When I decided to relocate to Edinburgh, both my level of excitement and anxiety were at an all-time high.
One moment I would be deliriously happy, lost in a daydream of my future life in Scotland. Five minutes later, my mind would be flooded with thoughts of the dreaded “what if” scenarios: what if I can’t find a job and run out of money? What if I dislike it and want to return home? What if I fail to make friends?
Those what-ifs and imagined worst-case scenarios can wreak havoc on your mind, making you question your decision to uproot your life and move to a new country.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably spent hours searching the internet for answers and reassurance as you attempt to navigate everything that comes with a major international move.
Indeed, I did! And while I did find some useful information, it was not as specific or comprehensive as I had hoped.
Like, all I wanted was a comprehensive depiction of day-to-day life in Edinburgh, a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s really like to live in the city, AND all the practical information I required to make my move there as seamless as possible. Was that an excessive request?
Evidently so, as I had difficulty locating the majority of that information online. And that, my friends, is why I wrote this post (along with my monthly expat in Edinburgh round-ups, my nearly 3,000-word guide to living in Edinburgh, and all the other Edinburgh expat-related content on this blog): to make your move to Scotland’s capital easier and (hopefully) less stressful.
But now that I’ve managed to ramble and stray ever so slightly off topic, shall we return to the topic of this post?
Here are ten things I wish I had known before relocating to Edinburgh.
1. Living in Edinburgh is not always rainbows and sunshine.
Now, I realize that I paint a very rosy picture of my life in Scotland on this blog (and that is an accurate representation of my expat experience), but my time in Edinburgh wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns.
Fairly speaking, when I recall my time abroad, it was ALL rainbows and unicorns. When I take off those pesky rose-colored glasses, however, I recall my experience in its entirety: yes, my time in Edinburgh was largely wonderful, but it was also rife with obstacles and heartbreak.
There was a painful (albeit relatively brief) period in between jobs during which I was constantly concerned about my rapidly diminishing bank account balance.
My visa expired, and I was forced to say goodbye to a life I cherished before I was prepared.
All these minor health problems made me wonder if the city was trying to kill me slowly (seriously, I felt like I constantly had a cold/cough/random illness in Edinburgh, which, for some reason, no longer occurs in Canada).
It is inevitable that when you move to a new country you will encounter significant setbacks and disappointments, so remember to accept whatever comes your way and do your best to “roll with the punches.”
2…. but in the end, everything will work out
You know those overused and extremely cliche expressions: everything happens for a reason and everything will work out in the end? Remember them whenever disaster strikes (and shit will hit the fan at some point during your time abroad).
Despite the difficulties I encountered in Edinburgh, everything worked out in the end, and everything transpired as planned (even if it took me a few years and many a breakdown to realize that).
Oh, hindsight. Where would I be if you were absent?
3. You’ll begin drinking excessively
It’s not as if I moved to Edinburgh and became a raging alcoholic, but Scots enjoy drinking, and they frequent pubs after work, on the weekends, during the week, on their days off, etc.
And when you’re constantly surrounded by Scots who enjoy drinking, it’s impossible not to adopt their habits.
The pub culture in Edinburgh is authentic, folks.
4. You’ll be sorry you didn’t spend more time touring Scotland.
Cheap flights are both a boon and a bane; on the one hand, it is delightfully simple to fly to any number of European countries for almost nothing.
On the other hand, it is far too simple to prioritize travel to destinations outside of Scotland, which I now regret.
People, learn from my mistakes!
5. You’ll eventually realize that Scotland is superior to your country in so many ways.
It is natural for expats to compare their adopted home to their original residence. While so many people talk about how much they miss their home country, I realized that Scotland is superior to Canada in a number of ways.
Before I continue, I want you to know that I am not an ungrateful brat, and I am fully aware of how fortunate I am to live where I do.
I am eternally thankful to call Canada my home, but let’s be honest: no nation is perfect. So, if you don’t mind, allow me to play the expat country comparison game.
#1: Cell phone plans
When I learned that you can obtain 3GB of data and unlimited text messages for £10 per month (approximately $17 CAD), I was astounded.
Obviously, I was ecstatic to pay next to nothing for my monthly phone plan in Edinburgh, but I was also a bit enraged that phone companies in Canada can charge four times as much for fewer services.
(Canada’s cell phone plans are the most expensive in the world, lest you think I’m exaggerating.)
#2: Vacation time
Canadians and Americans, I’m sure you, like me, have a visceral reaction when someone from Europe says they receive five or six weeks of vacation per year. After leaving Scotland, adjusting to a meager three weeks of vacation time was likely the most difficult adjustment to make.
#3: Communal transport
God, I miss the days when I could take a bus or train to virtually anywhere in the United Kingdom. AND it wasn’t extremely expensive. AND it was reliable and comfortable.
To get to Niagara from Toronto (which is a 1.5-hour drive, by the way), I must take a three-hour train and bus journey that is painfully slow and expensive.
Living in Scotland has given me the realization that the Scots know what they’re doing. Take note, Canada.
6. You’ll end up wanting to remain for, like, eternity
Honestly, I was blindsided by this development.
I ended up building a life I truly cherished, one that made me feel happy, content, and fulfilled, despite the fact that I was laser-focused on achieving all the goals I’d set for myself while living abroad.
So it should come as no surprise that I ultimately desired to plant some roots and make Edinburgh my home for the foreseeable future…
…until the British immigration system dashed my hopes.
7. Saying goodbye will be the most difficult aspect of your expat experience.
This topic has been discussed exhaustively on this blog, so I will not do so again. In short, I desired to remain in Edinburgh, was unable to obtain a visa, and was forced to say a heartbreaking farewell. The conclusion.
LOL, JUST KIDDING! I initially refused to accept that I couldn’t remain in Scotland and returned twice after my visa expired before eventually (two years later) accepting that I had to depart.
8. You won’t have enough time to do everything
Before moving to Edinburgh, I remarked, “Two years is essentially an eternity.” I’m going to visit 3238423 countries and take a road trip across the entire country of Scotland, all while advancing my career, making new friends, and experiencing new things.
Every month in Edinburgh, I ask myself, “HOW HAVE I BEEN HERE THIS LONG ALREADY?!”
Does time pass more quickly when living abroad? Does that exist? Your time in Edinburgh will pass more quickly than you can say “Haud yer wheesh”
Actually, your Youth Mobility Scheme Visa will likely expire before you master the correct pronunciation. Holy Scotland!
9. You will be required to learn a new language (well, sort of)
Moving to a new country is difficult, particularly if you do not speak the language and the culture is radically different from your own.
Fortunately, Scottish culture is comparable to that of Canada, and we speak the same language — or so I thought before moving to Edinburgh and discovering that Scotland has its own dialect. As it turns out, we only somewhat share a common language.
Technically, people in Scotland speak English, but the sheer volume of slang, Scots words, and regional accents and dialects — each with their own word variations and jargon — will make you question whether you and the locals are actually speaking the same language.
Not only must you get used to the slang, but you’ll also feel like you don’t know how to pronounce anything. I’ve previously mentioned this in the Edinburgh Expat Guide, but I had to learn the hard way about street names like Cockburn (co-burn) and Buccleuch (book-loo).
10. In Scotland, summer does not really exist.
“You’re telling me it doesn’t get any hotter than 17 degrees Celsius in the summer?!”
The first time my Scottish friend attempted to describe Edinburgh’s “summer” weather to me, I truly did not comprehend what she was saying.
In retrospect, I’m glad I was blissfully ignorant of the fact that Edinburgh does not have a proper summer, as it would have made me reconsider moving there.
Topic: 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Moving to Edinburgh
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