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Exiting Expat Life

Melissa at Magere Brug (also known as Skinny Bridge) in Amsterdam KVDV Photography

I knew there would be tears shed when I left home. What I didn't expect was the sadness that would accompany saying "so long" to expat life.   

Leaving Canada was tough. I had my tight-knit circle of friends, close family, job security, a (slowly) budding acting career, an apartment, a routine, a comfort zone. . . you get it; I had it going on. But my then-boyfriend (now husband) and I dropped it all to explore a mystery life across the pond.

I distinctly remember how much of a mess I was at the airport. I really should not have worn mascara that day (or at the very least thought ahead with waterproof) as I had numerous tears rolling down my cheeks while entering security and clutching my passport. I was sad to give my goodbye hugs and leave, nervous about what life had in store in the Netherlands.

That feels like eons ago! Just shy of two years living the expat life, we are now returning back to Canada. It has been a whirlwind. I can’t even sum up in one article what we have encountered together. There have been rollercoaster highs and ocean deep lows. We have travelled through a good chunk of Europe, survived culture shock together, and so much more. This experience has definitely brought us closer together, supplying us with adventures that will last a lifetime. Filled with so many memories of little daily challenges and accomplishments that may seem so minuscule to others, but made huge impacts in our daily lives.

Mixed feelings

I am excited to head back to the true north strong and free. It will be amazing to have English menus, free (and larger) bathrooms, more audition opportunities and ketchup chips. But I will miss the life we created here: The new routine, the work-life balance, the accessible travel opportunities. Our cozy bubble filled with new friendships, being surrounded by so much history, the delicious cheese and, of course, the cheap wine.

It has not been easy to get to this point. Starting from scratch in a new country means a stack of paperwork to decipher and constant frustration of not understanding the language. Simple tasks can take an immense amount of effort when you live in a non-Walmart 24-7 express culture. Going to the gym feels more like a chore when every group class you have to remind the instructor that you annoyingly only speak English. You feel like a complete outsider. It can be lonely, isolating and repetitive. 

Starting from scratch in a new country means a stack of paperwork to decipher and constant frustration of not understanding the language. But it's been worth it.

However, it's also felt worth it. With only a very limited time left, I’m soaking up every last minute. Watching the ducks swim in the canals, walking along the old rows of houses, fighting through the swarm of tourists downtown, letting the free samples of old Amsterdam cheese melt in my mouth, visiting the free museums with my museum pass (such a good investment), and enjoying all the charming details of this amazing city one last time.

So what now?

What I will take away from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is to slow it down. Before moving here it was all about the hustle, the parties, the social life, the freelance contracts. I miss and crave this. But I'm also hesitant to get swept back up in the downward spiral where you forget to take a moment to yourself and breathe. A moment when you can say no to others, no to commitment and just say yes to yourself and your needs. I'm ready to go back and hit the ground running, but will remember the importance of stopping for fuel for myself along the way.

So goodbye Amsterdam. It’s a wrap. You were an incredible chapter in my life. But the curtain is about to close, and I should now take my bow. A chapter that will never be forgotten, and who knows, we may visit again sometime in the future! As I’ve come to realize life has an amazing way of changing and going in directions that you would least expect it to!

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Melissa Verwey

Melissa Verwey is a Canadian performer who has been residing in Amsterdam for the last year. Her career has included acting in over 20 plays, coupled with over a decade of working behind the scenes in TV and Theatre Production.

Website: www.melissaverwey.actor

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