Discussion: Closer to Home?

  • Russell Brown,

    Expatriate New Zealanders are seeking refuge at home – but some of those quoted in the Herald's story (and in Your Views) would surely pay excess baggage for the chips on their shoulders. So where's the Public Address diaspora at? Have things changed since we ran The Expat Files 1, 2 and 3 in 2005?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

135 Responses

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  • Robyn Gallagher,

    A lot of the Your Views comments seem to be from expats whose image of contemporary New Zealand is almost entirely informed by what they've read in the news. So it's all child abuse and murders and W(h)anganui. Because "Wow! Isn't the waterfront really beautiful today!" or "Hey, there's a really cool new bar that does an amazing cocktail with pumpkin in it" never (usually) makes it to the front page of the news websites, these expats focus on the bad news and miss out on the cool, ordinary stuff that makes living in New Zealand so awesome. No wonder they don't like the idea of returning.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • AnthonyJT,

    Come February, I'll been away from New Zealand for 2 years. It doesn't seem like that long and I don't know for sure when I'll be coming back. That's not to say i don't miss NZ - there are something I really miss and others that I'm glad I'm distant from.

    Everyone over here always asks why I moved (well the Brits do - Kiwis and Aussies already know). I'll tell them three things - professional experience, money and travel - not necessarily in that order! to be honest, I like living in London - it has a lot to offer. At the same time though it's not home and never will be. A friend from back homse sent me some photos of his section from down the line - nice mountain vistas and a stream flanked by silver fern fronds. I put them up on my wall nect to my desk and my workmate who sits next to me looked at them and said "Anthony, look outside" - it was a typically grey London winter day - "what are you doing here?"

    Moving was in some ways a means to an end - I felt my career was stagnating and, like many young kiwis before me, I felt a need to spread my wings. As with those who have trodden this well worn path, I've shown that Kiwis can compete on the world stage.

    What frustrates me at time about NZ isn't so much the parochial nature of the country (e.g. headlines in the Herald like "Old Man found Safe") but rather what might usefully be described as perceived pessimism. We (or at least the media on our behalf) have this attitude that it isn't good enough for NZ to just compete with much larger countries than us on equal terms, but instead it's necessary for us to beat them. We bemoan social problems while at the same time failing to realise that our social problems are minimal compared to other countries'. here in Britain, stabbings in the south (of London) and shooting in the north is almost to be expected. In NZ an armed police officer is a rarity - rarer still are indisrciminate stabbings and shootings.

    What I also notice living in Britain, is how thins country is only now just beginning to grapple with issues which were done and dusted decades ago in NZ. We're always keen to try and learn from our bigger "friends" without even beginning to realise how much they could learn from us.

    Overall, the best thing NZ has going for it at the moment is focussed and decisive leadership. Sadly for Labourites, this is something that Britain is sorely lacking at the moment.

    When I come back to NZ, I know that my UK experience will be looked upon highly. This is certainly justfied given that the UK is a much larger jurisdiction and I have opportunities here that I would never be able to get back home. That's not to say though that NZ doesn't have mcuh to offer returning ex pats. we need to realise that not only are we more than capable of competing on the word stage, many Kiwis before the present generation of ex pats have already done just that - often to great acclaim. People like Lord Cooke of Thorndon, Baron Rutherfurd of Nelson, Peter Jackson and Sir Keith Park are amongst those who deserve to be celebrated more than they are.

    NZ needs to stop thinking about what isn't working and start thinking about contrsutive ways to fixthese problems. We also need to appreciate just how much of a mark our country and its representative have made on the world.

    Finally, I should also add that the ironichumour in Flight of the Conchordes takes on a whole new twist when viewed as an ex pat!

    London • Since Sep 2009 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Nick Melchior,

    I've just moved from Melbourne to Singapore and I can't see myself coming back to NZ to live pretty much ever. It certainly tempting at times, especially since having children a few years ago, but having living over half my life outside of NZ since first leaving aged 10 months, and working in an industry that's largely non-existent in NZ (publishing) I can't see it happening.

    The move to the National Government certainly hasn't made me more likely to head home but it's really the size of NZ that stops me from coming back. I'm a big city person and NZ doesn't have much in the way of big cities!

    What I do miss is the landscape and the natural environment. I felt very alienated from the landscape in Australia and the more time I get to spend in Central Otago the better.

    Melbourne • Since Nov 2006 • 36 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    ... never (usually) makes it to the front page of the news websites, these expats focus on the bad news and miss out on the cool, ordinary stuff that makes living in New Zealand so awesome. No wonder they don't like the idea of returning.

    I'm quite often told by expats that that's why they like to read PA and other blogs -- they get a better picture of what's actually going on than they do from the newspapers.

    OTOH, some of those Your Views people really don't even want to know what's going on. They're just angry people.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    I moved to Sydney from Wellington seven years ago. I meant to be back in two years. I'd happily come back to NZ, very happily. My family regularly contemplates a return, almost every year or so.

    So what keeps us away? Well, my wife has a great job at the Sydney Opera House. That's a big factor. My eldest daughter loves her childcare. We bought a house, we like our lifestyle, our friends and the weather (mostly, but not when it's stifflingly hot). On the other hand, Sydney doesn't feel like my home. Perhaps Melbourne would, it has a familiarity which is hard to explain.

    I'm sick to death of the narrowly defined debates about the relative merits of New Zealand versus Australia or some other place. We left because we wanted a change. We got it. But it's not lower taxes or better wages that keeps us in Sydney. It's a far more complex set of considerations that have more to do with social connections than work ones. Perhaps that's because we were mid-career, not starting off, I don't know.

    Deborah often blogs about moments of enculturation. I understand what she means. Almost seven years to the day after we left New Zealand, I saw Shihad play near where I live. Surrounded by six other expats and having a few quieties before the gig, we all closely watched St Kilda beat the Bulldogs and agreed it was one of the best games of Footy this season...

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I read PA (and Russell on usenet before that) while I lived overseas - for that connection to back home - on line news papers seemed to be hard to read - not enough context for a lot of stories (I did listen to nat radio on line for a while but it was shut down).

    After 20 years we decided to move home - mostly for our kids - washing up in NZ in 2004 - we're very glad we did, things have worked out well for all of us (but sadly with my continuing 'merkin accent no one thinks I'm really a kiwi any more).

    Moving back home is so much harder than we thought it would be - selling up your life and moving with no definite future is hard - it took us over a year between when we started packing and finished unpacking.

    For the current expats: one thing about all the bad stuff in the NZ media - remember in NZ they publish EVERYTHING - in Oakland where I used to live there were a couple of hundred murders a year - most never made the paper unless they were particularly gory or involved someone famous - NZ still has little enough crime that it all gets covered.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    When I come back to NZ, I know that my UK experience will be looked upon highly

    By this do you mean the work that you were able to do in the UK? I say this just because I come across people who seem to believe that simply because their job was in the UK it was great and amazing and valuable to a company in NZ - which is normally not the case.
    But certainly if you've been able to get a level and exposure of work otherwise unavailable in NZ then it can be of value.

    Didn't read the Your Views, don't need that sort of downer on my day right now.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    my continuing 'merkin accent

    I don't think I ever really collected one of those (except the kind you use for the service industry over there, just to make yourself understood). But I grew up in a house with two accents, and now live in a house with two accents, so I probably have some weird hybrid I can't actually hear, and anyone who's met me is now going to be all 'you totally sound like Moon Unit Zappa!' or something.

    If anyone compares NZ unfavourably to the US on some issue (consumerist joy or whatever), my husband says 'yes, that's true. But also? We have universal healthcare. I'll take that.' I don't think anyone from the US who moves here permanently ever takes that for granted. Particularly at the moment.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    OTOH, some of those Your Views people really don't even want to know what's going on. They're just angry people.

    My quick scan-through impression of the Your Views posters was that most of the ex-pats in Asia, the US and Europe seem pretty cool (left for work, travel etc) and most of the ex-pats in Australia are dicks (left because of the fuckin' theiving Maaris etc).

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Well - I'm screwed, probably permanently - in NZ everyone thinks I'm american, in the US they think I'm english or occasionally south african or australian - there's nowhere on the planet I don't have an accent - I'm old enough now that will probably always be true

    Well nowhere english speaking anyway - in Taiwan where I am this week I'm told I have an easy to understand accent (when I don't speak too fast)

    (so you hear that expats - move home before it's too late unless you want to work in the english dept at the uni and are cultivating that faux oxford accent ....)

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I'm sick to death of the narrowly defined debates about the relative merits of New Zealand versus Australia or some other place. We left because we wanted a change. We got it. But it's not lower taxes or better wages that keeps us in Sydney. It's a far more complex set of considerations that have more to do with social connections than work ones. Perhaps that's because we were mid-career, not starting off, I don't know.

    Totally. I lived in Oz for 5 years, mainly because of a particular opportunity for me and my partner. I moved back to NZ for the same reason.

    But I must say I'm rather tied to NZ now - ACC approved a lifelong claim for my first son, and I really can't see any other country in the world being 1/50th so generous. Oz certainly will not, since accidents must be covered by insurance, and this accident has already happened. Of course, if ACC is smashed to pieces at some point, that might all change.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    Deborah [ ] often blogs about moments of enculturation.

    Aaaaggghhhh! Paul!! You outed me!!! So far I've kept my family name off blogs about the place.

    Oh well.... anyone who was curious and had two spare braincells and a modicum of google-fu could have worked it out anyway. So I'm not actually too concerned, and I had been contemplating going all-out anyway.

    Not a moment of enculturation, but just to prove that they really are weird in Sydney, take a look at this picture of the dust storm: zombies-zombies

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    A friend from Sydney offers this image of the dust storm ....

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Jan Farr,

    To half quote Rob Muldoon, it seems that many of the expats living in Australia and expressing Views, may have raised the IQ level of at least this country.

    Carterton • Since Apr 2008 • 395 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    Aaaaggghhhh! Paul!! You outed me!!! So far I've kept my family name off blogs about the place.

    I'm genuinely sorry Deborah. I should have known better. Perhaps a admin pixie can delete the unecessary details from my comment?

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    Nah... it's not really a problem, Paul. These days I'm a long way down on google, so I'm not all that discoverable, or memorable, evidently.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    Well mine host has expeditiously deleted all references... and again, apologies.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I'm not sure that this really addresses the question... but nevermind!

    Firstly, I feel a lot greater sense of community through the blogs, and of course this site. I feel like I still have not only a stake but a voice in NZ's national conversation.

    But the other side of things is a sense of frustration from over here; watching things like ACC, which is literally one of the best universal accident healthcare systems in the world, get underappreciated and threatened with destruction. It's hard for me not to feel like I only have negative things to say. I'm in almost every way the opposite of the Your Views ranters, but I understand their frustration and sense of loss.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Daniel Kalderimis,

    I also felt, and feel, a sense of community through the NZ blog-asphora. Public Address in particular was an important means to stay in touch with the parts of NZ I enjoyed and missed the most. Eloquence, curiosity, intelligence, passion; it's all out there somewhere.

    My thought on the negative sentiments expressed on Your View is that - like in many conversations - it helps to look beyond what the contributors say to infer what they are really saying.

    Practically by definition, all of the contributors feel a real sense of connection to NZ. Otherwise they would not be spending time reading the NZ Herald website and posting their own thoughts. It seems to me that what is behind some of the less constructive or balanced thoughts is, as George said, frustration and a sense of loss. This can come across as anger, derision, even rejection. But it certainly does not make NZ a bad place to live. More on that anon...

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 11 posts Report Reply

  • Kimberley Verburg,

    A Dutch Kiwi here. I originally took off because Dutch unis were better and far cheaper. Also, I was interested in European languages. Which lead to Paris. Which was a little too close to the black hole of London and I got sucked in.

    I'm glad I left, I didn't fit in too well with my bookish interests, etc. But I see that as less of a problem now I'm a bit older and things have changed. The real barrier is that my partner is Dutch. Also, his specialty would make finding a job in Wellington pretty difficult (he's a quantum physicist).

    When my cousin was planning a return to NZ with her Dutch family in tow, she said that life in the Netherlands felt too settled and that, while it's harder in NZ, at least you felt like you were moving forward. That struck a chord with me. NZ's smallness might be hard to go back to, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot going on.

    And I miss the land. Big old stereotype, but there it is. I miss the friendly culture, the laidback life. I miss my friends and their kids growing up. But I'd miss Europe and my people there too. So NZ might be a forever "one day".

    Almost everyone I know seems to expect my return though, so maybe they know something I don't. :-)

    Leiden • Since Jun 2007 • 27 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    underappreciated and threatened with destruction

    Deliberately undermined by its own Minister, at that. What with recent climate 'negotiations', you have to wonder if they put him in charge of stuff they just don't like.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    and most of the ex-pats in Australia are dicks

    Not true, some of my best buddies blah, blah....

    But I'm also of the opinion that moving to Australia, at least to Melbourne, Brissie or Sydney is more like moving from the lower half of the North Island to the Northern half, and applying the descriptor expat is a wee bit of a stretch. The cultural DNA is pretty close, and the rules are pretty much the same, albeit a bit rougher around the edges in Oz.

    Whereas, even in our fellow English speaking first world countries further afield there are hefty adjustments to be made in the day to day mindset (we antipodeans are quite unlike the English as much as we fool ourselves otherwise..although we do like their telly...).

    And then, of course, one gets to Asia and nothing you've learnt in your years to date is of any use whatsoever.

    What I miss, people aside? Piha and wine mostly.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    But surely quantum physicists just have to pull the old superposition trick and they can be everywhere at once .....

    which great because it means he can live and work in different places .... until you find out about all the other wives ....


    BTW - the trick to moving back is to set a deadline and tell everyone - do it enough and you can't back down - we told everyone when my eldest was born that we'd move back to NZ when he hit high school ..... eventually that was 3 years away, then 2, then we had to do it ....

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    Well having now spent a couple of years in London I have to say that from the start it has not felt substantially different from back home. There are all sorts of possible reasons for that, the huge number of expats in London, many close long term NZ friends amongst them, language, the historical connections etc, but whatever the reason it felt just like I was moving to a bigger, more cosmopolitan NZ city.

    It hasn’t felt like a different country in the slightest, nor required any substantial adjustments that I can think of, except to slightly modify my phone voice at work, so people don’t call me Iain instead of Ben.

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1027 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    Well having now spent a couple of years in London I have to say that from the start it has not felt substantially different from back home.

    try moving to Newcastle....

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

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