Further than you think

  • Further than you think
Blog of the month
Published 2011-03-01 00:00
My name is Whitney Cox and Iím a 25-year old American living in Christchurch, New Zealand. I moved around a lot when I was growing up, so thereís not really any one place I would say Iím Ďfromí: Iím just a general American.


Originally from Oregon, I'm now a graduate student at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.

My name is Whitney Cox and I’m a 25-year old American living in Christchurch, New Zealand.  I moved around a lot when I was growing up, so there’s not really any one place I would say I’m ‘from’: I’m just a general American.

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

I decided to move to New Zealand in 2009, when I was looking at going to graduate school.  The program at Canterbury was exactly what I wanted to do and, to be completely honest, it was significantly cheaper than any similar program in the US.

Settling down in New Zealand was no problem for me, since I have dual US/New Zealand citizenship. I brought my boyfriend with me though, and he’s an American citizen so I’ve been able to see what the process is like for most people. It doesn’t seem too complicated for Americans to get visitors, work or student visas. In his case, the university took care of most of his immigration issues.

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

I actually lived in New Zealand for a few years when I was in high school (this is how I got my citizenship), which was my first taste of living abroad. I lived in Vietnam for a year after college and travelled a bit from there. I’ve been to fifteen countries total, mostly around Southeast Asia and Oceania.

What do you like the most about New Zealand?

I love the laid-back nature of the culture. People work hard, but it’s also understood that work’s not the most important thing in the world. Almost everyone gets two weeks off over Christmas (it’s very normal for shops to just close for a few weeks) and most places have hours that seem baffling to an American (for example, the biggest mall in town closes at 6.30pm on weekdays). 

It can be frustrating occasionally, to find all the stores closing before I’m home from work, but it reflects a value of free time that I really appreciate.

How was the cultural shock? What are the main differences with your home country?

One of the hardest things for me to adjust to was the New Zealand accent. It’s notoriously difficult for Americans to understand and I always feel incredibly stupid when I can’t understand what people are saying to me in a language we both speak.

Do you miss anything from your homeland?

I really miss shopping. Because New Zealand is an isolated archipelago with a small population and a weak currency and a 15% sales tax, clothing and household items are really expensive. I was looking to buy a shower curtain recently and couldn’t find anything decent for under $40. It’s nothing serious, but it did make me miss Target and Ikea. 

Any 'memories of an expat' you would like to share with other expat blog members? Your best souvenir? Or maybe your worst experience?

My best expat souvenir actually comes from when I was living in Vietnam... I was unemployed and short on cash one month and so I went on this Vietnamese game show to try and win some money. 

The whole experience was hilarious and bewildering (I had no idea what was going on most of the time) and culminated in a Vietnamese-language sing-off on top of a mountain.  I’m an appalling singer but somehow managed to out-sing my opponent. I won 5 million Vietnam dong (about $300) and a wooden statue the size and general shape of an Oscar, but wearing a conical hat. I still have the statue and smile every time I look at it.

As there recently was an earthquake in Christchurch, could you tell us how you lived that moment? How was the situation at that time in the country and how is it now?

When the earthquake hit, I was on my lunch break at work, walking around downtown. It was just dumb luck that I didn’t happen to be standing under any tall buildings at the time. It felt like someone was shaking the sidewalk the way you’d whip a towel to get sand off of it. I just tried to stay on my feet while I watched the office building across the street crumple and the cars in the street roll into each other. It was really scary, but fortunately all my friends and co-workers were fine.

Christchurch pretty much shut down after that. Schools and workplaces closed; water, power and sewage weren’t available in all of the suburbs; grocery stores put limits on the amount of bottled water and batteries you could buy and a lot of people left town. Since the earthquake (it’s been almost three weeks), power and water are mostly back on and businesses and most schools are starting back up. But the destruction was pretty severe and I think it will be a few years before things are really back to normal.

When did you start your blog? For what reasons?

I started my blog in January 2011, about two months ago. I’m getting ready to start a 200-page thesis and I also work part-time as a copywriter, so I wanted pick up a hobby that would keep writing fun for me. I also had a blog that I really enjoyed writing when I lived in Vietnam, so this seemed like an obvious thing to do.

Did you make new friends with your blog?

I haven’t made any new friends with my blog (yet). I have, however, reconnected with friends I’ve made from living in random places around the world. The blog has gotten me back in touch with a lot of great people I had lost contact with, which I think is just as awesome as making new friends.

When did you register at Expat-blog? Any particular reasons?

I registered with Expat-blog in January 2011 because I think reading blogs is a great way to get learn about a place, without the marketing agendas of mainstream travel media, and I wanted to make my blog accessible to people interested in New Zealand.

Which advice would you give to people who would like to live in New Zealand?

Buy a car. I’m usually a public transportation junkie, but New Zealand is my one exception. This is such a fantastic country to explore, and it’s small enough that you can really see a lot of it just by taking a few long weekends and driving around. 

Further than you think