Reflections on A Year Gone By

It’s a funny thing – blogging when you live in another country. In Australia, I was backpacking and wanted to remember my journey and share it with others. When you permanently live abroad it enters into debate of ‘am I still travelling’? ‘what box does it fit in’ ‘what should I tag my posts’? Is it still travel?

It’s been over a year and a half in Wellington for us now. It felt prudent to stop and reflect on this time.

Over time, in a new country, the line between tourist and local starts to blend. The familiarity of the morning commute, you become part of the crowd, walking the same steps. Feeling like you belong. The person looking lost; you know you can help. Other days, through choice, picking up the camera and strapping round your neck. Exploring as a tourist; capturing these moments as memories.

A learning reinforced here – accents matter. There are times when people don’t understand me. Speaking English doesn’t help you understand everything. Footpaths for pavements, jandals for flip flops, sweets being called lollies – there are words that are different here. The words of my colleagues filtering around me – the word yes in my vocabulary slowly starting to change. Either consciously or subconsciously – you want to sound the same to fit in.

Some surmised highlights:

  • We are both in our second jobs here.
  • We have stayed in 20 different houses. Yes – 20! I have very much enjoyed staying in different suburbs and cities in the Wellington region.
  • Cats sat for – 10. Getting a Catsit for 3 months saved us a whole heap of money and I don’t think we would have lived in the lovely Porirua without it. Beautiful spot. It is a great way to save money. One of the places even had a hot tub.
  • Weekend breaks out of Wellington – 7 – Auckland, Waitomo Glow Worm caves, Hobbiton, Hawkes Bay, New Plymouth, Marlborough, Nelson and Dunedin. I think Christchurch is next on my list to revisit.
  • Earthquakes I’ve felt – only 2. There are many small ones a week. We have either been in the car or asleep when the ‘did you feel it’ conversation starts about the bigger ones.
  • There’s ‘Louise cake’ here. This always makes me think of my sister.

Things that are different about living here:

  • I have an earthquake ‘get home’ bag under my work desk. This has shoes, water, chocolate, gloves, sunscreen, a rain jacket and a mask amongst other things to help in an emergency.
  • My computer at work is attached to a metal stand to prevent injury in an earthquake
  • It’s complicated to understand what insurance cover you need.
  • Asking my colleague what she does to stop stuff breaking in an earthquake – “buy cheap stuff then just replace it” 🙂
  • New Zealand houses – the country thinks it is tropical – few houses have central heating. It is something I miss walking into a warm, cosy house that you have put on a timer to come on. Warmth in every room. Granted warm in the summer, in winter Wellington is wet. And cold. I think all migrants from cold countries are confused by this here.
  • Carrots do not last very long at all. Surviving nuclear war back home, here they are bendy and black after 2 days!
  • Books are incredibly expensive to buy new. £3 in Tesco. It’s a good $30 here. Amazon hasn’t found NZ yet… it’s nice there are so many bookshops around. It reminds of my student days.
  • It is expensive here. The price of fruit and veg in particular blows my mind. Currently $5 for a cucumber. $7 for a melon. $5 for an avocado. It’s nice food is seasonal but the UK for sure is spoilt for cheap choice.
  • It costs me $50 to see a GP. I partly pay for the convenience for seeing one closer to work. You can choose any practice to register with. The cost makes me consider the process of seeing a GP a little bit differently.

This year – learning and developing new skills has been important to me. I’ve also felt it important to learn of the culture here. I’m on my second block of New Zealand Sign Language lessons. It’s a national language here. Following sign language week, it is now an official feature of the Prime Minister’s press conferences to have a Sign Language interpreter present. My class is one of my favourite days of the week. My lessons are fun, with always much laughter. A great bunch of people, it’s a great way to meet people when you’re new in an unfamiliar country.

I’ve had eight lessons in Te Reo, the language Māori people speak. It’s hard but I’m slowly learning. You hear Te Reo on public transport and on TV. I try to use it in my emails at work for greetings and farewells. Kia ora meaning hello, at work we have hui’s (meetings) and eat Kai (food).

Nō hea koe? (Where are you from?)
Nō Kōtarana ahau (I am from Scotland).

There’s a great app if you want to learn more and hear what words sound like.

In a lesson on a Māori mihi – a greeting or introduction that includes information about yourself, we were asked to ponder over the words of our mihi and talk about ourselves to the group. I found this quite hard so soon into settling here. What did I share? That I didn’t feel Wellington was quite ‘home’ yet. But it is if I go somewhere else in New Zealand. Listening to the people in the room that had Māori and iwi links talk about mountains and rivers that are important to them I mentioned that it is the hills of home (the Pentlands) that when you see them you know that you are home. The Firth of Forth and seeing those iconic bridges from a window seat not so far above. For me, leaving only makes you more patriotic. Asked recently what my favourite country is – at the moment it is Scotland.

It took mum and dad coming over for Christmas to realise how much I have learnt of New Zealand in this time. Of Māori life and pronounciation of place names. Being able to understand the country you live in a little bit better. A long way far to go for sure, but it’s not a bad beginning.

Some of the harder bits over the last year:

  • Immigration and waiting. The emotional journey this has put me through the last year, no one can understand the impact this has unless they have gone through the same. I can see why many couples break up in their efforts regarding this. It’s not easy.
  • Being away from friends and family. It will take a long time to establish anything similar to what you left. I am most thankful that George, a friend from the UK, has moved over to New Zealand also. Missing friends and family, visitors are welcome anytime – we have a spare room.

It has certainly been an interesting year with many new experiences. Here’s to hopefully a few more. Some pics of a few of my favourite things over this time x


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