One Year Ago Today

One year ago today, Chris and I arrived in New Zealand.

I’d never been here and didn’t know what to expect.  Chris had only been here for ~5 days when his {now} employer flew him out for an interview.  I was nervous and worried – what if we got here and Chris realized that the job wasn’t as great as it seemed?  What if I hated NZ?  Lots and lots of “what ifs” went through my mind as we circled Auckland overhead and during the drive to our hotel.

I had my safety net, though.  Before agreeing to move, Chris and I’d discussed things and what each person’s expectations were regarding this change.  I told Chris that if he wanted me to move here, then it would have to be with the understanding that we could move back to the States if, after 3 years in New Zealand, I’d decided that it wasn’t for me.  Chris was fine with that, and at the same time I made it clear to him, myself, and to others who asked that just because we’d set a 3 year limit didn’t necessarily mean that we’d be here for only 3 years.

When I chatted with other ex-pats and New Zealanders about the 3 year time-frame {people often asked me how long we thought we’d be here}, I was told time and again, “Just wait – you say that now, but pretty soon you’ll never want to leave.”  I heard stories of people coming for an OE that ended up staying for 20+ years.  I’d smile, say, “We’ll see!” and move on in the conversation.

I also made an agreement with myself – no definite judgment calls till having been here for at least 1 year.  There have been times where I’ve been frustrated and annoyed with how things are done in NZ, and I’ve talked ranted about that on this blog.  The high cost of groceries, rent, gas, entertainment, and generally all merchandise is one area that has bugged me.  When people start complaining about the high cost of gas in the USA right now, I roll my eyes.  You think you’re paying a lot?  Try more than doubling that.  And if you think that’s high, well guess what?  It’s even higher in the UK.  Americans are spoiled {and I’m including myself in this} when it comes to low prices.  We don’t know how good it is till we’re outside the American bubble.  Internet, phone plans, utilities… all much more expensive in NZ.  When I think of our Verizon phone plan back in the States and compare that to what we’re paying now… well, let’s not go there.  While we’re financially stable and can manage the prices, it still irks me that I have to pay so much.

Then there’s the family aspect.  I miss them.  Skype helps, but it’s not a proper substitute for the real thing.  We were so happy when my sister Valerie came for 2 weeks, and I’m looking forward to my mom’s and mother-in-law’s 2 week visits in June and July.  It’s still hard, though.  Sometimes I struggle with feeling jealous and resentful when I read Facebook, Twitter, or blog posts where people complain about visiting in-laws or long car trips with their kids to visit family.  I know that some relatives are particularly difficult, but I so want to be able to hop in the car and visit family… even if it is a 7 hour drive.  I wonder if our little boy will grow up and not know his gramma, grampa, aunts, uncles, and cousins beyond just a face on the computer or a voice on the phone.  When I hear about my family meeting up and spending time with each other, I feel a little prick in my heart.  I’m happy for them, but sad for me 🙁  That fact that it will be another 6 months before I’m able to fly back to the States is a bit depressing at times!

But it’s not all low-points and grumblings and stuff that makes me want to complain.  There are some wonderful things about NZ.  Take my experiences with maternity care.  All of my healthcare for this baby has been covered under tax-payers/Government funding, save the ultrasound.  I also have a midwife with whom I’m very happy {though it did take some time for us to get to know one another}.

{I had a paragraph in here talking about the pros and cons of universal healthcare – it has some nice aspects, but as someone who’s worked in the system both here and in the US, I can say that it has it’s problems, too.  But that’s a post for another day.}

Then there’s the leave policies.  My annual leave {AL, or vacation time} racked up at a much faster rate than where I was working back in the States.  And here’s the kicker – I can actually use it!  The last US hospital I worked at was great and I enjoyed it, but if you wanted to take a week’s vacation, you pretty much had to bribe someone.  Two weeks’ vacation was a B-I-G deal.  Here, nurses take 6 weeks off at a time, or maybe 2 months.  They go overseas, see the world.  No worries.

Having a nicely padded AL account means that I’ll have a longer period of paid time off with baby boy.  And that leads me into maternity leave.  I get 14 weeks paid mat-leave + whatever AL I have.  That’s looking to be a total of over 5 months where I’m drawing an average of my current wages.  That is such a blessing, even if it does mean that we pay higher taxes.

I should note that not every momma gets their full wages for those 14 weeks.  I happen to work for an employer who thinks that mat-leave is important, so they add to the government stipend up to your average weekly wage.

We’ve found a great church.  It’s small, new, and growing, and we love it.  We’ve made some wonderful friends, and we’ve both found ways to be involved.  I’m happy to be one of the creche co-coordinators, which sounds fancier than it actually is – I help organize the church nursery – and I’m organizing the volunteer duty roster {which sometimes makes me think of trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube whilst blindfolded and using only your stocking feet… but I enjoy it!}.

I’ve made friends.  Some through church, some through work, some through blogging, and some through friends of friends.  I’m not worried about being isolated and alone with an infant.  I have a group of women that I can call up and say, “Please come over here and talk to me… or just help me with laundry!” and I know that they’ll come {although I might not tell them about the laundry till after they get here, ha ha!  Ladies, you’ve been warned…}.  I’m thankful for these women.  I wouldn’t have met them unless we’d moved here.

So to wrap up: there are good things, and there are not-so-good things about being here.  The question is, does one side outweigh the other?  And if so, which side?

I haven’t decided.  Ask me again in a year…

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12 comments

  1. Heather @ Mrs. Southern Bride says:

    Wow, can’t believe it’s been a year for you all. Loved reading through to see the differences in our culture. And I could not agree more that we Americans are so spoiled. Whenever we travel, I am reminded again and again of that fact. We’ve both toyed the idea of living abroad some day. So we’ll see.

  2. Priscilla says:

    Happy 1st NZ anniversary!! am so glad you guys are here 🙂 I’ll come help out too when I’m back.

  3. Rachel says:

    I’ve always wondered how you felt about your big move. I cannot believe it has been a year ALREADY! It’s crazy! I had just previously assumed that the move was temporary; but now I understand the full scope of the move! Either way, what an exciting journey to be going on together! I would most definitely miss my family; but this is an experience that not everyone gets. Enjoy your time in a new and exciting place! 🙂

  4. garden state prep says:

    Wow, I can’t believe you’ve been there for a year already! It does sound like you’re making the most of the experience, and it’s great that you have a network of friends nearby.

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