My NZ Expat Life Story: Summed up in Flats and Photos

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nz expat luggae
My bags packed, ready to move to NZ to study in 2009
You know that old saying, “home is where the heart is”; for me it is so true. Once my heart arrived in New Zealand, it became my home. Sorry Mom and Dad, family and friends…  I fell in love with the fun-loving kiwi way of life, the “she’ll be right” mantra, the picturesque scenery wherever you go and figured if I have to be a grown up and get a real job, I was going to do it in one the most beautiful countries. I didn’t know at the time, but I was bound to be an NZ expat!

While I have remained living in the beautiful country of New Zealand since January 2009, for a while I was still feeling fairly ‘nomadic’ as I packed up my life and shifted to a new place to live, literally, every six months for almost 2 years.

In my travels throughout the country, I’ve stayed in lots of excellent backpackers, booked great places to stay with Grab One, scored 5 star accommodation with wotif.com and couchsurfed.

In terms of living the expat life, I’ve also experienced a great variety of semi-permanent residences in my time here; from fresher halls of residence in Dunedin, to beachfront property of the Far North! I could get used to this NZ expat lifestyle, ya know!

Allow me to showcase the fun that I’ve had in flatting thus far:

Salmon Hall, Dunedin

Back to Uni meant moving back to a residence hall

When I was preparing and planning for my study overseas, I quite frankly was a bit nervous about going full force into being a ‘grown up’ and flatting in a foreign country, so I went with my gut-instinct and opted for the the Hall of Residence option of accommodation in Dunedin. It was the ‘safe’ option.

The course coordinator recommended one hall in particular, as the College of Education had attracted many ‘mature’ international students, and Salmon Hall offered a secluded section separate from the ‘freshers’ just for us older ones to live and hang out.

Our rooms each came with an ensuite bathroom (dodged the public shower bullet one more time in my uni life!) and had a separate common area with kitchen facilities and tv.

My very first New Zealand home
Typical dorms styles, it was new and warm later learned these are both rare for NZ ;)
At first it was quite nice coming home to a home-cooked (albeit en mass) meal, with your standard meat and 3 vege plus salad bar and pudding (kiwi-ism for dessert, not necessarily ‘pudding’ as I knew it to be in Canada).
But after a while, I got a bit lonely in my hole in the wall at the end of the hall. After 6 months, my ripe old age had truly started to show in comparison to the 18 year olds that I shared laundry facilities with.
Luckily it was easy enough to find someone willing to take over living in (and paying the hefty weekly fee for) my room.
It was fun while it lasted, but I was moving on to a new adventure!

North East Valley, Dunedin

Our flat, 3 years after we lived there. Photo credit Julia McNabb
 I had craved  independence as well as some company. Since the beginning of the year, I’d made friends with all the wonderful people in my programme, and there happened to be a room available in a house with some Canadian girls. We got on like a house on fire, and had some pretty awesome times. It was nice to have a quiet wine with friends, and then still have that space and down time as needed.
Not only was this a cheaper option, it also worked out to be highly beneficial since my practicum placement school was less than 2 blocks away. For a girl without a car, this was a dream come true!
At $85/wk, a spa bath was sweet student living!
I upgraded from that stingy single to a queen-sized bed and I built it all by myself!
Talk about independence!

It was a bit of a further walk to uni, but by this point I’d made friends with wheels, so that was a bit of a non-issue. We ended up driving to campus way early before class in order to get in a solid gym sesh most mornings anyways!

Coopers Beach, Northland

First ‘Far North’ abode! 2 bedrooms
I knew that I was stay in New Zealand to live and teach, but in order to continue my expat life, I would have to secure myself a job. There were heaps going, and while in Dunedin, I applied ALL over the country. I wasn’t fussed where I was, as long as I was teaching in NZ.
As luck would have it, I was offered a maternity leave position at a Catholic School in the Far North. I hadn’t actually applied to the Catholic school (being NOT a Catholic and having very little experience with the religion) but my CV ended up there, and I was offered a new opportunity. I threw caution to the wind and accepted my first full time teaching job, and accepted a new chapter of adventure!
The course coordinator warily  warned me that “Kaitaia was a bit different to what I was used to”. One of my friend’s suggested that I flat with her friend who was also moving to Kaitaia. Little did I know at the time, not many young people just move up to Kaitaia for fun, as it is at least a 4 hour drive north of Auckland and close to nothing.

Amy and I had briefly ‘introduced’ ourselves via text before Christmas and agreed to live together without ever meeting. We became Facebook friends, and she seemed pretty normal from that. Our first conversation, the day we met up in the pub went something like this:

 Turned out we were a perfect match!

“Hi, I’m Kate”

“I’m Amy”

“Shall we go look for a place to live?”

And so we did.
There were lots of lessons to be learned quickly about this new area we’d decided to call home. For starters, no one in Kaitaia, or the Far North for that matter,  really posted things on the internet. Our search for a place to live became limited to the noticeboard in the one and only local grocery store, and literally word of mouth. We asked everyone and anyone if they knew of places for rent.

After checking out a few dismal potential places, we both agreed we were not impressed with the available options in Kaitaia itself, and decided that if we were going to live up here, we might as well live the dream and live on the beach!

And so we did!

Our very first ‘view’ of Doubtless Bay!
I had myself convinced you could see a wee bit of sea in the distance
A sweet escape after a long day

Right on 90 Mile Beach, Ahipara

Standing the beach, looking at my new home only 20-ish meters away!
 After 5 months of the 30ish minute daily commute to and from town, we started consider maybe if we found an equally nice place closer, it would be okay to move. But it had to be furnished (we didn’t own anything).
I’d made another new, young teacher friend at a Professional Development day and from then on Amy, Briar and I were a troublesome trio always creating our own excitment where we went. A bar could be quiet as, but once we turned up and cranked the juke box and the shots there was always a party.

One particular night in June, we were out in the middle of nowhere (Herekino to be exact) at one of the Far North’s many quiet country pubs. We were yarnin’ with the locals and debating with the barman the order of Baileys versus Midori as we tried to construct shots far fancier than this pub was ever used to. Have you tried the Queen’s Favourite? We call them a QF for short.

As Briar and I were occupied mixing drinks and drinking them at the bar,  our ‘sober bro’ Amy found herself talking to a local guy who knew some of our friends. Stu gave us some stick for living out the east coast (“it’s so far away – why would you bother!”) and then told us that he had a 3 bedroom house available in 2 weeks if we wanted it.

We went round the next day, still feeling somewhat fragile from the night before, but as soon as we walked into the lounge, we knew we were moving.

From the moment I sat down on this couch,and enjoyed this view, I knew I was ‘home’.
From this bed, I could see and hear the sea. Bliss!
Just one of the very many beautiful sunsets we were graced with most nights…
The Foreshore Lodge. Chateau Foreshore. Foreshore, For sure. Whatever we called it, this little slice of heaven would be the end to my 6 monthly nomadic lifestyle, and become my home for the next 2 YEARS!
The night we had our ‘flatwarming’ party, I met Thom. Little did I know then, my expat life in New Zealand would be forever changed! No need for anything mushy here, but it has brought heaps of happiness to my life since :)
Over time, the occupants changed but the good times continued. Summers were spent strolling across the street to the beach for multiple swims a day, or the occasional mid-night skinny dip! We had many epic parties and barbeques and I am still to this day astounded by the many shades of beauty in Ahipara and its stunning westcoast sunsets!

 Overlooking 90 Mile Beach, Ahipara

One deck gets sunrise views from the bedroom and lounge
Seriously sweet deck for my hammock!
Sunset views from the kitchen
 This brings us to the current chapter of my life in flats. One of my co-workers mentioned her house was becoming available to rent. It’s further away from the beach, but more modern at the same price we were paying for our stuck-in-the-70′s house on the beach. Things broke down and we’d just always put up with it. We’d dealt with mice, but then I encountered a RAT. After nearly 2 years to the day, a change of scenery was in order and an upgrade was well welcomed.
Now, let me tell you, I don’t recommend moving the weekend before you go overseas. After finishing writing 22 mid-term reports, I packed my bags to head off to Thailand for two weeks, as well as the rest of my house, to be unpacked once we got back! Not to mention, I had written off my beloved car the week before departure and was rendered transportation-dependent! It was a mad-crazy rush, but it just makes for another one of the ridiculous stories I’ve lived to tell about. Kind of like a getting food poisoning the day before you’re meant to leave Thailand survival story.
The chef in me is so stoked to have a fanbake oven and gas hobbs to cook with
My new kitchen and breakfast bar
Leave the bedroom door and curtains open, and you can see the sea from the shower!

We’re now paying the same weekly rent, but we’ve got a flash spot on the hill with more modern amenities. We’ve got everything need upstairs and a wee self-contained ‘granny flat’ on the main floor.

Over the past 3 and half years, I’ve had some pretty awesome luck scoring sweet places to make my home as an NZ expat and the whole time I’ve just been living my dream. We’ve yet to make our next definite travel plans, so for now this isn’t too bad a deal for roughing it at the beach – expat style.

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{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Mellyboo September 9, 2012, 11:33 am

    You know I’m pretty proud that I’m able to say that I’ve been at 4 out of your 5 NZ residences – albeit I was at the Dunedin flat before you even lived in it :)

    I’m happy that you’ve always had a roof and couch or bed to provide me with – and now even my own flat. Thank you for living an expat life, so that I could stalk you around the world.

    Love you!

    Reply

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