The Migrating Swans

  • The Migrating Swans
Blog of the month
Published 4 years ago
My name is Bianca and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa where I lived until I was 40 years old. I worked in advertising before I had my children and now I am a stay-at-home mom. I am presently living in Auckland, New Zealand with my husband and our three children.
Bianca Swanepoel

Bianca Swanepoel

My name is Bianca and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa where I lived until I was 40 years old. I worked in advertising before I had my children and now I am a stay-at-home mom. I am presently living in Auckland, New Zealand with my husband and our three children.


When and how did you decide to move to New Zealand? Is it complicated to settle down there?

After many years of thinking about immigrating, we eventually decided to make the big move in 2009. My mother, stepfather and one sister had immigrated to New Zealand in 1997 and we had visited them numerous times over the years so when it came down to choosing where to go, it wasn’t a difficult decision – we knew New Zealand pretty well, we loved what we’d seen on our trips over here and having family here sealed the deal. 

My husband, Grant, got a job in Auckland and started working there in September 2009. I packed up our life in Cape Town with the help of my mother, and after spending our last Christmas with family and friends at the end of 2009, we all moved to Auckland in January 2010. 

Having my family here when we arrived certainly made settling down much easier than it would have been had we been alone. However, life is generally very relaxed and simple here and for the most part we found it pretty easy to settle in. Systems are straightforward, getting set up is not complicated and people are very friendly and helpful. Also, our driver’s licences were easily converted and did not involve redoing the learner or driving tests.


Have you ever lived abroad before? How many countries have you visited?

My husband and I spent some time in London when we were much younger (before children) and travelled around Europe extensively during that time. I’ve visited 22 countries so far.


What do you like the most about New Zealand/Auckland?

The most obvious answer would be that this country is so beautiful – the rolling green hills, the azure coastal bays, the mountainous terrain, the tranquil islands, etc. I love living in such a gorgeous environment. But the thing that I like the most about living here is the laidback, relaxed lifestyle we enjoy here. It’s positively tranquil and I really appreciate this way of life. 

Oh wait, there’s one more thing: I really like the fact that there aren’t any snakes in this country. 


How is/was the cultural shock? What are the main differences with South Africa, your home country?

The ‘honeymoon’ period of our move over here was wonderful – it was the summer holiday and we had a few weeks to explore our new city, go to the beach and relax. During this time I felt extremely excited to be able to enjoy so many new experiences in my life, and to experience so many firsts again. Also, moving to a different country heightened my appreciation for all the simple things in life. 

Then the children started school and we set up our routines again and that’s when life started getting back to ‘normal’. (We moved into our home, bought a second car, settled the children into their new school and worked out all the new school and sports systems.) I often felt absolutely exhausted during those first months, as there was certainly information overload and the learning curve was incredibly steep and sometimes quite overwhelming. 

But as the months passed, things definitely became easier and by the time we started our second year, everything was more familiar and life became calmer and more ‘normal’. 

As for the main differences between the two countries - I’d say they are safety, poverty and politics.


Do you miss anything from your homeland?

I miss Woolworths, an upmarket food market and clothing store because of it’s great ready-made meals and good selection of clothing, but on a more serious note I miss our family and friends in South Africa.


Any ‘memories of an expat’ you would like to share with us? Your best souvenir? Or maybe your worst experience?

I remember our first winter in our new country being a very trying time. All three of our children were doing more than one sport each and early evenings became an absolute nightmare of trying to cook a nutritious meal at the same time as having to fetch one daughter from hockey, another from netball and a son from football – all at the same time on the same evening! I remember feeling very inadequate and overwhelmed at the time. Thank goodness I had my mother to help me whenever I needed her! Looking back, I think we took on too much at the same time and life was far too hectic. 

I have subsequently become more proficient at whipping up quick dinners (or simply opting for takeaways when days are too busy) and I now know more parents and am able to set up lift clubs.


What does a typical day as an expat in Auckland look like?

My day starts with getting my children up and ready for an 8.30 am school start. I drive them to school and then make my way back home to tidy up, do some cleaning and laundry, and walk our Golden Retriever, Bailey, who came with us from South Africa. I probably do grocery shopping 3-4 times a week and I also play tennis once or twice a week at our local racquets club. 

I make sure that I finish all my household chores before fetching the kids at 3.20pm because my afternoons are incredibly busy with getting them to and from their extramural activities and supervising their homework. 

Most weeknight evenings we eat together as a family when Grant gets home from work.


When did you start your blog? For what reasons?

I started my blog in August 2009 as a way of documenting our move and sharing our immigration experiences with our family and friends.


Did you make new friends with your blog?

I have had a few people write to me to enquire about moving to New Zealand and I love to help in any way I can. 

And in addition to joining the Expat Blog, I signed up with a New Zealand ‘Mummy’ blog and through that website I’ve met up with a few Auckland mums over a cup of coffee.


Why did you register on Expat Blog and what do you think of the website?

I initially visited the Expat blog so that I could read about other immigrants’ experiences, specifically in New Zealand; and after reading some of the blogs I found on the site, I decided to register my own blog too. I think it’s a great resource for expats.


Which advice would you give to the other Expat Blog members who would like to settle in Auckland (or New Zealand)?

Well, if you’re looking for a relaxed, safe lifestyle and a good quality of life, New Zealand will not disappoint. 

Schooling in Auckland is generally good and I don’t think you can really go wrong with most of the schools on the North Shore (I know more about these school as we live on the North Shore). (Of course some are worse/better than others).

Come with an open mind, an adventurous spirit and a love of the outdoors and you should live a very happy life here. Kiwis are generally fair, kind, helpful and generous people and if you’re willing to integrate and do your part you should fit in very nicely.

The Migrating Swans

4 years ago

I am realy very happy about you and you are living in New Zealand with your lovely childrens and husband.. I wish all best for all of with God Bless

4 years ago

Hi so nice you have a good chance i dont know if i would get a chance like this

4 years ago

Good adventure. I like & wish to experience same thing but very unfortunate. New Zealand do not have friendly immigration system. You must have job experience or employment offer in there before you can be considered for migration. I tried my luck in January 2014 but all end in refusal for lack of New Zealand job experience. Like you your existing family tie aided your smooth migration. I will not mind if you can assist by way of good information on how to migrate to the country when there are no New Zealand job experience or family tie. I am a prospecting friend from Nigeria.