Creating a second family


Building up a solid network of friends can make all the difference to how quickly you feel settled, as Irish-born Sarah-Jane Lye found.

Creating a second family (3:07)

Pineapple lumps! - they're my favorite favorite lolly - and the fact that you call them lollies when they should be called sweets ...

Hi, I'm Sarah-Jane Lye, and I'm originally from Ireland, and I currently work for Fisher & Paykel Healthcare in Auckland, New Zealand.

When I started in Fisher & Paykel Healthcare I was on a talent visa which I got through the support of Fisher & Paykel,  and I came here as an engineer because that's what I was hired to do - and I really loved that job, but luckily enough Fisher & Paykel gives the opportunity for people to move around and to try different roles, which worked perfect for me because I've always wanted to get into Marketing.

And I really enjoy that job because I do get to travel as well as my day-to-day life working here.

When I first got the job I was certainly scared and apprehensive, and I wasn't really sure what to expect when I got here, and how long I'd be here - and six months came and went and I thought. "I'm never leaving ..."  I have now been here for three and a half years.

Sarah-Jane is one of those special people who is my go-to for anyone coming from Ireland. If I let her she would be at the airport at two o'clock in the morning to greet them, so, she's fantastic to have on board.

Usually when I arrive to work, it's straight to get a cup of coffee as we are very lucky to have a barista on-site.  And then it's just a lot of work and a lot of meetings throughout the morning, and then usually at lunchtime we get to sit outside in the sunshine, which is great, and we've got a beautiful lake that we can go for a walk around, and any of our team mates often play sports or play frisbee.

In the afternoon it's just taken up with work or meetings or running from building to building to try and catch people before they go home for the day or to get stuff done, and then about 4:30 it's hit the road time, and it's try and get caught in traffic for about an hour ...

I go horse riding every week.  It's usually a lot of just warm-up flat work to begin with and just a proper lesson of just guidance on what I should and shouldn't be doing and then we do some jumping.

Something I would like to do in future is to have my own horse.  It is quite far from - from where I live - so, to not only just the cost of having my own horse, but even just the commute to go out there every day. I just don't have the time and I think as well the fact that I travel a lot with work, it's just not feasible.

But right now it suits me just to be there once a week, and then to have the opportunity to go to shows if I want to.

About six months ago, moved into a unit with a friend of mine who also works out here in East Tamaki.  We're very similar and our lifestyles are very similar, so it just works better. I guess we kind of got to the point where we were tired of living in a flat with four or five people.  We just wanted our own space so - it just worked perfect for us.

If you are thinking of coming to New Zealand I would advise you to just do it, don't be apprehensive - there are amazing people here. It's an amazing country with very friendly people great job opportunities, beautiful scenery and amazing sunshine - why wouldn't you want to come here?

A large part of feeling at home in another country is building up an adopted ‘family’ around you. Sarah-Jane Lye has acquired the nickname ‘Aunty Irish’ from two former flatmates, who are now married with a baby, because “I'm over at their place all the time”, she laughs.

It seems Sarah-Jane has fallen on her feet (been lucky) in that respect. Four weeks after she arrived from Ireland, she moved into a flat with three Kiwis who were all friends, and had lived in the United Kingdom while on their OE (overseas experience).

“I felt like they understood where I came from, because they'd been on that side of the world. We just gelled so well. I ended up finding what I call my Kiwi family, and I'm now friends with all their friends,” she says.

She has also made many friends within the community of Irish people living here, and the warmth of the welcome she received was quite a contrast to some of the actual temperatures she experienced. “I expected the weather to be so much hotter, like Australia. The sun shines more here than in Ireland, but otherwise it's actually really like home: when it rains, it pours, and when it's cold, it's freezing.”

Sarah-Jane was also surprised at how cold and damp many Auckland houses are. “It's something I wish I'd been warned about before I moved here. Double glazing does not very often exist. There are a lot of villa-style houses and many are draughty, and don't have insulation. I've had to pay a lot more money in rent, but it's worth it to have an insulated, double-glazed house.”

Currently working for Fisher and Paykel Healthcare as a product manager, she originally studied pharmaceutical and forensic science, and ended up working within the medical-device industry in Ireland by chance. A recruitment agent, working for Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, contacted her about applying for a job.

Once Sarah-Jane had secured a job offer, the company offered guidance on the process of getting a talent visa (she now has permanent residency). “They also helped organise my flights, hotel accommodation for the first few weeks, and I was given a car to get to and from work, until I figured out exactly where I wanted to live and what I wanted to buy.”

When she arrived in mid-2014, work colleagues gave her advice on where to buy a cheap car, and where to live. “Fisher & Paykel have such a good ‘Buddy system’. It helps make that adjustment easier when you land. Even though I did find it scary and I was lonely for the first few weeks, I had that support from a work environment, which made it just easier to settle in.”

A typical work day, after a 20-30 minute commute and a compulsory coffee, involves looking after particular products in different areas of the world. Sarah-Jane’s focus is on countries in Western Europe: releasing new products, improving current products, and supporting their overseas offices. She frequently travels for work, and is often lucky enough to see her parents during a trip.

Southern Auckland has several riding schools, and it has helped Sarah-Jane reignite her passion for horse riding, which she did from a young age until she went to university. Every week, she goes out to RideSmart Equestrian Centre for lessons.

“I love it, just being out in the countryside and enjoying riding again. I've done some show-jumping competitions with the tutor Angelina, at her equestrian centre and elsewhere. Maybe one day I'll own my own horse,” she says.

Skiing, touch rugby, running and tramping are other outdoor activities she has picked up. “During the summer, groups of us take off for the weekend, whether it's to Raglan or on a girls weekend down to the Coromandel. Maybe we'll find a mountain that we want to hike up.”

For all their charm, Kiwis also have certain surprising quirks. “I saw it on my first day: so many people walking around barefoot. I don't understand that, why wouldn't you wear shoes? It's not that people can't afford them, they just choose not to wear them,” she says.

Even with a good group of friends, settling in takes time. Far away from her family, Sarah-Jane could not talk to her close friends as often because of the time difference.

“My first six months were quite tough, and I did worry that I wouldn't last. But I hit that turning point at six months and thought, ‘I've made friends, I'm starting to get a life here, I'm really enjoying it.’”

She advises newcomers to join an expat community, or investigate joining local groups on “In these groups, you meet such amazing, supportive people. When I first arrived, I made the decision to try everything, make an effort to get to know people, and build a life for myself.” It seems to have worked just fine.

Interested in coming to New Zealand?

Sign up to receive relevant job opportunities from New Zealand employers and practical advice on how to make your move to New Zealand a reality.

Help us improve New Zealand Now

Your feedback is very important in helping us improve the New Zealand Now website. Please don’t include any personal or financial information.