Citizen Insider: Holiday Reflections – There’s No Place Like Home

January 05, 2023
Woman on Bench

Welcome to Citizen Insider, a monthly blog where you’ll get a chance to hear from one of our Citizens. Today, Toronto Account Director Nancy D’Souza shares her ex-pat holiday reflections.

The holiday season always makes me reflect on everything that I’m grateful for.

Last month marked my one-year anniversary since moving to Canada. It’s been a fantastic, eventful year, made even better in the last six months since joining the team at Citizen.

My husband and I packed up our lives in Dubai into 12 big boxes, we sold our car, canceled our phone lines/bank/hydro accounts and moved 11,000kms to the other side of the world. We’re not the only ones to do so – Canada welcomes millions of immigrants each year – and yet this experience was so overwhelming for me, and straight-up paralyzing.

Ever since I was in my early 20s, I grappled with the question of “where is home”? Is it a place? The streets where I grew up? Or is it a feeling? Where you are always welcomed, no matter what.

I was born and raised in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) with an Indian passport. Since 20 years or so, the city has become well known for many superlatives – like the biggest, largest, tallest, fastest. It has most recently been in the spotlight for TV shows like the Real Housewives franchise and Dubai Bling. Many people have asked me: Is it really like that over there? Yes AND No. Yes, it’s extravagant, the beach clubs and brunches, with gold faucets and luxury cars being the norm. On the flip side, it also has a simple, hardworking people that come from all races and socio economic backgrounds – much like Toronto, which the shows do a terrible job of not showing. Growing up there, I was exposed to so many cultures, and it was the most fun, fulfilling 30-something years of my life. So why leave, and why now?

For the many things that are wonderful about Dubai (like no income tax – yet!), the downside is that the country doesn’t grant permanent residence or citizenship, even to those who were born there and have lived there their whole lives. Like my parents who moved to Dubai from India to live and work in their 20s had to leave when they retired at the age of 65. Can you imagine what that’s like? It’s not great. There’s a whole generation of “third-culture kids” from the UAE. Those of us who were born in one country, have the passport of another, and are in search of somewhere to call home.

Whenever I’m asked what brings me to Toronto, I pass it off as saying “I moved for greener pastures”, or that “I moved here to work and make a living”. But reality is I’m an immigrant, just like the 400,000 others who moved here in 2021.

And I feel so lucky to have been welcomed by all.

I’m daily in awe of the many conversations we have at Citizen about inclusion. I’m inspired by the eagerness of colleagues to understand and educate themselves on the advantages of having a certain passport, or the privileges that come with being a certain race. It’s hard to imagine why someone would pick up and leave behind their family and friends, work, everything they know and love, for a one-way ticket to the unknown. And yet here we are!

One year in, I’m happy to say that the journey has been wonderful. Not a day goes by when I’m not ooh-ing and aah-ing at the simple pleasures here that many might take for granted. Like clean air, nature, walking, and snow. Yes! Even the snow. It’s been a real joy exploring the city, building a life, and trying to find my tribe. Assimilating to the local culture (GO Raps!), learning the nuances, and sharing some of mine. Any interactions I’ve had, big or small, have been rewarding in more ways than one. And for that, I’m grateful.

If home is where the heart is, in the most literal sense, if it’s how a place makes you feel, then I feel welcomed, and blessed, and I’m so glad I’ve found a new place to call home.