An Expats Perspective: The Pros and Cons of Living in New Zealand
Like so many expats who choose to live here, I came to New Zealand in search of security and a better future for my family. It had become frighteningly clear that the crime in South Africa was on a steep incline; and the metal Carpenter Services bars that adorned every window in our house was not (and should not) indicate a ‘normal’ part of everyday life. The constant fear and paranoia that dominated the cities, towns, and farms had become stifling. Nobody was safe from the very real possibility of rape, home invasion, armed robbery, farm seizures, assault, and murder. In hindsight, it astounds and appalls me to recall that our home had been robbed approximately eight times; we had been asleep in the house during one incident and awakened the following morning to a bare living room. Incidents such as this were considered normal and inevitable occurrences.
My sister in-law’s fateful visit to New Zealand was the catalyst behind our decision to leave South Africa. The brochures she brought back with her depicted New Zealand as an idyllic country that offered vast opportunities and a brighter future for my sons. She used adjectives such as ‘safe’, ‘secure’, ‘clean’ and ‘friendly’ to describe this country that we knew very little about; but was enough to persuade my husband and I join them in their exodus out of Africa. In 2003, my family and I boarded the plane to New Zealand and have not looked back since. Our first year was rife with ‘settling in’ hurdles. I can empathise with every migrant who has experienced frustration over the delayed arrival of furniture or living in a house overcrowded with fellow newcomers, or doubt and stress over the process of finding employment and adjusting to a completely new culture. Nevertheless, we soldiered on, confident in the knowledge that we had made the right decision to come here. Each day we are constantly reminded of how fortunate we are to be here in this amazing country that is of course, not without its imperfections.
I remember one of the first things I noticed upon arrival in New Zealand was the calm and relaxed atmosphere that appears to blanket the entire country. There is no sense of immediate danger lurking just around the corner. No feeling of being watched from a distance. I do not get the panicky urge to tighten my grip on my handbag when I am out and about in public. The people here are friendly, and as one of my clients put it: they smile so genuinely. There are no bars on any of the windows of our house or office. Police do not carry guns. The traffic laws are actually enforced. We can leave our windows open at night. I feel safe. In fact, I am safe or as safe as anyone can possibly be in civilised society. It takes living in a country where the word ‘safety’ is a goal rather than a normal state of living to truly appreciate how safe New Zealand is. Of course, crime does still exist: there is organised crime, a serious methamphetamine problem, houses are robbed, there are still murders, and rape, but nowhere near on the scale that I was accustomed to in South Africa. Crime or the threat of becoming a victim of it does not govern everyday life. People do not wake up in the morning thinking, “Well today is the day that I might be killed in an armed robbery, or hijacked in my car”. In this country, that kind of mentality is classified as paranoia.