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4 years in Edmonton

4 years in Edmonton

Old Dec 18th 2009, 4:25 pm
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Default 4 years in Edmonton

Earlier this month we hit our 4th canniversary. Boy does it bring back memories! Like standing at Gatwick with the wife & 3 kids, a bunch of large suitcases (and at least 2 over-weight), and picking up a one-way ticket from the agent that the employer had arranged. I can't think of many other moments in our lives that were as exciting, frantic or intense!

Anyway within 24 hours we made it to Edmonton. Despite it being 10th December it wasn't all that cold. We were staying with a senior couple from the church that had offered me a job. We had the run of the 90% developed basement which was great, but in under 2 weeks we had found a house and moved in. We wanted to be able to enjoy our 1st Christmas in our own place (rented). Looking back I would maybe not have moved out of the free accommodation so quickly. Our hosts were lovely and helped us with getting our licenses changed over, acquiring SIN cards, driving us around etc.

The transition to Canadian life has gone fairly well, though it has certainly had its ups and downs. For the most part I haven't missed the UK. For Mrs. Rabrol, it has been a different story. The first 2 / 3 years were hard for her. At home with the kids, freezing outside, 1 vehicle which I used to commute to work, not manly local friends. It was definitely a lonely time for her, and my busy work schedule didn't help with that (usually working a few nights a week in addition to the days). There were many tears in those days, a lot of disappointment in Edmonton as a place to live.

We don't mind the city - living in Millwoods on the south side has been easy for us, but the activities here are not that numerous. We had lived near the Lakes in England, and from our house we would walk across 2 fields to be at a beautiful river where the kids could feed ducks and watch the salmon jumping. There were plenty of historical sites nearby, and many interesting villages. Within an hours drive our family could do and see lots of things. In comparison we have found Edmonton to be quite boring. There are no quaint little villages around, and everything is so far apart. The activities for families are much more limited, and often expensive (WEM tickets don't come cheap!). So all of this compounded the wife's sense of displeasure.

Then came the thorny issue of holidays. Although 2 weeks is the standard starting point, I was given 3 weeks. Honestly, I find this pretty tough. I had 6 weeks of vacation time in the UK, and if I was to make the move again I would certainly negotiate for more. I (and the whole family) kind of feel ripped off regarding the holidays. We live with it for now, knowing that in the future things will be different.

When we 1st came to Edmonton, Alberta was in a boom. It was weird driving around and seeing signs outside most places of employment looking for workers. There really was a shortage of staff in many places. Things have changed quite considerably, but compared to our friends in the UK, we have felt hardly any of the recession. That is not necessarily true for all Edmontonians - we know several people who have been laid off - but it is our experience.

The children settled in well. Now 10, 8 and 6, our 2 daughters have spent more of their lives in Canada than in England, and their accents are becoming more Canadian. Our kids did not have any trouble with the move at all. They would be content to live wherever we (Mum & Dad) are. It was hard for our 10 year old son (who was 6 at the time) to leave his friends, and when he first started school he would spend recess alone. But within 3 months he was as happy as he had been in his British school. He had new friends, started a "club" of which he was the leader, and would spend his lunchtimes building snow forts with his buddies.

4 years in and I would say we are really well settled. We won't stay in Edmonton forever, but we are happy here for now. I am still in the same job, and Mrs. Rabrol hardly ever struggles with the homesickness. I would say the transition has been harder for her - it takes a woman a few years to develop really close friendships with another 1 or 2 ladies. Her closest friends are now the ones that live round here, not the ones in the UK. That makes a big difference.

We are also encouraged to have fairly regular visits from family. My parents have come for Christmas this year (our 1st Christmas in Canada with family!), then when they leave my sister-in-law will come for 3 weeks in January with her hubby. Back in October the wife's Dad came for 10 days. The previous October one of my friends from the UK came for 2 weeks with his wife & kids and experienced a Canadian Thanksgiving with us.

One of the lifesavers for us was the VOIP phone system I set up within a week of our arrival. We continue to use it on a regular basis. It basically gives us a UK local phone number so our family can call us for free (since UK daytime minutes are included on their landline or mobile phones). We don't even have to have a computer on - there is just a small box that plugs into the wireless router in the basement that is connected to a dual handset cordless phone. When we receive an incoming call, the 2 cordless handsets ring. Sipgate (www.sipgate.co.uk) provide the service which has been both excellent and free! For our outbound calls we use internetcalls.com and only pay about $20 every 3 months for almost unlimited calls to the UK & Europe.

Of course the webcams see some use too. Not being a fan of Skype we use Google Talk (part of Gmail) as the quality is much higher and more consistent in our experience. Occasionally we will use Skype with friends who don't have Gmail - but all our family have moved over to Gmail now.

We have reached our minimum time to apply for Canadian citizenship and so our applications are in the for that. I think it will be very beneficial for our kids to have dual citizenship as they will have the right to live / work in many of the European nations or here in Canada. It will also be good for us. Our parents aren't getting younger, and if we ever did have to return to the UK for a couple of years to look after them, we would not want to lose our status in Canada. Of course we are going to have to wait a while to gain citizenship (about 12-18 months seems to be average right now).

If we still lived in Britain, would we do it all again? Absolutely! Our quality of life is higher. We have more disposable income and have been able to learn new things. I had never put a pair of skis near my feet before. Now I enjoy cross-country skiing and the odd downhill ski. I have gained a pilot's permit (costs about half of what it costs in the UK) which was a dream since I was 12. Our family is happy here.

So that's the scoop for us. Thanks for reading!
Rob
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Old Dec 19th 2009, 1:13 am
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Default Re: 4 years in Edmonton

What a brilliant and interesting post, well done to you all. I can empathies with your wife on the homesickness bit, especially if she has left close family and friends behind, but life goes on and with web cams, internet ect it makes it far more easier. (dont know what I would be like if I did not have this lap top)
What a difference as well from the lakes, my parents used to have a caravan at Levens Bridge and I love that area. I helped out the office in Kendal one year (DWP) doing visits to elderly people in out lying arrears and said to OH if we did not go to Canada then Lake District would be next on my list.
Good luck and best wishes for Christmas to you all.
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Old Dec 19th 2009, 2:21 am
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Default Re: 4 years in Edmonton

Fab post - congrats on making 4 years!
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Old Dec 19th 2009, 6:22 am
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Default Re: 4 years in Edmonton

A nice post. Congratulations and I hope you enjoy many more anniversaries.
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Old Dec 19th 2009, 11:53 am
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Default Re: 4 years in Edmonton

What a lovely encouraging post. I'm glad to read it's worked out well for you all. It's encouraging to hear that your wife has coped with the homesickness - I'm wondering how I'm going to be>
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Old Dec 19th 2009, 3:27 pm
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Default Re: 4 years in Edmonton

gives a very balanced view of the ups and downs of moving abroad. Congrats!
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Old Dec 19th 2009, 9:39 pm
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Default Re: 4 years in Edmonton

Good post and my congratualtions to you and your familiy.

Yoong
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Old Dec 20th 2009, 4:53 pm
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Default Re: 4 years in Edmonton

Excellent post rabrol - well done to all of you, and congrats on 4 years
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