Who are you?
I am Laura, I’m originally from Scotland, I’m a gardener/farmer now, but I used to be a teacher. I taught children with emotional difficulties and severe autism. I’m married to the lovely Lloyd, we have no children, but have filled our life with animals. We have 3 big dogs.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
We moved to New Zealand in 2005 from Glasgow, Scotland. We weren’t unhappy living in Scotland at all, but had got to the stage in our lives that we wanted a change and an adventure! We were both burnt out at work and if we didn’t do something soon who knows what might have happened.What challenges did you face during the move?
During our moving process everything went wrong! We couldn’t sell our house and eventually left Scotland with it empty and still on the market. We managed to get a mortgage holiday, but that was only for 6 months and if it didn’t sell within that time we were basically stuffed. Lloyd had sold his business then at the very last second the person buying it said she had not got the money to pay for it and to sue her if we wanted. This was despite legal contracts being signed! The lead up to moving was the most stressful time I think I’ve ever had in my life. Not the paperwork and all that involved, it seemed relatively straightforward, though long! It was all the things that we relied on other people for. It was a nightmare. We eventually just left, with a bag each and thought, what will be will be! (everything did sell in the end, though and it was all good!)
How did you find somewhere to live?
As for finding somewhere to live here, we went to estate agents and told them what what we would love, they asked us what our budget was, and when we told them they pretty much looked very sorry for us!
We saw a lot of things we hated! Then out of the blue we found ‘our wee farm’ I have no idea why it was perfect for us, as I’d never had a garden before and the land size was huge, but it felt like it should be ours. We’d had no intention of buying a farm, all I’d wanted was a wee white house. But this felt right. The buying process couldn’t have been easier. We’ve moved to a small rural area in Northland, and everyone just bent over backwards to help us. It was amazing. Eight years later we are still in the same wee house and love it.
Are there many other expats in your area?
In our actual village, there are no expats that I know of, however we have the most amazing neighbours. However the main town nearest us has a lot of expats.I would say our friends are half expats and half kiwis.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
We have a great relationship with the local people. We are just ourselves, and have found everyone to be welcoming and friendly. We’ve just slotted into life here very easily, really.
What do you like about life where you are?
I love how laid back everything is, we lived in a very bustling part of Glasgow, it was noisy and everyone was rushing around. Here things are quiet and slower. We have space for ourselves and our animals. Where we’ve chosen to live is very near the water so we spend a lot of time there. I’ve scuba dived for about 22 years so we do a lot of this. I like the hunter gatherer mentality!
What do you dislike about your expat life?
There’s not much, if anything I dislike about exapt life apart from the one thing that probably everyone feels – it’s so far away from family and old friends. Our families visit us regularly, and for this we are so lucky, but I still miss them.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
Cultural difference? I think people from the UK think that NZ is like Britain, English is spoken so how different could it be? But it is different. I can’t put my finger on it really, It’s little things, the weather (!), the shops close at lunchtime on a Saturday and aren’t open on a Sunday. But really you just slot in.
In the 8 years we’ve lived here the cost of living has skyrocketed, to the extent that I really have no idea how a family on the average income can make ends meet. Everything is more expensive here. Food, clothes, etc and the choice is a lot less. You have to remember, though that we live rurally and not in a big city. I was never a shopper in the Uk. But here, if we do go down to Auckland I shop like crazy! I do a lot of online shopping and find that for some things it’s actually cheaper to get them from the Uk or the states, even with astronomical shipping!
How does shopping (for food/clothes/household items etc.) differ compared to back home?
The food is great. NZ has some amazing restaurants. The meat is all grass fed. There are some things I’d never heard of before, like feijoas ( a fruit) and kumara ( sweet potato) which I love!
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Anyone thinking of migrating to NZ? Go for it – what’s the worst thing that could happen?
What are your plans for the future?
Our plans for the future – we plan to stay in NZ and up here. However probably in the next 5 years or so we will sell up the farm. It’s a huge tie and a gigantic amount of work. We’d like to but a house near the coast with a tiny garden! Just enough room for a wee veggie plot and my greenhouse! Our long term plan is to perhaps spend NZ winters in Rarotonga, and the rest of the time here.
Laura shares more information about life in New Zealand through her blog Our Wee Farm.