Emily Becoming a Kiwi (Almost)

It’s back!  Another story to add to my mini-series of friends that have moved from the security of home to a new country.  (You can read here about life in the U.S., Spain, and Australia) It really seems unreal that I have so many great friends scattered across the world.  They are all experiencing life, work, and love in an adopted country and have all agreed to share their thoughts with me (and consequently anyone that might be reading this.) 

Emily and I met in college and became life-long friends after studying abroad in Spain.  We danced our way through Rome (because that’s the best way to break in your high heels and develop blisters) and then bunked together in Arkansas (in real bunk beds).  Emily has an unusual personality combination.  She is care free, spontaneous and California at heart.  But…she’s also incredibly driven, frugal, and determined.  After college she stayed in Arkansas for a year and then decided to pack everything up and move to Taiwan and then S. Korea.  I think she knew living in Asia would challenge her beyond anything else and she wanted nothing less.  (Disclaimer she did meet her husband in S. Korea so maybe that was just a ploy to get a cute man with an accent).  This also turned out well for me since we traveled to Thailand for the wedding

Emily will drag you to odd locations in foreign countries or make you ask for directions in Spanish even though she’s fluent and you’re 3 days in.  Sometimes she can’t decide what she wants to do on a Friday night so she turns down every invitation to instead listen to Ben Harper.  Her mischievous smile follows you when she asks pointed questions or encourages you to do something new.  She pushes because she knows you’ll come out stronger in the end (or at least you’ll know what you don’t like).

Emily now lives in New Zealand with her husband Erlo (she really leads a rough life).  Below she provides a unique perspective on her new home.  Thank you Emily for sharing your adventure!

Why did you move to New Zealand?

I moved here after I married my husband, Erlo. We decided to move here for various reasons, but mostly to see what it’s like and have the experience of living in New Zealand and starting a new life here together!

Unique differences?

Too many to list! There are so many, but one uniquely Kiwi difference is the embracing of the Maori culture. Maori are the indiginous New Zealand people. They were tribal people and while they are the smallest ethnicity group in NZ, their culture is still widely recognized and seen throughout the country. They have their own language, and while only a few people still speak it, there are lots of things that are named with Maori words and a few words are common in conversation.

What is the weirdest thing that has happened to you in New Zealand?

Driving. They drive on the left side of the road here and the one rule that I find so weird(and even most Kiwi’s find weird) is when you are turning left you have to yield to the person turning right from the other side of the street. It is like if we(in the US) yielded to people turning left(no street lights) when we turn right. It doesn’t make sense.

Funny cultural nuances?

The vocabulary…of course, it isn’t funny to people from here, but to me it is! For example, a highway is a motorway, sunglasses are sunnies, swimsuits are togs, and flip flops are jandals.

What do you not like?

Kiwi’s talk with a strange inflection sometimes. When telling stories, they end sentences so that it sounds like they are going to keep talking, but they just stop talking. Also, they are indecisive/unclear a lot of times in professional settings when it is the most important time to be clear and decisive.

What do you miss about the U.S.?

I miss the affordability of eating out in the US. There are so many different options of prices for eating out in the states. It seems like you get a lot more value for your money. In New Zealand, if you eat out, the options are all fairly similar; steak, fries, burgers, fish and chips, etc. I also miss the openness to change of American culture. Kiwi’s have been doing things the same way for so long and are very slow to change. I love that in America change is seen as a good thing and things that don’t work are quickly and [usually] somewhat efficiently changed.

Favorite food from New Zealand?

My favorite food that is different would have to be fish and chips. They have great fish and chips here, and it is part of the New Zealand experience of going to the beach. No matter where you are in the country, you always have this option.

What has changed in your routine?

Not a lot has changed in my routine. One thing might be that we do our grocery shopping at various stores. New Zealand has amazing fresh produce and we go to the fruit and veggie shop for those and the butcher for our meat. We find it is cheaper to shop this way in New Zealand because it is more direct from the farmers. We also go to the farmer’s market when we can.

What do you love about the people?

I love how relaxed Kiwi’s are and how they are always ready and willing to stop for a cup o’ tea or a chat about the weather(BIG subject here!)

What is easier in New Zealand?

Working. The work ethic seems to be take your time and do it slowly, leaving a lot of time for relaxation. This is very different from the US work culture.

What is harder?

Communicating. Even though it is still English, I’ve been surprised at how intonation and vocabulary can have a big influence on communication. I am learning to speak slowly and that I have to use ‘their’ words sometimes, just to be understood.

How does the country/culture make you feel?

Sometimes it makes me feel frustrated, but more often than not, it makes me feel like relaxing and taking it easy. 🙂

How has it changed your life/perspective?

I used to believe that most places were better to live than the US or California. The longer I live away from home, the more I have been able to appreciate the United States for what it is. I have learned to understand that all places are different and none are better than the other. I love the United States because it is my own culture. I miss it every day because my family is there and it is so much a part of who I am. Being away has helped me to realize that one day I would like to return and call it my home permanently.

How do you relax?

Erlo and I love going to the beach(even though it is still cold here) and taking walks/hikes. New Zealand is wonderful for outdoor activities.We also love just sitting in our backyard and having a BBQ with the two of us.

How has living abroad made you a better person?

Living abroad has taught me a lot about who I am and that my culture is not the only way of living. New Zealand has taught me to enjoy the simpler things in life and living without extravagence. I think that is always something important to learn. New Zealand doesn’t want to change a lot about the way it is because it is beautiful the way it is.

How long do you want to stay there?

Probably at least a few years. We love being able to go to the beach every weekend and have such great fresh produce always available.

Where do you want to travel or move next?

We are thinking of doing our next vacation traveling to the South Pacific since it is so close, or Malaysia. I love Asia and have always wanted to visit the Malaysian Islands. The South Pacific Islands like Samoa, Fiji, and the Cook Islands are so close that we may be headed there for our one year anniversary….fingers crossed! If we were to move in the near future, we would definitely move to the States. My family and a lot of our friends are there and we would really love to be close to them.



4 thoughts on “Emily Becoming a Kiwi (Almost)

  1. Ah, we miss you guys! Hope you are enjoying all of the rugby right now! RE your language comments Emily – you are privileged to be learning both New Zealand and South African slang with the family that you married into. THAT is quite lekker.

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