This is a reflection of what has been an arduous process of moving to New Zealand and settling in “the coolest little capital”, Wellington. To set the scene a little, this was not my first significant move. As a child I went to 12 different schools, I’ve lived in 12 different cities, 7 of which have been in my adult life. I love it, I find great freedom in packing my bags and pissing off to discover a new place.
My partner and I decided that we’d move from the east coast of Australia to Wellington, New Zealand but the reason for this move wasn’t for fun and adventure. It was a bid to spend time with a very close relative who’s health was failing. It was a move from a place where we both lived well, to a place that was smaller and colder, and without jobs.
Still, we romanticised a new, charmed life, a sense of community and connection, barbecues with neighbours, acquaintances with local shop owners and new friends who “popped by”. We were ready to embrace and participate. Not long after our arrival however, our shiny optimism was met with a grimmer reality.
Wellington city is a very pretty city with its many hills and unspoiled coastline. It would be perfect if it weren’t for the notorious Wellington wind and ghastly grey skies. Rain is the resident and the sun a fleeting visitor. I have never left the house without taking at least a second layer. Feeling cold in Wellington, whatever the season, is inevitable.
My partner couldn’t find work, it took 3 long months before something came through. He was at home, applying for jobs, growing more desperate every day. Neither of us are entrepreneurial nor are our skills so specialist that we could sell them at a contracted premium. The wait was soul destroying.
While I found work faster, I struggled to connect with people. My colleagues were friendly, ready for a chat and seemed genuinely interested in me between the hours of 9am-5pm. There were no invitations to out-of-work events, or at least, none that ever came to fruition. People I met had to get home to their children and/or their pets. They spent weekends in their gardens, working on a DIY project or at their kids’ sporting events. I couldn’t find a way to break through the invisible wall between Wellingtonians and me.
Since moving here, I earn less money but pay more in living costs – only offset by the limited entertainment opportunities to throw money at. I’ve experienced a major earthquake and countless aftershocks. I’ve witnessed a queue to get inside David Jones. I’ve mastered negotiating unbelievably narrow streets lined with parked cars further complicated by cyclists and buses. I’ve been confused over the benefit of packing my own groceries in a store bought plastic bag at PAK’nSAVE.
I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I need to do to flourish rather than fade. Here is how I’ve managed it so far:
- I applied for any job I could passably do and I laboured over my applications to make sure it was appropriately pitched for each role. I let go of my previous salary expectations and accepted that I was likely to have to start from the bottom and work my way up. I needed an income, that was my bottom line.
- I’ve kept in touch with friends and family from home. I’ve prioritised travelling for friends’ weddings and visiting my family.
- I’ve proactively managed my mental health. With all the ups and downs, my mental health has wavered more than ever. But being older and wiser, I’m also more self-aware and I know how to self-care. I started meditating again, I’ve sought counselling when I felt like I wasn’t coping, I’ve started practicing yoga and mindfulness sessions. I’m not perfect at this, I sometimes fall really deep into the rabbit hole before I realise I’m even in the hole – and it’s a hell of a battle getting back out.
- I invited my sister to visit. Showing her the Wellington sights induced my positivity and enthusiasm about this city. I showed her my favourite shops, cafes, views and New Zealand produce. My appreciation for Wellington reached new heights.
- We spent time outside when we could. New Zealand’s natural beauty is unparalleled. We’ve taken walks, kayaked, and long drives to immerse ourselves in the picturesque outdoors. I’ve learned not to wait for the sun to come out and to appreciate New Zealand’s rugged beauty.
- We got married here. It really helped to create some positive experiences and beautiful memories for us. We will always think fondly of Old St Paul’s and those bell chimes.
- I worked really hard in my very low-level job. I’ve gone above and beyond, learned new things and stretched the role where I could – it’s landed me a promotion.
- I’ve tried new things, like home brewing and a creative writing class which has been a great way to spend cold evenings with new people. I’m even writing a blog!
- I’ve signed up to every imaginable “Meet Up” group that I might find vaguely interesting. You never know if you never go.
- Netflix, books and New Zealand wine for those cold nights (or days).
- My “go to” clothing labels quickly became Kathmandu and Macpac. I live in a waterproof, windproof, down jacket.
I have undoubtedly experienced a culture shock despite New Zealand being a 4-hour flight away from home. Will I move to a 13th city? History would suggest so.