A year in New Zealand

Swapna HaddowHalfway Round the World with the Haddows

It’s been a whole year since Family Haddow arrived on the shores of Aotearoa and we have had the most incredible twelve months. I can’t even begin to list all the amazing adventures we have had but needless to say, it has been a year of surfing, snowboarding, beautiful hikes and making wonderful new friendships.

I keep waiting for the homesickness to kick in, but with family visiting twice in the last year, meeting our brand new nephew for the very first time and of course the wonders of FaceTime, Brexit and heatwaves haven’t been enough to pull my heart back to the UK.

Next month we take our adventure further south and move to Dunedin, a UNESCO City of Literature and home to one of my good friends from university. We are so sad to be leaving our new friends in beautiful Christchurch but they know our door is always open when they come to visit Dunedin.

So what have I learnt and how easy is it to uproot your family and rebuild your life on the other side of the planet?

  • It’s not that easy but it’s also not incredibly difficult. Firstly, you need patience and the ability to pack up your life quickly. Whilst the husband managed to secure a job offer in New Zealand early on in 2018, it wasn’t until August that our visas turned up when we were set to leave at the beginning of September! You can’t speed up the process so we just had to be patient.
  • Secondly, you need money. The upfront costs of relocating, even with an employer willing to pay your relocation fees, add up. The flights and required vet fees alone for our dog to travel to New Zealand were more than the rest of our flights put together. We also had to have money to rent a house when we arrived, buy furniture and buy a car as we waited for our UK belongings to arrive three months after us. 

It was a lengthy three months of taking turns to sit in the dog bed whilst we waited for our couch. This was not helped by the fact it took a year longer than we hoped to sell our flat in London and we were pushed to take a price lower than we wanted so having savings on hand was very important.

  • The writing community around the world is full of the most generous and kind-hearted people I’ve ever met. Fact. I was so worried about how I would find my place as a writer in New Zealand but I needn’t have. I have been welcomed with open arms by everyone from librarians to teachers to parents to the book council to festival organisers to bookshops. It has been wonderful. I have had an amazing year of events in schools and at festivals including Auckland Writers Festival and KidsFest Christchurch. I’ve been a very lucky sausage. 

So if you are an author moving to New Zealand, be brave, send out a hello email and watch the love flood your inbox.

  • Kiwis are wonderful people. Also fact. In the days after the terror attacks at the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre, the people of Christchurch stepped up in a way I have never seen before. The outpouring of love from all people in Christchurch was overwhelming from leadership down. 

Street gangs united to protect Muslims visiting mosques and many months later, the beautiful artwork created by the locals to encourage love and peace still hang around the city. 

We have made so many good friends in the last year and have been given so many excellent insider tips that New Zealand felt like home from the moment we arrived. (Kiwis also like to feed you so wear an elasticated waist if you are invited over for dinner.)

  • It is still stressful even though you feel settled. Well, it’s not nearly as stressful as not having your visa until after you’ve put your house on the market, told everyone you’re leaving and it’s only a few weeks before you fly but there are still stresses. As non-residents we don’t have the same rights as residents and costs such as doctor appointments mount up. As non-residents, we can’t vote. We also can’t buy a house so we have to rent which comes with its own problems when you need a landlord/landlady that will be comfortable with your pet dog, but Kiwis are understanding and one look at our good boy Archie and his excellent references usually helps bend the rules. We are in the process of applying for residency but that takes time and a whopper application so again, that patience thing proves very useful.
  • Everything you need is on TradeMe. And that is all you need to know. Oh and everyone who lives in New Zealand has their own opinion of where you can buy the best pies. Me personally? I recommend The Doughbin in Wanaka.

I’m so pleased we made the move to New Zealand. It has been fantastic for our little family as a tribe and as individuals and I can’t wait to see what new adventures lie ahead for us in Dunedin.