Family walking

Follow the Ma Family’s Big Move

07 July 2022

Any expat will tell you that navigating bureaucracy is a common challenge when living abroad. 

These last few weeks have been especially trying, as we sold our house in Ireland and rented a new one in Canada. There were many forms to complete, contracts to sign and big decisions to make, but we are finally here, in our new home, in a quiet neighbourhood in the picturesque province of Alberta.

I had almost forgotten how much of a learning curve a new house is. There are so many questions involved in every daily task: what does this icon on the washing machine mean? Why is one fridge shelf colder than the other? How can I pull the curtains tighter so my two-year-old doesn’t think it’s ‘up-time’ during snowfall at 4am? 

He’s enchanted by the central heating system here in Canada, which comes through vents in the floor, rather than via radiators in Europe. He pads around in his nappy, going from one vent to the other, luxuriating in the warm air that circulates around his little legs. The two older kids are naturally seeking bigger distractions, as they’re missing their busy social circles from school.

Winter sports have been a fantastic opportunity for them to make new friends and learn cool skills. There were a few bumps and bruises (to be expected – thank goodness for expat health insurance) but otherwise they’re taking to it all like ducks to (rather cold) water. Skiing has gradually given way to ice-skating as the temperatures rise, and when we start hitting double digits, we’ll be able to go swimming in the many lakes in this part of the country. We took a trip up the mountains last week and came across a baby bear exploring his habitat. The only bears the kids had seen before were in Dublin zoo, so it was a magical experience, although we did stay safely inside the car to watch!

The outdoor lifestyle here suits us, as it’s a good way to relieve some of the pressure of working in the medical field. We’ve invested in paddle boards, canoes and bikes with a baby trailer, so the family can explore our new community on two wheels. We like that it helps us stay healthy, get some fresh air and leave the SUV at home – especially as fuel prices are rising fast. The higher cost of groceries has been a surprise for us too, as goods have to travel long distances to reach supermarkets and stores. That means that some foods are much more affordable than others, especially in terms of meat and fish. I’m enjoying the challenge, though, stocking the fridge with family favourites as well as exciting new discoveries.

We’ve also been busy visiting museums, heritage parks and futuristic installations, as well as learning about Indigenous People’s arts, cultures and histories. The kids love soaking up these new sights and sensations, and gaining a bigger perspective on the world around them. They have Irish and Chinese heritage, and we want them to feel connected to those communities as well as Canada’s as they grow older. St. Patrick’s Day was a busy one in our house, as they decked the living room out in maple leaves and shamrocks. The only problem is that we’re still finding green glitter in the carpet, weeks later.

Now that we have the house, car and new jobs sorted, the next big item on the list is finding the right school. We’ve visited a few local options, where the teachers, staff and students have been wonderfully welcoming. This has helped to alleviate any trepidation, and now our eight-year-old is champing at the bit to get started, buying a school uniform, new school bag and fresh set of books. I’ve promised the teachers we’ll keep the green glitter at home!