Moving countries and “supposed to’s”

Jelger and I moved from Belgium to Vancouver about 4.5 years ago. It’s such a journey to witness how my feelings about Belgium have changed and evolved over time.

At first when I left Belgium, I was plain angry. Both me and Jelger were pissed off about so many things. One of the main things was how hard it was to become self-employed while coming from a family without any capital to back you up. And of course we disliked certain government policies etc.

Arrived in Vancouver

I had the idea that Vancouver was some kind of “promised land” and that it’d be all butterflies and unicorns. Maybe that was not a bad start, because I needed some idealism to actually be crazy enough to make such a huge leap of faith. 😉

Of course after arriving in Vancouver, I quickly learned that nobody was waiting for us and that if we’d want to build something for ourselves, we’d better be prepared to work our asses off. After a year, when the first love cooled down a bit, I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Vancouver: everything seemed so impossibly hard. I fought with my accent, I was self-conscious about not being “very Vancouver”, I strongly disliked my survival job etc. But we decided from the beginning that we’d at least had to give it a go for 3 years, because how else can you say you really tried?

Visiting Belgium

When I first visited Belgium after our move, I was in a straddle between both cultures and countries. I noticed differences that really bugged me, but I was also very excited to see everyone and visit places that we really liked.

When back in Vancouver, it started to feel more like home, but I also incorporated more “Belgian things” because I tried to embrace my background. I was part of a Belgian association, I chatted about the good beer and foods and just ignored the things I didn’t like about Belgium.

Another visit, another insight

Last October I got to visit Belgium again and this time I got hit with a feeling of “I don’t belong here anymore”. Both Jelger and I felt guilt. Guilty because of how this must come across with family and friends. Guilty for rejecting the country they are still living in. Knowing that I can’t connect with the place where I was born, grew up, lived, got married, … is very confronting.

It’s as if you’re supposed to feel a certain way about your mother country. When someone asks me “Oh, that’s far away. Do you miss it?” I’ll say: “Nope.” Which usually is followed by an uncomfortable silence or laughter because people expected me to say something else. 😉

But here’s the thing: just because you’re born somewhere doesn’t mean you have to have a loyalty towards this place for the rest of your life. It’s ok to think: “Thank you for the wonderful memories we shared, now I’m moving on.” The people that genuinely love you, will accept your choice and they’ll support you in your new ventures.

I love the West Coast. I feel proud to live in Canada. And in hopefully a year I’m going to be a very proud Canadian citizen. 🙂


Ps: enjoy these rural photographs we made on our trip to Belgium in last October. 🙂