Before You Move to Canada …

by Rebecca A. Watson on March 6, 2016

in California, change, Germany, government, life, Minneapolis, moving

I read that after the results came in for Super Tuesday, that lovely event where the public weighs in on who it wants its presidential nominees to be, many people were thinking of moving to Canada. Apparently internet searches for how to move to Canada from the U.S. went up 1000%.

And I get it. After George W. Bush stole won the first presidential election I ever voted in, I was on the same page. Hell, I lived in Minnesota. It wasn’t that far of a drive and it certainly couldn’t be that much colder. And while I didn’t end up chilling with our neighbor to the north, I did try to tune everything out for a while knowing I should become politically active.

shit happens

This was basically my motto for the next few years.

I was relieved when my training as a journalist soon prevented much of that. My hands were tied, but I could watch the place burn down. This was the plan, the best I could come up with. Fast forward to now, where our country is even more divided and subsequently more paralyzed. It’s hard to watch.

And that’s what I have been doing still, partly because the word “objectivity” is burned into my brain, a habit that’s hard to break (Checking the box for Democrat in California was difficult, even if I had decided to forego a life in journalism. What if someone found out I wasn’t fair and balanced?) and partly because I live in Germany now, where the volume of American politics has been turned down and world news, rightfully so, has a larger place in discussions.

I didn’t move to Germany because I was fed up with the United States. My husband got offered a job, and I had always wanted to live in Europe; we both love a good adventure so we decided to give it a shot. Sure there were things I was pretty excited to get away from, like the insanity of managing health care copays, but I was sad too. I loved my country, warts and all.

I've been to literally more baseball games than I can count. That makes me a patriot, right?

I’ve been to literally more baseball games than I can count. That makes me a patriot, right?

I don’t want to tell anyone not to move to Canada, because I don’t think it’s a bad idea. Canada is gorgeous and calm, the people are friendly and there are vast swaths of untouched wilderness that could help anyone heal. But there are a few reasons I think folks should think long and hard before they make the move over the border.

Are you pulling a geographical?

When one of my friends moved to Wyoming years ago, she told me soon after she returned to Minneapolis that she had sought out a geographical cure for her addiction problems. This is a term used a lot for physical addictions and one that I worked very hard to avoid before I moved to California.

The basic premise is that an addict moves to a different location hoping for things to be better and expecting things to be different. But the same problems begin to reemerge, maybe manifesting themselves in different ways, in a job instead of a relationship. Either the person moves again or deals with the real issue, which is that you can’t move away from yourself.

Even knowing this, I really didn’t understand it until I actually left Minnesota and felt it for myself, but I had a need to learn the hard way.

delta ca

That didn’t mean a lot of it wasn’t amazing.

Now, I realize that moving away from a country run by an aspiring fascist isn’t exactly the same thing, but let’s be real for a second. If the world around us is indeed a reflection of what’s inside us, then maybe Donald Trump is finally the catalyst that forces us to look inside ourselves and be honest about what we find.

That yes, we can be racists. That indeed, we might be a bit arrogant. We could probably be a little less callous to the folks we disagree with or a little more generous to those who have less than us.

Sometimes the truth is ugly, but exposing it to the light, actually talking about it, helps put it into perspective and makes it easier to solve the problem. Running to Canada, or any other country for that matter, is not going to make that go away within ourselves. I know. I tried running away to California, where I wasn’t the weirdo, where I fit right in. Turns out that that didn’t matter. I still needed to reckon with my insides. Wherever you go, there you are, right?

Consider what you’re leaving behind

This isn’t the part where I wax on about how important family is and how absolutely selfish it is to leave them stewing away while you run to some exotic locale. Nope, I think that if you want an adventure, if you have an opportunity to try something new and exciting, you should do it, regardless of whether your family thinks you’re self-centered. They’ll get over it. And you’ll probably grow closer.

What I’m talking about here are the people who can’t leave. Those are the ones I’m concerned with. There are a lot of people who can’t afford to leave or who are physically unable to make a move, and these are the ones who need protection against the very thing you’re thinking of running away from. Just look at who was affected most by Hurricane Katrina to see what I’m talking about.

It’d be one thing if bombs were being dropped on your neighbors house. Then yes, leave. Run. Get your kids to safety. But it’s worth noting that folks who can do that, like the refugees here in Germany, are the ones who can afford to spend $300,000 to do so. (Yes, that’s a real number. I’m hoping to write more about that interview later.)

Make no mistake. I do think that there is a war happening. On our poor. On minorities. Those of us who are able to stand up and fight, to have our voices heard, are some of the same ones who are considering leaving. I think a lot about what Patrick Stewart said:


If you’re a person who may be able to make a difference because of the luck of birth (read: you’re a man, you’re white, you’re in the 1%, etc.) then please, speak up. Use your voice to stand up for those whose voices aren’t heard.

No place is perfect

This is something that may seem obvious but is worth pointing out. Yes, Santa Cruz sat on the Pacific and had great Mexican food, but it was also filled with junkies and sex offenders. I was afraid to walk alone in broad daylight. Minnesota had gorgeous lakes, great bike infrastructure and a very democratic world view, but it was cold — both the weather and the people. Germany is amazing, with its socialized health care, amazing public transit and delicious N/A beers, but damn the bureaucracy!

“Nothing says Friday night in Germany quite like filling out a bunch of paperwork,” a friend of mine quipped, after she came over a while back to help me with some forms.

Oh but other Friday nights are so lovely!

Oh but other Friday nights are so lovely!

And with a new imperfect place comes a whole new set of things that beg for attention, like the way refugees are portrayed, treated and protested against. It’s not a bad thing to have more awareness about what’s going on in the world, but as a sensitive soul, I can only fight for the social justice of so many individuals. In fact, I don’t think that’s only true for sensitive folks.

I think that’s the case for all of us. Multitasking doesn’t work, so it’s imperative to avoid distraction, no matter how good our intentions. And this is more difficult when you have an entirely new and increasingly more prevalent environment, your new home, to contend with.

There are always going to be problems with every place you live in. That’s just life. It’s the reason we haven’t found utopia, and that’s OK. You know why? Because perfect is boring.

Heartbreak from afar

No matter how far away you get, whether it’s Canada or Thailand, you cannot ignore the United States. Yes the newscasts might not be as loud and you might actually get a bigger world perspective, but the country will break your heart even if you leave. And what’s worse? The absolutely devastating fact that you feel you can’t do anything about it.

The sense of helplessness I get every time a police officer guns down a young black man in our country, every time a young white man opens fire in a public place, every time another senator introduces a bill intending to relieve women of their reproductive rights is heart-wrenching. And what can I do? Well, I do what I can.

  • I pray often and have participated in a mass prayer for peace.
  • I’ve written blogs and shared articles from others who are fighting the good fight.
  • I’ve encouraged my friends who are in the U.S., who are doing their part to fight for equality.
  • I have voted.

But there is something so difficult about doing all of this from across an ocean that makes me feel even more disconnected and more disheartened than I was when I lived in the U.S.

So if you’re considering moving to a new country if Donald Trump becomes president, really consider the weight your actions have. What are your reasons? As much as I love the place, will Canada really solve these problems? And please consider what I wrote. I know that perhaps it seems rude, hypocritical or assuming, considering I don’t live in our country anymore, but I feel like it’s a perspective that still needs to be considered, no matter how flawed you may think it is.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

thirstystill March 7, 2016 at 2:14 am

Great post, Rebecca. I am Canadian, and I just wrote a post about why I realize I’m not moving to the US! (Trump and health care and immigration laws are all part of my jumble of complicated reasons.) But I really agree with what you say here. We have a responsibility to work to change the injustice that surrounds us, especially those of us (and that’s many of us) who have some degree of privilege. I’ve been trying to figure out the best way for me to do that. In the meantime at least, I’ll still be in Canada while I’m doing it. Nice to see a politically tinged post! Hope you’re doing well xo


Furtheron March 9, 2016 at 3:00 pm

Terrific post – so much in there….

Cards on the table – I’m British, English actually if you get into that further delineation, to get really specific I’m very much a Man of Kent (you get two kinds of folks in the county of Kent – Men of Kent born East of the River Medway and Kentish Men born West of it – we can really take this stuff way too far!)

I had the opportunity some years ago to move to the USA. In fact given I worked for a large USA company that was somewhat USA centric in it’s workings it would have been very career beneficial. I was keen but the timing wasn’t good with the kids… It never became good for the kids, my wife or in the end I. I realised I didn’t want to move there and be the Englishman in the USA always wanting to come back but with kids growing up as Americans. I’m glad we never went – esp with the gun laws, the weird Religion is definitely not part of the state – Everyone has to declare their a Christian to get elected and God Bless America etc. dichotomy and loads of other stuff that simply for me, didn’t sit right culturally.

If we leave the EU would I move away from the UK? I very much doubt it no matter how badly I feel about that decision I’d only create a whole other load of stuff for me to deal with I could do without


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