7 unforeseen life changes since becoming an expat

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Before I even left home in 2009 to study in New Zealand, I knew I wanted to stay longer.Truth be told, I didn’t know that much about New Zealand and its culture or lifestyle before I rocked up to what I now know as this amazing country. I’d heard that it was common to hire new grad teachers, and I could possibly get a job after I graduated, if I stayed, as others had done. No need to tell me twice, I knew that going back to Canada, it would be a mission to get my foot in the door for any job in teaching. And to be quite honest, I just didn’t know where I would want to live if I went back to Canada (heck, I still don’t!). So rather than have to decide, staying was a much more thrilling option.
Now in my 4th year of living the expat life abroad, I’ve been reflecting on how both my life and I myself have changed since arriving. I’ve had my family and a handful of friends (from both high school and university) visit me, and I can only imagine how different I am now compared to the girl they knew. I can’t pin these changes on any one thing, because surely me growing up has something to do with it all; and New Zealand is so diverse lots has to do with specifically where I am in the country that has shaped me as well.Here are the things that are normal to me now, that I realise once upon a time, never would have been!

7 unforeseen life changes since becoming an expat

 #7 Shopping bags are a thing of the past
This is a normal and acceptable way to do the shopping

Perhaps my new method is a bit more time consuming, moving everything item by item each step, but it’s got its benefits too. I do like being environmentally friendly and saving money because I’m not paying 10cents per bag at the ONLY supermarket in town.

#6 I am comfortable driving on the left side of the road

Photographic evidence of my FIRST time
behind the wheel on the left!

This photo depicts the white-knuckled, self-inflicted stress of my first New Zealand roadtrip with Mel in 2009. Although I’d been a passenger for 3 months prior to, I still had to remind myself “steering wheel- centre line, steering wheel-centre line”. Nowadays, I can say I cruise with ease. Back then, I never thought I’d see the day. I have even tackled venturing through Auckland city (at peak traffic – by myself!) and I HATED, DESPISED and AVOIDED doing that everywhere in Canada!


#5 I  (somewhat) understand and enjoy rugby games
Rugby World Cup 2011 – Canada vs Tonga

It may have taken me the entire three years leading up to it, but I have come from being the girl that just went to Carisbrook stadium to have a few overpriced Speights and socialise during a rugby game; to the girl who downloaded the  RWC app to keep up with scores and sat at home and watched games on tv while my boyfriend did other stuff. I still can’t really tell when a bad call is made (I mean if I were watching alone, I wouldn’t be all up in arms and telling you about it the next day), but I’ve come a long way and at least understand the scoring and some rules etc! I’m pretty proud of myself on this one.

#4 I live on a world famous (in NZ at least) beach

That’s my house; ON the beach!

I’ve always said “put me by water and I’m a happy girl“, so this is seriously my dream come true! I love the beach, the sound of the waves, the diversity and how I’ve learned it changes dramatically with each tide change, swell and storm. I’ve got itchy feet and crave being on the road again, so if I have to be stationary, I’m glad it is here.
          

#3   Slowing down life

A slower pace of life
 I find especially now that I’m not doing the 15km commute into town every day, I appreciate and enjoy the drive to town a little bit more. I used to get especially irritated every time I got stuck behind a Sunday driver doing 80km/hr in the 100 zone… but now, I’ve chilled out. I’ll get there, what good is road rage going to do? Doesn’t mean I don’t give the odd verbal abuse as I pass, but I have chilled out heaps!

#2 Life goes on without a dryer!

Inside or outside, this is the only method of
drying clean clothes these days
Plan ahead or wear something else. There is no speeding up the rate at which certain things will air dry. Obviously some items are far quicker than others, but there’s not much you can do. Again on the saving money front, not having access to a dryer means our electricity bill won’t be as high. Also linked to the slower pace of life adaptation, if I can’t change it, why stress about it?
And the biggest change I never expected…..

#1 I’ve become THE WATER POLICE!

This is all the water we have
 Of course I remember learning about why and how to conserve water as a kid, i.e. turn off the tap when you brush your teeth. That’s all well and good, but I’ll admit I was always a lover of the long shower; having lots of long hair, I can sympathize with how long it takes to rinse out shampoo. But since moving to the far north in 2010 (yes, the year that this region went 7 MONTHS without any rain!), I have really come to appreciate the goodness of rainwater. Every drop counts. Every extra second wasted, is that bit you will come to need in the future. Although this year has been uncharacteristcally wet, you live by that fear of the unknown – “how long does this tank have to last us? When will it rain again next?” I’ve been lucky in that I have yet to shell out the $300+ for a tank refill (even then they’ll only give you a half a tank, I’ve heard through the grapevine), I believe this is my diligent effort to make sure everyone in my house, regardless of who they are or how long they stay, conserves water.
An honourable mention could go to “I’ve got an accent” but let’s be honest, I’ve always been the one that talks with a accent compared to others, no matter where I go. The kiwi-isms I use regularly were bound to happen too, so it’s not really unexpected, although other Canadians will call me out on the using them all the time. My brain just thinks in Kiwi now :)

Good or bad, unexpected or not, I am quite happy with my life in New Zealand, and I wouldn’t change any it!

What things changed for you living/working abroad?

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{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Erik Smith May 8, 2012, 1:56 am

    I love this! I’m going to try your shopping bag-less method- it might be chaos, though.

    I don’t drive in Auckland until the very end of my trip, and I lived 10 years in Chicago- I hope that prepared me!

    Reply
  • CanucKiwiKate May 10, 2012, 8:29 am

    Just embrace the good kiwi mantra: “she’ll be right!” and it’ll work out. The thought of Auckland is daunting, but I can cope with it and I NEVER drove in the city in Canada (on the right side of the road)

    Reply
  • Jaryd September 15, 2013, 8:34 am

    Haha the Water Police, thats great! Good on you, keep killing it and loving life Kate

    Reply

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