Beaches, barbies and a new lifestyle
London professionals Nick Mackeson-Smith and his wife, Helen, arrived in New Zealand with their two children on Mother’s Day 2013.
It was an appropriate start, the couple say, because parenthood was the main reason for their move. Arriving to a Mother’s Day in May, not before Easter as it is in Britain, was a reminder that things are done differently in New Zealand.
Helen is a Kiwi but she had been away for 10 years – one of those working holidays that grow into much more. Nick’s only experience of Kiwi life was their dream wedding and honeymoon on Waiheke Island. “It was the middle of summer, the weather was perfect, we were deliriously happy and we had barbecues on our deck at the beach with our friends every day.”
"Use the tools that the Government have created such as NZ Ready and you'll save yourself a lot of time"
Those memories made the decision to migrate even easier, says Nick, who is originally from Norwich. His family in Britain were all supportive. His brothers and sister had travelled around NZ with their families, and he had childhood memories of home movies showing his parents whale watching, and visiting a marae in New Zealand.
Now, in Auckland, Nick and Helen are at “the next stage in life”. Helen works in human resources for a technology company. Nick, a learning and development consultant with over 10 years’ experience at some of the world's leading financial services firms, is establishing a business. He is currently on a 12-month contract with Auckland Council.
The Auckland lifestyle allows more time together as a family and more time for things like trips to the beach. Nick plays the drums in a funk band and has a passion for music. He’s also a Reiki master and loves soccer, barbecues and travel. Helen is keen on reading and travel. “Working hard is easy,” Nick says. “Discovering what the right thing to work hard on can be tricky. Many people get stuck in their day-to-day and don’t see what will truly make them happy.”
Nick and Helen’s first child, Ethan was almost two when their second, Harry, was born in October 2012. They decided soon afterwards that it was time to move to New Zealand. London didn't offer the same space, quality of life, outdoors focus, safety, quality of education, affordability of homes, or work-life balance prospects.
Helen and the boys have Kiwi passports, making it easy for Nick to get a permanent resident’s visa.
“Still, there is a lot to plan and the physical act of moving out here is no different – regardless of what visa you are on,” he says.
Dont be lulled into thinking it is like England but warmer. It is nothing like England, and that is largely a good thing.
“Having lived in the UK for my whole life, my knowledge of living overseas was really limited, so I felt it important to prepare.” He talked to Helen and Kiwi friends and searched the Internet for information on New Zealand history, Maori culture, what types of cars people drive, the cost of electricity – everything he could think of. “It can be quite overwhelming, but I think if you can be methodical about it, it’s actually quite exciting learning about your future home and what to expect.”
There was a huge amount to do but the information available from Immigration New Zealand and other government agencies convinced Nick that he and Helen could handle it themselves. He says "Use the tools that the Government have created such as NZ Ready and you'll save yourself a lot of time. Do your research early. Take time to prepare things, and think really carefully about what you are leaving behind versus what you are getting. Some things are much better. Some things are different from what you'll be used to. Don't be lulled into thinking that it's like England but warmer. It's nothing like England, and that's largely a good thing.”
While preparing, the couple talked to Ethan a lot about their move so he was looking forward to it. Nick resigned from his job, gave notice to the landlord and started to arrange the move with a shipping company and booked the flights, including a holiday on the way, before his visa came through in March.
When the family arrived in Auckland it was winter. “Hardly,” Nick says. “It's more like a UK autumn, and I was wearing shorts and T-shirts most of the time.
“We have loved every day since,” Nick says. “People are generally much friendlier, it doesn't take half of your day commuting somewhere. Food is fresher and better, service is great in restaurants. Everything is so close, and you find yourself packing much more into the day. People have been welcoming – keen to help me set up life here. People are proud to be New Zealanders, and genuinely want to help people embrace their culture and integrate quickly and smoothly. It's a massive help.”
There were also some surprises and disappointments. Power bills were much higher than Nick and Helen expected. Auckland house prices appeared over-inflated. Aucklanders seemed over-reliant on a motorway through the centre of town, while the rail network was poorly used. Despite that, Nick was surprised how easy it was to get around in Auckland. He was also surprised and impressed at how easy it was to get a tax number and sort out medical, insurance and bank matters. “In a country with a lot fewer people than the UK, it's a really pleasant surprise when things are efficient and work quickly.”
Nick is still missing friends and family in Britain but says Ethan and Harry have never been happier. Both go to kindergarten. “I am really pleased that we made the move. We have a bigger house with a garden and room to breathe.” Helen’s mum lives nearby and there are friends just a five-minute drive away. Now, after experiencing what Auckland has to offer, Nick and Helen are looking forward to buying a house.