Continuing in our series of Migrant Tales – first hand accounts of the migrant experience of New Zealand. This series has been going since we started this site in 2009 and we have collated hundreds of stories from migrants (and expat Kiwis) about life in New Zealand. Some of what they have to say may take you out of your comfort zone, these are uncomfortable truths, but from the heart and personal experience.
Today’s tale was sent in by an American migrant. Here’s her story
“We were in New Zealand for 4 years and I can honestly say my mental health improved 150% only two months after we returned home to the U.S. We went there because we believed the marketing, hype, and surveys about one of the “best places to live in the world”. We, like others here, were concerned about the trajectory of the U.S. economy. For the first 1 1/2 years I had my rose colored glasses on. Big Time. I was insanely happy to be there. The views were magnificent and I believed the environment was 100% pure. Laugh out loud. I happily hung my laundry out, recycled, and learned to make the meals everyone else was making. I wanted to blend with the “Kiwi culture”. What I didn’t realize was hanging out my laundry and making vegetable curry from my garden vegetables were more cost-cutting measures rather than environment preservation. Kiwis would be happy to use their dryer in the middle of the day but it is ghastly expensive to do so. They need to dry them late at night after 11 p.m. when the cost of electricity goes down. They say they prefer to hang them out which does have it’s pluses but I assume that the families who are working multiple jobs and raising a family would love to throw their laundry in the dryer carelessly at 3 p.m. before they have to be somewhere. As for the environment, the stories of the uses of pesticides and poisons resulting in cancer cases are astronomical. One Kiwi pointed out that just on one hill, up over the road, there was one guy here, one guy over there, and another family down in the valley who all got cancer. Well, if you are unlucky enough to get cancer then don’t depend on the healthcare. On “family doctor” out in the country failed to diagnosis two people that I knew about until they could ignore their symptoms no longer. This is just my opening paragraph. There is so much more to tell.
Job and Cost of Living: My DH went over first and surveyed our selected city. We had a retired pension from his prior U.S. job so we were lucky to still have that and some savings before we arrived. He, like others on this forum, took a lower paying “immigrant” position to have a job and pay his dues initially. The problem was that he never left it the entire 4 years we were there. He was promoted after a year of being there but I believe this was only because he worked for other immigrants in the public sector, not a Kiwi directly. After being there 4 years we blew through our savings and realized we would never be able to have a comfortable retirement with the high cost of imported goods, expensive petrol, and lower wages.
Education: We have very bright children. We wanted to home school initially but wanted to “immerse” our children in the Kiwi culture. This was a big mistake. Our oldest daughter was two years ahead before we moved there only to be two years behind after we left. If you want your children to learn something, teach them yourself. In public NZ school they will learn how to kayak, sail, orienteer, garden, cook, camp, make trinkets at “technology” and have access to computers. However, forget any of the traditional or classic curriculum you might have acquired in the U.S., Canada, or even Europe. It has been largely forgotten or doesn’t even exist. The children there rarely, if ever, do homework; not even in high school. For maths they do “mental math” instead of the traditional way of calculations. You might think this is great but my oldest daughter told me that her Year 10 classmates were unable to do long division. My youngest son and daughter cannot borrow, carry, or rename at the ages of 10 and 8. I also just introduced multiplication to them so we can begin the process of catching up. I volunteered some hours over at their school in NZ but it was met with skepticism and resentment. Kiwis thought we must have had a lot of money in order for me not to work. They didn’t see it as a sacrifice on my part or even a welcome plus to having an extra warm body help with the workload. I never once saw any textbooks or workbooks come home. There was NEVER anything provided to the parents about what they were learning. We were invited to parent-teacher conferences where they would go over some metrics and goals they had set out for our children but they seemed “random”. I’ll admit that I didn’t push their teachers because I had heard about the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” in NZ and I didn’t want them to think I wanted “elitist” treatment. I was happy that my children had an hour for lunch everyday at the primary and intermediate levels. They also had a morning tea (recess) for 15-20 minutes each day. Our time in New Zealand allowed them to be kids but they suffered academically. The large break times would have been wonderful if they would have been given some rigorous mental prey to chase after in the classroom.
Culture: Kiwis do think they are wonderful as a population. They are constantly pumped up by tourists and new immigrants who come over and tell them how great things are. This is only on the surface. The longer we were there the more we realized they are leading a life of quiet desperation. Yes, the have more space. Yes, the have less population. Yes, their views are wonderful. But, then reality hit us like a ton of bricks. The comments that were made about us behind our backs. The jealousy, sarcastic comments, and endless questions about “Why did you move to New Zealand again?” is an underlying way of saying, “We are stuck on this island knowing that we can barely make ends meet and we can’t get off. Why the heck would you leave the wonderful U.S.? You must be out of your mind, unskilled, stupid, or running away from something.” Indeed, I fully didn’t research this country before we arrived.
Jealousy: Kiwis are incredibly jealous. There is the passive-aggressive nature that other people on this forum describe. They have to be that way because they cannot adequately defend a verbal accusation or criticism. They have no intellectual legs to back it up. So, they backstab, slander, and culturally eviscerate you until you disappear. Which is why most people from the U.S. don’t make it past the 1-2 year mark before they cry uncle and want to go home. If you want to sue for slander, forget it. Kiwis don’t use the legal system. Plus, you would never find a lawyer who would take the case, even if you had solid legs to stand on.
Medical system: One word…STINKS. This “free” system is not free. You pay high copayments which would have been the actual cost of the care at your local doctor if you would have just paid in cash and he cut some of his staff and bureaucratic middlemen. The U.S. system is headed this way and I cringe at the prospect. The NZ doctors are highly unqualified and don’t know what they are doing. The medical system was initially sold to the NZ people as free but copayments were initiated shortly after (oops, we miscalculated). Classic bait and switch. Getting a specialist in NZ is a treat. There are few of them and I was told that my family practice guy could handle most everything. No thank you. Waits are long for specialist care and surgical care. I missed my American physicians (all of them…even the “bad” ones). There is little care for children with disabilities. They have a saying, “She’ll be right”, which means “Don’t worry, you can’t do anything about it anyway. We don’t have the tools, specialists, or knowledge.” There was a family who, not long ago, needed to leave NZ for Dyslexia care in the United States: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/8755641/Family-heads-to-US-for-dyslexia-support
One of my daughters had problems speaking in public and I addressed this with her teachers and physicians with no resolution. She had the long, inappropriate stares and other classic autism symptoms. The other two children were fine. The NZ “professionals” defaulted to “it must be abuse”, although they never outright made that accusation. I asked if it could be autism but they wanted to believe what they wanted to believe.as they didn’t have the tools or knowledge to consider that it could be autism. They are uneducated. My daughter has since been officially diagnosed in the United States. The NZ professionals defaulted to abuse because of their experience with it. There is more abuse in New Zealand than in America. I am convinced of it. There is a notorious history of alcohol and drug addiction in New Zealand which makes it more possible for people to abuse their loved ones…physically, mentally, and sexually. I watched a man berate his teenage son after running his bicycle off a curb accidentally. He yelled, screamed, and told the young man how worthless he was using expletives that would make a sailor blush. He did so until I yelled back at him, “Enough!”. I felt so sorry for the child but somehow the event made me realize how pervasive the unacceptable behavior is within Kiwi families. My children would often come home from school and tell me all the four letter words that were being used on a regular basis. Kids in U.S. public schools are rarely heard using these terms (not as often as what we encountered in New Zealand).
One last word: Jealousy.
I know I mentioned this before but it is worth mentioning again. We sold a used minivan in the U.S. before we moved to New Zealand for $7800 (about NZ $10,600). When we wanted to purchase the same year, make, and model in NZ we were surprised that it would cost us NZ $25,000. So, we decided to buy one family car and one back-up smaller convertible sedan. The convertible sedan was red and “fun” and very old….1995…and New Zealanders called it a “flash car”. It cost us only $8,000 NZ. What I have come to understand is one of three things:, “How dare a woman with three children drive a fun convertible car”…or, “I would love to drive that foreign car but it is too expensive to fix”….or “You must make a lot of money in order to afford that type of used foreign car…we are jealous…and secretly hate you”. That is the kind of thing
Three immigrant comments and stories that are not my own:
1) From a man from India: “Stay in the city and stick with your own kind, you’ll be better off”. (True, I should have bonded with Americans or Canadians from the outset. I might still be there if I had some sort of safety net…”Yeah, Nah”.)
2) From a woman from Denmark: “You are lucky we have not burned your trees down yet”.
3) A young 20-something told me this about her South American father: “Dad was more highly skilled than his NZ coworkers. He turned off a machine before he was to go in and fix it. While he was in the machine his coworkers turned it back on and he lost two fingers. When he came out of the machine his coworkers laughed at him and told him to call his own ambulance.” Not surprisingly, the man moved back to South America without his wife and daughter.
If you move to New Zealand, keep your eyes wide open. I greatly miss the food and coffee and overall nutrition is better than in the United States. Before we left NZ, the cons heavily outweighed the pros. I might go back to NZ if things continue to deteriorate in the U.S. but I can honestly say that the quality of life in America is definitely better. If you move there get a solid home country support network. If there isn’t one, then start one. That is the only way to survive there. The Chinese do it well. The Indians do it well.”
You may also like some of these other American Migrant Tales
- Migrant Tales – Switzerland Delivers What New Zealand Can’t
- Migrant Tales – Californian Says Goodbye Windy Welly, Hello Sunny Sydney
- Migrant Tales – New Zealand, 10 Years In. A Country Blighted by Poverty and Mental Illness
- Migrant Tales – “Shall I Make the Move? Take the Risk” and Advice to Intending Colonists
- Migrant Tales – Struggling US Physio Says She’s Screwed at Every Turn, Wants to Return to the States
- Migrant Tales – American Migrant Says “Goodbye New Zealand”
- Migrant Tale – American Migrant Says Nice Scenery, Shame about the Rest
- Migrant Tales – Biotechnologist Says NZ’s Universities Are A Ponzi Scheme