In this week’s Honest Expat interview I’m finding out more about the expatriation of Ingrid and her two girls, Hayley and Chloe to New Zealand…
“When my ex-husband and I split, my eldest called us “the daffodils”. She said it was to celebrate new beginnings and our new family of 3. The Daffodils emigrated last October and have recently celebrated our 1 year anniversary in NZ! We are glad to report daffodils grow in abundance in Dunedin in Spring time… so we feel like this was really meant to be!”
Where are you originally from?
Born and raised in JHB SA
Where did you emigrate to?
Dunedin, New Zealand
When did you emigrate (year)?
What was the catalyst/s for your emigration decision?
Honestly this had been coming for some time. We had had an armed robbery in 2015, personal attacks, and continuous crime around us. The daily neighbourhood WhatsApp chats were getting pretty heavy with daily crime reporting and happenings. [Real reporting, not just chat or banter]
I had run a business for close to 10 years and this was getting harder due to the economy, budgets and BEE ratings.
My divorce pushed things over the line as well, I emptied out my pockets to pay him out, and then things like private schooling started getting expensive and I became a struggling main breadwinner for 2 children.
I started really looking at things that didn’t work on a governmental level and was getting frustrated by them. I started being exposed to open hatred, and I started finding JHB really ugly. High walls, electric fences. I couldn’t see positives anymore. I didn’t see beauty I saw problems. I started to realise that life wasn’t normal in SA on many levels and that my children and I would be better off if we looked at a better life elsewhere.
How long had you thought through the emigration process?
I started thinking about it when I had my children. There was always an excuse though and it never progressed. It became more serious after instances of crime, attack, and just watching an ongoing system that didn’t work… we really started to realise that we had normalised so many things that shouldn’t be normalised.
How easy/ complicated was the application process to emigrate and how
long did it take? Did it require certain qualifications/ documentation/ finances etc?
I consulted with an agent, and followed their advice. Each country is different ito what is required I would assume. I wasn’t on a skills shortage list, so needed to qualify for a work visa. My degree, age and expertise definitely helped in the process. It’s a chicken and egg – you need a visa for a job and a job for a visa… so working closely with the migration agent was key. I was really lucky that within 6 months of starting I had a solid job offer from a company that was prepared to work with the agent to sort the visa. It’s not a cheap endeavour!
What was your first year like after emigrating?
WOW!!!! on so many levels. It’s a wonderful journey and we have honestly not looked back. We went into it as an adventure and it hasn’t disappointed. We miss friends and an established “tribe”, but we settled relatively easily into our new home, and love Dunedin.
What have you loved about your new home – for you and your children?
Things work! Post is delivered. Roads are fixed. Healthcare is covered. Schools are of a high standard without the cost… You can even get milk in bottles to your doorstep. Deliveries come to the house and are left on the doorstep without being stolen. There are NO burglar bars or high fences. My garage doesn’t lock. I forget to lock my house sometimes! News is boring! People are respectful and kind. NO TAXIS!!!
I love the Kiwis, they are just wonderful humans.
I met Jacinda Ardern late last year and she was so real. No pomp and ceremony. A real, focused leader.
I love being close to the beach! Dunedin is just a gorgeous city with so much to offer! The kids have settled easily into schools and people are so welcoming. I am so lucky to have landed a job I really love in a city that has so much to offer. It’s smaller than Auckland or Wellington, but has all the charm!
What have you found hard about your new home – for you and your children?
It’s an expensive undertaking, and there are costs that come at you that you just can’t foresee!
I wrapped up life in 6 weeks from job offer to move… and sorted logistics here simultaneously. All by myself as a solo parent with no help in SA.
Moving, settling two kids, wrapping up SA ties, starting a new job and a death in the family definitely have made me tired. I am ready for beach time in December!
What have you NOT missed about South Africa – for you and your children?
Crime. Bad Driving. A flawed system. A government that doesn’t listen… Costs! JHB altitude and dust.
What have you missed about South Africa – for you and your children?
Short winters and long summer! Mrs Balls and salmon roses! Sushi here is very different…
Knowing what you know now – would you emigrate again? To the same place or to a different place?
Definitely and SO happy here! Think we ended up exactly where we were meant to be.
If you could, would you return to South Africa? What would make you consider returning to South Africa?
No. Just No!
What makes it hard to return to South Africa – for you and your children?
We haven’t been back and have no real plans to. It’s expensive and very far!
What were the unexpected (good and bad) aspects of emigrating that you’d wished you’d known about before going. Do you have any advice for those contemplating making this huge move for their families?
It’s expensive, but so worth it. There are things you just don’t realise until you get here on a cost level and just couldn’t have budgeted for so have a good contingency fund.
TAKE THE ANIMALS WITH! They day they arrive your new home becomes home. If you choose not to – make sure you rehome or euthanize. They are your responsibility, not the SPCA’s.
See it as a project. It’s the biggest logistical endeavour of your life. With a wonderful ending. Keep an eye on the packers and take insurance. Make sure you have 6 months of your prescriptions as meds and doctors differ.
Try to cover as many costs for the first year upfront to make your budget easier. Things like car insurance can be paid annually which takes pressure off settling in to a new monthly budget.
You will miss friends. You will miss having your doctor and chemist and the local infrastructure that is familiar, but those things come in time. You also have to realise it’s a process. It’s hard when people don’t understand your cultural reference but in our case we have found Kiwis to be accepting and wonderful.
Use an agent – it may cost a little more, but you have so much to do on a project management level as it is so it’s worth it.
In order to make this decision you need to be at the right point to make it. It’s a line you cross – mentally and emotionally. Before you cross that line you just aren’t ready and will find a whole load of reasons not to do it. Once you make the decision it’s all go, and becomes a focused endeavour. Be patient. Trust and believe in what is meant to be. When you get to this side you will wonder what took you so long, and when you hear things come out of your own mouth you can’t believe you lived like that.
Kids are adaptable and will follow your lead. Be their example. Talk, communicate before, during and ongoing. It’s vital they feel they can talk and it’s safe to do so no matter how they feel. Make it the adventure it is. See the positives and live them. Recognise the hard part and be sentimental about the things you left behind.
Technology is wonderful and FaceTime and WhatsApp makes contact easier. Time differences become normal. People who are meant to stay in your life do. People you thought would make an effort don’t. That’s ok.
Remember to be kind to yourself. You made this decision for a reason. It’s ok to miss things, have moments and sometimes get frustrated. Aim to see the glass half full most of the time and embrace it all.
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt
If you enjoyed this interview with a South African expat be sure to read the other interviews with South African expats in The Honest Expat series.
If you are an Honest Expat and happy to share your own emigration story please leave a comment or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org