Migrant Tales – “So Why Are We Leaving NZ And Is It Really That Bad”

Continuing in our series of Migrants’  Tales – first had accounts of the migrant experience taken from sites around the net.

This well written post has appeared in a number of locations on sites that promote New Zealand to migrants. It was written by a British teacher living and working in New Plymouth. If you’ve read any of the other Migrants’ Tales you’ll  recognise much of what he talks about and see the common themes emerging:

Part 1

I suppose I should preface this with a clear statement that


There we go, got that out of the way.

Experience of forums (and of life in NZ) has shown that the moment you make any negative comments about NZ you tend to get very strong reactions. So if you are one of those people who thinks that NZ is perfect then please don’t bother to read on. Also if you are one of those other people who trots out the line that NZ has its problems but then still gets very touchy about any sort of criticism then again this is not the thread for you.

On the other hand if you are willing to accept that what I am writing is written from my own unique point of view and is no more seditious that having a good old moan to your mates at the pub then you are safe. You may not agree with what I have to say, but with Easter being over let’s save the crucifixions for another time shall we? (And now I’ve managed to offend the Christians among us, will I never learn?)

So why are we leaving NZ and is it really that bad?
The short answers are 1. Lots of reasons and 2. No

We came here in 2004, sparked into action by the numerous reality TV shows that featured half-wits making a new life in a new country having taken with them only a swimming costume, a packet of fags and a complete lack of understanding of what they were getting themselves into. “If they can make a mess of it”, I thought to myself, “then so can I”.

We made that decision at Christmas and by July we were on our way, having secured a teaching job in New Plymouth and sold our house on the South Coast.

No matter what anyone says it is a culture shock, perhaps best demonstrated by the ‘Biscuit Aisle Incident’ as we like to call it. Can there be anything more depressing in those first few weeks than standing in the Biscuit Aisle of your local Woolworths unable to recognise a single biscuit and ultimately coming away dejected and empty-handed?

Actually there are more depressing things than that. Checking your bank balance during the immigration process would qualify. Having paid vast amounts to Immigration New Zealand for them to glance at our forms and issue us with stickers, we should have been prepared. But we weren’t. From the “little Hitler’ at customs to the rental agent, everybody who looked at us suddenly had spinning dollar signs in their eyes. Don’t for a moment imagine that that little sticker in your passport is the last time the immigration department will try to squeeze money out of you, oh no. Forget opening a bank account it would save time to have your wages paid direct to them.

So as we huddled, blue lipped, in our rental we did rather wonder what we had done and how we would afford crisps and chocolate to keep the kids alive.

But, as time passed, we settled into life here and enjoyed the space, the safety, the beaches and I even tried a pie once.

One reason for coming had been to give our kids a childhood more like our own, not the rickets and playing on a bombsite aspect (to be fair I was born in 1967, but I did grow up in Essex so both were available). More the endless summers playing safely in the park and not having to worry whether Mr Peter File had moved into the area.

And that is exactly what my kids have had. It has been excellent for them. They have both really got into sport, one of them representing Taranaki. Actually that is not as big a thing as it sounds since it seems that just about every kid here has represented Taranaki in some sport or other, as the woman I met on the street the other day illustrates

“My son is a Taranaki Pukeko-Wrangling Rep, he’s been wrangling since he was knee-high to a Weta, we’re very proud. Would you like to buy half a hundred weight of over-priced chocolate to help pay for his trip to Dunedin next month for the Nationals, we are half way to raising the $10,000 needed for an internal flight.”

For us though, NZ has been a mixed bag. Imagine a set of scales on one side filled with Walkers crisps, on the other a mixture of Arnotts Shapes, Grain Waves and Delisio crisps – fairly evenly balanced.

And even though we have finally made the decision to leave, the scales have not exactly come crashing down on the Walkers side.

Part 2

So here are my top 10 gripes about NZ, all of which have in some way contributed to the scales tipping.

1 – NZ is just too far away – Actually that is one of the benefits of living here too. Let’s face it if you are a terrorist you are hardly going to endure a 24 hour flight just to blow something up in a country many people can’t even find on a map. Besides, if they did want to come here and blow up the Beehive – and who could blame them – I doubt most suicide bombers could come up with the cash for the flight, it’s cheaper to buy a small Caribbean island. We were naive. We underestimated how much we would miss our family and at the same time we thought we’d be able to easily afford flights back every couple of years. $15,000 on flights last year put paid to that idea. Money that could have been spent on the house instead paid for 24 hours of discomfort and a faux MacDonalds MacMuffin from the sullen Virgin stewards.

2 – NZ is just too far away – “Hang on a minute,” you’re thinking, “he’s already done that one!” But hold on, what I’m talking about is the fact that the only options for holidays outside of NZ are Fiji and Samoa (pronounced Sar-moa apparently, not by me though). I know it will upset people who will argue that I can’t knock them if I haven’t been but they just don’t appeal to me. Beach type holidays never have. Still we could go to OZ. Except that I looked at flights to Brisbane a couple of weeks ago and the cheapest single fare I could find was $930. That’s right $930 for one person. Too much, enough said.

3 – NZ is too big – Ridiculous of course, I mean the reason you move here is because the UK is so overcrowded, with 75 people for every Tesco Pork Pie or some other pointless statistic. It is great that there is so much space and it really works for some people. But when you live 5 drive hours from anywhere it can be seen as both a good thing and an unholy nightmare of isolation. I’ll let you guess which it is for us.

4 – NZ is too small – “Oh for goodness sake”, you’re screaming, “make up your mind!” But NZ is too small in the sense of it’s economy. With no appreciable manufacturing industry – if you discount the Eco bags that Trelise Cooper is knocking out for the supermarkets – then it stands to reason pretty much everything has to be imported, and you know what that means, China. The tiny economy affects everything. You would think milk would be cheap because it is produced here but because we sell it to the rest of the world we have to pay market price here. Many of us have found that it is cheaper to buy books and CDs on Amazon and pay the postage to have it sent here than to go to the local bookshop, I kid you not. And I can’t bear the way that everything here from clothes to furniture seems to fit into either the so cheap that it has fallen apart before you have left the carpark or the so expensive that you’ll need to sell an internal organ to finance it. Where is the mid-ground?

5 – Kiwis with chips on their shoulders – and their heads up their arses. It’s ok, some of my best friends are kiwis. Let’s face it though Kiwis are not the only nation in the world who have demonstrated ingenuity from time to time but if I hear that phrase on the 6pm news one more time I will stick my foot right through the plasma! Boy did I laugh when they chose ‘Right Here, Right Now’ to promote the Rugby World Cup. Before I even had a chance to crow to my kiwi mates I was drowned out by the righteous indignation on every NZ media site as every kiwi in the land became apoplectic at the choice of a ‘pom’ song. The final nail in the shoulder borne chip came on Close Up when some unheard of kiwi poet worked himself up into a lather about it, describing the song as “stupid” and demanding Dave Dobbyn’s ‘Loyal’ dirge be dragged out for yet another outing. I’m not sure what irritated me more, writing off another song like that as if only kiwis can write songs or the endless fawning over the potato-headed midget Dobbyn.

6 – The weather – Actually the weather here is fine. It’s the people who spare no opportunity to say “Must be just like being back home” every time it rains. For the record it rains 40% more here in New Plymouth than it did/does in Gosport.

7 – The food – Yes the food is good here. And I quite like that fact that it is more seasonal. The shelves of the supermarket are not crammed full of ready meals and as a result we cook from scratch much more than we ever did in the UK. “What’s the problem?” I hear you say. Well first of all it is too expensive (see point 4). Secondly I get confused sometimes, is my wife a leper or a vegetarian? They way she gets treated sometimes makes it difficult to tell. Here in the farming heartland she’s get a more friendly welcome if she turned up wearing jackboots and a swastika. And no, using a different pair of tongs but cooking the food on the same BBQ is not acceptable. Finally, guess which country has the second most MacDonalds outlets (I won’t dignify them with the word restaurant) in the world? I rest my case.

8 – The All Blacks/Valerie Villi/Sarah Ulmer/ The Evers-Swindell sisters etc – One word, tiresome.

9 – Maori ‘Culture’ – “Oh my God you are not going to have a go at the Maoris surely? Are you a cultureless yob?” It’s not a popular point of view but I truthfully find Maori Culture just a little bit boring. That in itself is fine, each to their own. What drives me nuts is the way it is forced down my throat at every opportunity. The Haka long since lost its power and ability to give me goosebumps after about the 100,000 time. Is it really appropriate to use the Haka when they open a supermarket or somebody changes a tire? Poi? Spare me, please. The bi-cultural of NZ is quite disappointing, separate health systems, separate education systems, protected council and government seats, the foreshore and seabed controversy. I do feel that for this country to really grow it is time to move on . But then I’m an immigrant so what right do I have to say any of this? Hang on, are the Maori indigenous, or did they just get here first?

10 – The Green/safe myth – Since living here we have been burgled and had our car broken into. Neither happened to us in the UK. In fact if you go online and look at the statistics per capita it is no safer here. Nationmaster.com offers plenty of stats, here’s just one.

#12 New Zealand – 0.213383 per 1,000 people
#13 United Kingdom – 0.142172 per 1,000 people

As for green? Don’t make me laugh. Walk to the shop? Not me I’m a kiwi and I expect to be able to park less than 2m away from the entrance otherwise I will drive round and round the block until there is a space free, all the while leaving a trail of fast food wrapping behind me.

11 – The swearing – for f***s sake what is it with all the b****y swearing? I s**t you not these w**kers can’t stop themselves! Every time I turn on the radio with the kids in the car I have to reach for the volume control every other minute, it’s like listening to the world service fading in and out. Since when is it acceptable to call your company FussyBuggas?

Yes I know that makes 11. And yes I know it will draw all the freaks out of the woodwork, and they’ll be shouting at me telling me that if I don’t like it why don’t I go home. New Zealand is fantastic and even if it is not how dare I criticise it?
But those are just my thoughts. I make no apology, it is how I feel.
We are renting our house out while we go to the middle east and who knows maybe we’ll come back. If this experience has taught me one thing it’s never say never. Although if I never have to sit through ‘Once Were Warriors’ again it will be too soon.