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Joy, Auckland

Who are you?

We are a mixed race family of 5. Andrew my husband is 36 and works as a Transport Planner for an Engineering Consultany Company and I, Joy, 39 used to be a teacher in the UK.We have 3 children: Ethan aged 3 years 7 months, Catherine 2 years and Genevieve 2 years.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

This is my 2nd international move. I moved from Nigeria in 2006 to the UK where I lived for almost 11 years. Whilst in the UK, I met and married Andrew. We have now moved from the UK to New Zealand. We have been in Auckland since August 2017 so 2 months.

This is my second international move but a first for Andrew. In fact, until Andrew met me, he spent all his life in Bristol, UK. I have since introduced him to the vagrant life as we moved 4 times within the UK as well.

We’d been talking of relocating for quite a while. Me mainly because I have wanderlust. I get itchy feet when I’ve spent 3/4 years or more in the same place. I have moved a lot within the UK and we have travelled extensively within UK and Europe. Andrew wanted to move for a better family/work life. Andrew works for a company with a presence in about 70 countries so when we started thinking of making a move, we decided to enquire about transfers within his company. Andrew is a creature of habit and does not like too many changes at once. I’m usually happy to just up sticks and see what comes my way. Relocating with his company was a good compromise for us. Luckily a position came up in in NZ, there were a few in Singapore and Australia but we opted for NZ as it’s somewhere that has been on our radar. He managed to negotiate a good pay rise in addition to them footing the total cost of the move.

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We have put our UK home on Airbnb and that is doing well and giving us a reasonable income after all UK expenses are paid. I manage it remotely from here and have a very good cleaning crew on ground in the UK. I enjoy it so much I’ve asked our current landlord for permission to airbnb one room in our house here. That will go live in the next couple of weeks. I’m quite excited about that actually! It’s a ground floor bedroom with a separate entrance so should work well and provide some more income here. It will also give us the opportunity to meet lots of interesting people too!

One of our biggest drivers is a love for travel. We want to see Asia and the Pacific without it costing the earth. Plus of course we wanted somewhere children would always be welcome. Mostly it was because we could. The opportunity presented itself and we are in a position to take up that opportunity.

What challenges did you face during the move?

Telling friends and family. Trying to negotiate a good wage and working out from a distance what the cost of living would be. Financial planning to ensure that we can return home without becoming destitute if the move does not work out for any reason. Living minimally – we were in rented and had just sold and bought another house – whilst waiting for visas. We spent 3 months in various temporary accommodations in the UK and put all our stuff in storage. I had to stop working as our last temporary accommodation was in Birmingham and we worked in Norfolk. Luckily Andrew could work remotely. The children struggled a lot with the constant changes and upheavals. We had no routine and they were used to having one.

We were also renovating the property we purchased and that was completed after we arrived in Auckland. The 11 hour time difference made managing that process a very difficult one. We got there in the end and it was all completed to an excellent standard.

How did you find somewhere to live?

We stayed in an Airbnb for 6 weeks and used that time to drive round the different suburbs, view houses and get a feel for what we can afford and what we would like. It helped us narrow down our must haves as well and the things we could readily compromise on. Having seen the quality of the housing stock here – not very well built or insulated by UK/ Nigerian standards and very expensive – I’m glad we did not remotely rent a place. Accommodation is the biggest expense for most families. It can account for upto 50% of most families’ income. The trade off is the size of the houses compared to the UK. The rooms are massive! No more pokey bedrooms. A master suite here is indeed a suite!

Are there many other expats in your area?

Quite a lot. NZ is still actively courting professional immigrants so yes, there are lots and lots of expats.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

Very good! The Maori lifestyle, arts and crafts remind me very much of home in Nigeria! However, Auckland is a melting pot of immigrants. My ‘locals’ are although Kiwis, very much from somewhere else.

What do you like about life where you are?

The outdoor lifestyle! We live in the biggest city in NZ but you’re never more than a 5 /10 minute drive away from clean beaches and the countryside. There are lots of free activities for children and families which makes the eye watering cost of living bearable.

The people here are also easy, outgoing, and very family orientated. There are lots of outdoor activities, mainly free.

NZ loosely follows the Montessori system so there’s a big focus on outdoor play and children learning through play and nature as well as a big shift away from academically testing children routinely. School age here starts at 6 which is great!

One thing I have discovered is that the Brits here are a lot friendlier than the ones at home in the UK! I guess because we are now all strangers here so have a common identifying factor.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

The initial sense of rootlessness. It takes time to get to know people. Having children makes it easier and more difficult in some ways. Easier because people will strike up conversations with you about the children and attending activities for children will open up doors of friendship with other parents. Difficult because you can’t drop everything and meet up with other people on a whim. Another thing is that you tend to meet other expats who then move away, move back home and you’re back at square 1 in the friendship stakes.

Being so far away from friends and family. The 12 hours’ time difference from our home country which makes communication even more difficult. We manage to overcome this with Skype, WhatsApp etc

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

The huge sense of community here in NZ. People are more welcoming. People watch out for the children when we’re out and about which is great!
As a black woman who has learnt to be very aware of her surroundings, it’s refreshing to be able to feel free here. I have not encountered or perceived hostility from anyone. It was part of my daily life in the UK, I constantly came across covert and casual racism every day. It’s probably a function of my living in areas that didn’t have a lot of blacks – no excuse though considering UK’s political history! No one has also asked me the usual African questions…

Funnily enough, there are a lot of similarities to Nigerian culture here in NZ. That’s the Pacific Islanders’ influence I guess.

What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?

Fresh food is readily available which is great. Food is so expensive that you learn to eat in season which is not only good for our planet in terms of food miles, but great for your pocket! A cucumber out of season here will set you back $4/$5. In season, it can be as low as under $1.

Alcoholic drinks are also eye-wateringly expensive! New Zealand wine is more expensive in NZ than in the UK. Figure that one out!

Pizzas are very cheap! $5 will get you a large one! I can feed my family of 5 with $10.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Be prepared to be homesick, feel like giving up and question yourself every step of the way. Be prepared for everything to take much longer than planned. There are times I think I’ve done my children a major disservice by taking them so far away from relatives. But…we are in a position where we can at least visit once a year and host relatives as well. As I have moved before, I also know it’s possible to keep in touch with friends and family. People who really care will keep in touch!

So… Just do it! Sometimes too much researching will stop you as people are prone to reporting things that went wrong! Have a backup plan and go for it! The worst may be that you don’t like it and you can head back home or somewhere else. The major things we regret are the things we didn’t do!

What are your plans for the future?

Our plan is to remain in New Zealand for the next 2 years even though we have 5 year visas. Then re-evaluate where we want to head to next.
We won’t be heading back to the UK just yet though. There are still lots of countries to go live in. We will head back to the UK by the time Ethan is 10 years old and ready for secondary school. We will then aim to spend 3 months outside the UK travelling.

You can keep up to date with Joy's adventures on her blog, Idoma Lass In Kiwi Land, and on Instagram.

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