Poor old Terri has had her sights set on New Zealand for an awfully long time but one thing or another has always ended up stopping her from moving.
‘We’re probably slightly older immigrants than most, as I was 46 when we first came here in 2006, and my husband is 10 years older than me. I’ve wanted to emigrate since I was 16, after a holiday with my parents in New Zealand to visit my uncle and his family,’ she explains. Considering it was only in 2006 that she was able to move, some may wonder what on earth has taken her so long. To be fair to her, it certainly wasn’t want of trying that prevented her from emigrating – more the circumstances. After falling in love with New Zealand at such a young age she always carried the dream she would move there. But then, life began to get in the way of her plans. ‘I met my first husband, and had a couple of kids but my first husband was not interested in emigrating at all,’ she explains. Most people in the same position would have forgotten about their dreams but when Terri and her first husband split, her hope to move there returned, stronger than ever. ‘After our split, I re-visited some relatives in New Zealand and still loved the country,’ she admits. However, as so often happens, her circumstances might have been better but the country was now far more difficult to enter. ‘By then immigration rules had tightened up. Although working in IT, I didn’t have any formal qualifications, which meant I stood no chance of being allowed a visa,’ she explains. Once again a huge obstacle was placed in Terri’s way but rather then accept defeat and carry on with her life in the UK, she meticulously worked out what exactly she needed to do. ‘I decided to work towards getting enough points for a visa by taking an Open University degree,’ she says. Her determination is absolutely unfathomable, she wanted to move so much she was willing to study for three years to make sure it happened. At that point, she must have thought that her plan was in place and although it would take three years she would eventually get to live in her paradise. Yet, just when she thought things were simple, her life threw up another obstacle – in the form of her second husband.
‘My second husband wasn’t interested in emigrating either!’ she recalls, although I doubt she was so easygoing about it then. Her husband was very sure of his decision, Terri even recalls his argument for staying in the UK: ‘’New Zealand, it’s the back of beyond, it’s OK for a holiday, but to live? It’s too remote!’ However, what her second hubby didn’t count on was, as sure as he was, Terri was even surer that she would, in the end, get to New Zealand.
She planned to get him to New Zealand on holiday and hope that he would fall in love with the country whilst he was over there. ‘About 5 years ago my husband and I went on holiday to New Zealand. It wasn’t the most successful holiday we’ve ever had – I was ill, and in between relative visits and sightseeing, the whole trip was quite stressful,’ she remembers. It seemed like her plan of letting her husband fall in love with the country himself was going drastically wrong. ‘Fortunately on the very last morning, we were moved to a flight that gave us an extra three hours in Auckland – enough time for my cousin to take us for brunch in St Heliers/Mission Bay. It’s a ‘cafe culture’ area, so we sat in a cafe looking out onto a beautiful beach and Rangitoto (a local volcano) watching the beautiful people jogging, cycling and strolling past. It was bliss!’. Despite it not being the break she wanted, the unexpected change of plan gave her husband the opportunity to see the New Zealand she had fallen in love with.
And as they took their flight home, she kept her fingers crossed that he might have a change of heart about moving. And it seems, her wish came true: ‘a couple of weeks later, I mentioned that I’d still have liked to live in New Zealand,’ she explains. ‘And I nearly fell off my chair when my hubby said ‘let’s give it a go’! He never got a second chance – our expression of interest was completed and submitted within the week!!’
For Terri it was the green light she had always been waiting for. It also didn’t hurt that her husband wasn’t entirely happy with life in the UK. ‘There were many other reasons for leaving the UK. No one huge one, but overall they added up. Too many people and cars, the change in culture in the area where we were living, the crime in our local area, Tony Blair going into Iraq, the weather……and more’. Time also played a big factor in their decision and they knew that if they were going to move they would have to do it quick. ‘We also needed to make the move when we did because of our ages, if we left it any longer we would have been too old for residency’.
With a ticking time clock on them they knew they had to get their plans in order quickly, which in many ways was probably an advantage. Rather than many people who feel like they’ve got their whole lives to ‘maybe, possibly move’ and never get round to it, Terri knew it was now or never. But that didn’t mean that there weren’t really tricky parts to their decision. ‘The toughest part was leaving family. I’m an only child, and even though all my Mum’s family (including her brother) are in NZ, my Mum did not want to leave the UK. And my eldest son also decided that he wanted to stay’. Leaving family is the most common complaint about leaving a country and can sometimes even stop people. In Terri’s case it certainly challenged whether she wanted to leave: ‘It’s my Mum and son that make it the hardest to be away and I still feel guilty about leaving them. But they both have the option to come and live with us, so it is their choice’. But then the list of who she’d miss just got longer and longer, ‘It was also hard to leave my elderly 14 year old cats. One of them in particular used to get stressed out going down the road to the vet, so there was no way she’d have made the journey. We were very fortunate in finding a friend that was prepared to take both of them on’. Thankfully, Terri’s determination meant that whatever obstacle came her way she found a solution. And although it is hard to leave family, she knew she had to finally fulfil her life long dream, or, she would always regret it.
By the sounds of her new life in New Zealand, she has certainly done the right thing. By all accounts, she couldn’t be happier with her decision. ‘We love the life here – New Zealanders are very similar to Brits in their culture. We felt at home almost immediately, although having relatives here did help. We love the feeling of space, the beautiful scenery and beaches, and (once out of Auckland) the lack of traffic’. So, has the move done as much for her wallet as it has for her happiness? ‘Salaries are on average 2/3 of the UK, but cost of living is also less.’ Terri explains. ‘So standard of living is about the same, but in my opinion quality of life is better. We’ve bought a house that is larger than our old one in the UK, but like most houses in New Zealand it’s wooden framed. But interest rates are more than in the UK, so mortgages can work out expensive compared to salaries. A number of my friends overstretched themselves and had to downsize later. Cars are a tad cheaper. We’ve also bought a boat, two motorbikes and an MGF sports car!’. They’ve certainly gone the whole hog to appreciate their outdoorsy new life – they’ve got more toys to play with then a small child! So is most of their spare time spent whizzing around in sports cars and sailing? ‘A typical weekend for most New Zealanders involves something to do with sport or socialising,’ she says. ‘And so the playing fields are always full and my son is usually off scuba diving somewhere. And of course we have to select one of our playthings to take for a drive!’.
It seems like Terri has finally, after years of trying, got the life she always wanted, in the location she had always pined for. So, now she’s there, with the hindsight of all her experience, what advice would she offer to those about to move themselves? ‘My biggest piece of advice to anyone thinking of emigrating is do your homework, and don’t assume that everything will be perfect,’ she says, with the benefit of experience. ‘Go there with a positive attitude, and embrace the new lifestyle. Join clubs and groups, to make friends’. Having been in New Zealand for three years, Terri has seen many people come and go, failing to appreciate or succeed with their new lifestyle. She says the reason behind this is clear: ‘the main reason I’ve seen, for people moving back home is loneliness because they’ve left friends and relatives behind,’ she says. But just because the first few months don’t work, doesn’t mean it you will always be unhappy with your decision to move: ‘give it at least a year before re-evaluating your decision,’ she says. But moving to a different country isn’t a magic wand and Terri thinks people should remember that it can’t completely transform everything. ‘Moving to another country doesn’t make problems go away – they’ll probably follow you’.
With the epic time it took to get to New Zealand Terri is determined to stick it out and certainly doesn’t plan to return to England anytime soon. ‘I’d never consider moving back permanently, although as my Mum gets older we may have to consider it temporarily if she needs us’. Considering how long she waited for her new life it’s not surprising to also learn that there are very few things she misses about the UK. And as is becoming the trend, it seems to be the minor thing, usually associated with the stomach, that us Brits miss. ‘Of course there are things we miss but most of them are very minor. I miss my garden (houses here are bigger, but in our area many have small gardens). And supermarkets don’t have the huge choice of convenience food. I really miss Taramasalata and pork pies!’. And the only regret she has, is to do with timing. ‘If I could do it all again, I would of got my hubby out to New Zealand earlier!’ she says.
And now Terri is finally there she wouldn’t swap her new life that she strived so hard for, for anything. Not even for all the pork pies in England!