Everybody who has spent time in a different country knows that expat life is not quite like anything else in the world. The confusion of the first few days and weeks, the slow, but steady process of acclimation, the little peculiarities and quirks that might strike you about your new surroundings: almost any situation you encounter can make for a great story. If you are so inclined and want to blog about it, of course!
Our InterNations recommended blog section features talented expat bloggers from around the world. Their offerings to the blogosphere have been selected for their great entries and high quality, whether they may be funny, informative, interesting, deeply personal or a combination of all of the above.
Let’s hear from our featured bloggers in New Zealand:
There really wasn’t much of a culture shock as the people are very friendly, it’s English speaking and has similar values and traditions. Although it is English speaking, it definitely took a little while to understand some of the local dialect but that’s been a lot of the fun as well.
We didn’t experience much culture shock because Kiwi culture isn’t too different from America, and we’d both done a lot of traveling before moving to New Zealand. What we had a harder time with was “system shock.” By that I mean figuring out how to use the phones, the postal system, the legal system, the currency conversions, the metric conversion and driving on the left hand side. Figuring out how everything works all over again took a little while.
An obvious difference when you arrive in New Zealand is New Zealanders. People are so friendly, when I arrived I couldn't believe it. In France people fear each other, they don't trust each other anymore, and in a way they are right because the crime rates are way higher, but still, a smile is free and shouldn't get you into any trouble. You easily get used to this positive difference ;) it makes you want to help people too.
Another big difference that stood out to me was the prenatal and pregnancy care in New Zealand. We had our first child in June 2011 and coming from the US, I wasn’t sure what to make of the New Zealand system and use of midwives. I’m happy to say that we had a wonderful experience and I loved our midwife. I’ve also been very impressed with how supportive the New Zealand system is for parents and children.
I grew up in suburban Detroit, and wherever you went there was heavy traffic and strip malls on practically every corner. Here I have to drive 40 minutes to the grocery store, and I'm lucky if I see another car on the back roads. I look out the window and see cattle and sheep grazing in green fields, and mountains on the horizon.
Plan for a lot of time to process your paperwork. I started filling paperwork out in May and am just barely going to leave in September. It takes a really long time. I’ve read of others experiences and it can take more than 6 months sometimes to get everything finalized. Also, things are more expensive in NZ, so try to bring as much as you can from home. Be sure any electronics have a dual voltage capability or else leave them behind… unless you want to lug a converter/transformer around…
I’ve come to believe that the folks that have the most trouble adapting to New Zealand are those that have not gone into the move 100% voluntarily and are therefore wrapped up in negative thinking about the experience before they get here. We have the power to attempt to make the best or worst of any situation we are in. Some immigrants would do well with vowing to only look for the positives. Negatives are inevitable anywhere we live, it’s the power we choose to give those negatives that will affect us, and those around us.
One of the funniest experiences for me was introducing Thanksgiving to Kiwis. The biggest concern of theirs was the sweet potato (kumara) casserole. How is this a sweet thing, yet you eat it with dinner? Why are there marshmallows on this?? Such questions never ceased, and for us Americans, this isn’t a dish that is questioned - it’s just always there. I always love to try new foods, and so for me to see someone else trying new foods that are standard for us, that was entertaining and exciting.
The way that New Zealand differs the most from back home is also the thing that I love the most. Life here is so laid back. A few minutes late to work? It’s ok mate, that’s life. A dollar short on your takeaway order? No worries friend, just get us back next time. It may not be this laid back in Auckland, but here on the south island, life is a little slower and the people are so friendly. I love it.
I did experience some culture shock. Some of the biggest differences I encountered were to do with the different way Kiwis say things compared to Americans. There is also a difference in humor. This all took a bit of time to figure out, and I am still in the process of figuring it out now!
New Zealand is different from England in two major ways: firstly, the predominant colour in New Zealand is green, not grey, and, secondly, strangers in New Zealand are generally nice to you. This is what freaked me out the most when I arrived in New Zealand – people I didn’t know smiling and starting conversations with me! I got used to it very quickly, so much so that I actually experienced a culture shock when I went back to England for a visit!
I don't think anyone can be fully prepared for such a big life change. We are people who take life as it comes, laughing at the unexpected, so it really helps with transition. If I did it again, it's the small things I would change, like keeping more of my winter clothes and bringing some of them in the suitcase.