Living in Hawkes Bay

Havelock North Vineyard
Havelock North Vineyard, Hawkes Bay by Citikiwi
Name: Ruth
Age: 38
Occupation: Housewife
Number Emigrating: 5
Emigrated from: The Cotswolds, UK
Moved to: Hawkes Bay
When did you arrive in NZ: February 2012
My Story Written: 2012
Daily Commute Time: 0 mins! Husband’s has gone from 1+ hour each way in the UK (and battling the M5!) to 10 mins here.
Moving to Hawkes Bay

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!

Streetscene from Havelock North, Hawke’s Bay

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!)

What have I learnt that may help someone else doing this?
  • 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!
  • Surfing in Hawkes Bay
    Surfing in Hawkes Bay
  • 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.
  • I still haven’t put a coat on this winter, I don’t know whether it’ll strike me as cold next year, when we’ve got used to the NZ weather but so far it’s like an English spring here in Hawkes Bay. It’s definitely not mid-winter as I know it! Nights are cold yes, but days are mostly sunny and I’m still getting 2+ loads of washing a day dry on the line and we’re still hitting the beach most weekends/park after school. It does rain but it’s not the all day long, grey rain I’m used to – it belts it down and then it’s done for the day. I like it!
Summing Up

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!

Read more UK to NZ Reviews

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Invercargill – Kat and Bob
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Tauranga – Dianne and Paul
Wellington – Richard and Olivia
Wellington – Stephen

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20 thoughts on “Living in Hawkes Bay”

  1. Good da Ruth, you probably won’t read this post but I still need to try. Are you still in New Zealand, Hawkes Bay? We are planning to go there, but would like to know a bit more. We are from South Africa? Should you be interested in answering a few question please let me know. Thank you very much. Regards Zarien.

  2. Hi there,

    Just read your story and my wife and I have a lot of the same issues as you are having. We moved to Christchurch 18 months ago and we are 5 weeks away from having our first child. We’ve tried meeting new people and joining clubs etc but we still really miss our family and friends. We are also very close with our families and as beautiful as New Zealand is, we feel we are missing out on our families lives. My parents are retired now and as horrible as it sounds, I’d hate for anything to happen to them and I missed the last few years of their life. We are both from Scotland and although the weather is nicer here, it’s just not enough to keep us here. We don’t mind about the housing or the shopping being more expensive, we just wish it was closer to the UK so we could go home a bit more often. Even if we could nip home for a week once or twice a year it would make a big difference. We went home for a wedding last year and for the 2 of us it cost around $10,000 in total. We just couldn’t afford to do that every year. I think if you have a good network of friends and you are close to your families it is a difficult move coming over here. I have been applying for work back in Scotland and if I can get a job we’ll go back. At least we can say we’ve given it a good go and we don’t have any regrets about coming over. It’s been a good adventure. Good luck and I hope everything works out for you.


  3. Hi Ruth,
    I have had a job offer to work in New Zealand but I really can’t make up my mind. I really liked your blog so I wondered if you would have anything to say to make it easier.
    I am very nearly 49, my partner is 52, our children are 9 and 11, both boys.
    My reasons for going would be that my job at the moment is under review, and I don’t particularly enjoy it although in terms of childcare is suits us very well.
    My partners business is struggling. My eldest boy is about to finish at primary school.
    I find the brits unsociable and have very little family to consider. However…….. I am very close to my mother who is now 79! I also believe that opportunities for my boys here in the UK are limited in terms of jobs, and housing market and perhaps they would stand a better chance over there.
    I have lived in NZ before and know that it is an outdoor, sociable lifestyle, however, I didn’t have any children then, but I think it would suit my boys very well.
    My reasons for staying would be that we are comfortable here, it’s easier and I won’t have to leave my mother.
    And of course we would be starting all over, no home, no car, no job for my partner, quite late in life.
    Do you have anything to say that could help us?
    I look forward to hearing from you.

  4. hi ruth
    my husbad and our 5yr old son are currently trying to make the decision of new zealand or australia , i really enjoyed reading your story , the no heating was the scary part for me !! im a registered nurse so work should be easy to find , i hope !!! and my husband a car mechanic + panel beater ,
    so much to decide on which area but hawkes bay sounds lovely , is there a hospital there ? work colleagues who have moved to perth say go there , any advice would be greatly appreciated
    hope to hear from you soon
    confused mags

  5. I moved from London to MIami in 1983 and left all my family behind. I was only 21 at the time and didn’t really think about the future. I’m still here 30 years later. I do get to see my sisters and parents every few years but I do often think about all the lost time, birthdays and holidays I’ve missed. All I know is that I cannot turn back the clock. I’m fortunate to be married to a wonderful woman. I have also considered a move to NZ. I had a good friend in London when I lived there that was from Hawkes Bay but I have no idea where he is now. You longer you spend in a new place, the less likely you are going to want to move back especially if your children grow into the culture. Unfortunately, the UK is not the place it used to be.

  6. Loved reading your story Ruth, very moving. My husband and I are thinking of coming out to NZ with our two little ones (7 and 5 year old girlies) for a year adventure. I really enjoyed your story and has filled me with excitement – we only chatted about it at lunch together today, but I feel really inspired to make steps towards this exciting new adventure!
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and emotions, you sound adorable
    Kind regards, beks

  7. Hi all. My husband and I are planning to move to New Zealand by 2014. We have 3 young children (6, 8, 10) and are scared and excited at the same time. We are not sure what area we are moving to yet but will check out Hawkes Bay after reading your posts. We currently live in Indiana (America). Thank you for sharing your experiences! It really helps to read real stories!. Thanks. Tammy Rimer.

  8. Thanks for the wonderful article. I’ve always wanted to move somewhere, but it was only yesterday that NZ had crossed my mind. Imagine, I even dreamt of it last night and, now, having read about your lovely experience, I get to thinking about it as a spiritual revelation, … I am sure kids are going to love it.

  9. Hey Ruth!!

    I am really glad to found your posting. It gives me new confidence about making the decision and moving to nz. But I am also sure that its not so easy. Its nice to hear that your children like being there as well.

    Happy to read your insight of nz!

  10. Hi Ruth,
    Thank you for posting your blog about life in Hawke’s Bay, it’s been really enlightening to read. My partner and I lived in HB between 2008-2010 and then returned to the UK. We are considering moving back in the next two years and start a family there. It is very scary thinking about the change, even though we ‘know’ the area from before.
    What are your thoughts about the education system there? Is it less pressurised than the UK?
    I’m really glad to hear you are enjoying your life there, Have lock North is a lovely area!
    Many Thanks,

  11. Great little read! I spent a year in NZ in ’06 ’07 and fell in love, not only with the country (including the people, their culture and landscape), but I also met my wife there. We are living in Germany now but we both want to make the big move to NZ.

    How did you husband get a job offer? It seems so impossible to find a job from such a distance! To be completely honest I am more than grossly intimidated about our visa possibilities… I guess moving as a UK citizen makes things easier. I am Canadian and we don’t get my special treatment

    My biggest issues are my level of education (just a college diploma, no degree) and what I studied (the run of the mill Marketing program, blah). So as you can imagine my chances of appearing desirable to a kiwi company are not spectacular. On the other hand my wife has her bachelor’s degree in International Business & Management and we are both currently being working at her dad’s business (a beverage wholesale), being trained to take it over (yes he knows we want to leave )

    So for the last year we have been earning fantastic experience but I just dont feel confident about our chances getting the job/visa we need.

    So now you know about us Any thoughts? Anything, really! It’s funny because we actually feel defeated even without having applied for a visa. The points that we have accumulated for the points system visa program aren’t huge, but enough to get us past the first barrier. Unfortunately the list of applicants and their points scores that were successful in their attempts were all much higher than our result. I guess that is why we haven’t tried.

    Well Sorry for the long post. We hope you have some ideas! Ta for now!

    1. Hi Matt, wow, I so wish I had some advice but my journey here was powered by my husbands job offer and I haven’t any real advice on the visa/application process. Maybe you could try the forums, I found it so helpful when we were making the move as there was always someone in the same place as us. Don’t be disheartened or defeated, if this whole process has taught me anything it’s that you’ve got to keep going …. because not trying is worse than never getting there anywhere (check me out, developing a zen/holistic approach to life all of a sudden!) Give me a shout if you need a proverbial kick up the arse, give the forum a shout if you need real advice! PM if you want to chat some more. R x

  12. I really needed to read this today. Thanks so much for sharing your story. My husband and I are moving from Ohio to Hawke’s Bay with our 2 young sons (2&4) in a couple of months. I am finding it harder and harder to focus on our reasons for moving as the time of departure approaches. Thanks for the reminder and for the tips!

    1. Evelyn, please pm me when you’re here/nearly here – there’s a cup of tea and a friendly face here waiting for you! Rx

  13. Hi Ruth , It really good to read a most resent story . There is so much to think about and find out when moving to the other side of the world. We visited New Zealand last year and loved it , we have our visas to return by next year . We want to do it but are very scared . But reading your story has help so much
    Many thanks

    Michelle Allard

    1. Hi Michelle, thank you my lovely, I was scared as hell when we started this process and it *is* scary, there’s no denying it BUT it’s worth it, promise. R x

  14. Hi Ruth

    Thank you for your story. We are hoping to move to New Zealand by the end of the year, just waiting to sell our house.
    We have 2 children aged 8 and nearly 6 and have talked to them about our new move being a big adventure that we are going on. Your story brought a tear to my eye as I know leaving everyone will be hard but I can’t wait for our new life together!!

    1. Hey Zoe, you’re welcome and thank you! To be honest i wrote this blog expecting no-one to read it so I’m so happy that people may have read and taken some comfort from it! R x

      1. Hi this is great to hear and very honest. We are thinking of relocating here in January with our newborn baby, I’m scared and excited suppose I just don’t want to be lonely. Really good to hear that u can make friends and there are groups around. Thank u


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