit That I Wished for Snow

Be careful what you wish for, hey? In Calgary, you’re more likely to get it! There was a reason I wished for it. I had a flashback to a time in London that was an incredibly stressful and miserable time in my life. I feel like I can heal from it now that I’m in Canada partly because there is snow that makes everything beautiful. My Mum said it says a lot about Canada if I feel safe enough to think through this garbage and heal from it. I agree with her on that.

Additionally, I was exhausted for a few days, so I stayed in bed. It was due to my move. There comes a point after moving overseas where I have had to sleep it off! It doesn’t happen right away. It creeps up on me. There are some stressors that don’t end for a long time (if at all). Once there’s a time to breathe a bit more, the fatigue hits! It was time to press the Reset button! I was so tired I didn’t give a crap about Inauguration Day in the US!

A Word on How I Feel About US Politics

Honestly, I’m still numb. I still have this strong part of me that says “I do NOT want to talk about it!” When I moved to Calgary, I had to be strict on that boundary. I broke that norm when I did my post Storming the Reichstag 2.0. My personal boundaries on talking about it still stand. I’m feeling more emotionally resilient than I was when I first moved here though. I am in a new country though and I want to respect their own cultural norms when it comes to politics.

Had Another TCK Moment about US Politics

I was 10 when I moved away from the US for the first time. Politics was boring adult stuff for me. 9/11 happened and I learned of ripple effects from the US around the world. Then, I came across a challenge that many TCKs face.

Politics didn’t come up a lot while I was living life outside my home in London. UK politics doesn’t get discussed nearly as much. I didn’t fully understand how UK politics worked, frankly. News shows were cryptic and I gave up learning it after a while. When I studied for my citizenship test though, it finally made sense to me!

My Dad has always talked about US politics incessantly at home. It gets so tiresome! Because of the cultural conflict between my home and life outside in England, I didn’t understand it. When you’re having a conversation in the US, sooner or later, you will start talking about politics. I didn’t realize that until I repatriated to the US. There is an unhealthy obsession with politics in the US. People from other countries really don’t understand that. A friend of mine pointed out that the US stands out in the world as an exception to the norm. She’s so right!

I think other cultures making politics a taboo topic can be healthy under the right circumstances. People have been taking breaks from politics because of the amount of depressing stuff going on. Cultural structures can act as pre-imposed boundaries on the amount of political discussion. I am breaking my habit of talking about US politics because I’m not there anymore. I do feel peer pressure from other Americans to talk about politics sometimes. My response is, I am in another country, and we aren’t obsessed with politics. Being a TCK can be a powerful thing.

Push and Pull between Cultures

When I move to a new country, I get this push and pull effect between my last country and my current country. As a TCK, I need to reconfigure balancing all my cultures now and then. Moving to a new country is one of those times to reconfigure.

Here’s one example. I have been loving the winter SO much! There are different things that are new to me about a sub-Arctic winter! There’s a push from the US and a pull towards Canada. That feeling is strong and deep! I am bracing myself for someday needing to go to California. I have to sort through a room full of stuff that I left behind. When will that happen? No idea. People I know have false hope that I’m returning for good. I have to squash it.

Sometimes, you get updates from your loved ones in your last country that make you wish you were there. That’s the biggest pull of all. Problems can be increased in severity by a factor of 10 when you’re overseas. Other times, people from your last country can say things that feel like peer pressure to return.

A Note on Peer Pressure

A word to the wise: if you know someone who is living overseas, please don’t ask, “when are you coming back?” They either might not know, or they may not want to do so, or both. Additionally, please don’t say, “when you come back”. I have had people do both to me and I hate it!

I am understanding of people who do this because they haven’t lived overseas. They don’t know how things work. Things can get complicated or plans can change for whatever reason. Take my situation about needing to go to California someday. I thought that was going to go back in April. Now, I know I can’t, and I have to apply to extend my stay. I don’t want to go to California until I know for sure that I would be allowed back into Canada. I told people in California that I would be there in April, but I didn’t know my situation would change.

What I hate though is people being unsupportive. I can tell the difference between someone not knowing how things work and them being unsupportive. The best example I can think of this from Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Okay, spoiler alert: Kim Baker breaks up with her cheating boyfriend. He blames the fact she’s been in Afghanistan. That hits home! I saved her line of, “Go to (insert something bad)! It sucks! You’ll fit right in!” It’s EXACTLY how I feel at moments like that!

People who have been the most sensitive are the ones who let me talk about my situation first. If they ask questions, they do it respectfully. If I mention that I might be visiting, we can randomly say we can do some fun things when I do. That is the best!

A Word on Getting Settled in A New Country

The question, “Are you settled yet?” is rather disconcerting for me. I’m going to do a more detailed post about what getting settled in a new country really means to me. I will probably stay at 80% settled for a while, frankly. There are circumstances beyond my control that will keep me from being 100% settled. Additionally, if my immigration status isn’t what I call solid, it’s hard to feel 100% settled.

That’s it for now. What do you think of what I said about my expat/TCK life here? I’m open to discussion! Any further tips on sub-Arctic winter would be welcome!

Flying Internationally and Locally During COVID-19

I decided not to tell the whole story of my trip to Calgary from California via Vancouver in one whole post. There are certain points that require their own post, and right now, I have decided to share my experience of flying during COVID.

Before deciding to fly to Canada, there were some things about flying during a pandemic that I couldn’t ignore. I looked up as much as I could about how to fly with a lower risk of infection. In terms of risk, flying was deemed the highest risk activity you could do, but there were some other things that made me not so sure. Eventually, I found an article that detailed what you could do to minimize risk and planned the trip from there.

Back when the pandemic first started, there was all this stuff in the news about US airline companies filing for bankruptcy to get massive government bailouts, while US citizens only got a measly $1200 check! What a joke, especially since the airlines were able to operate with social distancing measures a few months later! Additionally, US airlines weren’t enforcing their mask policy with customers who refused to wear it. That made me think, “Well, you just inspired me to fly with Air Canada!” My thinking was that international airlines have a vested interest in keeping their country safe, so they will have better safety procedures. Fortunately, my Mum was absolutely on the same page with me!

I’m so done with US carriers anyway. I’m only flying with international airlines from now on. Besides, at the time, I learned that Canadians are really into supporting their homegrown brands, and local businesses. I honestly love it and I’m embracing it! I plan to write a post about the importance of that someday!

So, here’s how my trip to Canada went:

The story starts the day before flying. I was trying to do online check-in for Air Canada and it wouldn’t let me because I was a foreign national. That was a new COVID rule back then, which was okay. I tried contacting Air Canada but found out we had to do the check-in at the airport.  When you do the check-in, they check all your papers that you will be presenting at Border Control, so it’s best to be prepared.

There weren’t any delays with the process at SFO. When you’re checking in, going through security and boarding, you have to lower your mask for identity purposes, but that’s okay. I noticed that all the airports I went through seemed to turn the temperature up from a comfortable “I-Can-Relax” level to a muggy, sweaty, breathless “It’s-Unbearable-To-Wear-A-Mask” level. Were they trying to weed out the people who weren’t serious about wearing a mask or something? I don’t know. I deliberately had to seek ways to cool off! I wore a mask for 12 hours straight that day. I had to throw it out after that, but it kept me safe in the end!

Airport Temperatures

If you have brought your own food with you, ask at security if there is someplace where you can go eat. Airports have set spaces aside where you can eat if you aren’t buying food, so I was happy about that.

I had to admit it’s weird that the boarding process goes so fast since airplanes are operating at a lower capacity. I’m so used to crowded planes and super long boarding times that there was some cognitive dissonance there. 

On the flights, I was ecstatic to see and hear French again in the announcements and also from the flight attendants. One of them called me Madame, which was amazing! (I like that or Mademoiselle better than Miss or Ms). I really liked that everyone was reminded that wearing a mask is conditional on travelling on Air Canada. They also handed out COVID care packages. And get this: wearing a mask on a plane is SO NOT a big deal because they circulate the air and the temperature is steady! My Mum and I both got window seats at the back of the plane because they are a lower risk of catching COVID. The flight to YVR was about 10 or 15% full and YYC was almost twice that. At least we were able to take more baggage! 

The views en route to YVR were mostly cloudy until we got closer. I wouldn’t say the views were breathtaking, but I did get this sense of awe I get when I see a new city from the air!

After we landed, we went through customs, which was a breeze since I had downloaded the ArriveCAN app and filled in our information before we arrived. We also thought we had to wait for our baggage, which turned out not to be the case. We were at the carousel and there were two sniffer dogs there: a black lab and a yellow lab. Anyone who knows me knows that I am so crazy about black labs it’s not even funny! Then, the black lab came up to us to inspect us. I have noticed black labs seem to know I’m crazy about them, and this was definitely true of this dog, Jake. He suddenly started acting all lively like labs do even though he was working. I said to his handler that if Jake wasn’t working, I’d be making a fuss over him and he thanked me graciously.

I was sort of lost as to what to do next, but I saw an immigration office though and went to check if we had anything more to do. This French Canadian guy was really kind and polite and he said “Welcome to Canada!” about 4 times. He told me I had to go to Border Control, and gave me directions, so I thanked him and went back to tell Mum. 

As a Third Culture Kid, I have had more than my fair share of bad experiences at Border Control or any business to do with immigration or citizenship. This experience was no different. I understand why though. All I want to say about it right now is that I read an article that said the US is losing its passport privilege, and it couldn’t be more true!

I think the IRCC relaxed a bit after they called us to check we were complying with quarantine regulations. My confidence increased because of all the bad experiences I have had with immigration, I know how to deal with immigration officers. I will do a post about my personal tips for that! Hint: Honesty is the best policy.

Then, it got dramatic:

Because of being at Border Control for a long time, the officer said we had technically missed our plane to Calgary and said to go talk to Air Canada. We tried to find the Air Canada desk and then I noticed we had half an hour until our plane left! I thought if we legged it as best we could, we could make it. I didn’t know we had to go through security again! I don’t know if this is a thing in Canadian airports to have to go through security again when you have a layover. The last time I was at a Canadian airport was over 20 years ago and I didn’t have a layover then!

By then, I was running on pure adrenaline and sweating profusely thanks to the aforementioned uncomfortable airport temperatures for wearing a mask, and being dehydrated. They had to confiscate my water bottle that they gave me on the flight to Vancouver and had to open my bag to check my scissors! I had a book about TCKs in that bag and I saw the lady do a double-take when she saw it! She let me through when she asked if we had to catch a plane! I wish I had been reading that book while waiting around at Border Control. I think it sends the message I’m an experienced traveller and immigrant! My Mum can’t run, so I went ahead to see if the plane to Calgary was still there and it was! I got to the gate and the lady there said she was just about to call us on the speaker! 

By the time we got on and by then, my entire body was feeling weak and shaky as an after-effect of being at Border Control but I had to get our bags into the overhead bins. The stewardess couldn’t help me because of COVID, which didn’t make sense because the stewardess on the other flight had helped me! My Mom’s bag was super heavy with books and I was saying to my body “Please don’t give out!” Someone was sitting under where I was putting the bag and I didn’t want to hit him with it. I couldn’t have handled it then. It worked out though and my Mom asked if I was okay. I said I thought I was going to throw up. I didn’t, but still. 

I was able to enjoy the views though. There was snow on the mountains and in Calgary! I noticed on the interactive flight map that we were about 30km from Banff, so now if someone asks me if I have been to Banff, I can honestly say the closest I have been so far is 30km! Someday though! 🤞

YYC is a lovely airport! Mum said it reminded her of Oakland airport in the 1970s. I’m used to massive airports like Heathrow, so it’s nice to see a smaller and more personal international airport like YYC. I noticed that the plane approached the airport from the north and didn’t fly directly over the city. Ever since moving here, I have noticed that it’s rare to see planes flying over, but then it depends on which part of the city you’re in.

Mum noticed Timmies right by the gate where we got off! It was cool, but we were exhausted and just wanted (and needed) to get to our new home ASAP. Someday though! After I got money and called the landlord from the airport phone, we got on Uber. It was 2° out with snow on the ground. It was a crisp cold, not the bone biting cold that I had to endure in London. I stepped out of the airport and thought, “I could live here!”

Mum and I were exhausted in every sense of the word and were asleep by 8 pm. By morning, I checked my messages and my best girlfriends from my university had sent me messages and I started crying because I suddenly missed them and I’m so worried about them being in the US! I can’t explain the bonds I have with my best friends from university but friends at women’s colleges are something special. I called them and just had to talk and have a cry about what happened. I encouraged my friends to share my story with others because this seems like a reality for US expats.

Well, that’s my story of moving and flying during COVID. It wasn’t easy, but it was so worth it!

First Month Theme: Is This A Thing?

I have been here a month now, and the most common question I ask myself is, “Is this a thing?” I ask myself that because it’s surprising to me, not because I think it’s good or bad. Then, I try and find out if it is a thing and I withhold judgement until I have more information! Here are some things I have experienced living here that have made me ask that question and the answers I have got. I’m probably going to be asking myself that question a lot for a while at least. So, if anyone has anything to contribute to my possible “things” please let me know in the comments!

On a different note, I have been making changes on my page because I’m going independent. If you’re having problems with my interacting on my blog, please let me know either in the comments or through my contact page. Bear with me please with this transition!

Canadian TV:

Once things got a bit calmer, my Mum and I started exploring streaming services on CBC Gem. A friend recommended that to us, and it looks really cool so far! I found Schitt’s Creek on there. I heard my friends in California say that it was a funny show, so we thought of giving it a try. Little did we know how much that show would resonate with us because of the whole moving situation! We’re almost done with the last season and we want to watch it again and take notes! Initially, I didn’t know it was a Canadian tv show. None of my friends told me it was, and I don’t have Netflix, so I’m really not up on the shows on there. Before moving here, we were actively looking for Canadian tv shows, and we came across Slings and Arrows, which I featured in my post about Rachel McAdams. Slings and Arrows is another one that I have watched about 3 times over.

What I have noticed about Canadian TV shows is that they are very real and don’t have that in-your-face that US TV shows and movies have. Every country puts its stamp on their TV shows, and I like the personal and transparent aspect of Canadian TV shows. I fell in love with English comedies while living in London. They will always have a special place in my heart!

I was pleasantly astounded that Schitt’s Creek put LGBTQIA+ representation front and centre of their show! No wonder they have won several awards for that! As much as I would love to see that happen with US TV shows, I don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon, since conservatives have quite the grip on media.

I have got some good recommendations for other Canadian shows, so I’m looking forward to seeing more of them in the future! I have found TV shows and entertainment are an excellent gateway to understanding a culture. Plus, right now, I can learn a lot about how people speak and spell words here in Canada. At this time, I am a little overwhelmed with that considering I am already fluent in both American English and English English and I’m trying to figure out how and when to relate to which dialect or when to abandon the rules with both dialects completely with Canadian English.

Currently, I am watching movies from the Marda Loop Justice Film Festival, which I can do for free through my local library. I will write a post on that later. Right now, I’m still trying to find out what’s a “thing” with Canadian TV and movies, but I’ll get there!

Another “thing” I discovered is whenever there’s a big snowfall, the internet gets funny. The last time I lived in a snowy climate, the internet wasn’t nearly as big a thing! Streaming does get a little weird around that time too and I have to refresh the page. I have tried 5G though, and I understand why the transition is happening now in Canada. 5G is definitely better quality than regular internet when there’s a big snowfall. That, and I know from being a data science major that transport fleets of the future are being designed to run on 5G, so there we go.

Quality of Food:

I’m in love with the food here! I discovered the joys of the Co-op and Cal & Gary’s my first day out of quarantine! Still exploring what they have to offer at this point, but I’m hooked! I’m really into organic, local and ethically sourced foods since I’m a trained chef, and it appeals to my French side. I know this sounds crazy, but it doesn’t feel like the food is slowly killing you here because corporations get away with putting SO much crap in it! I know a few things about Canadian laws on food and trade with the US, but I’m still learning about it. Frankly, I think the fact that the US just lets corporations do whatever they want makes the population more unhealthy, even if you personally take care of yourself. Plus, giving corporations free rein strips people of their livelihoods, and that’s one of the things that has lead to that orange baboon being in the White House for four years. I told my Mum that and she hadn’t thought about that, but she thinks I’m right.

I have been getting in touch with my French side since discovering the joys of Yann Haute Patisserie! I get bread there regularly because no one does bread like the French! Plus, on my first trip there, I decided to try a Paris-Calgary, while my Mum tried a lemon tart. We were celebrating our end of quarantine, and the food was ABSOLUTE ECSTACY!!! Anyone who visits Calgary HAS to try Yann Haute Patisserie!! Trust me, your trip will not be complete without it!! I have since tried their croissants and sausage rolls, and they are just as incredible! I feel like I’m in France again or back at Le Cordon Bleu!

Cold Water Pipes and Furnaces:

It was a weird thing to realize that you can’t get completely cold water from the cold water tap! I have lived in Colorado, where the pipes would freeze sometimes, but you could still get cold water. I joked with my Mum that the tepid water from the cold tap is like the tepidarium in Roman baths!

Winter Infrastructure and Lifestyle:

I used to take my water bottle everywhere with me back in California. It helped with getting my required 2L per day of liquid to carry it around. Now, there is no way I can take it with me without the water freezing, so I have to drink as much as I can before and after I go out! I also started drinking 2.5L of water a day because of the dry climate. Additionally, I have been using lotion and chapstick a lot more! Every store I go into has Burt’s Bees chapstick, and I can see it’s for a good reason.

I can tell if it has snowed during the night because someone comes by with a snowblower at about 6:30 am and it’s loud and stinky! Worst alarm clock EVER! It makes me pull the blankets over my head and hope I fall back to sleep!

I’m doing fine acclimatizing to subzero temperatures, and so far, I have learned how to deal with -10 C ish pretty well! I come alive whenever there is snow! I have missed that feeling after living in California and London. Lately, I heard that California is getting “cold”, so I created a meme. Basically, no one in the US is getting any sympathy from me when they say it’s cold! There are a few exceptions, but this meme sums me up pretty well.

I become like Roz!

Most of all, I love taking walks in the winter weather and seeing other people taking walks and enjoying the outdoors. Life seems more deliberate here, unlike the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley, which is a recipe for burnout, and why people are doing a mass exodus of the Bay Area.

I could write an entire post about winter lifestyle here (including what I see when I take a walk), but so far, I just want to mention those few things. More later!

Remembrance Day:

I wanted to say a few things to follow up on my post about Remembrance Day. First of all, I noticed on Remembrance Day a nearby flag was flying at half-mast. I got this feeling that I have only ever had in England whenever I saw Armistice Day customs. It’s a feeling of realization that it really was world wars you’re talking about here.

Additionally, I was outside the day before Remembrance Day. When I passed the monument to an unknown soldier, I noticed a flame burning and people laying a poppy wreath. I smiled respectfully to myself and lowered my head as another memory of England cropped up. I went to that memorial again when I visited a local library. I saw the eternal flame burning and took some photos of the memorial with the poppy wreaths. I definitely felt an overwhelming sense of nostalgia for England, and also a realization that Canadians really love their country!

The US doesn’t fly the flag at half-mast on November 11. The US used to call November 11 Armistice Day, like in England, but they changed it. My Mum remembers when that happened, and my grandparents were really upset with the name change. To them, it was a slap in the face to get rid of a name that signified the termination of The War to End All Wars. It’s like changing the name made the US forget about the sacrifice during the World Wars and isolated themselves further from the world. My Mum told me to NEVER forget that the US did that, and I promised her I never will!

COVID-19 Response:

After my mandatory 2 week quarantine upon arrival, it was weird for me to go outside and find out how many places have successfully reopened with COVID measures in place! I avoided stores like the plague back in California. I only went to Costco a few times in the seven months we were on lockdown. I trust a lot of stores here in Calgary since they are transparent about what they are doing about COVID procedures.

When I was in Safeway and found that they have arrows on the floor to indicate where to go, I was like, “Wait, WHAT?” 😮 I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way. It was just inconceivable to me that stores would do that. I have had to get used to that though and be conscious about it. I was at the Co-op the other day and it slipped my mind briefly to check the arrows, and I got told off before going down an aisle in the wrong direction. I deserved that. Now, my Mum and I keep reminding each other to watch the arrows until it becomes routine. Lately, there have been some more restrictions, so I can see businesses are being more careful, and I’m completely willing to respect that!

Additionally, when I found out I could subscribe to updates to restrictions on the Alberta government website and there’s a contact tracing app, it blew my mind! 😮Can you blame me after coming from a country whose COVID response is nothing short of pathetic?

Overall, I feel I can relax a bit here when it comes to COVID. Cases have been going up in Alberta recently, so we are still careful when we go outside. When we left California, we figured out that you basically can’t go outside without being borderline paranoid anymore. So, I had a bit of paranoia at first when I went out for the first few times in Calgary, but a bit of perspective has helped. I go out more often than I did back in California, especially since it’s more of a necessity as a preventative measure for Seasonal Affective Disorder. I still have no idea how it’s going to affect me yet since I had it really bad in England! Plus, it’s a nice treat after being among the good people in the USA who have been sheltering in place for seven months and staying disease-free! Note: I’m NOT getting complacent though! The last thing I want is COVID!

Wildlife:

If you have seen my Quarantine Diaries posts, you will know I was amazed to find black squirrels here! I have seen more city wildlife since then, like rabbits and magpies. Whenever I go for a walk in the park, the rabbits come right up to me! I have noticed people feeding them, so I get why they are tame. One of our friends did warn us that rabbits are pests in Canada, so I’m not so sure about feeding them until I know for sure that it’s a thing. The rabbits kind of remind me of the squirrels at UC Berkeley. The squirrels there are just as tame and they know the students give them nuts. When I did a summer class there, I always had nuts on hand for the squirrels. Plus, those squirrels are the subject of many UC Berkeley memes, beside bears.

I haven’t seen so many magpies since England! There’s a superstition on how many magpies you see, “One for sorrow. Two for joy. Three for a girl. Four for a boy.” I gave up on that superstition though because I see so many lone magpies here, I’m just like, “Whatever!” Still, there are three magpies that frequent the front and backyard. We call one of them Belle and the other two are clearly a couple, so we call them Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie since they strut around like they’re a celebrity couple!

We have started putting birdseed out for the birds since we know from living in England that not a lot of animals make it through the winter, and England’s climate is less harsh than Canada’s.

The other day, I was walking home and it was snowing, and I saw SO many rabbits out! It makes me wonder if they go and grab as much food as possible when it starts snowing! Thing, or not a thing? 🤔

Healthcare:

Disclaimer: This is just my own personal experience so far!

I have successfully resumed my chronic pain treatment and it’s been going so well! One of my observations is that there are so many chiropractic centres around here. Clearly, chiropractic has more recognition as a healthcare profession in Canada. In the US, I have had some bad experiences with chiropractic care, and even the good chiropractors aren’t at the same level as chiropractors in Canada. Legally, chiropractors can’t diagnose your problems in the US. Additionally, even though I have had some good chiropractors in the US, the care didn’t provide any more than just occasional pain relief. My treatment and care recommendations have been sticking more than before, which is great!

Additionally, I went to the dentist since I needed a check-up and a problem that needed attention. It was the most thorough appointment I have ever had! The hygienist saw me before the dentist did (it’s the other way around in the US). I got some excellent oral care tips from the hygienist, which was also a first! The dentist explained possible steps in my care very well. I understand that a good dentist is a good dentist, and maybe that would have happened where I was getting care before, but who knows?

Diversity and Representation:

I grew up in a multicultural neighbourhood in London, and the diversity enriched my life like nothing else! When I repatriated to the USA, I wondered if I would ever have that again. I got some diverse, multicultural experiences in the USA, but it wasn’t to the same extent as London. I guess one of the defining factors for me leaving the USA, was not just that lack of diversity in my life, but also living at a time of terrible polarization the last four years. Someone who was your friend before, could become your enemy overnight.

Before I moved to Calgary, my friends told me Alberta was rather white, so I was kind of bracing myself. I’m white myself, but because I identify as multicultural and multiethnic, I’m not white by US standards. If anything, white Americans have explicitly said to me that I’m not American if I have spent any part of my life overseas and ostracized me in other ways too. My reaction is, “Fine. I would rather be an expat anyway!”

I was pleasantly surprised to move here and find it was more diverse than I thought it would be! I have connected with other immigrants, and I have already met another Third Culture Kid this past month! (Doing a little dance right here!)

Another thing I noticed is there is more representation overall. Since I have had to buy some good winter clothes, I have been looking at clothing websites a lot. All these websites I have visited have racially and ethnically diverse models. Plus, I have seen some ads from time to time and they have diverse representation, and minoritized groups are portrayed in a positive way. I can honestly say I’m impressed! Go Canada! 👏👏👏🇨🇦🇨🇦🇨🇦

Recently, this Japanese anime artist created samurai warriors to represent different cultures that will compete at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The designs are brilliant, of course! I read some comments from Canadians on Reddit and they said their anime warrior doesn’t represent their diverse culture. I understand why Canadians said that but on the other hand, maybe the artist didn’t know too much about Canada’s diverse culture, so I can forgive that.

Overall, I am really loving my life here! I didn’t realize that I was depressed before I moved, but suddenly, I have a boost in my mental health!

Please let me know what you think of my “things”!