Interesting perspectives, as per usual. And I agree with others that if people don't want to be here, they won't be, and I don't know that there's anything much we can do about the diaspora. It is, after all, one of our traditions. Be it to venture over "there" and know you want to come back, at some time, sooner rather than later. Or whether you end up, like Simon, living a large proportion of your life as an expat. I did my OE over a period of four years and enjoyed it immensely. But I always knew I was coming home, and NZ has always been that to me. Most of my family and friends are here, of course, but for me it's less about the people and more about the connection I feel with the land. Scenery slut, in other words? Absolutely!
Yes, well, we just spent nearly a month back in the old country, and I want to come back forever. Australia is an easy place to live in (notwithstanding the 43 degree day we got here today - faaarrrkkkk!), and there do seem to be more opportunities here, and it's a wealthier society, albeit not by much. But I miss the changeable skies and the rain and tui and pohutakawa and green and kumara and kowhai and riroriro, and all that. Quite simply, I want to be at home, not just in a house and a street and a city, but home in a place where I belong.
Like Jackie, while I've spent quite a bit of time overseas, though never for more than a couple of months at a time, this land is too deeply embedded in me for any other piece of Papatuanuku/Gaia to be home. I first went overseas in 1978 - and to Hawai'i at that! - a kind of backwards (or sideways) heke- and then quite regularly for 20 years thereafter. My passport expired in 1998, and I've never renewed it...
but this is a really interesting thread, and I look forward to future installments, as well as comments.
Before I was born, my mum and dad lived in New Mexico for a bit - Dad was lecturing at the university in Las Cruces. One of the things that precipitated their return after about a year was my mother suffering from the sense of being a foreigner. (And New Mexico and New Zealand are vastly, hugely different). It can take a lot of mental effort to be foreign.
Born and bred in Hamilton as I am, I couldn't wait to get away from it, and at some level I always assumed that I might well end up emigrating. So it came to me as a surprise, a shame almost, to realise whenever I travelled overseas that it was a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there. And the biggest reason is, I don't want to be a foreigner, or at least, the pleasure of strangeness and the freedom of action you have abroad doesn't compensate me for the lack of roots.
(There is a whole genre of Irish music - emigration songs. Here in the ex-colonies, where we think of ourselves as a desirable destination, we don't think about homesickness much.)
On the whole, I would rather sit here and complain, and in my own small way attempt to improve the place, than seek abroad for satisfaction. I can imagine living overseas for a few months, or even a couple of years, to really get to know somewhere, but I can't imagine never coming home, or home being other than New Zealand. The 15 year old me is deeply disappointed in the 39 year old me for coming to that conclusion.
my guess is that most people who go back after a long time living overseas do it primarily for family reasons--they have or will soon have small children and judge it a better place for kids, or they want to be close to other family, especially elderly parents.
the "contributing" thing Russell refers to is probably a much smaller factor, but i reckon a lot of people also feel like they can "put something back in".
i think it is a pity that you feel so separated from the place and people because of a language barrier. to me, language is a matter of motivation and environment. necessity can be a good motivation but it is not enough. you need some drive from inside--a real craving to understand and be understood. and not be too proud to make lots of mistakes in front of lots of people. but you also need the time, energy and commitment, which i know are tricky depending on a person's particular circumtances.
If people feel that another country offers them what they want in terms of variety of work, cheap drugs, wider range of fellow perverts, warm beer or a range of lethal fauna, then why shouldn't they live there?
Too true. Funnily enough, though, I've found the acceptance-of-perverts thing has done a bit of a 180 when we compare NZ and its biggest neighbour to how it was 15-20 years ago.
I think so much Howard small-mindedness has a lot to answer for. And on the other side, Labour/Green liberal social policies.
After a recent relationship breakup, I've got nothing particularly holding me here in Oz. However, I've just put up with 4 years of political conservatism here, and I don't fancy going back home to Key and his cronies.
I was last in NZ (in Wgtn) for 18 months after spending nearly 5 years in London... and it was like I could breathe. Scenery, OMG. Clubs playing cool dance music where I wasn't the oldest person. Cocktails. A awareness of trends and suchlike, without seemingly being enslaved to them. A more laid-back atmosphere in general - people actually greeting you in the shops.
Those people talking about NZ's violent culture obviously haven't lived in Oz (bikies are thick on the ground in Canberra, not to mention the weekly shoot-outs in Sydney), nor London. As for racism, yes, that is pretty endemic, but I think it's about average for a racially-diverse population, with the various components living in close proximity. Places with low overt racism seem to be the most white-bread, in my experience. And at least efforts to give the appropriate prominence to many of NZ's cultures go beyond pure tokenism (even if balanced representation is far from being achieved).
What I miss about England is the cultural richness right there. I travelled back for a few weeks earlier this year to just literally hit the museums, listen to great music, stuff myself at the Borough Market, buy kilos (literally) of books, and drink organic cider in Wales. And yes, being able to jaunt around Europe in an hour or so, or by train - just fantastic. Coffee's still a lot better in NZ, though.
In a way, of course, it was an advantage to discover the canon myself, rather than being bashed over the head with it at university
I think you may be underestimating the tremendous skill and grace of the teachers who were part of the canon(s), knew them well personally and in turn trained up the next generation.
Just picking English and Film at one university during one time throws up names like Allen Curnow himself and colleagues like Roger Horrocks, Wystan Curnow, Albert Wendt, Nick Perry, Kendrick Smithyman, Brian Boyd and others.
No bashing involved, just an abundance of proud wonder. One of the benefits of being both small enough and connected enough. By no means the only way to learn but a very rich one.
Skill and grace, eh? Nicely said, Sacha. Surely university English departments were every bit as vital as 'real world' venues such as the former Listener in growing the emergent 'canon'.
Of course there are lazy and complacent academics, but isn't 'bashed over the head' a little rich? A true story from not so long ago: a lecturer comes in to take a class during a staff strike. They spend the first few minutes explaining that they support the aims of the industrial action, but it's a vital lecture and they don't want the students falling behind. They know they won't be paid. Skill and grace.
Around three months later they're made redundant, just a few years short of their retirement. So what if every tutorial they took had to move to a bigger venue because of higher than anticipated enrolments, if the bean counters don't like the cut of your jib you're done for. When you're of a certain age and gender these things happen, no matter how dedicated you've been.
Like the Listener, English departments are now mere shadows of what they were, and their decline has taken place over pretty much the same time-frame. It's our language, FFS, and while linguistics is just dandy, it's no substitute. For those survivors who keep the faith, and for those who maintained their integrity in the face of some of most venal managerial undermining and backstabbing imaginable, respect.
O The Groke -tautoko.
Some of the academics I truly respect are now - on pensions. You got whittled if you had a deep interest in suss areas- and these included
Maori-European interface literature/NZ Victorian literature/or 'overly' regional NZ literature or examining the nuttier areas of fiction...some survived as they scrambled for the business model. We all know the scramblers-but i regret the lack of some voices, and the ruthless survival of some others.
We discovered pretty quickly that it's exact facsimile is pretty freely available here, known, in SEA at least, as Japanese Sweet Potato. The taste and look is identical.
I haven't been able to find anything quite right here. There are perfectly palatable sweet potatoes, but they don't have the same texture as kumara. I wonder if the climate (45.7 degrees today!) has something to do with it.
I know those Australia sweet potatoes - regret that I never learned to cook them properly, but they're nothing like kumara. Locally grown kumara appeared in Sydney in the late 90s. They were pretty good, but pricey.
First encountered what's probably the veg that Simon described in Bangkok in the mid-70s. Nicely bite-sized kumara, steamed and sold hot in a newspaper cone, but definitely kumara.
For a while, being back felt like I had failed at something.
I still feel like that at times.
To @linger I hear you about the Japanese language learning. When you do return to NZ you will be very socially non-standard initally but don't worry there will be people that understand what it is like and there will be more comfort in social situations once you adjust.
Also you get to stop feeling guilty about your level of Japanese! Trust me that can be very freeing.
Oh yeah, and also I felt grounded and grounded in the positive and negative sense equally.
Clipped wings and slow mo'
Spent months listening to my heartbeat as it slowed down
asking myself, 'are we there yet?'
Culture shock can be quite visceral.
We hear stories all the time of the 'brain drain'. But we never hear about the sort of people who would fulfill their civic duty just by emigrating out of NZ. Sir Joh is the most obvious example, as is a sizeable chunk of Talkbackistan.
And there was a story in the Sunday Star Times 4.5 years ago about provincial NZers packing their backwardness in their suitcases and moving to suburban Queensland. The article was written not long after the Orewa Rotary controversy, and long before the Subprime Chernobyl. And this recent incident serves them right. ;D
Quite simply, I want to be at home, not just in a house and a street and a city, but home in a place where I belong.
I struggle with this most days. For the first two - three years it wasn't an issue, not least of all because, before we had kids, life was pretty fun in Sydney-town. There's plenty of times it still is, plenty. But overall my feelings tend towards wanting to leave. I'll save why we don't for another post but Deborah's brief comments largely sum up my feelings (and best of luck with the heat, we had 40 and 42 degrees over the long weekend).
Spent months listening to my heartbeat as it slowed down
asking myself, 'are we there yet?'
<quote.Straight off the plane, I could walk into The Listener and Kevin Ireland (with us still, I hasten to add) and Robin Dudding were there on the subs' bench, and my mate's grand-dad was Allen Curnow. That's quite something in comparison to living in a place where the canon was beyond reach</quote>
While I see your point, I don't agree that this is an advantage of New Zealand that can't be gained elsewhere particularly university towns around the world. I live in Oxford where I am in constant contact with amazing intellects - Richard Dawkins was at dinner the other night as was Ian McEwan, Philip Pullman and Lord Bingham on other occasions. And Roger Bannister attends the church down the road. If you live in New York you can go to book readings every night of the week and met famous authors.
I mention this not to boast but to give examples of how much I would miss culturally and intellectually if I went home. Sure, New Zealand has wonderful landscape but the macho rugby culture, small cultural scene, lack of intellectual rigour and analysis in mainstream media make me dread going back. There is only a few "major" art galleries or museums in Auckland and Wellington combined.
While I agree that it may be easier to make a difference in New Zealand and become a leader or starter in a particular field, there is also not much room for many people in those fields. There is only room for a couple of "famous" or "respected" poets or playwrites in New Zealand. And if you are an academic, only a couple of people in each field.
I'm toying with this choice right now - my visa needs renewing in a few months and suddenly recession struck London isn't quite so welcoming as it once was. That being said I doubt many places are right now, but the angst here is so thick one can almost touch it.