A life of abundance


When Sam and Katy Smith moved their family from England to New Plymouth, it enriched their lives in a variety of ways.

A life of abundance (03:49)

The weather is brilliant here, but you've got to expect the rain. You've just got to take a raincoat. But not a brolly because if you take an umbrella, it will just blow away. 

Hello. I'm Sam Smith, originally from the UK another and now here in New Plymouth, New Zealand. 

Katy and myself. So we met at University, so when we're both a medical school. We're both in the same year. We got together when we were in about the third year and have been together ever since. 

So, we first thought about New Zealand many years before we even decided to come. The kids came along so that delayed it by a couple years. They came sooner than we thought. But then, with the family at that point we thought, actually, the place we would want to raise them is somewhere in New Zealand, where we think they're, you know, the family lifestyle for the kids is exactly how we want it to be. 

"We were very close to my parents geographically, in the UK, so that was hard leaving them. We spent a lot of time on Skype, and that's awesome so the kids could keep that sort of day-to-day connection with Mum and Dad." 

When we decided to move, New Zealand came top on our list for both of us.

We went to a couple of recruitment agents and they teed up a lot of the interviews and things that we to do. We sent off the CVs and then she just did a few interviews. They were actually just on that over the phone, rather than any Skype interview. And, yeah, thankfully got the job offer out in New Plymouth. 

"We employed Same and Katy two years ago after a vacancy came up at CareFirst, one of our long-term doctors moved on, leaving his practice here. So we needed someone on an ongoing basis. Sam's name came up from the recruitment agencies and he looked good and it all worked out well from there."

Katy came along, with the package as it was and we found a position for her at Merridlands Medical Centre. We moved into the house as a rental, when we first looked around. And we've been here for about a year and the people that we were renting from actually let us know that they were wanting to sell at some point. And that we'll be interested and we said, yes, we were. So we went and bought the house. But, yeah, it was a much less painful task than selling the house in the UK so. 

"The house is a Californian bungalow, so it's a nice timber-framed older style house and it's in a lovely big section, which means it's got great space for the kids to go run around and we've got a swimming pool, which we never would have had in the UK. We get to have chickens."

"We've got a couple of feijoa trees, which we never knew about feijoa 'til we came to New Zealand. So these are feijoa which are amazing. I think they taste a quarter kiwifruit, a quarter pear, quarter lemon and a dash of Germany. But yeah, the kids absolutely love them, so we have four feijoa trees in the garden." 

The boys in our kindy, which is just down the road from us, which is a fantastic place for them to go. Outside playing all the time, massive sandpit and there's a lot of freedom in this kindergarten for them to sort of enjoy and explore themselves. 

The boys have now started swimming lessons and they're really taking making leaps and bounds recently. And I think with the summer and our swimming pool, they're really pushing their boundaries a little bit. Our lifestyle here, it mainly is focusing around the kids and sort of family-life. 

Kiwis are friendly people and it's been great. Yeah, I feel that the pace of life is better for us. We're ourselves. We're relaxed. We're happy.

We really don't have many cares in the world. Whereas our time in the UK, we felt just very stressed, very pressured all the time and it wasn't just about work. It's quite a pressured environment. And, here, just feels free. 

If you've got that itch that you think you want to give it a go, I would just give it a go. It's worked out really well for us. It may not for others but I think you have to try these things and you never know unless you try. 

If Katy Smith ever gets homesick for her life in England, she knows how to make herself feel better. 

“I go outside to look at the lemon trees in our garden – because you cannot grow lemons in the garden in England – to remind myself of the beauty of the countryside and what is abundant here, and how much we enjoy that,” she says.

Another fruit they experience in abundance is the feijoa, a small, green fruit that ripens for a short time in autumn.

“Feijoas are amazing. We weren’t convinced to begin with, because they taste to me like a mix of kiwifruit, pear and lemon, with an astringent [bitter] edge. We have four feijoa trees in the garden and they drop hundreds of fruit. I have a freezer full of them, the kids were eating them 24/7, I made jam and muffins with them, and gave more away.”

Katy and husband Sam were born in England, and met while studying at medical school to be General Practitioners (GPs). They had often talked about raising children in New Zealand because of the outdoor, family-friendly lifestyle. When their twins William and Arthur were one and a half years old, and Katy was pregnant again, they decided to move.

Friends who had worked as GPs in New Zealand gave them professional advice, says Sam.

“We also looked up the Immigration New Zealand website. There are a lot of videos that give you snapshots of the different cities,” he says.

They were working on the Isle of Wight, just off England’s south coast, at the time. Because GPs are in demand here, recruitment agents quickly organised interviews, and Sam received a job offer from Carefirst in New Plymouth. The logistics of moving, however, took a little time.

“Katy was pregnant at the time, so getting visas was more difficult; we had to wait until Florence was born before we could finish the process. We did the expression of interest, then as soon as Florence was born I took a photo of her to get her passport, then we got the visas,” Sam explains.

They arrived in April 2016, and rented a bach (holiday home) for the first six weeks until their furniture arrived. New Plymouth instantly felt like the perfect balance of city and rural life for Katy.

After nearly a year living in a rental house, Sam and Katy bought the place from its owners. Sam says that, like many older, timber-framed homes, it gets cold in winter. “There was no snow on Mount Taranaki, but it was still absolutely glorious. We felt at home as soon as we arrived here,” she says.

“Insulating and double-glazing seem to have not been common in New Zealand for as long as they have been in Britain, but it is worth paying for in the long run.”

Both work part-time at Carefirst, striking a balance between family and work. An appointment with a patient lasts 15 minutes, compared with 10 minutes in Britain, and it is rare for either of them to not be home in time for dinner with the family.

Katy has observed different health beliefs that are not present in Britain. “For example, Kiwis are more open to alternative, natural-based therapies than the average British patient. Most people here are taking probiotics after a course of antibiotics; complementary medicine is more integrated within a normal practice,” she says.

“New Zealand is not the same as Britain culturally, and that’s nice; it has its own identity.”

For me it was a priority to make friends with other families and develop those connections, so you have someone to call on if you need help.

The couple’s desire for an outdoor lifestyle has been thoroughly fulfilled. William, Arthur and Florence do swimming lessons once a week, and they have a pool in their large back garden. The garden also has room for vegetables, chickens, climbing frames and toys.

Through the boys attending kindy (kindergarten, a pre-school class), Katy and Sam have made friends with other families. On weekends the family goes on short walks into the bush (native forest), or plays in the snow when it sits on Mount Taranaki. “Then we come down and sit on the beach in the afternoon,” says Sam.

Except if it is raining, of course – and when it rains in Taranaki, he adds, “it really does come down. You have to take a raincoat, because if you take an umbrella it will just blow away!”

Being so far away from family changes the way you spend time with them, observes Katy. 

“Mum and Dad come over once a year, so it is quite an intense period when they come over.  It’s like you amalgamate all those weekends, evenings and snippets of family time,” she says. 

Despite the difficulties, Katy believes they are happier here. “We’re relaxed, we’re happy.  We really don’t have many cares in the world.”

“It is hard being away from family, and it is hard when you first arrive, not having your village [network of friends] established. For me it was a priority to make friends with other families and develop those connections, so you have someone to call on if you need help.”

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