The expat’s arrival checklist

I love a good checklist. I love the sense of order that comes with writing the list, and the feeling of achievement of ticking all those little boxes. Sometimes, I even list things that I’ve already done, just to feel the rush of ticking them off immediately.

Since arriving in Canada, I’ve been diligently ticking things off my to-do list. I’ve been pretty productive in the month I’ve been here! It looks a little something like this:


But, some things are un-tick-off-able. Perhaps they are even un-listable in the first place.  Making friends is one of them.

I imagined it would be a linear sort of process. Like, you make one friend, and then you meet another and then those friends introduce you to their friends and so on and so forth until you have an ABUNDANCE of friendships.

In reality it feels more like a game of snakes and ladders.

One minute I’m hanging out with all sorts of new people in parks and patios and in cafes, having great conversations and feeling like I’m really connected. Then I’ll go days and days without seeing anyone and I’m feel like I’m sliding down the snake back to square one.

I approach every new meeting with optimistic curiosity. Maybe this person will turn out to be a new friend / adventure buddy / team-mate / social connection / future husband… Or maybe we’ll make pleasant small-talk over a coffee for an hour and never see each other again. Sometimes it sizzles and sparks, sometimes it fizzles out. The stops and starts are tiring, but all of it adds to the richness of my experience.

Sometimes I feel guilty for being so reliant on the company of strangers. They have plenty of friends already and not much spare time. For me it’s the reverse; I need them so much more than they need me. I’m having to be more assertive than I’m completely comfortable with.

The quiet times bring my insecurities out. Maybe I need to change myself to be more likeable to Canadian folk. Maybe I need to smooth out my rough bluntness and tone down my tendency to be so damn opinionated. I’ve realised I need to be more respectfully curious about different world views. I definitely need to be less of an insufferable coffee snob. Apologies, Victorians. I have been pretty annoying.

I knew this experience would change me, so perhaps this is lesson 1: be more culturally humble.

But I really HAVE met some amazing people here. So, it will take time, it will be a process, but it will be worth it. I have no doubt that one day I will look up and marvel at all the wonderful friends I’ve found here.

Until then, I’ll keep it on the list.

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