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Making a home, away from home

Industrial
Emma and her family in NZ

A few years ago, my Dad and Step Mum visited New Zealand for six weeks to enjoy a good look at what is pegged as one of the most beautiful countries in the world. After travelling the North and South Islands, they (unsurprisingly) fell in love with the country. And course while here, fate intervened and my father, the Marine Engineer, unknowingly crossed paths with his future boss.

Upon their return to the UK and with a potentially life-changing decision hanging in the balance, they faced their first challenge. They needed to convince the motley crew, AKA my siblings and I, that a move to the other side of the world would be (and I quote) “the best for all of us”.

Once I had been won over, the hardest thing was then filtering this news to my Mum. Armed with a robust PowerPoint presentation featuring the All Blacks and all my other *limited* knowledge of the Land of the Long White Cloud, I managed to eventually persuade her that making this move was a good decision.

The next 18 months was a stressful time. Before we could even apply for our Residency Visas, we had all sorts of legislative hoops to jump through. Our weeks were overflowing with paperwork, medical checks, and criminal background inquisitions. I was one step away from including a lock of hair in my application just to get to New Zealand!  My sister being the rascal she was (and still is), was adamant she wasn’t coming with us; my brother, the only one with a plan in mind, was taking it as a career break before starting university a year later. Then of course, there was me, full of mixed emotions, leaving behind the only life that I had known.

Finally, immigration approved all our paper work, our flights were booked, our bags (or should I say boxes) were packed, and we were on our way to the City of Sails. That was several years ago —and what a time it has been.

Beautiful New Zealand

When I look back I can say that it has definitely been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life to date. Of course, there can be no flowers without rain and believe me, if you are looking to leave everything behind and venture across the world, you better get yourself a sturdy umbrella. If you’re thinking about making a giant move across the globe as I did, here’s a few challenges you might find yourself facing:

1. Actually making the decision

I cannot stress the following enough: do your research. Find out about the country, the culture, even the economy. Do they speak a different language? What are the crime rates? Will you feel comfortable with the cultural norms? While research is essential, at a certain point, you have to stop the research and make the decision. Really dig deep; is this move the best for you or are you caught up in an exciting whirlwind of fantasy ‘what if’s’? Making a massive move away from your warm snuggly-blanket of home takes a lot of hard work and dedication—are you ready for that commitment?

2. Leaving behind your friends and family

Saying goodbye to family and friends is not easy, especially if you are anything like me, a person who insists my inner-circle be aware of what I had on toast this morning. It is daunting, it is scary, and through experience, I can guarantee you will not speak as much as you used to, but you don’t have to wave a permanent goodbye just yet. Something that has changed remarkably over the years is technology. Gone are the days of landlines and dial up internet connection. Facetime, Skype, Whatsapp and of course Snapchat will become an integral part of your social circle (and your sanity when settling in). It doesn’t matter where you are, if everything is on your cell phone, you can be speaking to your home-town bestie on the go, and whenever you like.

3. Sorting out living arrangements: past and present

If you own a property, I would strongly recommend that you consider renting it out whilst you are away. You never know what’s going to happen in 6-12 months; it will also give you that peace of mind knowing you have a home to go back to if it doesn’t work out.

When looking for a new homely abode abroad, again I must insist, do your research. There are usually a bunch of handy websites and Facebook groups dedicated to providing information for expats arriving into the country, including info about typical living arrangements, great areas to settle and of course, the size of the hole that rent will burn in your pocket. Make sure to also find and download the local ‘what’s-what’ app of ‘flatmates wanted’; unfortunately TradeMe doesn’t stretch across the water.

4. Finding a job

You better get ready to leave your humble-pants at the door and start singing your own praises. First step, you 100% must update that ‘CV 2010’ file hidden in the deep unknown of your laptop, and be sure to really sell yourself. Once you’ve done this, get it out to as many recruitment agencies as possible ahead of your arrival, letting them know when you will be in the country. This is something that really helped me, and gave me comfort knowing I had interviews set up ahead of my landing in the unknown. It led me to gain great exposure to the New Zealand workforce, and of course, eventually set me up to become a part of a fantastic team at one of the very recruitment agencies I reached out to for help.

I might be a tad bias, but I can personally recommend Madison Recruitment. When I was on the candidate side of things, I found their process and service was super professional and easy. Ultimately they helped me land not only an initial temp role, but I’m now a permanent part of their recruitment team here in Auckland, New Zealand.


It’s now been many years of residing here in NZ. My Dad is busy running his own Marine Engineering business in the Bay of Islands, and my Step Mum is loving life in the Real Estate industry. Both my brother and sister decided to move to Australia to pursue their careers, and I can confirm the three-hour flight across the Tasman is a breath of fresh air compared to 27!

While it was challenging, with a few homesick tears along the way, I can definitely say I am happy I took the plunge.