American Says Tauranga ‘Mis-sold’

Continuing in our series of Migrants’ Tales – first hand accounts of the migrant experience of New Zealand, taken from locations around the net.

Today’s story is taken from a forum called Expat Blog, in it a young American immigrant says that Tauranga wasn’t as advertised and likens the small town to the US Midwest – passive aggressive, superficial, insular and drunk…among other things. Because of this she/he is seeking links with other expats to form friendships. It’s a pretty common story and explains why muti-national groups of expats are so prevalent in New Zealand:

“I recently moved from the US to Tauranga and seek my fellow expats. Where in the US? I’ve lived all over from New England to CA to Texas. I’ve traveled a lot for someone barely touching 30 and am very educated and seeking depth in friendships, not this superficial film I’m encountering here in Tauranga.

I will now share my experience so far in Tauranga. This may offend some but I’m sure will resonate strongly with many others.

Tauranga was not as advertised, namely clean, friendly, warm, environmentally-friendly, etc. Tauranga seems a lot like the midwest in the US: Passive-aggressive, superficially polite/friendly, standoffish, drunk, and insular.

I’ve been to social gatherings with other kiwis, including peers in their late 20s and early 30s in the healthcare field. Despite being outgoing and friendly and trying to talk to people, I was struck with how the native kiwis were so passive-aggressive and impolite, masking it with mask of “yeah yeah” as they continued to just spend time with their other kiwi friends and not let anyone inside their little circles.

Conversations center more around rugby, the weather, complaining about the Council, and drinking than anything of any substance. I don’t drink, care for rugby or cricket, or like talking about drinking, rubgy, or cricket. Is it me or are the kiwis so insulated in their little world that they lack the depth that comes with experiencing the suffering of others, from travel, from going through hard times, and from changing one’s life? Sitting around a table and hypnotically nodding one’s head with a “yeah yeah” is not conversation, does not create strong friendships, and lacks depth.

Where are those people who have traveled, who have dedicated their lives to helping others, who seek to grow and mature and become better human beings, to experience life? I meet kiwis who drudgingly do one’s job only to ‘enjoy’ the sugar-high of a drunken-filled existence on weekends only to repeat the cycle until the next rugby match. Kiwis here in Tauranga say they like the lifestyle, but they certainly don’t go out of their way to make recent arrivals feel welcome and enjoy said lifestyle. Look, I don’t mind if people sip wine, but I don’t like being around people who are drunk or who drink enough to alter their personality.

Kiwis are not friendly, they are polite and insular. Friendly means engaging with someone and sharing one’s experiences, helping each other, bonding, learning from one another. Being polite means smiling and nodding so as not to appear rude or standoffish, yet the real goal is to be standoffish.

In my experience, the people I bond with are fellow expats, and they have also experienced the above.

I am frustrated with the native kiwis and seek a community amongst the expats. I believe all us expats suffer some form of the above politeness-plague from the Kiwis. One expat colleague said it took her 4 years for the kiwis to open up to her and to allow her into their networks. 4 years!

I seek the educated expat peer group in Tauranga, those who have depth and insight, those that are seekers, ideally age 20-40ish. If you are out there, reach out. We need to create our community because we can’t rely on the Kiwis to have one ready for us or to even let us into theirs.”

19 thoughts on “American Says Tauranga ‘Mis-sold’

  1. [Deleted, read the comment guidelines – the part that says “Don’t Make Straw Men; or rant on about other countries’ issues and use them as a justification for poor standards in New Zealand. Being told ‘it’s so much worse in xyz’ doesn’t make it any easier to accept the same type of crap in NZ, just on a smaller scale. Remember, NZ is often falsely marketed to migrants on the basis that it doesn’t suffer from those problems. Very often those issues are worse in New Zealand than elsewhere in the world because of its poverty gap, social disconnectedness and isolation“. Admin]

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  2. There’s a yoga teacher in Ohope who grew up in Seattle I think. She’s around 30. Seek out foreigners or people who’ve travelled beyond Tauranga. If you are male and looking for kiwi males to give you substance in their conversation, you won’t find it, it’s not in their DNA (generally speaking).

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  3. I’ve travelled around the world and see these insular communities everywhere! It really depends what you are looking for. It’s definitely hard to make friends anywhere really. NZ has quite a reserved and laid back attitude to life. I lived in London for 6 years and made a lot of acquaintances however true friends are hard to find. You can be very lonely there even though it’s exciting and vibrant! So really try to source out like-minded or even challenging people and just enjoy your time there. Be yourself around these reserved people despite their reserved ways. NZ’rs are actually quite insecure around foreigners or even other NZ’rs that have travelled a lot. Often they become quiet and not very enthusiastic when you speak of exotic places. They feel inadequate. It’s silly but it’s quite true. Actually I find I have to source out other travellers where ever I am living! Even when I lived in Sydney it was the same with Aussie’s as most have never been here, even though it’s so close, and I found them SO clicky. All my friends there were European and American expats. NZ has a lot of artists, intellects and interesting people. Do some research and head to art galleries, exhibitions or even contact some people… NZ is pretty different experience to big countries and cities..really it’s about the scenery !

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  4. I’m an Aucklander and my family and I moved to Tauranga 18 months ago. We are a friendly family and have found Tauranga to be the most UNFRIENDLY place we have ever come across. We came here with great expectations of making new friends and having a good environment for our school age girls. But we have never been so lonely and if we stay here we will age quickly and have downturned mouths like all the local Tauranga people. We have been told that you will never make friends in Tauranga. There is no vibrancy in Tauranga. We are selling up and going back to Auckland where it is more multi cultural and people reach out for friendships and have fun.

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    • It’s funny how that works out, isn’t it?
      In that, in a multi-cultural environment, people new to New Zealand (and even OF New Zealand) feel warmth
      BUT
      New Zealand in the newspapers, officially and more often, paints itself as “bi-cultural”.

      It’s going to be fun times ahead, like the response to
      http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11343073
      Official’s Indian radio remark sparks race row
      5:00 AM Thursday Oct 16, 2014

      NZ Immigration Service
      Complaint follows visa rejection for beauty therapist

      Ramya Sathiyanathan.

      An Immigration New Zealand officer’s claim that people who listen to Indian radio are unlikely to be New Zealanders has prompted a lawyer to lodge a complaint with the Race Relations Conciliator.

      I was once informed by a staff at University(who was with the Immigration department previously, as he said very proudly), that as long as people had a “knack”, they could work at Immigration New Zealand. (And that you were not entitled to appeal a negative immigration decision, on ANY grounds whatsoever … )
      I took it to mean, and I will not be surprised if it is true, that the Immigration Service has among its staff a lot of smooth talkers with 0 real qualifications.
      (In short, double-standards …)

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  5. I too live in Tauranga and have not found it at all friendly. I am sorry to say after 3years we are pretty much in the same position as when we arrived. We are not quitters and are trying to stay positive and remain hopeful of making friends.
    I would just like to add its not from lack of trying..

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  6. Hey I’m not going to criticise you as I too felt much of this when I moved to Tauranga from the UK, I still struggle to a large degree but I take it as it comes, the reality for me is that I have made the best of it for the sake of my family, NZ is a far better place than UK at the moment but I too have travelled widely and know it’s not a scratch on most of Europe or beyond. You will find pockets of resistance here and there and you will eventually find some kiwis who are quite different, usually those whom themselves have travelled. I too have no passion for Rugby and If forced to watch the game will don the Black England shirt to make a point, another team I know nothing about 🙂 cricket bores me. I hate the kiwi anthem tunes played on the strand and at the mt by every bar at the same time. I was a party animal when I arrived here I now only drink on special occasions and even then I drink very little. I think the life has been sucked out of me lol. The next 2 years will tell – british2kiwi

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  7. I must admit, I understand what you’re saying in your message above about Tauranga, but I also believe you’d find this kind of behavior anywhere, especially if you’re expecting it.
    I’m not saying you were, but I”m saying it’s easy to find. I recently moved back to Tauranga from America, and I was disappointed initially to find that Tauranga didn’t have much to offer. I”m a NZ’r and have always lived in Auckland, but after living in America for a few years Auckland really has lost it’s appeal.
    I’ve been here almost a year now and I do believe that Tauranga is a community that is growing in the right direction.
    There will always, unfortunately, be those that make the whole crop look bad, but they are not the be all and end of of this city. I”m in my 30’s yet some of the most incredible people I”ve met so far are in there 80’s! Tauranga is an aging city, a lot of people come here to retire, it does have a lot to offer but currently you have to find it. You can’t expect it to find you. There is plenty of opportunity here, again it needs to be found, you need to create it if you can, and yes I think starting a community is a great idea, but don’t limit it to just ex pats, there are some wonderful kiwi’s out there, maybe the circles you are in are the not right ones?

    As Northlanders said, there are few jobs and limited tertiary education – I agree with that but I also believe it’s what you make of it, create your own job, never stop learning, meet new people, start a group, don’t let disappointment color your own outlook, use it as a tool to know that where you are may not be right for you so change it.

    Don’t go out with the same people – I’ve found everyone in Tauranga to be very pleasant actually, there are a few ‘undesirables’ if I may be so bold, but every place has that, we are living on a planet that has many levels of training on it, so your job is to see beyond those that don’t suit you and find those that do!

    Good Luck!

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    • Hey seekinghearts i loved what you said about Tauranga, i am currently living in auckland and want to move to Tauranga for a new start and what you said has helped me alot, and i do agree with you every place in the world have people who are unfriendly you just need to look past them and you’ll find friendly one like me i am euro Maori (Kiwi) and i am every friendly, as the saying goes treat others how you would like to be treated.

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  8. Although your experience in tauranga obviously sucked but I’m assuming you’re like most people and forget or don’t realise that new zealand doesn’t stop at auckland. The majority of aucklanders are snobs and it generally gets worse as you travel down the country, of course that cant be said for every individual person but as a whole… If you tried living up north you would have found that not every one is as rude or self-important as those from auckland an downwards. The only downside of the northland is that theres very few jobs and limited tertiary education and tourists tend to get stuff jacked from their rental cars.

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  9. Chief executive Max Mason said while most people would agree $18.40 was a reasonable estimate of the income needed to sustain a basic quality of life, raising the minimum wage to this would devastate Tauranga’s local business sector, which employs 48,000.

    “It is sobering to reflect that 44.4 per cent of people in Tauranga have an annual income of $20,000 or less.
    http://www.bayofplentytimes.co.nz/news/living-wage-would-devastate-business/1759327/
    Sounds like … “we want you to live here. But not live, here”.

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  10. I am a Kiwi and I hear what you are saying, although having done ‘some’ travelling’ myself, including time spent living in America, I have to say that my experience demonstrates those drunken, insular groups exist world wide. I hope you are able to connect with people who you have more common ground with so you can experience the warmth and inclusiveness which can and does exist in New Zealand. FYI there are some ‘meet up’ groups up and running in Tauranga…it’s a matter of trial and error to some extent, finding what level you’re wanting to connect on…and then linking with others who share that interest. As a point aside I know of someone very keen to connect with people who have travelled (wanting to do so himself one day) and has a particular interest in learning about America…? Good luck, we are not all the same :0)

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  11. I read your comments with interest and was feeling fairly sympathetic until you felt the need to state the following … “seekers, ideally age 20-40ish. ” So despite all your protestations of being travelled, educated, open minded and empathic, you are in fact ageist which is exactly the same as racist and sexist in that you discount whole swathes of people you’ve never met based on an arbitrary characteristic. Maybe the kiwis you disparage so readily can basically see your character.. there’s nothing pleasant in any kind of ‘…ist’ might I suggest you take your small minded views back to the deep south in the US where i’m sure you’ll gel with many like minded individuals.

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    • “take your small minded views back to the deep south in the US where i’m sure you’ll gel with many like minded individuals.”

      Now who’s being ‘ist ?

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    • I think your reply is too harsh . What I foremost sense in this story is the longing for genuinity in human encounter.I would like to meet the person , because he is describing exactly what sort of human friendships I aspire too. Now , sure the US has this ” plastic , kitchy” friendliness that we Europeans start finding disingeneous after a while , but I must say that it is conducive to engaging into contact with new people , and amplifies the chances of meeting people of your liking. The fact that somebody may have age preferences is just so natural and understandable. At age 20 I considered people age 30 ” wast metal” , that is human nature. It is not a reason to suggest he is small minded. Let alone that he would have to go back to where he came from. I sense general anti- american feelings in your reply , which in turn I deem very small minded , as it is a country with many many countries inside, with different mindsets and even linguistic differences. Thank you.

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  12. Must be difficult. Try to find progressively thinking, cosmopolitan people to talk to. Go to libraries. Go to cafes. Museums. Try to strike up conversations. One will eventually pan out. You must be stuck in a conservative area, or a suburb where everyone seems to act the same. I have found in New Zealand that I have to reach out to other outsiders and be brave and persistent, focusing on commonalities. Good luck to you. That is a very long time without making enough friends in a foreign country, and I feel bad for you.

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  13. Now that you live in a different country you feel that. guess how we feel after living in the USA for over 30 yrs? Still the white american moms only talk to their own clan, and never do they think of including us brown people. Never. I MEAN NEVER.

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