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From the USA to Auckland: Practically Perfect...
06 August, 2012 11:47
Jenny Tucker – originally from the US, currently living in Auckland, New Zealand
1. Why did you move abroad?
My husband was looking for career opportunities, and we both agreed that we would consider certain countries outside of the US. We saw one that was being advertised by a New Zealand employer and as the job was very much in line with his interests and expertise, he applied. He was flown over for an interview, loved the job, really liked the city, and so was happy to accept once they made an offer.
2. How do you make a living?
I’m a nurse. I worked full-time in the US but dropped my hours to part-time when we moved to New Zealand. In theory, this was so that I would be available to travel more. However, we ended up not travelling as much as we would have liked during that first year because I got pregnant. I am now working casual or “PRN” at the hospital and spend the majority of my time taking care of our 1 year old. We hope to make up for lost travel time with a few more trips around New Zealand in the next year.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I have a large family in the US, both immediate and extended. There is usually someone who has sent me an email or a message via Facebook. We also have a Skype account which we use frequently. I’m so thankful for the internet and how it’s made the world a smaller place.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in New Zealand?
I love that we’re able to experience life in another country. It’s opened my eyes to many things and forced me to step outside of my comfort zone. Overall, I would say that the best experience that I’ve had in New Zealand thus far was my pregnancy and the birth of our son.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in New Zealand?
It’s hard to be so far from our families. We miss them quite a bit and would love it if we could see them more often.
6. What do you miss most?
I miss our families the most. After that, I would have to say that I miss the many different shopping and food options that are available in the US, as well as the speed and convenience of delivery (and the lower prices).
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I did a few different things to help me meet people in New Zealand. First off, I started blogging about our experiences and listed my blog on several expat sites. This generated some emails from new or soon-to-be new expats, several of whom I’ve met in person and now count as friends. We also found a church and started attending regularly. Our church has been a great support system: providing meals soon after our son was born, a source of friendship and conversation, and a means of encouragement. I also began volunteering with our church to give me more interaction with people. My job has been another source of fun and introduction to New Zealand life. I have some great co-workers and I made sure that I took advantage of after-work dinners and parties whenever I could. I’m so glad that I did, because it let me see them outside of work and I’ve made some good friends as a result.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
There are a few different phrases in New Zealand that still stand out to me. In the US, you might ask someone, “Does that sound OK?” or “Is that OK?” or “Is that alright?” People say that here as well, but another phrase you’ll hear is, “Are you happy with that?” or the shortened version, “Are you happy?” The first time someone asked me if I was happy, I thought “What a strange thing to ask!”, but I quickly realized that she wasn’t asking about my emotional state. I’ve also found it hard to adopt the British style of spelling and speech, such as pronouncing the last letter of the alphabet as “zed” instead of “zee”. When I sing the ABCs with our son, I have to make a mental note to pronounce “z” as “zed”.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
In my experience, many people, including me, who’ve grown up in the US are used to lots of shopping selection and next-day shipping. We want the beautiful landscape and the simple life, but with all of the things that we’ve gotten used to, such as fast shipping from Amazon.com and stores with lots of choices. I’ve spoken with expats who moved to New Zealand looking for the idyllic scenery and simpler life, but were then disappointed and shocked at how expensive things were and surprised at the limited number of jobs in the “perfect scenery” locations (i.e., the South Island). New Zealand is a beautiful country and we really enjoy living here, but you may find that you need to live in a large city for a couple of years before you have the connections or the funds to move to your dream spot.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
The cost of living in New Zealand, particularly Auckland, is much higher than where we lived in the United States. Actually, it’s much higher than where pretty much anyone lives, both in the United States and around the world. New Zealand is a small country in the bottom corner of the ocean. It has a relatively small population, and it’s outside of major shipping lanes. As a result, things cost more. It’s not unmanageable, but it did take some careful budgeting until we were used to it. Even now, we still keep an eye on our finances to make sure that we’re spending wisely and saving where we can.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Reach out and become as much a part of your new country as you can. Find a support network of friends who can help fill that gap that your family occupied in your home country. If you’re not able to find a job, then volunteer. If you don’t speak the language, then do your best to learn it. Don’t be afraid to email expat bloggers in your new country. If you can, start reading the newspapers online before you move – it will keep you on top of current events and make you familiar with your new home. Do your research – read about your new country, take a “try it before you buy it” trip to make sure that it’s truly your dream location, and give yourself time. It took me about 6 months to feel somewhat settled, and then another year to feel as though this were home. That may sound depressing, to hear someone say that it takes a year, but it’s actually a big relief in my book. It took a lot of pressure off my shoulders whenever I started to feel homesick.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog in 2006. It was initially a means of keeping family up to date on our lives, but expanded to a creative outlet and a way to connect with other people around the world. I now blog to document our experiences in New Zealand and to provide information about our new country to other expats or potential expats.
Jenny's blog, Practically Perfect...
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