Barbara in Wellington: "It is a nice compact city that is easy to get about"

Expat interviews
  • Barbara in Wellington
Published on 2014-08-14 at 00:00 by team
Barbara grew up in Scotland. She lived in Copenhagen with her Swedish husband before settling with him in Wellington, New Zealand, in January 2013...

Why did you decide to move to Wellington?

My husband's job. He is an Associate Professor at Victoria University. We hadn't planned on NZ, but the opportunity was far too good to pass up.

How was the moving process?

Stressful! Luckily, our removal costs were paid for by my husband's new employers. The packing/removal men in Copenhagen were dreadful, had no idea about what we were not allowed to take to New Zealand and did not listen to any of our instructions. On discussing this with other people who moved here, the same company in the UK were much more professional. My advice - pick the company with care.

What are the formalities you had to go through in order to be able to live and work in New Zealand?

We were lucky in that because my husband had a job, the visa applications were straightforward. My own personal application was as his spouse. However, because neither of us were living in our own country, there were issues to deal with such as getting two sets of police checks. Getting organised with medical checks took time as well. I had read so many horror stories on ex-pat websites, but we had no problems.

How did you find a job in Wellington? Any advice to share with the other members?

Again, I was lucky. A couple of months before we moved, I started browsing sites like Jobrapido to see what sorts of things were available. I applied for a job that I was over qualified for, and was lucky in that the person who saw my CV, passed it on to someone else. A temporary post became available and I fitted the bill. My advice - start early, apply for lots of things, get your CV out there. Networking is important, though from my experience, Linked In is not used so much here.

How about accommodation?

We stayed in a service flat for the first three weeks. This was great as of course it was fully furnished and equipped with kitchen utensils and so on. This kind of accommodation is readily available in Wellington. We found a house to rent very quickly through friends of friends. If you have contacts, use them. We had been informed that you could not buy until you got residency, which is incorrect.

Did you face some difficulties to adapt to your host country (language, culture, do's and don'ts)?

No. At least for me, it was much easier than moving to Denmark, not just in terms of language, but in terms of culture. My husband however sometimes notices things such as that indirect way of commenting or approaching a problem, which for me as a British person, comes naturally! It was tough for my teenage step-son as his third language is English, though he quite quickly adapted to using it every day. He also got used to wearing a school uniform and addressing the teachers as 'sir'!

What surprised you the most in Wellington?

How polite people are on buses. School pupils in uniform have to stand up for adults on the bus.

Is it easy to meet new people in Wellington?

It depends I think on the individual and their own interests. People here are friendly and chat, so going to evening classes is a good way to meet people. There are numerous groups based on the Meet Up website in Wellington covering all interests.

Could you please share with us something you like about Wellington and something you don't like?

I like the fact that it is so green. When I lived in Denmark, I missed the green and hills of Scotland and so am happy now to be in a place where those things are around me. It is also a nice compact city that is easy to get about. Moving here from Denmark, it has been a joy to be able to buy good, fresh food in supermarkets, especially fish.
The airport - not the airport itself, but the fact that it is small and you can only fly to Australia outside of New Zealand. A capital city should have much better air links.

A common belief about New Zealand which wasn't right:

That it is like the UK in the 60s. It isn't.

What do you miss the most from Scotland, your home country?

Friends and family.

What does your typical day as an expat in Wellington look like?

I walk to work through the Botanic Gardens and Bolton Street Memorial Park. It is so nice to live so close to so much green after Copenhagen. My husband drives his son to school. 3 days a week I go to an exercise class at lunch time. One of the nice things about living here is that people take a lunch break and often do some form of activity. At the end of the working day, I usually meet my husband for a lift home, sometimes stopping at the supermarket. I go to an exercise class one day after work, and usually my husband and I go out for something to eat in town after. Weekends vary according to the weather, but usually involve food shopping and housework at some point. If the weather is good, we go for a drive somewhere or a walk. If the weather is bad, we might go to the cinema, an exhibition or just stay at home.

What are the most popular activities in Wellington?

I'm interested in the arts and don't feel 'starved'. We have the Royal New Zealand Ballet and two contemporary dance companies here as well as the NZ School of Dance. There is a biannual performing arts festival, annual jazz, film, food and comedy festivals, music of all sorts, opera, musicals and some good cinemas offering not just Hollywood blockbusters. Sport is of course huge, and it is easy and cheap to see rugby and football. There are loads of gyms and exercise places, and people walk here a lot. There are lots of beautiful places to drive to at weekends, and numerous good places to eat. If you are interested in craft beers, that this is the city to be in.

Is there any local habit you have adopted since living here?

Walking to work, going to the vegetable market, and lunchtime exercise!

Before settling in New Zealand, you lived in Denmark: what did you learn from all those years abroad?

Be prepared to get out there and do things to meet people. People don't come knocking on your door. Even if you think the culture is similar, there will be differences. Don't expect family and friends to visit. There is nothing wrong with continuing to listen to 'The Archers' wherever you are!

Which advice would you give to people wishing to live in Wellington?

Don't believe all the stuff about the bad weather! Yes it is windy here, but not as bad as it is painted. Get yourself a small pocket torch. Many houses (like ours) are up private staircases or hidden away and there may not be street lights. Buy a good wind and waterproof jacket and comfortable walking shoes.

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