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An Interview with … Stephen

An Interview with … Stephen

I am a “expat brat”, born in Singapore. My dad is from the UK and my mum is from the Philippines. We moved to the UK when I was 10, where I lived in Sheffield for the next 20 years. I met Melisa (my wife) on New Years day 2002, crossing paths in the jungle on the island of Koh Phangan. in Thailand. Melisa is originally from Finland and after travelling through Asia and Australia together, we lived in Sweden for about 18 months and then in 2004 we ended up in New Zealand.

Tell us a little about yourself and family.

I am a “expat brat”, born in Singapore. My dad is from the UK and my mum is from the Philippines. We moved to the UK when I was 10, where I lived in Sheffield for the next 20 years. I worked in IT since I left school and had a successful career in sales, working for some very large IT corporations (IBM).

In 2001 at the age of 32 and after a relationship breakup that involved having to sell the house. I decided I had enough of being a corporate rat race wage slave and to be frank, enough of living in the UK. I sold all my worldly possessions, bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok and never looked back.

I met Melisa (my wife) on New Years day 2002, crossing paths in the jungle on the island of Koh Phangan. in Thailand. Melisa is originally from Finland and after travelling through Asia and Australia together, we lived in Sweden for about 18 months.

We still wanted to travel, so embarked on another trip in 2003 than would eventually take us to New Zealand (Feb 2004).

Melisa and I got married on a beach in Fiji in Nov 2004 (Guy Fawkes!)

We have two beautiful daughters Sabrina 4 and Miranda 2

We now own two companies, one that imports a range of winemaking products like barrels and yeast etc. And we have started our own wine label as well last year which is very exciting for us.

What were your reasons for moving to the New Zealand?

We both wanted to start a new life together, away from our respective countries and New Zealand seemed to offer us the things we wanted. Coastal living, low population, great natural beauty”¦.

How long did the emigration process take?

Immediately when we arrived on visitors visa’s, I actively looked for jobs and I found that my sales background from the UK stood me in good stead. I quickly had four job offers, and after accepting the one I thought was best, I set about applying for a work permit.

Having no experience of immigrating before, I did not realise the amount of paperwork required. I had to contact previous employers for references, police certificates and copies of qualifications. But once I got everything together, I just queued up at the Auckland immigration office at 6am, waited with everyone else when they opened and fours hours later I had a work permit in my passport.

Two years later on 2006, we were able to apply for and were granted residency, as we just managed to scrape in with the minimum number of points (110 at the time).

In which part of New Zealand do you live?

When we first arrived in 2004, we lived in Devonport in Auckland for two years. My work permit was tied to the job I had, so I had to stick it out for a couple of years. When we were granted residency in 2006, we wanted to move out of Auckland. So when a job came up in the wine industry in Marlborough we jumped at the chance.

We now have a house in Renwick, a small village outside of Blenheim. We love the area, apart from the vineyards, there are so many other options for us. The Marlborough Sounds, skiing a hours drive away, great climate and lots of choices to keep our kids in a healthy and active lifestyle.

In your opinion what are the biggest cultural differences between the New Zealand and the UK? (Perhaps things you were not prepared for, or were surprised about)

It’s NOT the UK! And I think that many people come here, with the idea New Zealand is some idealized version of the UK. I have heard “it’s like England used to be”. No it’s not. New Zealand has it’s own identity, one that Kiwi’s can be fiercely proud of.

Many Kiwi’s can be very down to earth and straight talking. Being laid back, friendly and easy going is also part of the national psyche. Which can also occasionally translate into poor customer service.

One big thing I have noticed, there is a big focus on family life here, perhaps more so here in Marlborough, than Auckland perhaps. I have been very impressed with many of the teenagers here, friendly, outgoing and positive about their futures.

What are the things you enjoy most about living in New Zealand?

I do not need to worry about street crime, I can leave the car unlocked when I go into town and you do not need to be so street wise as I was back in the UK

We have an active outdoors lifestyle, Melisa owns a horse which she can ride once a day if she wants. I go fishing and diving regularly.

We love our homelife! When Sabrina was born I started my own business, working from home. So we have so much time for our kids and for each other

Could you describe anything that you dislike about living in New Zealand?

The cost of living has increased a lot since we arrived, which at times has put us under a lot of pressure. I do not think the government is doing enough to address this. It really annoys me that our dairy products can be bought cheaper in Europe for example.

Politics in general tends to be fairly second-class, with a population of about 4 million, there are too many MP’s and not a long enough government term (3yrs) to make any long term policy choices.

New Zealand’s 100% pure “clean green” image is façade in my opinion, many of the rivers are very polluted, the diary industry is big cause of this, with very little done to address this.

What do you miss most now you are not living in the UK?

Not very much! Sausages?

How badly, if at all has homesickness affected you?

None at all for me. When I left the UK back in 2001, I already had the mindset I was not going to come back. For my wife Melisa it has been harder, it took a trip back to Europe for her to realize the life we have here is much better than what we would otherwise have had.

If you, or your spouse, work how easy has it been to find employment?

Never had any problems finding work, for either of us. Starting a business has been very straightforward as well. So easy in fact we now have two companies.

If you have children how easy was it to enroll them in a school?

Sabrina is starting primary school when she turns five and it was very easy. Just a quick phone call to the local primary school.

How does the education system differ from the UK?

{mosbanner right}I am not sure it’s very much different than the UK. Our local primary school is around the corner and I always think how awesome its playground is. We never had anything like that when I went to school in the UK. I also notice that many of the classes are taught outside, complete with blackboards, which I think is pretty cool!

Have your children settled?

Our kids are first generation Kiwis and could not be more at home!

Has your quality of life improved?

Beyond any sane expectations! Being my own boss, working from home, being able to spend the time to raise our kids, is everything we could wish for. On top of that to do it in one of the most beautiful places in the world, is amazing.

How does cost of living compare?

Expensive I would imagine, compared to the UK. I know that New Zealand dollar has gained a lot vs the Pound. When we first arrived, it was about 3 Dollars to every Pound. Now it’s 2-1.

In what way does New Zealand fit into your long-term plans?

We are here to stay, we have plans for our retirement and have seen the perfect place we would love to build a house and we are working towards that goal.

In retrospect is there anything you would change?

No, we came here with nothing, just our backpacks and about $500 to our name. I am very proud of the both of us and what we have achieved. We might not be rich, but it’s not hard for me to feel like the richest man alive at times.

Are there any final thoughts you would like to share?

New Zealand is not for everyone, just look at the New Zealand branch of the forum to understand that.

But for us, living here has provided us with some amazing opportunities, which we have grabbed with both hands. I love our life here, we live a life less ordinary.

You can find out more about Stephen and his companies here: www.facebook.com/Eurekawines and www.silrae.co.nz

 

©Britishexpats and Stephen