When crisis hit Greece in 2010, our plans for moving abroad sped up.
I had lived in France for a while and absolutely loved it. We also considered the Netherlands (I’d even started learning Dutch from a nice webpage I’d found). We even thought of the UK.
“The crisis enormously affected our plans. Everything we knew back home had changed, dramatically. Canada seemed far away from it all. It was a massive country and everything was completely different to in Europe.”
But before we knew it, we were packing our stuff, renting out our home, arranging accommodation and looking for a new school for our child. Not in Europe, though, but in Canada.
The crisis enormously affected our plans. Everything we knew back home had changed, dramatically. Canada seemed far away from it all. It was a massive country and everything was completely different to in Europe. My husband and I both got accepted into Canadian Universities, so off we went – to Toronto: “the world’s most multicultural city”.
We arrived in Toronto at the end of August 2012. It was my first time in North America. As we explored Toronto’s unbelievably huge downtown, I remember looking for what in English is called a “public square” to rest, under a surprisingly scorching sun.
I was actually looking for a Spanish-like “plaza” where I was hoping to find the usual trees and cafés to sit for a while, drink some coffee and move on. But in Toronto there was no such thing! It’s so green everywhere that people just go to the parks. It’s a totally different culture. It makes so much sense now!
It does still amaze me, though, how moving to a new country can change your perception of simple, everyday things. The way people like their coffee, how they take public transport, how they greet (or don’t greet) each other in public spaces, and the etiquette of buying something from a store. These are things you rarely pay any attention to when you’re living in your own, familiar place for years and years.
“Having to unlearn the English I was taught in Greece was the hardest – and most surprising – task. I find myself relating to the “language plateau”. I can even confirm that yes, there IS such a thing as a “bad English day”.”
What I love most about living in a different city for some time, is transitioning from the unknown to familiar. At first, the streets, the buildings or the shops might seem strange, and you can’t even tell north from south.
But slowly, you build connections and eventually what were once unfamiliar images or smells become familiar. Suddenly, you’ll surprise yourself and find yourself giving directions to a traveler, or realise that you’ve memorised all the subway stops on your way home.
Unlearning and relearning English
The moment you think you’ve got this, there’s always something new waiting for you. A word, pronunciation, an accent… there are so many things to bear in mind while finding your feet in a different language.
Particularly with English. Having to unlearn the English I was taught in Greece was the hardest – and most surprising – task. I find myself relating to the “language plateau”. I can even confirm that yes, there IS such a thing as a “bad English day”.
“If you’re patient and persistent, you see there’s the Spring and the sun you were hoping for. So you know it was worth it.”
As for Toronto… Toronto is at its best in the Fall. Coming from Greece, I admit that I never knew how many colours the Fall had until I saw the beautiful maple trees (yes, the ones making that delicious maple syrup!).
On a crisp, but sunny October day, I love going for a walk in the park. Do I still miss having my coffee in the “plaza” (or πλατεία, in Greek)? Absolutely! But I never expected that I’d love going for walks under those red, orange and yellow leaves so much.
“I’ve come to appreciate the four seasons: the calm, still and muffled sound of footsteps in the snow during those long, Canadian winters.”
I’ve come to appreciate the four seasons: the calm, still and muffled sound of footsteps in the snow during those long, Canadian winters. From a different continent “on the other side of the world” or, at least, the world as I once knew it, I’ve learned to appreciate the Spring and the warmth that I once took for granted. I’ve realised that with patience, good things always come.
Moving to another country while you’re still learning the language is a bit like that. Not everything is new and fun. Sometimes there’s loneliness, too, or even a winter storm.
But if you’re patient and persistent, you see there’s the Spring and the sun you were hoping for. So you know it was worth it.
Danae is a sun-loving native Greek. She moved with her family from Athens to Toronto in 2012, where she discovered there’s beauty in the cold climate too. Between walks in the park and winter storms, she teaches and runs Alpha Beta Greek, her blog for people who love learning – what else? – Greek.
Feeling inspired to learn a new language? Check out Memrise!