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Notes from a new country

Notes from a new country

Old May 25th 2014, 4:35 am
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Default Notes from a new country

It has been five and a half years since I moved to NZ so an update from me in this section is well overdue. Writing this is more catharsis than anything else but hopefully I can provide one more point of view that someone might find interesting.

Firstly, the quantitative bit:

1. When did I move here? December 2008.
2. Where in New Zealand did I move to? Auckland.
3. Why did I move here? Because I married one of them and she wanted to return 'home'.

Then on to the qualitative bit:

4. Do I like it? That is often the first question that someone will ask when I meet them. I trip over it every time and my response starts with a long pause.

I have learned to hold my tongue.

Some people get very upset if you don't say that NZ is paradise. Others get upset if you complain that it isn't paradise, when did anyone ever claim it was?

So most of the time it is easier to say nothing.

After five years living here I have started to take the view that it is a new country and they haven't finished making it yet so things change, frequently. That is a sea-change for those of us that have spent the earlier parts of our lives in cities that have been established for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, and a sea-change that I didn't see coming so it has taken me some time to get used to it.

The immigration process for me was easy - the initial residence visa was granted on the family category, I have now lived here long enough to get citizenship, so that is everything ticked off.

Getting the visa easily meant that we could move here without jobs arranged first. We picked what must have been the worse time in recent years to be looking for jobs so that was the first challenge. I now have a role that utilises the experience that I brought with me in a company that I like although it has taken me five years of battling to get there. However I think that is a combination of global factors buffeting a small economy, rather than anything specific to NZ. Timing the arrival differently would have made a big difference to that experience.

The tiny economy scares the hell out of me. I like the job that I have now but it didn't exist six months ago. For the last five years there have been too many candidates chasing too few information technology roles, now there are too few candidates chasing too many roles. For me I am approaching the last chapter of my working life so I hope that I will get away with it but there is no way that I would want to be in this situation if I was at the start of my career. I don’t blame the young ones for getting out.

For the place that we have chosen to settle, we don't have children so the best place for children was not a consideration for us.
We are not interested in outdoor pursuits, so those are not a consideration for us.

So we are in Auckland.

Now that I am approaching (but not there yet!) old age, I can see that Auckland will suit me at this stage of my life. I like that there is (just) enough culture to keep me interested, at the same time it is entirely possible to get tickets for the things that do come along. Tickets for the cricket or the rugby can be obtained fairly easily. One of the most fun things I have ever done anywhere was an immersive theatre experience about a zombie apocalypse in Auckland. Each show could only hold a maximum audience of (at a guess) one hundred people. If a show like that was staged in the UK I can imagine that obtaining tickets would be somewhere between difficult and impossible, but I could do it here.

At the same time, I can see that if I had grown up here then I would have left when I was a young man. I think it is too small a place for anyone with any ambition to start out in. I have seen people describe it as a 'land of opportunity' - I agree with that to the extent that it is a place that you can turn up and turn your life into whatever you want it to be, but it would not be accurate to portray it as a place where there are countless opportunities created by other people for you to pick and choose from.

There are many good aspects to living in Auckland but it does come at a cost - not just in terms of the price of putting a roof over your head but also in terms of the cost of time that you will spend sitting in your car in heavy near stationary traffic on the way to and from work or the time it takes to find a place to park at a mall on the weekend. These appear to me to be symptoms of the infrastructure not coping with the demands being put upon it. I actually catch the bus to get to work and that is standing-room only.

At the moment I am prepared to pay the price for it but that won't be the case when I am older. I half expect someone to pop up now and advise that I could easily eliminate the housing costs and traffic if I wanted to by quitting my job and living in a hole on the beach which I probably could but I quite like my work.

I won't go over the negatives again; other people have done that on other threads already. On the positive side, one thing that I don't remember anybody mentioning is that the standard of cafe and restaurant food in Auckland is pretty good, so if you can afford to eat out you will do well. Not all meals are perfect, I have had a couple of shockers but in general the standard is high - I hadn't really appreciated that until I visited England last year and noticed the difference.

I have realised while writing this that I didn't 'leave the UK', instead I 'moved to NZ'. I didn't move to New Zealand because I wanted to and didn't feel a need to love it when I got here. At first I felt a huge sense of loss for my old life but I have finally started to come to terms with my life here.

During the citizenship ceremony, the person conducting the ceremony did read out a statement with the words that as new citizens we have accepted the country’s achievements and also its limitations. I think that is the first time that I have ever heard a New Zealander (in New Zealand) concede that their country might have 'limitations', it is easier to pick somebody to point the finger of blame at when something doesn't go well. Once I was ready to accept that the country was still a work in progress and it wants me to contribute rather than moan about it then it all became so much easier (in my head anyway). In the days leading up to the ceremony I had come to that conclusion myself but it did help to hear it stated officially.

There are many more thoughts on this topic that are going around my head but I think that everything can be summarised succinctly by reflecting on the fact that now that I have dual New Zealand and British citizenship I have a lot of options about where I could live. I am choosing to stay here, read into that what you will!
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Old May 26th 2014, 1:25 am
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Default Re: Notes from a new country

A really outstanding, reflective and balanced post.
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Old May 27th 2014, 12:52 pm
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Default Re: Notes from a new country

Brilliant and insightful update Clappy. I can relate to a lot of what you say.

Congrats on your citizenship
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Old May 28th 2014, 11:12 am
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Default Re: Notes from a new country

Thanks for this, your post is so balanced and nicely written, soothing my fears having read so many horror stories with people moaning about the cold!
Congrats on citizenship, and all the best for the future
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Old May 29th 2014, 7:33 pm
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Default Re: Notes from a new country

What a lovely post I particularly relate to where you describe as not really leaving the uk so much as moving to nz.

They used to have a brilliant section on the New Zealand immigration website called "First, a few considerations", but I notice that has gone now and been replaced with a much flasher section making bold claims about life here. I did an internet trawl and found it cited here: ( http://newzealandskilledmigrant.blog...-new-land.html) but I know it was originally from INZ.

First, a few considerations,

New Zealand is a small and distant country. For those accustomed to larger, more metropolitan societies this can come as a shock. Of all New Zealand’s cities only Auckland with a population of over a million, about 25% of the national total, would qualify as a major city. For many migrants, our other centres have more the feel of a country town and provincial towns often seem more like villages. If you love big city life, these features will not appeal. Our smallness is also reflected in other ways. The range of consumer goods is more limited and prices are sometimes higher. When compared with larger developed economies, New Zealand wage scales are also lower. This has to be kept in mind when comparing living costs which must be measured in terms of your New Zealand not your current salary. The opportunity to develop highly specialised skills is more limited. Standards tend to be more uniform, with few schools and no universities comprising an elite.

Although new technologies are constantly making it easier for us to keep in touch, quick overseas trips are not an option. Our closest neighbour, Australia, is still three hours flying-time away and overseas travel remains costly and time consuming. Divorce rates amongst migrants are high and distance from family and friends is often a contributing factor. If family and friends are important to you, this is something you’ll need to weigh carefully before choosing to settle here.

New Zealand is a new society. Although Maori settlement of Aotearoa goes back almost a thousand years, the cultural roots of other New Zealanders go back little more than 150. A rich sense of history and tradition is something you will not find here. Freedom from the past can liberate but for some, this lack of history can engender feelings of isolation and loss. As a new country we also have our own way of doing things. Our housing is lightly constructed and employs different materials and styles. Two-storey houses, double glazing and central heating are uncommon and construction is generally of wood or manufactured materials. Our roads are usually limited to two lanes and in the country often have a gravel or metalled surface. We are also a do- it-yourself culture. If you want things done about the house, you must generally do them yourself. Home decorating and renovation is a national obsession and you’ll need to take a hands-on approach to most things. Domestic servants are not available and status counts for little. As a New Zealander you will be expected not to stand on your dignity and ‘muck in’ like a good Kiwi, whatever the occasion.

Source: New Zealand Immigration
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Old Jun 1st 2014, 7:12 am
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Default Re: Notes from a new country

Originally Posted by MrMissGraduates
Thanks for this, your post is so balanced and nicely written, soothing my fears having read so many horror stories with people moaning about the cold!
Congrats on citizenship, and all the best for the future
Its all good.

She'll be right!
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Old Jun 5th 2014, 7:44 am
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Default Re: Notes from a new country

Interesting reflections - thank you.
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