I saw something that made me cry the other day.  Do you want to know what it was?

An orange leaf, an emblem of my “saudade.”

The leaves in Houston, at least most of them, don’t change colour so I’m missing home – my glorious driveway and my very own autumn forest.

I miss the seasons and I miss – sit down for this – pants.  I don’t think I can fit them but I miss jeans and cute boots and the brisk autumn air.

Blueberry JBrand denim $21, Miz Mooz boots $7.50, grey wool sweater $4.90 and Pashmina silk scarf $5.
This was one year ago in Canada, for some perspective.

I am disoriented to time and place.  I have to tell myself, “it is October”, “you are driving South”, “you are looking East”, “your neighbours have guns”, “they’re not rude they’re just not Canadian.”  Oh and, “no one cares that you’re Canadian.”

Maybe hockey cares a little! 😉

I haven’t posted much lately because I have a bad case of the 3-month-transition blues and I don’t want to complain too much lest that inadvertently defines me, which it doesn’t.  Truthfully, much of this transition is unexpected, unanticipated, and I feel a little foolish for not seeing it coming.

I never expected so many subtle cultural differences – the way people ask things, make plans, drive, chit-chat.  I detect an underlying attitude here that the way things are done is the best way, so no need to consider any other options.  And I’m sitting here saying, but!  But!!  There’s a rough edge here compared to Canada, so innocuous interactions still take a bit of skin.  I have to brace myself every time I leave the house and even when I’m welcomed by new “friends,” it’s still new and inherently uncomfortable.  And don’t get me started about the school system.  I’d like to shake Texas by the shoulders and scream, DO YOU REALLY THINK GIVING KIDS A RATING FOR EVERY DAMN THING IS A GOOD IDEA?  Instead I tell my children, you are smart no matter your percentage.  You are an athlete because you love the sport.  Your future is not dependent on this test, this day or this school.  God’s got a plan for you that will happen and you will be perfectly equipped for it.  (So there, Texas.)

I went to a Life Way women’s event last weekend with Lysa TerKeurst and Ellie Holcomb and it was awesome.  But I went alone.

There’s a spouses’ association through my husband’s company, so I went to that.  It was great to meet all the ladies seasoned in moving and transitioning – and let me tell you, it was quality visiting time with some very nice bags and shoes – but they’re not my friends (yet).  (I think I’m going to offer to host a clothing swap!!!)  This morning, one of the neighbourhood moms originally from Venezuela assured me that new experiences make your life richer.  True.  But then I returned to my empty house.  I’m putting myself out there, I’m saying yes to every invitation, I’m making overtures, I’m in Bible studies, I’m looking for a church.  It’s not for lack of effort that I find myself in this state and I’m just wondering, is this normal?  You who have made big international moves, did you hit some walls?  Did you have valleys?  Tell me about your hills too because this girl needs some hope.

Maybe beautiful things give me a little hope.

In a few years, when I meet women who are at my current stage, I’m going to tell them: even if you do everything right and willingly made the move and had a great attitude and love change, you’re still going to be caught off-guard sometimes with longing for the way things were.  You’re going to have days where you declare, I hate this place, even though you don’t.  I know you are grateful to be here, Sister, you can still complain to me.  Now let me tell you about better days…

21 Comments

  1. I absolutely get where you are coming from! We move every three to four years and it’s hard, and these aren’t international moves but across several states. I find you just have to jump in there and meet people and see who sticks. Sometimes I feel a little too eager (my husband swears I am running off the lady down the street who we meet walking our dogs with my eagerness…I know we could be friends!) I go to things and come home with no one calling, meet people in church but never deeper than hello. I have learned to always find something good in the day, get to know myself and be happy with me, go out for lunch by myself and enjoy it and have a good time at the movies or shopping with me. I can’t say I don’t have a pang of jealousy when I see a group of friends laughing enjoying each other and wish I was with them. We move so much I think no one wants to invest in a friendship with me because who needs a friend that is going to leave! I tell myself repeated to grow where I am planted. Even if that season of growing only includes me. Good luck!

    • I like that, jump in and see who sticks! Grow where you’re planted. To give myself some credit, I’m more comfortable on my own than before so that aspect has improved. I’m an extrovert so it has been a learning process to be alone for longer periods and be okay with it. And you’re so right, gratitude is the attitude that changes everything!! Thanks for your encouragement!

  2. Cory McInnis Reply

    Even though I have not moved to another country and state, just a province away, I too have felt all those feelings, and have all those thoughts. It has been 11 months for us in BC, and this past week I have now woken my heart with a smile and see this little town (city) through new eyes. I no longer feel like a stranger, enjoy all the scenery around, having a routine (different from yours with kids), but non-the less a new one! Hang in there, it does and will get better. Letting go of your Alberta roots are hard, we have a beautiful country, honestly I don’t know why we do this to ourselves, uprooting, selling, buying houses, new everything! But, after 14 moves (7 of them to different cities) the time frame for feeling like it just may be home again, is about the 10 month mark, so mark it on your calendar and celebrate when you get there, oh, and just know it is about to snow here this week and when that starts, it never stops snowing ahh!! So I will wear the boots, pants and cozy scarves and sweaters in your honour 🙂 big hugs to you.

    • Thanks Cory! Your words and comments are so helpful. I will try to be patient (not my strong suit, but growing by the grace of God!) while living my way to that 10-12 month mark. I am very curious to see what my perspective will be then. The weather is starting to cool a bit and I bet it will be surreal but lovely to go a whole year without snow! This week, the complications with the school system + Thanksgiving + my son’s birthday culminated and tipped the balance but already things are feeling more hopeful! Thanks again!! xoxoxox

  3. I haven’t made a move lately, but retiring is a bit like you’re describing. I do miss the routine and co-workers. I don’t know what Harvey did to places like Rockport and Port Arthur, but did you know you’re in one of the best birding areas on the continent? Your heron pic reminded me. You need to see all of those birds flying to/from Canada! It’s a veritable skyway out there! Can you find a group of master naturalists or some such group to get out and hike or just observe birds from a bird blind? My other “grappling” method is thrifting, lol. I like the craziness at the GW Outlet near me (a by-the-pound place with all manner of people). I go by myself, and some folks have actually traded things from their cart with me which is almost like having a girlfriend along. PS I wore an Irish electric blue wool scarf yesterday with my tee shirt when the front came thru. Sorta like a half sweater. Love your blog…

    • I did not know that about the birds! I will have to check it out though my more natural inclination may be to hit the thrift stores!! Your scarf sounds fab – can’t wait to wear one because of the weather and NOT the AC! Thank you so much for your kind words! They matter to me!

  4. Hey girl!! I moved to N Houston from Sk when I was 18, in 2005. It is a major culture shock. It’s so many subtle differences that are hard to articulate, but can add up to be overwhelming. I totally understand you. Summer heat is easy to not feel so far from “home”, to trick yourself it’s summer all over North America and you’re not permanently somewhere new. When it gets to fall and especially winter, the days are shorter but the weather doesn’t feel like you expect it too, and seems to mess with your natural rhythms. It’s easy to get depressed, and especially hard to get fall & winter feels. Hugs to you for making it through your first family orrinented holiday, and Happy belated [Canadian] Thanksgiving to you. Sometimes those holidays go past with ease, and sometimes it’s absoltely heart wrenching to be apart from family at those times, and it’s not easy to say ahead of time how you’ll feel about it. I was incapable of getting in to the Christmas Spirit the first few years I lived here. Houstonians fully relish the reprieve from heat and Love winter trends though. Try to appreciate the upside of a “green Christmas”, like no activities get cancelled due to weather, you have to fight mad shopping traffic, but again, you’re not shivering in a vehicle and traveling dangerous road conditions, and sunny 99.1 plays non stop Christmas music on the radio . There are still places to skate, and you’ll find people can create awesome Christmas light displays because the snow doesn’t cover them all up. (Look up Prestonwood neighborhood lights). And I don’t know if you’ll be around for New Years, but people do tons of fireworks to celebrate. I really, really commend you for putting yourself out there with strangers and trying to expand your inner circle. I know you’ll meet and click with people soon! People here may not be super open to stranger interaction, but I’m sure you’ve noticed with all your Hurricane volunteering, they have big hearts once they open up. There’s no time limit on feeling homesick but I bet this place will grow on you. My cousin temporarily lived in Nunavut and said “you know you like where you are when you want people to come visit you instead of you having to get away to visit them” and that’s exactly how I feel about being in The Woodlands now. Keep venting if you need to, you aren’t alone in your feelings! Just because we make life choices that are best, doesn’t make them easy.

    • THANK YOU for sharing your insight – takes one to know one!! So helpful and encouraging! I think I can muster a more positive attitude most days, and you are right, I have met many warm, friendly, welcoming people and now I just have to be deliberate about building those relationships. My son is playing hockey so we are at the rink 3 or 4 times a week and I volunteered to host a party for the team. Why not? If you can’t go to a party, bring the party to you! And my other son turns 12 tomorrow, born in 2005, so that’s another Houston milestone – the first birthday here! I will be coming back to all these comments whenever I am feeling those transition blues! Thank you for giving me some hope and perspective!

  5. Samantha Raymer Reply

    I moved from Canada to San Antonio, TX over a decade ago when I got married. It took me a year to adapt to all that was new (it was total culture shock), and two years before I felt like Texas was home. It does take time. It isn’t easy, and it’s just a challenging time to be living in America in general, imo.

    I’m in the DFW area now (which I like better), and we are currently considering moving out of state. I think think that people and places are either a fit or they’re not. You can adapt to a place, but is it the best place for you? Only time will tell.

    All that to say, that I think what you are currently going through is normal. Texas/The South is a big culture shock for most Canadians. Give it time, and you might find that you love where you are, but be gentle with yourself in the mean time. International moves are a huge challenge.

    • It means a lot to me to hear that 1-2 years is a reasonable time frame for adjusting and immersing! Somehow or other I kept thinking there is some rubric for moving (like there is for everything in school) and that I’m not meeting the expectations for where I should be at my stage! It is so very reassuring to hear from all y’all who have been there and KNOW. Thank you so much for commenting and encouraging me!

  6. I have moved internationally (and back) – both times by myself. My move was to Asia from the US and it was a huge shock to my system, culturally and otherwise. I estimate it took me a full year to feel comfortable, both moving there and again coming back 3 years later. At first it was exciting and different there, and then I definitely hit a wall in the winter months over the holidays. There were so many peaks and valleys, and they were typically related to the seasons. To be honest I hit a very low point that first January, to a level where I probably should have sought help. Then the cherry blossoms bloomed and I felt hopeful again. Comparing my current to my former life was never very productive or helpful, although it is natural. What helped me was writing, traveling (even locally), running (I was always a bad runner but there was something about running while listening to music that always helped my worst moods), cooking, learning a new language, and learning photography. I also boosted myself by reminding myself I was a badass woman for taking such a leap (as are you!). It will absolutely take time to find your niche and find your people, but it will happen gradually and naturally. Sounds like you are doing all the right things.

    • I actually lived in Seoul in my early twenties and was reflecting on that. I felt at home once I made friends with the locals and dove into their culture. So that’s what I probably need to do here! You are right – sometimes I think making an international move is no big deal but in fact, many people would never even entertain the idea. We ARE bad ass! We rock! Thank you so much for your comment. Your reassurance helps so much!

  7. Yep, it will take a year…at least. Remember that friendships take lots of time. We don’t have toddlers or cute doggies to walk so there’s no way to develop friendships. We live in a very transient area of Texas. People will be here for a few years and leave. Good for you for saying yes to everything. You are going to be a blessing to a new person one of these days.

    • Well I do have a cute dog to walk but that’s my podcast time so I can’t meet people then! HA! I did not really realize that it is transient, coming from a small town full of multigenerational families! Staying put is the norm in my experience – I’m slowly uncovering assumptions I never realized I was making! I am grateful for women like you, willing to take some time and connect with ‘newbies’ like me. Thanks so much for the encouragement!

      • Cory McInnis Reply

        check out this CBC podcast, its a good one :)http://www.cbc.ca/mediacentre/program/alone-a-love-story

  8. Our family moved from Texas to Missouri…where it’s cold! Then we moved to India, where it’s HOT and now back to Texas! Weather patterns and habits we have do make us change. Adapting to the heat/cold is no joke! A piece of advice a friend gave us when moving; find three places you can go to that make you feel at home. So if it’s a bookstore, or a coffee shop or a library or a thrift store 🙂 …it doesn’t matter, it just needs to be a place that makes you feel at home. This place will change as you get to know your city. BUT on the days you don’t want to get out of the house, those are the days you must get out of the house. Another thing that we have found, displaced people need others! So, while those that have been in the area for a while have their plates already full, others who have just moved to the area need you. Even if you are three months ahead of them, you are still ahead of them. It’s a lonely place to be, but it does get better. It just takes time. For some it’s a year. For some it’s longer. So don’t box yourself into a time box. If you can find one consistent thing to do each week, that helps too. I couldn’t use my nursing skills for pay in India, but I could put them to good use by volunteering, even published an article in a journal because I had time to do so. I learned how to do home canning. I wanted to take quilting lessons but never did. So just dream a bit about what you’ve always wanted to do then do those things. Also, don’t forget that you are in a state of grieving and all these feelings are normal. Around holidays it feels the worst. So expect yourself to be a bit off around those days. If you need fall colors, Arkansas isn’t too far and is so beautiful, especially the Northwest areas. It will get cool, don’t worry! But it won’t get cold for too long! So wear those boots when it’s 70! 🙂 Everyone else does…it’s our only chance 🙂 I could go on and on. It’s just hard, no way around it. Maybe we should meet up sometime! I’m only an 1 1/2 hours from you!

    • I knew the weather would be a factor but I didn’t understand how much of a factor it would be… till Harvey then autumn! Your advice is spot on, sooooo good. I am screenshotting this and keeping it with me. My kids have some routines and I have a couple things going on but I might need to make myself a schedule of sorts for the activities that aren’t bound by a time but nonetheless give structure and stability in a chaotic time. Where are you in Texas? I’m game for a road trip!

  9. Hi! We moved from MB to AB a few years ago. All of your musings are definitely making those memories come back. When we moved I told myself that it would take about 5 years to have a really solid home church, good circle of friends etc ( we have little kids so can’t get out as much and somewhat introverted). We are just coming up on our second year anniversary of moving and this is definitely started to feel like home. I still miss our Manitoba friends and family sometimes but excited for what the future holds. Praying for you!

    • Thank you!! And back at ya! I like your reasonable time frame and I’m learning (slowly!) that a year at least is likely what it will take to start feeling a little more comfortable. This is definitely helping me to grow, one way or another!

  10. Hello Nicole!
    Sending you hugs and prayers from Northeast Houston from another Canadian transplant who has been here for 8 years. I hear you on everything that you are describing. It has taken me 7 years to adapt to life here… and heck I’m still not fully adapted. I can’t stand driving every where and not walking, I still feel so guilty throwing anything in the garbage that can be recycled (and I still say garbage instead of trash lol) I really miss having a lot of outdoorsy things to do. And I miss how Canadians love to just get together and don’t spent so much time working and buying things. There’s probably still a good amount of maple syrup in my blood. 🙂 The transition has been so slow for me but I hope hope hope it will be faster for you. My entire first year here I was insulated from a lot of the culture shock by friends in school who were also transplants. After school was done though, I really started to notice the differences. And I resisted so many things on principle… like saying y’all. Until i realized it’s so confusing to people here when I say you they think I’m talking to one person… let’s just go with it… so 4 years ago I started saying y’all and I’m so much happier. That’s just one super silly example of my stubbornness and God finally telling me to get with it sister, when in Rome! I have spent a lot of emotional energy wishing things here were more like back home, and it was just a recipe for unhappiness. There are so many great things here and the people here are wonderful in different ways than Canadians are wonderful. It’s super deceptive moving here because in many ways it looks and feels like the place we are used to… but you’re absolutely right, there are a million subtle differences that all add up. Anyways, I’ve rambled on a lot. I hear you, and know that me, like the others who have posted in the comments did get over the transition hump where things get worse before they get better. And we are rooting for you! Oh and if you decide to go to another Life Way event, I would love to join you! I’ve always wanted to go to one!

    • Thank you so much for your comment!!! xoxoxo I thought I had replied but apparently only in my head! Your words are very comforting and I concur – things get better when one accepts the current circumstances. I noticed that when I lived abroad before – I really started having a good time and forgot about being homesick when I made local friends and immersed myself in local culture. I’ve told my kids the same thing – we are here now, it’s no use to pine for Canadian things (i.e., school with no-homework policies). It’s a different kind of wonderful indeed. Well said. I for sure will go to another Life Way event – any upcoming ones catch your eye?! That would be awesome! Thanks again for your encouragement. xoxo

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