Continuing in our series of Migrant Tales – first hand accounts of the migrant experience of New Zealand.
Today’s tale was sent in by a small business owner in the UK. He wisely spent two months in New Zealand prior to emigrating, to see if he and the country were a good fit.
Although his stay was an expensive one it was invaluable. Why? because it saved him from making what may have been the biggest mistake of his life – emigrating to New Zealand.
It demonstrates the value of doing one’s research thoroughly; and of going in with eyes wide open and rose colored specs consigned firmly to the back pocket.
Here’s his tale.
I’m not a migrant or resident but spent 2 months there looking at what life would be like for me.
So it started in 2011 and I was looking at possibly working abroad and had looked into Canada, I have worked in Holland and Germany, but I have friends in New Zealand.
By trade I am a Plasterer, I run a small plastering and rendering business in the UK which is also involved with insulation, I do ok in the UK, but did get caught up with the doom and gloomers in the UK who seem to get caught up in the grass is greener syndrome, thinking that everywhere is better than the UK.
Anyway, I decided to visit New Zealand to have a look, suss out the work situation, housing situation and generally take a look at what life would be like there, I mean New Zealand is portrayed as heaven in the UK, one of my employees even left his job because he thought I wouldn’t be back.
I had been researching on various forums regarding construction, wages, standard of life and got caught up with the “happy clappers” and use to dismiss the negative things I saw, someone would post 1 negative comment and it would be swamped by 10 positive responses, usually from long standing members on such sites, but again, I glossed over this.
So I booked to go and arranged to stay in Hamilton with a family I knew, flights cost me £800 approx and I was taking about £3500 or nzd$7000, plenty enough to see me through 2 months, I was even getting set up with construction site visits, meetings with small outfits and meetings with various construction guys.
All good, until I got there, upon arrival the first thing I was asked for travelling back from the airport (Auckland) to Hamilton was money, the family I was staying with knew how much I had as I had asked about how much I needed, anyway being polite, I gave them some money about $600 to cover my stay, my understanding is I would be travelling about and visiting other friends in Auckland.
The first few weeks were spent sight seeing, visiting tourist attractions near by money was pouring out of my hands, being generous I was paying for some of the family I was staying with as a way of showing my appreciation, however, takeaways seemed to be the norm and we probably had 1/2 home cooked meals a week.
Groceries in stores such as countdown were massively expensive, I’m mean ridiculous, a bottle of wine and some sundries were coming in at like $40 +
The work situation I looked into, I visited a few sites and spoke to a few guys and was actually offered jobs, I was 25 and had a skilled trade, so had opportunities, however the wages were not great $27-$30 NZD per hour in a country that is very expensive, I earn more than that in the UK.
The Christchurch re-build was a joke, an absolute shambles, speaking to various site managers the Chinese were the only guys earning money, by working 12-14 hours days producing good quality work but living in shared accommodation and basically living poorly earning money to send home, something I wasn’t prepared or expecting to do, I was expecting long term work, decent pay and a decent standard of living……. Where was it ?
One site manager actually discouraged me and told me how he was only there to obtain a visa so he could jump the ditch and move to Aus, his words were “you’ll struggle like hell” he couldn’t fault the Chinese either, they were working hard and fast towards a bonus for said site manager, other sites were the same, hamilton hospital, sites in Tauranga, Maori gib stoppers, Chinese gib stoppers, either earning little or working very long hard days to earn a decent crust.
Not like the adverts you see in Britain.
I also looked into the private housing as regards to buying, and being into construction and insulation myself I know the state of the housing was disgusting, it was summer when I was there but there was no or very little insulation, timber framed housing cladded with weatherboard and plastic cladding, these houses are not built to last, the nights were very cold.
NZ is very behind on building materials, things are simply not available in New Zealand that are readily available in Europe, what materials and tools that are on offer are massively overpriced.
The houses are simply massively inflated, they are of poor quality and certainly do not justify the price they demand $200,000 for a rotting timber home in a rough area, no matter how big the garden is or what you can see from said garden, the houses are wooden tents/sheds even.
Condensation – the meeting of cold air and warm air resulting in water, why the hell do you not have double glazing, why the hell do you not insulate your houses – the result is water inside your home, water rots wood, it rots plasterboard.
I’ll move onto attitude – the attitude when criticised is dramatic, wow, see the change on their faces when you dare criticise anything, I’d made my mind up about moving after about a month, it was a no, how my life was made hell for the remaining time, racism towards the maori is common, as such is it towards Indians and Chinese.
Expats are by far the worse, they hate Britain and speak very lowly of the place, I got sick to the back teeth of hearing how bad Britain was, how it was being taken over, how it was a sinking ship, give it a rest, the UK has its problems but it is a great place to live, everything in life is at your fingertips education, careers, opportunities.
I got the impression expats where hoping the UK had problems to justify their own choice to move to New Zealand.
Kiwi-poms get no greater pleasure in life than to tell people in the UK how great there life is, when really it is sugarcoated bullshit.
The isolation, that word will stick with me for life, I have never felt isolation like I did in New Zealand, not loneliness, but just a complete lack of anything, nothingness. What kept me going was having access to the Internet, I felt I was looking elsewhere to get my sports fix regarding football, F1 and other sports, other than rugby and cricket, there’s no mainstream sports access.
Tourists are squeezed for every last penny, I ended up broke with a few days remaining and was made to feel very uncomfortable, I’d given my host family who were friends near $1000, spent copious amounts on take-outs (I have 1/2 a week in UK, not 4/5) spent hundreds on overpriced tourist attractions and my fair share in fuel (the last I have no qualms about as I did see some great sights)
But I was left broke, I couldn’t even afford a beer in the airport.
I did see my friend who lives in Auckland, who I hadn’t seen since I was a child, when I met him he was very against me moving to NZ, at the time I couldn’t understand why, but it soon clicked when I got back, we spoke and he told me he regretted ever moving there, he owned his house and had a job, but like me, felt the isolation, the squeeze and the endless battles with your own sanity, the reason he cannot leave is, he is married to a kiwi with 2 children, she will never leave, kiwi women are very controlling and manipulative and most are overweight pigs, in other words he is stuck.
I left New Zealand scratching my head, questioning my own attitude, I couldn’t understand why I didn’t fit into this great, green heaven id read so much about, I was made to feel like I had a problem.
New Zealand does that to you, the people, the place, it isolates you unless your willing to paint a fake smile on your face, appreciate the view and say thank you while zipping your trousers up.
I don’t regret going, it has made me appreciate what the UK has given me and continues to offer.
Luckily for me I was strong enough and wise enough to see through the bullshit, I spent my time in New Zealand living as a resident, living in a home, looking at jobs, looking at housing and mixing with residents on a day to day basis.
My strong advice to anyone is visit first and the if you like it rent, do not sell everything you have (a house) on a whim and move because getting out is one long hard slow process.
I now live in UK, own my own home and run a successful business, something I don’t think I could have done in New Zealand, good luck people.
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