Just Arrived in NZ > Kia Ora

Early days, but we think this is home.

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NicholaM2:
Exactly two weeks ago we arrived on Qantas at midnight in Auckland dragging 8 cases of luggage and two small sleepy children. We have never been to NZ before, so talk about a blind date! Fortunately, we knew within a few days that this could very well end in marriage….

From the moment I saw the airport, I felt at home. I loved the Maori carved entrance, the huge blown-up photos of nature, the cleanliness, friendliness. We are nature-lovers, and that seems to be a focal point for NZ tourism. Suits us perfectly.

I will never forget the taxi drive to our rental in the bush out West. It was pitch dark outside. We were excited despite our exhaustion after three plane trips across the world; I hung out of the window sucking up the streetlight-lit views, wondering if our Internet-booked rental on 6 acres of bush would indeed even exist. Luckily it did, and the landlord had left the lights on as promised, all the doors unlocked (as promised) with groceries for a midnight snack.

Auckland CBD

We popped in to the famous Lower Queen Street to do our immigrant banking, and I fell in love with inner city Auckland. Ornate old buildings squeezed next to the slick skyscrapers, the beautiful university peeps through huge, leafy oaks, the sculptures and native bush landscaping, the cosmopolitan mix of city workers, dwellers and tourists. It's a very different population: shades of white. (I do miss black faces though, and realise… we're very far from Africa here.)

It feels exciting and vibey, without masses of people. Those friends back home who told me Auckland is small and rural should come see for themselves. For me, it is more like Joburg. The CBD is much bigger than Cape Town, and the suburbs spread out as far as the eye can see. I was a bit upset by that, and there were a few days of homesickness in the first week, where I thought - too many houses and people!

There are no squatter camps in Auckland (or New Zealand), but there are vast numbers of suburbs that are so shabby, they are depressing. No gardens, no trees, flaking paintwork, small, exposed and ugly. The same goes for the shopping streets in these suburbs. They are a mishmash of colours, sizes and styles and haphazard sign-posting. In SA, you have developers who create malls with continuity in colour, tone and style. For the low-income areas here, that has not happened. Believe me, there are areas here that rival the smartness of Camp's Bay. My eyes almost popped out. St Helier's is uber-chic, and I haven't even got to places like Parnell or Hernes Bay yet.

I would say about 50% of the suburbs around the CBD stretching out West are lower-income. The lack of care for the homes is mirrored in the lack of care for personal appearance. My apologies if this comment is offensive, but a few other Saffers have mentioned this to me, and if you are preparing to come, best you know upfront. This was a big culture shock for me, even though I had prepared myself for it. Actually going shopping in an area like that every day started getting me down, so we wondered: How can we make this work for us? I don't want to be stuck with something I don't like. In Cape Town, we lived in Pinelands, surrounded mainly by lower-income, industrial areas, and we didn't go to them. And we don't need to here either. We spent this week finding a shopping area in a lovely suburb, and it immediately changed our view of living here.

Out West

We chose an eco-city, Waitakere City, Titirangi, to live. I know it's an unusual choice for Saffers, but as I said, we are into living in the bush, but within 20 minutes from the city. Walking in Titirangi, you would never guess that there is an urban sprawl just over the Waitakere ridge.

Titirangi is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The plant growth is so prolific: fig trees are massive; lilies that are knee-height in SA tower over our heads, the sea views are spectacular, the black sand beaches (Cornwallis, Bethell's Bay) are spotless and the water so warm and peaceful: in places it is like lukewarm bathwater. We live on a beach, so we swim almost every day.

This is NZ's top artist community. There are over 200 well known artists and graphic artists here, and community grants for them to participate in local public events. The people are so friendly it is mind-blowing. They giggle with happiness (or is there some special medication here I don't know about?). They are relaxed, open, humble, giving. We have had one tea date (with strangers) and one dinner date (with almost-strangers). Both were divine! There are loads of British immigrants here…and no Saffers apart from us???

Piha and Karekare black sand beaches were a spiritual revelation to me. I have rarely seen a sight so beautiful and untouched. The beaches were pristine. We were there on a perfect, hot day, and I've heard it's usually overcast there with massive, moody, pounding waves. The day we were there, the water was crystal clear, the ocean turquoise, towering volcanic rocks, ferns and Kauri bush. The beach is so vast that the few families out walking on the main beach (there are many beach sections) were little stick figures in the distance.

Jobs

This has been an area of stress. If you don't mind seeing your rand-dollars disappearing before your eyes, then you'd be fine waiting for an opening in a company. But we are quite anxious about finances (it's our house deposit!) and my business here has gone dead quiet. Maybe it's the time of year, but personally I think the recession here has hit harder and faster than in SA, and people are skittish about spending.

Also, we were hoping that bank interest would bring in a small income to help us not whittle away our savings, but the rates have been slashed by 1.5 % in a week, with another cut imminent, and 2% interest is a far cry from the 10.5% interest we were getting in SA with Nedbank. Makes you think!

We have PR, so that is a comfort, but a job would be great too! Anyway, it is early days, and my heart has gone out to those who are here, want to be here, and have struggled to find work in the past few months. That's probably going to be us in a few months' time. Eek.

Cost of Living

There is no doubt that the general cost of living here is 20 - 30 % more expensive than home. Services are exceptionally pricey, and some food items are far more than in SA. Brown bread here costs $4.00 per loaf on average, which is about R20.00. Now tell me that isn't expensive? White bread is much cheaper, but we don't eat it. We found a Budget brown loaf for $1.49, and we're freezing a bunch of those. Titirangi has only one expensive supermarket, so we go to Henderson's Pack 'n Save once a week and buy a ton of stuff there.

At Pack 'n Save, we are amazed that we spend the same as we did in SA, except for wine, but, well, we can't go without that! Cereal bars, cereals, lamb, butter, milk are the same if not cheaper here. Vegetables at the farmers markets are the same as SA. (Vegetables and fruit are HUGE here and taste like vegetables.) Toiletries are very expensive. I even saw baby wipes in a pharmacy for $20. Imagine spending R100 on some baby bum wipes! Scary.

The Weather

Titirangi has a rainfall of 2300 mm per annum; Cape Town is 540 mm, and other parts of Auckland around 1300 mm. That is our only concern about our suburb choice: will we survive the winter?

The weather so far has, almost every day, been exquisite. We had a few grey days in our first week, and I wondered: will this be like the UK? Have we made a big mistake? But my cousins here assured me that they welcome those grey days, and I soon got to see why. A hot day here (which is almost every day) is VERY hot, and I love it. The trees grow up straight and there is no blasting, freezing South Easter. If the wind blows, it is a gentle breeze compared to what we were used to in Cape Town.

Childcare

My 7-year-old daughter cried all the way from Cape Town to Joburg about leaving Table Mountain and her friends. And then… she never looked back.

She was enrolled in our school of choice within minutes, and started on 3 Feb. She LOVES it, and made a few friends immediately. My 2-year-old is a different story, and childcare here is tricky and expensive. It costs between $33 and $52 per day fulltime in daycare (which is not my choice). You do the maths! We are looking for a small home-based educator, and luckily there are quite a few companies who train and look after home-based educators. All a bit foreign to me, but I will happily share what I have learnt if you PM me. PORSE and Home Grown Kids charge around $7.00 per hour, and you must go for a minimum of 12 hours per week. When my son turns three, 20 hours of weekly childcare fees can be reclaimed.

NZ seems to be a society that supports children and families. The resources available here make me feel a bit weepy, and angry that SA cannot realistically offer the same (you experience lots of mixed emotions being here.) At the library, we can take out 140 books per month. I'm still not over the shock of that.

The parks here are out of this world. I will post photos so you can see them. There are also free events like Music In the Park in every big suburb almost every weekend. We get a weekly community newsletter full of events for the family, and many of them are free.

So for those still on their way, here's what could make your transition easier:

If you are a nature-lover, if you are concerned about eco and future environmental issues, if you are creative, if you are fine with a youth culture more like that of the UK and Europe(lots of hippy dressing, dreadlocks and surfer gear out in Titirangi; emo hairstyles rule; gangster gear in other areas), are looking to meet people who are humble and not really interested in competing with your looks, your income, your SUV, or your anything for that matter, you MIGHT just love it here. So far we have been gob-smacked by the natural environment, the bird life, the thick and diverse native bush, the heavy, sweet smell in the air, the overwhelming friendliness and helpfulness of the Kiwis, the incredible sea vistas.

The overwhelming feeling I have here is one from my childhood in the 1970's. Peaceful, innocent, communal, convivial. We went to the Chinese Lantern Festival on Waitangi Day in the inner city, and we were pressed up against thousands and thousands of people; it reminded me of something from my childhood, some lost memory of a time when people were people, and not angry "monsters" capable of shocking human atrocities.

For me, the two weeks of remembering that happy, warm childhood feeling, being in touch with human beings predominantly concerned with the NORMAL daily grind of being alive, far outweighs the stress of living in SA. Money cannot buy what we have found here.

Feather:
Thank you for the very informative post  O0
 :gl: with the next stage of your adventure

Saturn_Moon:
Thanks for that amazing post.  O0

 :gl: with everything else.

noodles mom:
WOW !  I cannot believe how absolutely incredible it has been reading your post - you have a wonderful way with words and you have made your experiences come alive with those words - i really hope your honesty and perceptions of simple everyday things will help people understand the priviledge we have of being allowed to live here in the beautiful country !
well done - enjoy your lives here - you deserve it !

Werner:
Welcome and  :gl: with everything else

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