moving overseas


You know, I’ve always heard it said that Australians and New Zealanders are similar. After all, we share the same heritage – albeit Australia was settled by convicts; New Zealand by free settlers. My parents, grandparents, my entire family are New Zealanders but…now that I’ve been in NZ for a few months now, I can tell you that there is a world of difference between Aussies and Kiwis.

I guess it’s all part of moving to another country and settling in but I’ve had more difficult conversations with people since being here than I ever had after working for years in Australian organisations. And believe me, some of those organisations took no prisoners: they expected your soul be handed over for a regular salary and tough conversations were a regular thing. The difficult conversations I’ve had since living in NZ have been triggered by a difference in values or etiquette, I’m not sure which.

The difference between Aussies and Kiwis is very difficult to articulate but I think I could start to describe it this way:

  • Kiwis aren’t as exuberant as Aussies. Not as outgoing or as overtly friendly. This doesn’t mean that Kiwis aren’t friendly at all. It just means they are more reserved. It takes a longer time to establish a friendship;
  • the Kiwi sense of humour just isn’t as dry as the Aussie. I’ve had a few occasions when the Aussie sense of humour has basically sunk like a lead balloon because the humorous sentiment hasn’t been understood;
  • because it’s such a small population (around 4.2 million) it means that there is a very strong chance the person you are talking to knows someone who knows you. There is no six degrees of separation here; it’s more like two degrees. This makes Kiwis more cautious I think;
  • Aussies are pretty quick to invite you over for dinner or a BBQ. Not so here because it takes time to establish that relationship;
  • in the part of NZ where I am living, there’s almost a frontier mentality. By this I mean that you encounter people who are doing what it takes to survive (after all, rural NZ is suffering economically). This frontier mentality extends to actions or attitudes that I would never dream of doing or having. There have been a couple of things happen that have left both of us shaking our heads.

This doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying NZ. I’m just saying it like I’m finding it because this blog is all about my personal journey and transition from Oz to NZ. A number of Aussie friends are asking me “when are you returning to Australia?”. I suspect there are even a few bets going. But whatever differences we are encountering is all a part of living in a different country. For the many weirdos and whackos we’ve had to deal with so far, there are just as many wonderful Kiwi people we’ve met and are now forming friendships with. One of these new Kiwi friends asked me the other day whether I would say that Aussies living in NZ get the same shtick that Kiwis living in Australia get – my answer to that would have to be yep and more so in rural NZ.

And what I’ve found really interesting is the number of times I’ve been referred to as a “foreigner“. The other day, someone asked: “why did you move to New Zealand? I’m always curious why foreigners choose to live here“. I must have looked like a deer stuck in the traffic lights. Eyes wide open; jaw dropped. Since when is a person, born in Oz but with NZ parents and grandparents, and having had NZ citizenship since 18 years old and spent quite some time over the years regularly visiting NZ relatives, a “foreigner“?

Karma reckons "Whatever. Just give me a carrot, Kiwi or Aussie one. I don't care".

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We are getting into the thick of winter here. I’m still getting used to the weather. Yes, it’s cold but not that cold. As long as you rug up with merino base layers, toss a scarf around your neck and whip out the gloves, it’s fine. And for me, far preferable to 40 degree heat or the humidity of Sydney.

The astute reader probably knows that Sydney doesn’t experience snow 🙂 To wake up to snow therefore is a completely new experience for me and I bolted straight out the front door, risking life and limb, to bring you these photos. (To tell you the truth, I was frolicking around in the snow like a kid – but too embarrassed to show you those photos).

The patio area covered in snow

All-weather horse arena and paddocks

Monty, who's grazing on our property, sheltering from the snow. Thankfully, he has on his warm cover.

Our front yard

Remember The Chair?

My grandmother's old, old chair

Despite its sorry state, we have brought it over with us to New Zealand and we hope to restore it. So…I was scouring the antique shops in Christchurch and guess what I found – a chair that is very similar to The Chair.

I had a chat with the chap who owns the shop I found the similar chair in and he told me that it’s called a Grandfather Chair and dates from the Victorian era. I showed him the photo of The Chair and turns out it’s a Grandmother Chair because it has no arms. When we stripped off the 1950s fabric that my mother had re-upholstered The Chair with we found the date, August 1881, on the back. So seems that might be the original date. Now…what fabric will we restore it with – that’s the question.

Grandfather chair at Willburn Furniture & Restorations, Christchurch NZ

An expensive chair when it's in great condition

The key to living in the Christchurch climate is layering. I’m finding the weather here is wobbly. One day it’s sunny and warmish; the next day, it’s dark, rumbling skies. In Oxford, it’s even colder than Christchurch so I’ve learnt that not only do you dress in layers you can toss off or put on, you wear possum merino or merino wool to keep you as warm as toast.

To buy a 100% merino base layer (that goes under a sweater or jumper) can be costly. I’ve seen prices of $NZ 160.00 and higher. And merino leggings (known as long johns for men) can cost NZ $100.00. So the key is to hunt around. It took us about a week of visiting shops to find good deals on merino and I discovered possum merino.

Possums are a protected species in Australia but here…well, let’s just say possums should try to remain hidden as much as possible. The New Zealanders though make good use of possum fur and I’ve discovered possum socks and possum merino jackets. If you’re visiting NZ, you might want to check out Lorraine Laban Knitwear – Lorraine is a lovely lady, specialising in possum merino. She designs all the knitwear and…bonus…it’s New Zealand-made. So I am now as warm as toast with stuff that will last me many years.

Hand-knitted hat in a style called Popcorn - possibly makes me look like I'm wearing a tea cosy but it's warm. And possum merino socks - super warm

100% Merino thermal leggings for women

100% merino base layer - I've found you have to hunt around for coloured merino

A handy hint from Lorraine - wash possum merino in Budget Conditioner from Pak N' Save. This conditions the wool. Then put it into dryer on Air as this fluffs up the wool and ensures the possum merino lasts longer.

A best-seller for Lorraine - black possum merino jacket for ladies with possum merino scarf

Not everything is made in China

Warehouse-style budget shopping

We’ve found that Pak n’ Save is a big deal in New Zealand. Pak n’ Save is like a food warehouse that offers (so the advertisement says) NZ’s lowest prices. There are stores all around NZ. We’ve been in to our nearest Pak n’ Save several times now and I have to admit it’s a bit of an experience. There are no fancy floor coverings or aisle designs, no soft music lulling you into a good buying mood and, because they buy in bulk, there are some pretty good specials. It’s all very basic but practical.

The catch is: you pack your own shopping. No big deal as we brought across from Australia those green shopping bags. Woot! And when University students shop there, you know the prices are student-friendly.

So May 5, we left Australia, New Zealand bound. We flew Jet Star direct to Christchurch and landed around 1.00am (I like to sneak into a country in the early morning hours!). At Sydney airport, hubby and I had a farewell drink with assorted snacks. I wasn’t all that emotional leaving Australia and have been too busy since to think about it. I’ll post photos soon of the house (and cat) we are house-sitting for a friend in Christchurch (or CHCH) and our new home.

Just to prove that I really am leaving Australia for New Zealand - at the check-in counter

Just in case NZ doesn't have Godiva chocolates. A farewell snack pack.

Husband prefers the amber liquid and ham roll (where's Inspector Rex?)

Crap iPhone photo - climbing above Sydney, winging it to NZ

Arriving in CHCH around 1.00am

Just a few passengers arriving with us at CHCH airport in the early hours of the morning

Amazing air traffic control tower at CHCH airport

Just before leaving Sydney, we stayed with a good friend who has a Bengal cat called Tara. She has stunning green eyes and is a little skittish but was quite fascinated with our suitcases, which she rummaged through. Tara always seemed to be on the hunt for something.

How regal do I look?

I'm sure you've got some food in here, let me check.

You think your cat is gorgeous? Meh. Look at me!

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