Homai te pakipaki: New Zealand 2 years on

Two years ago an excited, somewhat tired (yay for sleeping pills!) man landed at Auckland airport off a charming 13 hour flight from Vancouver.

Keener that I am was, after getting to my hotel (pre-booked for early check-in) and having a cuppa with my gorgeous sister-in-law and nieces, in short order I got my banking sorted, applied for my tax file/social insurance number, picked up SIMs for my phone and iPad, picked up my office keys, introduced myself (in-person) to my new boss and his PA (freaked them out a bit, since I wasn’t due to appear until Monday), and went  to the main campus to get my ID photo. That’s the joy of a 530am flight arrival: so much can be achieved by noon if you’re not shattered.

I’m pretty sure I took a nap though. Before meeting friends for dinner. Then I was shattered.

So today is two years living in New Zealand. That certainly roared by. A few things have happened:

  • Finding a decent apartment to rent. Which wasn’t as decent as first thought, but it sufficed.
  • Managing a 6 month separation from Himself (broken up by a long weekend in Hawaii and his coming for Christmas for 2 weeks).
  • Establishing myself at a new university, including all the relationship building.
  • Major surgery.
  • Finally selling our place in Vancouver.
  • Finding a (in relative terms) affordable place to buy in Auckland.
  • Getting back to see family in Vancouver and New York once each year, which is pretty awesome.

All in all, not boring. All in all, rather content.

We’re fortunate in that we’re both professionals with readily transferrable careers who’ve managed to find good, interesting and well-paying roles here. We’re also fortunate that we had enough resources to get into what is a nutty housing market—and it’s sad to see Auckland falling into the same trap as Vancouver and Sydney with respect to the cost of owning a home (of any sort).

We’ve found a good circle of friends and we’re doing well at maintaining our ties with folks overseas—which will be easier in a few weeks when the time difference with North America shrinks by 2 hours for half the year.

There’s an election happening here, in which I voted in yesterday (residents can vote in NZ, not just citizens). Elections are an excellent way of garnering a deeper understanding of a country. What this election is confirming for me is that NZ is, despite little evidence of animus in the streets, a divided nation: urban versus rural, those doing well and those struggling. On a fundamental level this is very much a centrist nation—which would make the place a US-like disaster if it weren’t for the mixed member proportional voting system, which facilitates a broader range of policy positions and almost always results in coalition (rather than majority) governments. I know a lot of people don’t like John Key and the Nationals he leads, but having lived in Canada, Australia and the US, he’s very much a centre-right politician. Certainly too progressive to ever get elected in the US or lead the Coalition in Australia.

I see us living here in the long term.  Though I don’t think I’ll ever feel like a  kiwi. I already feel very welcome, but I got here too late to fundamentally change who I am.

Kia ora Āotearoa for welcoming us so warmly.