All about balance

Having time outside work to do the things you love is a major advantage of Kiwi life – as English-born Steve Purcell and his family have found.
All about balance

Steve Purcell loves many things about living in New Zealand. One of his favourite things is how seriously Kiwis take their work-life balance.

“The degree to which my colleagues spend their evenings or their weekends doing things that they love, spending time with their families, is remarkable,” he says.

Steve and his wife Myrlia moved here from England with daughters Grace, 12, and Lily, 9. Myrlia explains that previously, when they lived in Germany, the couple got along very well with all the Kiwis they met.

“And they always went back to New Zealand. We thought, ‘They have the choice of anywhere in the world to live, but they always come back to New Zealand. There must be something very special about the country,’” she says.

Steve and his wife Myrlia moved here from England with daughters Grace and Lily.

Wellington strikes a balance between city life and wild scenery that also impresses Steve.

“What I love day-to-day about Wellington is the unique mix of just the right level of culture and facilities, with very ready access to fresh air and nature, mountains and ocean,” he says.

Working as a software manager, Steve has already lived in several countries: Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Australia and China. He was running his own business from home in 2015 when a Kiwi friend emailed him to say they were looking for staff.

Steve was keen to start as a team leader at Powershop, an electricity company, so he arrived first in June 2015.

“The Wellington housing market is quite busy and particularly at certain times of year, it can take a little bit of time to find somewhere to live.”

Myrlia was born in the United States, so she needed extra time to gather paperwork from that country too. She and the girls landed in Wellington a few months later, and immediately things felt different.

The people are very relaxed and supportive and friendly. It feels like a step out of the rush that you find in a lot of places in the world,” she says.

​Salaries are lower here than in England, and Steve says migrants should realise they are moving to a smaller employment market. “But I have found that market to be very merit based. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, I would say there is possibly even more scope here to make progress.”

The work environment and life balance is also attractive. “Powershop is a bunch of very relaxed, very competent people going about their work in a professional but friendly and unfussy way, which I’ve come to associate very strongly with the Kiwi approach to things,” Steve says.

He regularly goes mountain running and enters races with his workmates, and plays guitar in the company band, which entertains guests at their annual Christmas party.

Myrlia was a professional dancer and ran a ballet school in England. Here she gives people private lessons, and last year began working as a choreographer for Gilbert and Sullivan Light Opera.

“I’m addicted to volunteer work. Most of what I do, I don’t actually do for money. I do things just to enjoy them and to help other people,” she explains.

The Ministry of Education website contains reports on how schools are performing, so Myrlia used these as part of her research into choosing a school for Lily and Grace.

“There are schools here where you can stay in the primary school system up through Year 8 [around the age of 12]. My older daughter was about to go off to high school in England, and I didn’t feel she was ready for that because she’s still happy to be a child,” says Myrlia.

I really was pleased to learn about the education system here and how that works, and how well it supports children when they’re going through difficult times.

Lily is taking piano and voice lessons; Grace has tried parkour (a mixture of urban running and acrobatics). “We do yoga, we get out and go for lovely walks through the bush trails, or we go to the museums. There’s a lot to help enrich the children’s lives,” she adds.

Steve also enjoys how Kiwis seem less focused on buying lots of possessions.

“It doesn’t occur to the vast majority of people to constantly buy the latest car and keep changing it every year or two. To that extent, it feels very much like stepping out of a particular slice of the rat race,” he says.

He can even see the good side of the things he does not like about New Zealand.

“You have some of the boy racers (men driving noisy cars at high speed) who drive a little too fast, but I would rather that than have a country full of speed cameras, and very over-the-top policing.

“Equally, earthquakes are not ideal, but I think they contribute to the sense of community that Kiwis appear to have. There’s a sense of life being a delicate thing here, and how we have to look out for each other.”

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