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expat story

    The Anglo-Kiwi Experience – The other side of the Expat story

    Mr Adventure-of-a-London-Kiwi not only puts up with this whole blogging obsession, endless questions about post and design approaches AND being dragged around the world in search of the perfect Eggs Benedict, but he is also kind enough to volunteer be volunteered to sit down and put pen to paper (or in reality fingers to a keyboard) in order to set the other side of the story straight. 

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    In thinking how to approach this guest post, it suddenly occurred to me that this “proper Northern English lad” was the only sheep of the family to marry one of those foreigners. Not just a lass from ‘Down South’ either, but one from the other side of the world – where sheep from our Commonwealth family can be found. I say ‘family’ with some trepidation, as it seems my country’s pursuit of economic gain closer to home left us with an Anglo/Kiwi relationship which is, perhaps, better than we deserve. But we are family, and one bonded by ancestry. However, there is also the Maori heritage that is so intrinsic to my Kiwi’s sense of national identity; though far away and unfamiliar to these shores, hearing her singing the National Anthem in both languages is a reminder that there is more to being a New Zealander than our common history provides. 

    What we share is a similar square mileage which makes us little countries punching above our weight on the world stage – and proud of it. Like the English, Kiwi pride manifests itself in sport, but, whereas a lifetime of disappointment leaves us English with a sense of humoured resignation, defeat for our friends in black is not taken too well! Never mind, it’s a silly shaped ball anyway and, even though we created it, rugby union never did float my boat (oops, better not mention boats – still a sore point!). 

    You can take the boy out of Grimsby

    Closer to home, our squabbles over which country is best has become something of a sport. Areas for regular discussion include:

    Food
    As our countries are very much cut from the same cloth when it comes to diet, it is confectionery that causes most of the excitement.

    I suffer regular derision of our beloved Penguin biscuit as these are, apparently, inferior to the hollow Australian Timtam. I admit you cannot “slam” a penguin, but that is because it is too dense, thus better. Besides, we are English (don’t you know) and would not lower ourselves in such behaviour. No, we dunk instead. Less substantial biscuits, such as the Australian Timtam, are simply not up to the job. (Note to Wife: asking biased Kiwis to compare the two does not constitute “robust research findings”.) Did I mention they are Australian? Case closed.

    Lollies – I ask you?! A ‘lolly’ – short for ‘lollipop’ – requires a stick. If no stick is involved then it is a ‘sweet’ and not a lolly. A lolly must have a stick. Case closed.

    Pronunciation
    It’s yoghurt, not yowghurt. Case closed.

     

    Place Names
    Apparently ‘Braintree’ is hysterical to someone born in Otahuhu. I don’t understand where all this repetition comes from. Why won’t one ‘hu’ do??? Incidentally, Otahuhu is just down the road from Matamata… and yet there’s humour to be found in Cockermouth? Beats me.

    Travelling in Japan

    But back to normality, it’s funny how marrying a foreigner has brought me closer to my home, and to London in particular. This Kiwi is indeed an adventurer, and this has taken us to many previously unseen places. A case in point being the 2012 London Easter Egg Hunt, which, though reluctant at first, had me hooked on exploring hidden nooks in search of these works of art. While the eggs were fun, it really was the adventure that was so rewarding. We are lucky to live in such a famous and beautiful city, and to both come from such beautiful countries. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

     

    Wembley, the home of Football

    I have probably exceeded the suggested word count so shall stop there. It’s Saturday afternoon which can only mean football and the intrinsic disappointment. Where’s my pie and pint?

    p.s. we all know the collective noun for penguins is a ‘packet’; but what is it for kiwis? A ‘kettle’ perhaps? Or, make that a ‘kettlekettle’…

     … I’ll get my coat.

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    From New Zealand to London: A few thoughts of an expat

    Do you ever have those moments when you act like a starlet of yesteryear, and look fleetingly over your shoulder? Metaphorically I mean. (Not literally as the chance of tripping is high – though there is posing for Instagram to think of…) 

    Having recently visited my family in New Zealand, thoughts of home are close, so when I was tagged by the lovely Wandermust Family in a a short expat expose, I couldn’t resist but joining in.

    I love reading these types of post, as the art of being an expat is both terrifying and wonderful. You immerse yourself into a culture that is either strangely similar or obliquely different in a myriad of infinitesimal ways. Each is a challenge to navigate – and throws up queries that would never occur to you when living in your native culture. Where do you buy clothing hangers? How do you make friends as an adult? Why are mushed peas served with fish & chips?

    1. Where were you born, where did you grow up and where do you currently live?

    I was born in New Zealand and lived there until I was 20, but I really feel like I have grown up in London. I have spent most of my adult life here and I feel like it has inexorably shaped my personality and view of the world. 

    2. What made you leave your home country?

    A sense of curiosity, a yearning to touch history and a keening to see the world. I was only meant to stay temporarily, but I was lucky enough to meet an Englishman who stole my heart (and knew me well enough to ask me to marry him a second time when I panicked initially) and a decade later I still find myself here.

    3. What type of reactions do you get when you meet new people and tell them where you are from?

    Well, honestly, 98% of people simply think I’m British. My accent betrays the time I’ve been living here and I usually feel honour bound to point out that I’m from the other side of the world – it’s only fair to give them warning. People then usually either go “why do you live here? New Zealand is breathtaking?” or “New Zealand is the most amazing country we have ever explored” or “I’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand” which bamboozles me as it is SO very far away. Lord of the Rings has inspired millions.

    4. What was the easiest/hardest part in adjusting to your new country?

    Honestly, it was so long ago now that I can’t really remember. I do remember feeling strangely settled when I first came to the UK and the hardest aspect is always missing my family. That said, we probably speak more now than we did when we lived in the same country – thank goodness for video messaging. 

    5. Images, words or sounds that sum up the expat experience you’ve had so far.

    How about an entire blog instead?

    6. Your favorite food or drink item in your new country?

    Well, there are so many options – but my heart really settles on two simple things – M&S Jam Cream biscuits with a cup of tea, or a cracking curry at the end of a long week. The UK doesn’t have a great reputation when it comes to gourmet cuisine, but I can first handedly confirm that it is getting better, and better with every passing month.

    7. What’s the one thing you said “yes” to in your new city that you wouldn’t say “yes” to, back home?

    Nearly everything I’ve done via this here blog. Moving away from home definitely changed how I see the world – and a few situations convinced me to live life to the full – there is no time for regrets.

    8. Are there any cultural norms/phrases in your new country which you cannot stand?

    The lack of decent roadsigns (though Googlemaps does help a little bit) has always driven me a little bit crazy – but it’s weird travelling around the world and realising all of the cultural norms I now take for granted. Genteel queueing practices, good manners, racial opinion filters and excellent coffee spots.

    9. What do you enjoy most doing in your new country?

    Exploring. I hope I’ll never lose my abiding love for my adopted home – I never want to take it for granted. Hence m friends calling me a permatourist. England isn’t perfect, and London certainly isn’t – but not streets are actually paved with gold, and the imperfections make this diamond unique.

    10. Do you think you will ever move home for good?

    Honestly, this is my home. Never say never, but…

    In the spirit of an 80’s chain letter, I’m going to tag a few of my favourite expat bloggers in return – Rebecca @ Runaway Kiwi, Sarah @ The Wanderblogger, Nano at Travels by Nano B, Catherine @ Lux Life Blog, Rachel @ A Nesting Nomad, Binny at Binny’s Kitchen & Travel Diaries and Amanda @ Rhyme and Ribbons.

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    Friendship and being an expat

    I’ve been thinking on this post for a long time. Lingering in my draft posts, it’s a topic that adults don’t often seem to discuss, but, as an expat with home always in our thoughts, the subject of friends and family always raises its head.

    Specifically, having moved to a new hemisphere as an adult, sometimes
    the process of making new friends has felt like it’s as tumultuous as dating. There’s an
    inherent chemistry in any relationship that somehow connects you to one person
    more than another. Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it isn’t even when you want it to be.


    One of the most elusive aspects of life as an expat has had been
    making a decent network of those ‘call at 2am because I’ve broken
    something/am really drunk and just want to chat/ripped a button off my
    dress/call at 7am because there is a tube strike on and I need
    advice/indulge in my brunch addiction’ friends. 

    Is it a soul-deep level of syncopation? Is it shared history and experiences? Is it an age thing? Is it a shared passion for ninja kitten
    Pinterest boards? United defences against a common “frenemy” (that feels so Mean Girls)? Is it a common
    nutty streak that has you howling with laughter at imagined scenarios? Is it a
    similar level of emotional neediness? Is it a comfort with answering a barrage
    of disparate questions? It is something that you simply can’t put a reason to? Is it proximity?

    (I’m
    not crazy, just have a fascination for psychology – the side of
    architecture that interests me the most is not how was it built but why –
    and I’m also reading a book about introverts recommended to me by
    several friends…ironically whilst we were gathered around a big brunch
    table!) 

    It is rather taboo to speak about it – as long as
    your Facebook friend count is in triple digits you’re considered socially
    acceptable in some bizarre way, even though you may not even prod someone on there from one decade to the next, let alone thrown a sheep at them. I mean as an adult, how do you even define what friendship is? Is it someone you spam with cat photos occasionally, someone who messages you everyday, someone who knows you’re always up for crazy stuff or someone who only calls you when they need solace?


    As an expat there’s even another level to this emotional
    connection – friends become family. You nag some about joining a local GP, you
    hungover mass text others, occasionally you might accidentally stalk a few via
    all the social medias and sometimes you write heart-felt blog posts that
    overthink something that you hadn’t ever considered as a conscious thought.

    In a big city it’s even harder – combine dizzying work
    schedules with complicated cross-city commutes, and just how do you divvy out those precious hours of repast? At times there are hilarious levels of organisation – rivers of meandering instant message conversations, polls to corral a date, last minute emails to discuss details, then occasionally frenzied texts messages to reschedule rendezvous points in a different section of town. Other times it’s as simple as “Drink tonight?” “Sure, see you at xxx?”

    And this is all without adding the element of a different language to the mix like braver expats than I! Maybe it’s just as simple as Isobel @ Sunny Side Of This says – maybe your ‘vibe attracts your tribe’.


    What do you think?

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    Expat to Expat: Identity & Homesickness

    Thought up and hosted by the lovely ladies at Found Love, Now What and The Hemborg Wife thought that for the month of September we would focus on Identity and Homesickness. Toughies. 

     

    The availability of great Flat Whites help, I’m not going to be coy. 

    Question from Belinda at Found Love, Now What?: How do you fit in to your new culture without losing some of your identity? 

    I’ve found it generally very easy to be a Kiwi on the continent. People seem to view us as exotic fruit people, from a friendly and very beautiful corner of the British colonial world which is nice. Sometimes because of Lord of the Rings, they also occasionally think that we live in tiny round houses and have hairy feet which is quite weird. Incidentally, loads of Brits seem to have travelled to NZ, or have family living there which always astounds me – it’s just so far away!

     

    One of the cute locals & a gratuitous cute photo.

     

    The most obvious difference is in our accents. I struggled a little in the first few months when I first came to the UK because Kiwi-English is fairly unlike English-English – my boss harassed me into say ‘tehn’ instead of ‘tin’ (10) and ‘sehvhen’ instead of ‘sivin’. It’s funny though now, because unlike a lot of my Kiwi mates who have been here much longer that me, I’ve mostly lost my Nuu Zulund iccint (New Zealand accent), it’s to the point that when I say I’m a foreigner it confuses people. They then look astonished, and mentally review every word I’ve said, picking out the ones that didn’t quite sound right. I think maybe it’s because I have an English hubby, English cat and English colleagues so it’s rubbing off on me on an unconscious level. I was also mentally prepared for it to take a while to attune your ear to the many variations of English accents. A Geordie lilt is quite different to a West Country twang but you get there eventually. I always take my hat off to people who move to countries that speak another language – it must be such a challenge to not only learn a new place, but to be unable to communicate must be frustrating to say the least.

    Mmmm Lamingtons – I have a secret supplier…

    Taking accent out of the equation, life has been sweet as for the most part, but there are a few oddball Americanisms us Kiwis have adopted which do perplex the English – I guess it’s from all the Hollywood blockbusters we watch. Take into consideration pants. To me, Dan Carter and President Obama pants are anything from Jeans to Corduroys to Capris; to the British, they are undies. This has led to several quite embarrassing situations where I’m chatting away, oblivious, telling a story about a walk through the bush where I realised that I had torn a hole in my pants, or I’ve accidently dying them in the wash or had a pair come off the washing line to settle in my neighbours garden, before realising what they thought I was saying. To say my colleagues were rolling on the floor laughing is an understatement. This had to change.


    For the most part, I’ve fitting into my new country was all in the detail. When I landed at Heathrow, it’s safe to say that I felt like I was coming home in a weird way which helped a lot I think – also, when I came over to explore and see what it was like everything that was new and different, so it was fun and interesting. I have been quite lucky though, and meeting my husband helped in many ways because I have a resident expert to consult on pretty well everything. I guess I hold onto my identity in small ways that make me smile – Kiwi jewellery, attending rugby matches when I can, NZ artwork on our walls at home, a Kiwi key-ring/bottle opener, making sure I have a good supply of Kiwi treats either made or bought, keeping in regular touch on Skype with my family (this is a MAJOR thing), and it’s nice being able to vent at “how stupid this country is” when everything (read: the transport system) seems to go wrong. Being able to pull the foreigner card when I direct us the wrong way is awesome too!

    One thing that I’ve found here in London is that you have be super brave, be prepared to work for your luck here and hold a positive attitude. It seems to be about having the confidence to put yourself forward for things that you mightn’t normally consider, working hard and being friendly. Some of my fellow Kiwis haven’t had lucky breaks coming to London though which has to be utterly frustrating – rubbish landlords, crappy workmates (believe me, I’ve been there), a broken transport system and everything is expensive. BUT you have to stick with it, and be willing to try try and try again to make things better. There is also a plethora of free stuff in London – the only problem is deciding what to miss!


    Question from Bailie at The Hemborg Wife: What do you think your biggest trigger for homesickness is?

    For me, it’s just being tired, stressed or ill. The times I’ve been the most homesick are generally because something isn’t going well in another part of my life, (even though you probably don’t realise it at the time) because you think that the grass is much greener at home. I’m not going to gloss this over – over the years I’ve cried in my old office (much to the panic of my male boss) and at times spent days moping at home unable to get myself out of a blue funk because I missed everything at home.

     

    Why he puts up with me, I don’t know!

     

    Thankfully, I have a lovely bloke who can see the signs, and orders me Squiggles, Jaffas and Timtams at the sight of my puffy face, and a whole lot of hugs. I’m also very lucky to have lovely expat friends who understand what I’m going through because they have been through it too. When the times get tough, we often just try and get out and find a distraction. A show, a picnic in the park or something fun. Having holidays planned help too, but I’m not sure that’s exclusively an expat thing!


    It’ll be no surprise, but food is also a big focus – there are things from home that I really miss, but I’ve managed to find most of them somewhere somehow or a UK equivalent. Some I’ve had to dig out my Edmonds cookbook for, some we’ve found at the Kiwi brunch spots here in London, and some in the randomest of places – this is a blog post I’ve been working on too for a while, over 5 years in fact, so stay tuned.

     


    Regular Skype sessions with my family help. Phone calls are great, but there really is something special about being able to see the people you love and share a cup of tea with them. There are a few family occasions that I’ve not been able to go to, but we’ve ‘been’ there with a quick Skype sessions to have a nose & say hello to everyone.


    Okay, so now it’s your turn!


    Expats from around the world sharing a bit of their travel highs and lows!

    (A wee postscript: we had a bit of a language mix-up when Morgan from Peaches Please kindly made a delicious Pumpkin Cake, which in the us is called a coffee cake because you generally eat them with coffee, not because there is coffee in them… oops #expat mistake by me. Ironic, no?)

    How do you cope with loss of identity & homesickness?

     

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