Jared - Moon Over Martinborough
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to New Zealand, etc.
My name is Jared Gulian. I grew up in Michigan, and I've been living outside of the United States since 1998 – first in Japan and then in New Zealand
In 2006 my partner Rick and I moved to a 20-acre property with an olive grove in a rural area outside of Wellington, New Zealand. Now we grow olives and produce olive oil under our own 'Moon over Martinborough' label. We're both expat American city boys, and we knew nothing about country life or olives before we moved out here. And I mean nothing.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging in 2009 at the advice of my writing teacher at the time. I had a some funny stories about adjusting to country life in New Zealand, and she recommended I should start writing about it. So I started the 'Moon over Martinborough' blog.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
One of my favorite posts is when I wrote something like my life story as a recipe. It's called "Make your own olive oil in 23 easy steps". I also really enjoy writing about funny and unexpected situations, like when I had to help out with a sick sheep. I wrote about it in my post, "Getting intimate with a cast sheep". And probably my all-time personal favorite post is when I wrote about the moon in "Moonlit walk through the olive grove".
Tell us about the ways your new life in New Zealand differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
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.
As an adult I've always gravitated towards big cities, until we came here. Rick and I met in Chicago and then moved to Tokyo. Coming to rural New Zealand after urban Japan in some ways was an exercise in opposites. But it felt like we were moving from a culture that was wildly different from our own to one that was at least in the same ballpark. That helped lessen the culture shock.
I wouldn't say I've had 'trouble' getting used to rural New Zealand life, because the adjustment is part of the fun, but coming here did take me completely out of my comfort zone. It's been a steep learning curve.
I wrote a story about the rural-urban and Kiwi-American confusion, when we were learning how to take care of our olive grove. The post is called, "Attack of the energy draining suckers".
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in New Zealand? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Both Rick and I were completely and utterly unprepared in every way. And I wouldn't change a thing. It's been a fabulous, rollicking adventure. We've loved every minute of it.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
In addition to getting intimate with sheep, as noted above, I've also found myself in the preposterous situation of trying to talk my loving partner out of wanting a pet pig. Let's just say I lost that particular battle. We now have three very large, very hairy, pet kunekune pigs. That ongoing, epic saga starts with my post "Rick wants a pig".
We also had a situation early on when a city friend came out to visit, and the pump in our well died so we had no water. I was used to apartment life and had no idea how to fix a country well! Fortunately a very kind neighbor saved the day. I wrote about that in my post, "The day the water stopped".
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in New Zealand?
- Just go. There's always a reason to delay, or some book you think you need to read before you make the plunge. Life is short. Learn by doing. Go.
- Remember the rules are different. Whenever you move to a new country, even if the language is (roughly) the same as your own, don't ever forget that there are distinct and sometimes subtle cultural differences. Don't be a bull in a china shop. Listen and learn how it's done in your new home.
- Do not stay in the expat bubble. If my goal was to hang out with people who have the same background as me, I would never have left my little corner of the world in the first place. Don't seek out your countrymen and countrywomen. Neither should you avoid them. Simply seek out good people, kind people, from wherever they come, without prejudice. You'll end up with a friendship roster that looks like a United Nations subcommittee. And that's a good thing.
How is the expat community in New Zealand? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
See point 3 above. :)
How would you summarize your expat life in New Zealand in a single, catchy sentence?
"Growing olives in New Zealand won't make you rich. But if you're not careful, it just might make you happy."