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Thread: 6 months in ..... diary of a culture shocked Mum of 3!

  1. #1
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    Default 6 months in ..... diary of a culture shocked Mum of 3!

    Hey All, I feel a bit cheeky popping back now, I used to read the boards daily as we prepared to emigrate and then abandoned all semblance of normality once we hit NZ shores and haven't been back since!

    I'd never set foot in NZ before we landed here. Husband had travelled here about 10 years ago and always loved it. He got offered a job, we talked, we agreed, he took it and the wheels were in motion. We decided in August to go for it, we were here by February the next year. People said we were brave and that they admired us. I thought we were a bit ignorant about the reality of it all to be honest! We've got 3 children - 2 boys, aged 7 and 4.5 and a girl, aged 18 months. We're phenomenally close to our families, and all lived within 20 miles of each other at home. This move has impacted on our parents greatly, I know husband's Mum struggles daily with the fact we're here, and my Mum has good days and bad days about us being so far away.

    Well, we landed in Auckland on Feb 11th, me, 3 children and my parents in law (Husband having come over in early January to start work/look for a house etc parents in law coming out for a holiday/to help me on the loooooong flight!) We left Heathrow in the snow, freezing our fingers and toes off and very shell shocked after so many emotional goodbyes and landed to the sound of cicadas and a wall of heat in Auckland. Seeing husband again after 5 weeks apart just added to the slightly-drunk-but-actually-jet-lagged feeling of unreality that the first night (we landed at midnight) and first few days presented us with. We did a road trip down to Hawkes Bay, which whilst I'm sure it was all lovely, I barely remember!

    So, we're here now, our older two children are settled into school and kindy. The smallest and I are doing the round of toddler groups and parent and child centre sessions to try and make enough new friends that the pang of homesickness is lessened slightly and so far? Well, so far, it's working. What have I learnt that may help someone else doing this? If you don't mind I'll just bullet point it all as it comes to mind (having just been to a music class with the smallest my brain is literally full of 'the wheels on the bus' and when I can conceivably put her down for a nap so I can have a restorative cup of tea!)

    * We treated the whole thing as an adventure - the kids responded much better to 'well, we'll have to find out/discover/work it out together when we get there' than trying to give them definite answers to questions like 'do they sell hula hoops' or 'do they eat custard' (seriously, our 4.5 year old was very concerned with the important stuff!) We also promised them that they could choose things from the supermarket to try and replace anything they couldn't get (hence they discovered that they love Superwine biscuits instead of digestives, hokie pokie ice cream instead of malteser etc etc) Everything was geared towards them being in charge of how they found things out. It was a massive pain in the behind for a while because the supermarket shop took twice as long (and cost twice as much!) but it was a small price to pay to give them the confidence to find their own way.

    * Get them settled asap into school/kindy - we lived in a rental in Napier to start with but knew we wanted to buy a house in Havelock so got the boys started about a fortnight after we arrived, even though it meant an hour's round trip every morning, lunchtime and end of school time for a while. The scenery on the school run kind of made up for the hell that is doing it 3 times daily with a grouchy 18 month old who does not want to strapped into a car seat again! Selfishly the boys starting also meant that I had some time to house hunt with only grouchy smallest to deal with! It also meant we met people via drop off/pick ups and had a vague sense of real life that way, as opposed to the holiday mode we'd been in before.

    * Never turn down an invite, people were, and still are, very friendly here and wanted to help as much as they could when we were settling in. We got invites to tea with the kids and made some good friends that way. We're now on 'drinking buddy' terms (when we can get a babysitter and actually make it out into the real world!) and it's nice to be able to text/call people on the same time zone to have a chat!

    * The wine here is shockingly good. This is good and bad. We probably drank a bit too much when we got here and called it 'supporting local businesses' (we're slap bang in the midst of some awesome vineyards here!)

    * People here (native kiwis and residents who have lived here a while!) are very blunt, don't ask a question if you don't want the absolute truth back. They are also very good at helping with the kids if they're being less that impeccably behaved - i.e. 'listen to your Mum or she won't give you those lollies you're looking at' in the local 4Square!

    * My Mum and brother in law have recently visited, both times the goodbyes have been harder than saying goodbye when we left the UK. I've accepted that for a couple of days after each visitor, I have a low time of it. I've started to just accept that, make no plans for those days other than tidying the house/ferrying the boys to sports/school/kindy and maybe drinking tea and wallowing. It works for me.

    * Cold houses, what can I say? I'd read forums, I knew the score, it wasn't a shock. Our house is cold at night but we're mid-winter and it's only for 3 months a year. We're learning what works (electric blankets on our bed until we get in!) we've installed eco-saver wall panels in the children's rooms and that works brilliantly for them. I love our fire, would love it more in conjunction with some central heating mind! We also have a very effective heat pump. All trial and error but am fairly confident that the house isn't the ice box it once was!

    *Electricity bill - ouch and ouch again. $240 ..... Would do a whole prima donna 'why the hell is it so high?' routine but realistically I know why it's so high - uninsulated house + swimming pool (that still needs the filter being run for at least 30 minutes a day, even in winter) + heat pump addiction + wall panels in 2 rooms = ouch bill. Such is life, we're trying to be fairly laid back about it though I am now lighting police and switch off everything when it's not being used!

    * Join what you can - I go to a music group, 2 x parent and child sessions, a library pre-school session and 2 x coffee mornings a week. Hook up with anyone you know/someone you know knows - my BIL works with a girl in London whos twin sister lives 5 minutes from me, it might sound sad but I asked to meet her at the park with our kids one day because, trust me, life is a million more settled once you *know* some people!

    * Grocery bills - are higher than in the UK BUT mainly due to there not being any 3 for 2, BOGOFF offers etc on things like nappies/wipes that we used to get at home. The fresh, seasonal fruit and veg compensates greatly. My kids now know what they can have, when - no strawberries but yay, it's mandarin season and 1kg of mandarins is $2. We've discovered eating seasonal produce, bought straight from roadside vege stalls or our local farm shop. I've lost 2 stone since getting here which is always a bonus!

    * Missing home .... not going to dress it up, it hurts like hell by moments that I can't pop round to my Mum's for a cup of tea. I miss friends and family like crazy, life feels very transient when you first get here, you have no mobile phone, you're in a rental house, the kids aren't in school and it feels odd to not be connected to anything/one here. We've slowly putting down roots, I even bumped into someone I knew in the supermarket the other day, something I took for granted at home but felt very significant here! Walking down the street and not knowing a soul is as liberating as it is unsettling!

    * Visiting the UK - we've made a pact that we won't go back for a visit until Christmas 2013 at the earliest. I feel that going back to everything that's familiar would be a mistake for us right now. We're still finding our feet here and things are strange and new and, whilst that's exciting, it's also a bit angst making occasionally, so risking going home and not wanting to come back isn't an option right now.

    * There IS a language barrier by moments! Chippies, lollies, jandals and pants all caused some confusion at some stage!

    * The scenery here is so big and so beautiful that you can't quite take it all in. I often take a photo to show friends/family only to look at it later and think 'No, no, it was more beautiful than that'. NZ really does have to be seen to be believed. My kids play on empty beaches, watch the sun set over Te Mata peak and go fishing off the pier with their Dad. They're barefoot and feral most of the time. This is why we came and I try not to lose sight of that.


    Do I see our future here? It's too early to tell, certainly we'll be here 5 years at least (the least amount of time we've decided we need to give it until we make any big decisions about where we go) Our children are our priority though and they love it here, eldest boy is on the hockey team, his little brother is on the soccer team and they both have twangs to their accents that make me both proud and little sad to hear. Our youngest will never know the UK as home, unless we go back. As for me? I'm happy 95% of the time, the other 5% I have little pangs about old buildings, M & S and a good gossip with old friends!

    Oh, and the smallest went down for a nap about 5 lines into this (before anyone thinks she's been playing around with no attention whilst I offload!) The wheels on the bus obviously tired her out!

  2. #2
    Manks's Avatar
    Manks is offline Serial procrastinator and general busybody
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    Thanks for coming back and sharing your journey with us

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    Quote Originally Posted by RHT View Post
    * We treated the whole thing as an adventure - the kids responded much better to 'well, we'll have to find out/discover/work it out together when we get there' than trying to give them definite answers to questions like 'do they sell hula hoops' or 'do they eat custard' (seriously, our 4.5 year old was very concerned with the important stuff!)
    That sounds like about half the questions on this forum! (and of course all perfectly legitimate )

    Good luck with the settling in further.

    Daniela

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    Lovely post.
    Thanks for sharing. Best Wishes to you and your family.

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    Wonderful, honest post. Thank you!

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    thanks for such an informative post

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    Good to read. We have been here just 6wks and all going well so far.

    Like yourselves we are taking each day as it comes and not putting any pressure on ourselves to be here forever. It will be what it will be.

    Best of luck for the future.

  8. #8
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    Nice writing! All the best!

    But why 'culture shocked'?! I understand you knew that UK and NZ are not the same. I would think they are close enough in culture for not to be shocked going from one to the other.

    Just think about relocating from Penzance to London or vice versa...
    Last edited by ralf-nz; 19th June 2012 at 10:25 PM.

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    RHT, nice to see you posting again. Thanks for the update.

    But Ralf, culture shock doesn't imply that the person is surprised - it's the name for a mental condition caused by going into a new environment, which can even shade into depression. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_shock You can get culture shocked by a move within your own original country!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by ralf-nz View Post
    But why 'culture shocked'?! I understand you knew that UK and NZ are not the same. I would think they are close enough in culture for not to be shocked going from one to the other.
    As JandM said, 'culture shock' is the the name of a state and doesn't indicate surprise. In fact, you can even 'get' it when you know you can 'get' it.

    And personally, I think I'd get culture shock moving from Penzance to London (or vice versa).

    Daniela

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