An American Asks Himself “Why NZ?”
Continuing our series of Migrant Tales: First had accounts of migrant life in New Zealand taken from locations around the net.
Today’s tale comes from Expatexposed.com a support forum for migrants in NZ. In this post is by an ex Brooklyn resident who, whilst on vacation, asked himself “Why would anyone go to NZ?” He found that although his migration to New Zealand has been, outwardly, a successful one he would still consider leaving New Zealand. This post is interesting because it shows how not all migrants who think about leaving have had an overtly negative experience, nor are they ‘bitter’. Sometimes it’s simply a quiet disaffection, or a feeling that all is not well, that makes them want to move on:
“One Year. Who needs a drink?
Well it’s been a year since we arrived on the island of the long white cloud. We came geared up for change and to be apart of and contribute to our new home country. By most measures our immigration would appear successful—we both have jobs with salaries that are equivalent to our US income, we have found a decent apartment and in general we are living a comfortable life. So, even I am surprised, that one year after our arrival I am thinking that I would leave today if it were practical.
It really hit me on a recent vacation to New Caledonia. I was standing in the line for customs to enter the country watching the line for the locals returning and the thought popped into my head, “Why would anyone go to New Zealand”. Now that is a bit extreme, and I don’t feel like that all the time, but I still couldn’t ignore the thought’s impromptu honesty.
So why do I feel this way. First let me say this will probably be construed as an unbalanced post, but not all experiences in life are balanced, and second I will say I don’t regret coming here one bit. So on with it:
The weather here in Wellington—I know it’s an easy target, but it sucks quite frankly. People like to say here, “but when it’s nice it’s really nice.” Well that is the same anywhere else in the world that has more than three nice days per year.
The people—in most cases I find very rude, from pedestrians that try to charge right through you, to the lack of pleasantries, cars trying to run you down, to the seemingly total lack of a notion of space and position in it. I can chalk these things up to cultural differences, but it remains that these are differences that I don’t like and that make day-to-day life here very irritating. One day OH and I were in the check out line at the super market and an older couple behind us was commenting on our groceries, loud enough so I could hear, alluding that the quantity and quality of our food was extravagant in some way. On another occasion OH and I were in a local gallery talking to the extremely congenial proprietor, both OH and I are artists, so he was asking us a little about our work when a woman who was browsing, out of nowhere says, “nobody is showing Kiwi artists anymore, hey?” We have run into this weird passive aggressive behavior many times here in New Zealand mostly from the 40+ generations.
The cost—is very expensive. Real estate here is ridiculous. Unless you are coming here with equity from a previous house in British Pounds you are pretty much being bent over a barrel. We were naive enough to think our cost of living would go down maybe buy an apartment. We weren’t able to find anything in Welly semi livable for under 350, and when I think of what I could get in the States in a comparable city for 350 especially when the median income here is so low, I just had to say no thanks. All other consumer good are at least double the price and food is fairly expensive. I said above that we have a nice apartment now, but we are paying almost double per month of what our nice apartment was in Brooklyn, NY.
The culture—is barely existent. Go All Blacks …………….. and beer.
The work—is amateur hour. I work for government in an IT / design capacity. Government IT here seems to be all about developing standards, standards that are completely regressive, usually about 15 years past their shelf life. Half of the people I work with on a day to day basis couldn’t meet a quarter of the skill requirements that go along with their title at the most basic level. OH has found the same thing at her work, but since she works for a private company the mistakes have actual financial consequences unlike my job where know one even cares if things get done at all. OH can’t trust half of her co-workers at all and spends most of here time cleaning up instead of being able to focus on what she was hired for. One thing my work does to compensate for the lack of knowledge and skill is to farm work out to one of the largest marketing/branding agencies in the world. This company knows they have a fixed government contract and can deliver half-baked work, all while charging exorbitant amounts of money. If people got to see their NZ tax dollars at work they would not be pleased. Admittedly this last one is obviously not just a NZ characteristic.
The landscape—eh, I’ve seen better ……………. but it’s still pretty nice.
No. 8 wire—or you could just do things properly? Another apartment story… We were the first tenants in our current apartment. I had to re-install the faucets on our sinks and the washing machine. Now these are things I had never done before but it was fairly basic and I would think if it were my job to do these things every day they would pose no problem. Our last apartment had many many issues, which I have talked about in another post. So far No. 8 wire hasn’t shown me kiwi ingenuity, more like laziness to go and get the proper tool for the job.
A Kiwi living in Brooklyn told me right before we made the move that I would have a hard time being accepted in NZ. Part of me didn’t believe him and part of me said, “well if that is the case, that is their problem.” Well that is the case and it is my problem. I have never needed a lot of friends or support, but the day-to-day hostility I feel from some, definitely not all Kiwis, is wearing me down. I would also say tall poppy syndrome is not just a rumor or hearsay.
Well now that my rant is over, and I feel a little better, what do I like about NZ? I like learning Muay Thai boxing and the great people there. I like that in general activities are cheap because companies don’t have to carry the liability insurance they do in the states. I like that the other designers at my job (Kiwis) can hold a knowledgeable interesting conversation on many topics and have not been turned into monosyllabic twitters like so many young people in the same field in the US. I like not seeing 5000 advertisements in a 24-hour period. I like the Karori plant nursery and the great people there. I like the Alliance Francaise and the great people there. I like that we took the chance to come here even though it’s not for us.
We just returned from our first trip back to the US yesterday. As we flew into WLG I told myself to make the best of the next year here, but after just one day I experienced most of the same irritations described above and is why I decided to write my one-year post this morning a few weeks shy of one year. We haven’t lost our sense of humor and laugh about our experiences together all the time, but we are starting to focus our energy on what’s next. We will not be returning to the US, even though many things seemed more compatible to our personalities there, I still had the feeling that the “Confidence Man” was lurking around every corner. I like the part of the US that is rebelling against a failing food system, a failing financial system, anti-intellectualism, the propaganda industry, poor environmental policy and poor foreign policy, but we still have the need to really learn more about the rest of the world before we say “I do believe I’ve had enough”. Our time in NZ has shown me that to really have any knowledge of a place you have to live there for a while.
This is our experience. Others will find NZ paradise and I can see why many would see it as such. “