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Living abroad: pluses and minuses

by Kseniia

Can hardly believe only one day left before we hit three months of living in New Zealand! Despite the time flies way slower here, it still passed amazingly fast! But anyway we had plenty opportunities to explore local way of living. Honestly, I already feel more comfortable and happy here than I used to while living for 4 months in United States, for example. So today I want to share my personal pluses and minuses of living abroad. 

Pluses of living in New Zealand

1. Helpful and kind people. What you quickly understand in New Zealand is how easier your life becomes when you truly treat people like you want them to treat you in return. At the very beginning it was so unusual and surprising for us that unknown people try to help, support, search for an options even if they weren’t supposed to be offered. Who would ever behave like that without looking for a favor in return? That is exactly what happened when I’ve found my first job – they were looking for a person for only 5 hours per week, but knowing that I’m a student in search for a main income not an additional pocket money, they figured out how to offer me more tasks, so that I could earn more. People are not used to be jealous, to cheat or to search for personal profit here. They say what they think and do what they say. After about a month we learned not to be shocked each time a new evidence of such philosophy appeared and not to suspect cheat in every kind offer. And you know what? That made our life so easier!:)

2. Work-life balance. That is an unbreakable law for kiwis! If you’re working till 5 pm, it means you stand up at 5, switch of your computer and go home. No matter how far did you go with your goals and tasks, they can wait till tomorrow. At the same time, employers expect you to be in office exactly at the time you should start. If it’s 9 am, it’s 9 am, not 9:03 or something like that. Traffic jams, ill kids or eaten by your dog shoes are not the reason to be late. Compare that attitude to my Moscow way of working as a chief editor: sitting in office till 9 pm to be waken up by the employer before the sunrise to do random urgent stuff… No one in New Zealand would have ever allowed himself to behave like that toward the colleagues! Moreover, your employer will check that you don’t skip lunch of afternoon tea if they are included in your contract. And definitely will no one check e-mails on weekends. To say nothing about the fact, that you’re paid for each hour you’ve worked here and in Moscow we had fixed monthly wages no matter how dreadfully you’re overworking.

I was also happy to realize that they have fixed minimum hourly rate in New Zealand, which means no one would ever pay you below 15 dollars per hour and working for 20 hours per week while being a student allows you to lead a normal (not to fancy but still) life. So you can be pretty confident in your financial future. 

3. Informal behavior. Too formal communication is not welcomed in New Zealand. Almost impossible to meet Dear Sir/Madam in e-mails, especially in those written by people you know in person. Everyone just writes Hi! And while talking kiwis mostly use first names. We call our teachers Lee or Pam and I call my director at work just Marie and try not to forget to add several emodjis in my texts in order not to sound too official. No one expects you to make written agreement before meeting your employer when you can easily talk to him while running around. Of course, that is how things done in small businesses of Tauranga whereas huge international companies in Auckland might be slightly different. 

4. Security. Again, that is how things work in Tauranga. Big cities like Auckland have criminals, homeless people and other minuses of any megapolis. And here an event like a person using drugs happens so rarely that is considered to be worth the first page of the main local newspaper. Three months ago we were laughing about the fact, that policeman suggested us to close car and house when leaving. Like…seriously? In Russia you will have two steel front doors with several secret locks in your apartment saying nothing about an additional door to the porch! And now we live in a house with a door and walls around made of glass and sleep just opposite this door. Can’t imagine how many times I woke up scared to death during the first couple weeks, because it was like sleeping in the street with all your goods for me!

5. Beautiful nature. Due to the fact that New Zealand’s cities are not so big and there are not so many people living here, they managed to preserve that filling of living surrounded by nature even in the capital city. Every time we drive along the bay with yachts to studies, relax in the city center with the ocean view or walk to the supermarket through the palms alley, I understand that something in my life is finally happening the way it should be, the way I want it to be. No more depressing grey suburbs!

6. Lack of Russians. No seriously, that IS an advantage! Because I can’t get an idea of moving to, let’s say New York, to live on Brighton beach, where everyone speaks Russian, write in Russian and works with Russians. For me moving to another country means permanently upgrading your language, exploring new culture and doing your best to become a valuable part of it, don’t you agree? Russian people in New Zealand try to create a "community" (hate this word!), but we are focused on avoiding their activities for as long as possible, because we’re here to gain new experience, not to continue on doing what we are used to in a new city. Moreover, we’re really happy to finally live in a country without any stereotypes towards Russians. To tell you the truth, last several years of traveling sometimes reminded more of a torture than a leisure time because of an obviously bad attitude towards Russian tourists due to the political situation and an extremely impolite behavior of "Russo turisto". Here we finally have an opportunity to create those stereotypes by ourselves and we do our best to perform on a highest level we’re able to:) 

7. Lack of bureaucracy. Do you know how buying used car looks like in New Zealand? You choose it online, arrange a meeting, check it, give money and a former owner informs online that he have sold it to you. That’s it! Do you know how it normally happens in Russia? Several days, no exaggeration here, several days of visiting banks, police, different branches, trying to cheat customer or trying to notice how a selling person cheats, tons of nerves, etc… Before selling his car to us, its former owner fixed all the defects, that costed him almost half of the selling price. Not trying to teach you bad things, but back at home owner would probably just show it at night and hold the shaking door with his hand, so that you won’t notice the sound. But going back to the documents – car selling is only a single example. In New Zealand you can open your business in one day, order and receive bank card in 10 minutes and simply call IRD to find out any question. Wow, surprisingly, lack of unneeded difficulties don’t make this world even a tiny little bit more boring!

8. Amazing career perspectives. As students we’re only allowed to work 20 hours per week, so don’t  see the full picture yet. But what I can definitely say even now is that there is a lot, a lot of work for everybody here. Could I have ever expected that I will be able to work as a journalist in a country with the foreign language? But here is the thing: New Zealand is almost as big as England, but there are only 4.7 millions of people in here in comparison with over 60 millions of British population. Obviously, staff demand is also way higher. People are really friendly to foreigners here and are always ready to help and they pay attention to the abilities you would never take into a consideration in Moscow. like having blog if you want to do marketing here or taking care after your granny if you’re looking for a job in health service. Moreover, local education and working experience is valued in many other countries – useful fact for those who decide not to stay in New Zealand for some reasons. 

9. Nice climate. No. it’s not summer all year round in New Zealand! As well is in Australia, though the last one is way closer to the equator. Head to Singapore for the 365 days of summer. But anyway climate in New Zealand is pretty mild and the annual temperatures on the Northern island are way higher than in Moscow. In Tauranga, for example, it never gets colder than +10 in winter. And summer is about +25-30 degrees. We arrived at the very end of winter and most of the time it was very rainy, though on sunny days you could have sit outside without even wearing a jacket. Winter in South island is way more severe – snowy and full of penguins. And Wellington is windy as hell. But who said you have to go there?:)

10. Tasty and healthy food. There are fruits and veggies in New Zealand all year round: if not kiwis than avos, if not avos than strawberries. I will never forget how we’ve bought a bag of kiwis on our first day in New Zealand and ate all of them immediately, cause I have never yet tried such a mouthwatering sugary kiwi! Also local farmers are very proud to produce organic fruits and vegetables. As a result most of the jams, chocolates, yogurts, etc, are also very healthy, without any artificial ingredients. Sometimes I read the list of ingredients and can’t believe it is possible to produce all that delicious stuff without any bad ingredients! I recall, how our chief-editor laughed at as admiring local Bounty that had a real coconut inside. Please, someone tell our Russian Mars factory it is possible to create Bounty with a real coconut not that white substance you call a coconut filling!

Minuses of living abroad 

1. Being far from relatives and friends. That is obviously the hugest problem of living on the other side of the world. Moving to Italy (or Riga as we were thinking about) is easier – a couple hours flight and you’re having family dinner. When there are 25 hours of flying between you and your family, things become way more complicated. Of course, we talk to our parents brothers and sisters through Skype, but we can’t hug them and just be close to them.  We slowly make new friends here, but they are still far from being that close and valuable as those you’re making since childhood, so for some time in a foreign country we only have each other to rely on. Which is not that bad, of course:) But I can’t say we’re not missing parties and hanging out with friends at all.

2. Starting all over again. Moving to another country means starting your career from the very beginning. No matter how cool you might have been in a boss chair back at home, you will have to gain local experience first. And when moving as students like we did, you should be also ready to do the least fancy jobs like kitchen hand, serving at weddings or greeting guests at an outdoor festival. Giving up your ambitions, forgetting about your degree and huge experience might be really difficult sometimes. On the other hand, there are no bad or not respected jobs in New Zealand. If there is a job to be done it deserves to be respected. So even if you’re doing the dishwashing tasks at the restaurant, others would treat you like a colleague, not like an immigrant.  

3. Cold houses. That is about New Zealand in particular, not about any foreign country in general! But houses don’t have central heating here, so it gets really cold in winter. I used to sleep in socks and warm pijamas covered by a blanket and two plaids in order to keep warm at nights. Of course, we have a heater, but can’t leave it working all night long – who would pay for the electricity afterwords?:)

4. Expensive and slow internet.  Оk, I had to Google if it’s really expensive, because ours was included in rent:) But for sure do we download a movie for about an hour here VS below 15 minutes back at home. Or is it just me being to demanding? 

5. Being so remoted from the rest of the world. Our closest neighbor Australia is in 3 hours of flying and Dubai that has most of the transits – in 16! I just Googled a ticket to Maldives (because seriously why not?) and it was 2 000 dollars for one person!

Again I’m only touching the top of the iceberg (exactly like it was with the price and the way of moving to New Zealand), but I’m sure we will have plenty of time to discuss everything in the details yet. As always, we’re waiting for your comments  and suggestions below! 

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