Going to work in a new country can be life-enhancing and great fun, but never underestimate the emotional upheaval of settling into a new job and different way of life, nor the impact it can have on you and your family.
How are you Feeling?
By being aware of some of the fundamental differences, and taking time to recognize how you are feeling, means you will be able to deal with any issues as they arise, leaving you time to enjoy some of the wonderful things New Zealand has on offer.
It is only just over 150 years since the first European settlers arrived in New Zealand, which makes it a relatively young country. It does not have hundreds of years of wealth and structure underpinning the society, and as a result you may find life more relaxed than you have been used to, which can be charming, however the ‘she’ll be right’ attitude may take a bit more getting used to.
Relax take it slowly
It is a ‘user-pays’ society, where quality of life is more important than having the latest ‘label’ and thriftiness allows more choices to those who are not slaves to lavish lifestyles. This fundamental difference in outlook informs their priorities, so take your time to get to know the natives.
When you do start your new job you will not be able to rely so well on your instincts until you have gained a better understanding of how everyone operates. In addition to this you will be trying to digest what is expected of you in your new role and bond with work colleagues. This can be all very tiring and you may want to just relax in the evenings for the first few weeks.
Go home and flick on the television and the unfamiliar weatherman, with his kiwi accent, is talking about ‘burn time’ while you desperately try to work out where you are on his map. Flick through the newspaper and read stories about people you have never heard of, in places you cannot pronounce, carry out crimes that you’d convinced yourself didn’t exist, and suddenly home life is as stressful as work. Throw into the mix a partner and children all trying to settle and emotions may well run high for the first few months.
Communicate your concerns
Talking and listening to your partner has two benefits, firstly by listening to them you will gain a greater understanding of what is going on for them and secondly by having the opportunity to talk about how you feel allows you to formulate in your mind what you may need. Feeling lonely and missing family and friends is perfectly natural in the first few weeks, but it is also a signal that you need to make new friends and get a support network in place.
Recognizing that your partner and children have feelings and needs too, will ensure that the whole family are given a chance to tackle the settling process feeling supported. Remember that each family member impacts on the whole. Even a child who is a sport lover could feel really intimidated faced with a game of rugby, sometimes played in bare feet, for the first time.
Teenage children, boys in particular, are best not confronted face to face, rather it is better to talk over a game of pool, or when you are giving them a lift somewhere. By asking them how they are feeling about the different areas of their new lives you will be able to help them to think about what they may need. Boundaries should be kept firmly in place, particularly for younger children, as it gives them a sense of security and they too need to be listened to and their anxieties acknowledged, even if there is nothing you can do to change things.
Communication is an art and if you find issues arising between you and your partner and tempers getting frayed then you may need to consider whether you are really listening to each other. Effective communicating can sometimes take extra effort if the subject is prickly and in this instance I would strongly recommend setting aside some time to talk when there will be no interruptions. Create a relaxed atmosphere with candles and inspirational music and have an object ie a wooden spoon to hand. Once you start your conversation the only one allowed to talk is the person holding the spoon and the other person is not allowed to interrupt. The one listening must then repeat back what has just been said before they take the spoon and respond to it.
The first time a friend used this with their partner they could not recall one thing that had just been said – they were so used to just thinking about what they were going to say next, they were forgetting to listen. Once you get in the habit of really listening I can guarantee you there is nothing that you cannot resolve. By quickly settling any issues within the family you will then be able to concentrate on getting on with the task of successfully blending into the kiwi way of life
Making new friends
There is nothing more lonely than being in a new country with no friends or family. You should have little difficulty making friends in New Zealand as they are a friendly bunch and you will quickly find that you are being invited to a BBQ or similar event. A word of caution though, if you are asked to bring a plate it is not because they are short of crockery, they mean bring some food. Also in my experience no function in New Zealand is complete without a ‘few tinnies’ so always take some drink with you too.
Young and old seem to mix more easily and there is no great class distinction. Kiwis value their free time and quality of life. Financial status is more difficult to discern and never use the type of car someone drives as an indication of their wealth as they are not so image conscious in New Zealand. If they talk about their back yard don’t visualize a tiny concrete area, they mean their gardens which could be a considerable size.
Depending on your hobbies and where you settle will influence how you spend your free time, but with wide open roads and a population of under 4 million you can rest assured you are unlikely to spend Bank Holidays in traffic jams.
High days and Holidays
Christmas can be a difficult time to be away from family, but as everyone tends to set off on their holidays on Boxing day there is nothing to stop you doing the same. New Zealand is roughly the same size as England, divided into two islands, by a stretch of water called the Cook Strait. The South Island is the most scenic of the two but the North Island is warmer, neither island should be ignored.
The scenic tourist attractions in New Zealand are spectacular from deserted sandy beaches to glaciers and mountains and from hot pools and lakes to geysers and volcanoes. Other tourist attractions may, or may not appeal, but a visit to a Marae (Maori Meeting House) is fascinating and will give you an insight into the history of the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, who today make up 9% of the population.
There are also the adventure activities to enjoy such as white water rafting, skiing, snowboarding, skydiving and kayaking. If you have never tried skiing it is worth exploring the options which can be very affordable, particularly as there is little après ski and not too much posing on the slopes either. But perhaps the most famous of all extreme sports is bungy jumping, which is not for the faint hearted. Less extreme activities include surfing, horse riding, trekking, hostelling, and cycling and are pretty affordable. BBQs at the beach and in the local domains (parks) are free and there is plenty of space for everyone.
Once you have settled and made friends, you will soon discover someone who has a holiday home, which they will happily rent to you quite cheaply. It may be fairly basic but it will doubtless be somewhere spectacular. Also by then hopefully, not only will you know where the weatherman is pointing to on his map, and who the newspapers are writing about, you’ll also be an expert at recognizing how you are feeling and what you need!
More information on life in New Zealand can be found at www.emigratenz.co.uk
Written for Nexus, Expat Network
By Barbara Malone