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Advice wanted - confused !!

Advice wanted - confused !!

Old Jun 8th 2011, 10:36 am
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Default Advice wanted - confused !!

Hi all

I am feeling very confused at the moment about where my expat life is exactly going and am looking for advice from anyone who has been through this before.

Potted history :- been an expat for just over 13 years. Lived in NZ for 9 years (met Kiwi husband after 3 years here and married after 5.5 years here). Then we got moved to Sydney for 3 years with husband's job. Now back in NZ just over 1 year. No kids. All my immediate family still in Scotland and I usually visit every 2 years or so (often go alone - husband normally comes every 2nd or 3rd trip).

My main issue is that I've just woken up to the fact I've been away from home for over 13 years and am currently feeling very unsettled & increasingly isolated. I realise that I hardly know my sister (who was 15 when I left & now 28) nor my nieces & nephews plus my Dad has not been in very good health at all the past 5-6 years and I am worried that he may not have that much longer left.
Being away from home wasn't so much an issue when I was younger but something that I really feel now to the point that I am kind of a bit over (and at time resentful) of spending time with other people's families & my
in-laws. I am scared that I will become more & more removed from my own family as time goes on (strangers, I guess). I already strongly feel like I don't really belong or fit in anywhere.

On the other hand I do prefer the lifestyle in NZ & Australia to the UK winters & cold. My other current issue is settling back into NZ, after 3 years in Sydney.
Before we went to Australia, I'd been in NZ 9 years and used to rave about it to friends, family & anyone who'd listen. I really didn't want to move there but quit my job here, did some contracting work in Sydney and tagged along after my husband who was moved with his work. The first year over there was very tough but years 2 & 3 were great once we'd made quite a few friends, did some weekend travel and I found a good long term contract (where boss offered me permanent role but had to turn him down due to NZ return).
Now back in NZ just on a year, I simply cannot get "back into" things in NZ, where everything feels very "same old" and familiar from before. Even though I've taken up with old friends again my circle of contacts has reduced somewhat (people having kids so we don't see so much of them, others going overseas) and again I just have this overwhelming feeling of isolation (and also boredom) a lot of the time. Career opportunities have also been very limited since coming back so whilst I am working I am not growing or being challenged at all in my current role. In short, it has seemed like a backward step coming back to NZ and the wider economic situation here is also of concern.

Overall my husband is very supportive although from time to time calls me "a pain in the arse". We have tentatively talked about returning to Sydney permanently although he does admit he is not fully committed to the idea & is torn at leaving friends and his immediate family here (even though they don't live locally to us).

Can anyone offer any advice or has been through anything similar ? I know I've been incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to live & work in both NZ and Australia - feel like a bit of a whinger here - but I really feel I'm at a crossroads as to what I do next.
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Old Jun 8th 2011, 7:04 pm
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Default Re: Advice wanted - confused !!

Hi Dumbledore ~ I don't have experience of what you are going through but I can certainly understand why you feel unsettled. It must be tough being away from family and not feeling like you fit in as well as you did in NZ. I always find if you think through the different options ie "How would I feel/what would I be doing" if I was in Australia/Scotland right now and compare it to the reality you have at the moment in NZ, you find some clarity. Although I haven't made the move as yet I do know that the grass is not always greener (anywhere!) Maybe there are some steps you could take to make your life in NZ feel more settled? This is a tough one and hopefully someone who has been through similar will be along to help. I will keep mythat you find what you are looking for. Flora x
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Old Jun 8th 2011, 7:56 pm
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Default Re: Advice wanted - confused !!

Originally Posted by Dumbledore View Post
Hi all


Can anyone offer any advice or has been through anything similar ? I know I've been incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to live & work in both NZ and Australia - feel like a bit of a whinger here - but I really feel I'm at a crossroads as to what I do next.
You're not a whinger.

What you may have is in incurable disease: The Curse of the Expat. Search it in Moving back to the UK, there was a good thread about it there.

Basically it means you've moved around enough that there are always places - or aspects of places - that you miss, and you never feel 100% settled. I have it so I know what it's like. I'm from NZ originally and I'm really missing it right now - my closest and oldest friends are still there and my sister is there and going to have a baby soon - my first niece/nephew from that side. I could really relate to your feeling of being resentful about spending time with other people's families and inlaws - and I love my inlaws, they're fab, but they're not MINE, if that makes any sense. Like you I'm starting to wonder if I really want to spend the rest of my life here I guess - this did not bother me so much when I was younger.

I don't have any easy answers for you. I've also lived in OZ and europe and I miss aspects of those places. I really enjoy Vancouver, but the history and sense of belonging..and family - will never be replicated here. On the other hand there were a lot of things about NZ that drove me nuts..enough to leave at 23 and not come back in any serious way since!

Y'know, sometimes it's just not black and white. As I get older I realise that you sometimes have to make peace with ambivalence.

But it bugs me that my child has no real sense of her Kiwi background etc. So, yeah, it's a tricky one! I guess the easy answer might be to return to Sydney where you at least would have challenging work, but then I wonder if you'd end up missing NZ?



I hope this helps! I don't have any great advice for you - sorry! Just wanted you to know someone else knows how it feels.

Last edited by ExKiwilass; Jun 8th 2011 at 8:06 pm.
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Old Jun 9th 2011, 5:56 am
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Default Re: Advice wanted - confused !!

hi there, i can only offer the same in regard to i am still in the UK but moved away from my family in 2001. I now live in notts and used to live up north and even though i would never return due to place and miss my family, i have never really felt settled even though i love my hubbie to bits. I think someone has already said, you have moved a number of times and places and probably feel like you don't belong. you also said that it was tough for the first year in OZ, maybe your feeling the same in NZ and things will get better, oh knows.

i speak with old school friends on facebook and i think omg they haven't changed and neither has their lives but, don't get me wrong if that is ok with them and they are happy good on them but like you i think i was born to wonder and see things, this world is too small not to.

it sounds like your career aint challenging you enough and therefore, other doubts are creeping in. i am not sure its the return to nz that is worrying you but your career as if you were challenged on a day to day basis you wouldn't have time to think and dwell so much. my job at the moment is a little different and it does, like you give me time to think about things and sometimes that can be very dangerous for the mind and soul as oppposed to being challenged at work we just get on with it.

have you tried going back to scotland more often to visit? as i am sure once you've been back for a week you will crave to return to NZ

do you speak with your family? if not have you tried calling skype etc to have a virtual relationship, it can be as good sometimes as i speak and text my sister all the time and feel i am in the same town and i know i don't have to see her face to face to have a close relationship with her.

and to be honest you can live down the road from family members and still never see them ..................... you don't have to see people to love them

Last edited by josephine123; Jun 9th 2011 at 6:00 am.
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Old Jun 9th 2011, 10:19 am
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Default Re: Advice wanted - confused !!

Hi Dumbeldore,

I'd agree, you're definitely not a whinger.

I don't think I can offer much more than sympathy, and further confirmation that you're not alone. Being away from friends and family is hard. I love it here in NZ, but the pull back to where you grew up, and where your family is, will always be there.

I wonder how much of it is the curse of choice? As an expat you've probably at some point made the choice to move, for work or other reasons. Once you've made that choice, and have the power to choose again, you'll forever wonder what's best. I've known people who say they would love to move from where they are but "can't", for a range of reasons. I wonder if the certainty of "can't" makes it any easier, 'cos then you don't have to decide.

Annecdotaly, when we moved out the guy from the shipping company mentioned he gets a lot of repeat customers. Folk that move from the UK to NZ, miss their family and so move back to the UK. Once back in the UK they realise they don't really see that much of their family anyway and decide to move back to NZ (and therefore ring the same shipping guy). Good for the shipping business I suppose, but wearing on the old emotions!

I also that you work out what's best for you.
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Old Jul 9th 2011, 9:29 pm
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Default Re: Advice wanted - confused !!

Thanks all for your help and support.

I'm still working through my feelings at the moment but have realised that I don't really feel the same emotional attachement to NZ that I did the first 9 years I lived here before going to Sydney. I realise that I "moved on" whilst we were in Sydney and hence why coming back has been difficult as well as the slow NZ economy & job market which has seen my career go backwards.

There are no easy answers for sure but I've decided that if I'm going to continue to live as an expat - then I definitely want to up the frequency of my visits to the UK to see family from every 2-2.5 years to 12-18 months. Life's too short and I definitely don't want to become a mere stranger to them.

It looks like we will probably sell up in Auckland and move back to Sydney permanently when my current contract finishes next April. I'm not a money grabber but the better job opportunities & standard of living in Australia (compared to NZ) plus the soon-to-be 12% employer compulsary super (vs 3% in NZ) would deftinitely make it more readily affordable to go back and visit the UK more regularly - now whilst my parents are still alive - and also to see my siblings when my husband & I retire.
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