In which the WaterCooler lives up to the “WorldWide” part

Because I want to bring both my kid and dog to the pub, goddammit.
Because a bunch of my other friends moved to Europe, and I miss them.
Because I’m sick of living somewhere with a mandatory bike helmet law.
Because, as much as I love my Kindle, who wouldn’t want to live near an incredible five-story bookstore?
Because I felt so bad about leaving town during the 2010 Olympics I felt the need for a do-over in the next Olympic city.
Because maybe I’ll become smarter by osmosis by relocating to an international seat of academia.
Because I want Isaac to sound like the kids in Mary Poppins (‘allo Guv’nah!).
Because maybe I’ll apply to that Masters program after all.
Because I put it on the Life List (see?! I told you something like this would happen).

Because, why not?

In case you haven’t figured it out, or didn’t see it fly by on the twitters yesterday, Team Watkii is relocating to Oxford, UK!

Oxford's Bridge of Sighs
Neil’s accepted a position with the UK headquarters of his current company, located just outside Oxford, so we’re off mid-July.

Yes, this is the real reason we’re selling our condo, and why I’m putting up with living in the ‘burbs in the meantime: not only is it economically sensible, it gives Isaac lots of grandparent time before we head off.

This isn’t the most radical move we could make. There won’t be much of a language barrier, and as Neil’s a UK citizen, settlement visas aren’t much of an issue. We already know a few people in the area, work is secured, and we do have company housing set up until September.

So far we’re looking forward to experiencing a lifestyle that, while somewhat familiar, is really quite different than what we’re used to, and taking advantage of our proximity to continental Europe to do more traveling in that part of the world.

For those who’ve done the ExPat thing before – any tips for us as we get ready to go and begin to get settled?

And, perhaps most crucial, which Premiere League footy team should we back?

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19 thoughts on “In which the WaterCooler lives up to the “WorldWide” part

  1. Rob Jones

    Oxford is a great place – my second favourite English city. One of the things I love about it, besides the gorgeous architecture, and the casual and civilized pub culture, is that it is entirely walkable. One of my pet peeves about North American cities (and their suburbs), Vancouver included, is that they are made for cars, not people. Oxford is a great example of how cities were planned before cars were even invented. They couldn’t NOT plan them for foot traffic. As a result you have a beautiful city that you can navigate entirely on foot, and have plenty of places to walk TO.

    Enjoy Britain! I used to live there myself, and I miss it.

    Cheers,
    Rob.
    Rob Jones´s last blog post ..Bob Dylan Sings β€œLove Minus Zero/No Limit”

    Jen Watkiss Reply:

    Thanks – I loved Oxford when we visited a few years ago. And the walkability is a huge plus! Moving from Kits, where I could get everything I needed in a 2 block walk, and everything I wanted within 6 blocks, to the deep suburbs where there is nothing worth walking to for kilometres in any direction, has been a rude awakening!

  2. Matt

    From my own US to Canada expat experience the most important things I can tell you:
    1. Make sure you have plenty of cash (or equivalent liquid assets) in accessible accounts, in both your old and new currencies (converted ahead of time at the best rate that you can find). It really took me off guard that a) international moves are expensive, and no matter how many costs you think you’ve planned for others keep piling up, with bills in both currencies, b) exchange rates are killer in general, and on credit cards in particular: if you’re using the “wrong” credit card you get dinged twice, once for the purchase, and again to convert your new currency back to the card currency to pay the bill, and c) you may have a completely nonexistent credit rating in your new home, so getting a credit card may be impossible without some cash on hand to get a secured one. DO NOT assume that a healthy salary will make it okay. I theoretically had plenty of money, but it was all locked up in various ways, particularly because my new bank accounts put 30-day holds on every deposit I made, further complicated by a payroll snafu at my new job. It was almost two months before any of my earned money was actually accessible, and by then I’d blown through over $10k in savings. And there was only one of me to feed, clothe, etc.
    2. Go through your wallet and file box and start making a list of every license, permit, registration, etc, with “Canada” anywhere on it. You’ll need a plan for how to apply for all the new ones, including the registration costs for all of them (see 1a above). This also applies to Canada-specific financial accounts (e.g. RRSP, pension plans, etc), which may be difficult to transfer. I had a couple of US accounts which refused to even send me mail outside the country; figure out a way for your parents or a friend to receive those kinds of things for you.
    3. Pack very carefully. At worst it could be weeks or months before your main shipment of stuff arrives, so the clothes you take with you may have to last you through both the current season and the next one. I wasted a lot of money on buying winter clothes I already theoretically owned because I didn’t think to pack any, and everything was still on the truck somewhere when it started getting cold.
    4. Schedule some time to have fun. Your first 2-3 months in your new home will be really chaotic as you get settled, and it will feel like you’re spending every free moment running from one bureau or office to another just securing your permission to live, work, drive, etc, there. One day every week or two doing the fun stuff will keep you sane and happy, and help you adjust to your new home. A number of my American coworkers in Canada who refused to do this ended up moving back within a year.
    Matt´s last blog post ..Tex-dar

    Jen Watkiss Reply:

    Thanks, all very handy!

    We do plan on having a healthy slush-fund to carry us through our first little while there. Neil’s actually heading over on a trip a few weeks before we go, so he’s aiming to get banking set up then (funny situation: you can’t get a bank account without an address; you can’t let a home without a bank account – thankfully the company’s booked a flat for us to start with). But I am nervous about credit for things like a Visa card and a cell phone plan.

    I am, however, intensely nervous about packing “enough” for 6-8 weeks in our airline-alloted luggage allowance. Hopefully we don’t experience too much in the way of weather extremes!

    And thanks for the reminder on #4. We keep saying we want to do lots of day trips around the area, and I can imagine they are easy to push aside in favour of yet another Ikea run, etc.

  3. A Little Coffee

    Wow, what a fantastic opportunity! I adore the UK, I’m also a dual citizen and it’s like my second home even though I grew up in Canada. I have only ever moved abroad for 4 months and considered it more of a transient experience so I don’t have any real advice for the move, but I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time once you become settled. And hey if you stay long enough, Isaac might get an adorable little British accent!!
    A Little Coffee´s last blog post ..My "Balance" List

    Jen Watkiss Reply:

    Thanks! I’m counting on him to deliver the cutest “mummy, may I have a biscuit?” Maybe he can replace those god-awful pretentious brats who’ve been on Ellen a lot lately.

  4. Riann

    Most excellent! How soon before you will be set up to accept visitors? Brook and I have yet to cross that particular pond, and the more couches available the more likely the trip would be. I’m sure there will be all sorts of life and emotional upheaval on your end, but I’m choosing to focus on how your move will benefit me πŸ˜‰ It helps to keep the jealousy at bay.

    Jen Watkiss Reply:

    When we arrive, we’re in a small apartment to start with, while we find a house to rent for August or September. We’re definitely expecting frequent visitors, so are aiming for 4 bedrooms and to be settled in relatively quickly. Hopefully we’ll have Watkiss Cottage open for guests sometime in late September or early October.

  5. Colleen

    Oh, I have such excitement for you and I love that you’re already using the word “flat” like it’s no big thing.

    This does, you know, make it harder for me to come and hold and smell any additional children you may have. I will however, soldier through, because I love you. I will take one for the team. πŸ˜‰
    Colleen´s last blog post ..One Day, It All Changed

    Jen Watkiss Reply:

    You do know that we will be home for visits, yes? Also, excellent excuse to head across the pond yourself πŸ™‚

  6. Jeremy

    You should support the Norwich Canaries. All the big name teams simply try to buy their titles (City, United, Chelsea, et. al.). Norwich on the other hand made it to the Premiership based on hard work. In 2009 they were playing in League One (the equivalent of the ECHL for hockey fans), and many of their players actually had part time jobs, in order to make ends meet.

    They scrapped, clawed, and earned the right to play in the Premiership. And they finished the season around the middle of the table. And Carrow Road is a brilliant pitch.

  7. The Lone Banana

    One cautionary note re: the sprog (not to be a negative nelly): from myself, who was in it, and my parents, who taught in it: the English school system is not kind to children.
    The Lone Banana´s last blog post ..May links

  8. Vio

    OMG this is amazingly awsome.. yay.. for the first time i wont have to think oh.. I’m only in Vancouver for 7 days.. which group of friends should I attmept to catch up with..I will have you over here ALL the TIME.. this is great.. /end rant
    OK support CHELSEA because you know that you want to be a London Girl at heart.. and truely because if gives you the awsome excuse to come and spend shopping in the westend.. Chelsea is the Vancouver of the UK.. they have strong support and play hard.. and in turn they win a lot.. bit like our good boys the canucks πŸ™‚
    The folks above covered the foibles and folly of moving over mostly.. the only thing I would add.. is dont get a basement/ground floor flat.. welcome to the land of ‘TV licences and Council tax’ both of which we dont have at home.. and there are super funny shopping hours here to watch out for. Driving is a hoot.. dont be afraid to do it.. it’s scary for the first 10mins but then your auto pilot will come on and you can just do it.. dont ask me how.. you just will.. aww.. i’m so excited to hang out.. just as i’m looking at jobs to move back funny enough though.. (my sister is pregant and I always said I would try to return under those circustances) Well I’m sure happy to hear this news.. I’ll PM you on facebook with my UK details..and I live/work in the center of London.. bit like where I lived in Vancouver πŸ™‚ so you will have your all the time on call tour guide… best of luck moving.. by the way Virgin is now doing charters.. super cheap i just booked a ticket home for Alex’s graduation for $1100 which is much less than the big boys (peak season).. okok i’ll stop jabbering.. again get in touch if you need any advice or referrals.
    xo e.

  9. Emma

    Fantastic – Oxford is a lovely city (and this is coming from someone who lives in the ‘other’ place ie Cambridge!).
    It’s over a decade since I did the ex-pat thing but I’d second the advice about having easy access to funds while you settle. I’d also recommend taking a zen approach to bureaucracy. Every country has its own brand of crazy when it comes to red tape, you just get used to it at home. If you find yourself thinking ‘but in Canada we do it like…..’ too often it will only serve to raise the stress levels.
    It is well worth shopping around for bank accounts, mobile phones etc (if you have problems getting a pay monthly phone contract for your cell phones you can always start out on ‘pay as you go’ and then port the number across once you get a contract). Also get on the electoral roll as soon as you can as this will help with your credit rating – http://www.expatfocus.com/guide-to-credit-and-financial-freedom-in-the-uk
    Good luck!

  10. Raul

    Love, love, love the fact that you and your family are moving to Oxford. Rest assured, Dr. Pacheco-Vega will most definitely find a way to give a talk at Oxford U πŸ™‚ and you know you have my support and love for whenever you need me from across the pond. Side and tangential note, @ChrisWalts and @ByAshleigh moved to London from Vancouver and were part of the general Vancouver socmed crowd so if you miss your Canadiana you may want to get in touch with them, if for nothing else, to have some Vancouverites near by in London.
    Raul´s last blog post ..Timothy’s Frozen Yogurt (Steveston Village, Richmond BC)

  11. Katri

    I myself was an ExPat for three years, but as that was already ages ago and in a bit different circumstances I won’t offer any advice. But wow, that is great news and such a wonderful opportunity!

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