Monday, March 14, 2005

One in Four

According to the New Zealand Herald, one in four tertiary (post-secondary) educated New Zealanders live outside of New Zealand. I'm one of those 25%, having spent seven years getting a BSc in Geography and a BE in Resource Engineering and now I live amongst the towers of higher learning that is Oxford. Russell Brown has written about the various responses. I wish I'd seen the questions because I don't feel represented. Not surpisingly, he rounds on many of the respondants. Many of the reasons for people leaving and not returning include:

Financial reasons
"I'm Maori so in NZ I will be expected to go to prison sooner rather than later. In Aussie it is seen as a God-given right that everyone owns their own homes/cars/playthings, and the incomes and costs support this. It's going to take a lot more than patriotism to lure expats back to NZ. I do not know anyone insane enough to work for a pittance, pay extraordinary rent, and then happily inform the family unit that in order for NZ to grow this family has to live like paupers."

Race relation reasons:
"I have a problem with the thought of living in a country where my children will be discriminated against because they are not defined by NZ law as belonging to the Maori race."

and education reasons:
"I'm no longer confident that NZ has world-class education standards, and the best schools here in New York City are very good. I want my daughter to have the best education."

Maybe I'm going against the grain, but none of these reasons have anything to do with the fact that three and a half years after leaving Aotearoa, I am still yet to return, and nor do I expect to return for at least another two. They are not remotely close. I'm not to naive to suggest that laziness might be a reason I'm still here, but it is a laziness that is rooted in a good. I'm still here because I have invested a hell of a lot into my community. This is a community of people that I love dearly (ok, some more than others ;-)), and I am not prepared to let them go. Staying here has nothing to do with money or education or race relations. It is simply because it is in Oxford that I have chosen to do life. Moreover, if I move back home, there are a whole lot of people that I am going to miss. I guess that makes me a little selfish. That aside, New Zealand made me who I am and gave me fantastic oppotunities to explore and grow and experience life. Do I feel obligated to repay that? I guess so, but I also have an affinity with paying things forward. I never left home to make my fortune, I left home to go and see some friends and to broaden my world view. That then grew into developing community. I'm pretty sure that if I had stayed at home I would be much better off financially. Instead, leaving NZ has cost me financially. the dollar has got stronger, I earn about the same as I would do in NZ and as a result, my student loan repayments have got that much harder. But then, money has never been what drives me. Which does (in an aside) present the question, what does drive me? I think Taylor Mali says it best in Silver Lined Heart:

"I’m for the courage it takes to volunteer
to say “yes, I believe in this and I will”
I’m for the bright side
the glass half full
the silver lining
and the optimists who consider darkness just another kind of shining.
I’m for what can be achieved more that for what I would want in an ideal world.
I’m for working everyday to make the world a better place
and not complaining about how it isn’t
so don’t waste my time
with your curses
on verses about what you are against, despise and abhor.
Tell me what inspires you,
what fulfils you and fires you.
Put your goddam pen to paper
and tell me what

Cheesy this may be, but I don't care.

I'm also aware that due to the nature of my job, I have got myself into a rather specialised little corner. Luckily, Brown can understand if not agree with my view:
"Some are happily settled elsewhere for life, some would like to come home but despair of finding a comparable job, and some will, eventually, return. I'm sure they have their issues with their birth country, but none of them are as embittered as some of the people who wrote to the Herald."

The bugger even made me feel homesick:

"We own a decent chunk of equity in a house only five minutes' drive from the centre of town; there's a beach around the corner and plenty of room to play. The schools, contrary to what you may have heard, are excellent. And it's home. I went to Pasifika on Saturday, and you can't do that anywhere else. And I'm sorry if this sounds wanky, but I'm not only in it for me. I want to be part of the story here. The scale of things means it's possible to do that, to actually make a difference."

In response, I offer this. (BTW, Russell, it doesn't sound wanky, however the use of that adjective does sound like my father). I don't get the little bit of equity near the beach, and last weekend I didn't go to Pasifika. Instead, I live two minutes walk from the Thames and on Saturday I did deliveries for Besom. In Oxford I also get to make a difference.

If it's ok with you, I am going to carry on loving my country but, as Taylor also put it, "I'm for admiration from afar."


Anonymous said...

Looks like they're stirring up another storm in a teacup back home. And wait - oh yes there's an election coming up.

Don't forget that 75% of the NZ expat population is living in Australia. Rob Muldoon's comment about the westward drift increasing the average intelligence of both countries still holds as far as I'm concerned.

Easy come, easy go I say. The population of NZ is still growing - so what's the problem?

Perhaps the problem is that white people are being replaced by people from Asia and South Africa?

As an asian immigrant myself I find the current debate to be another round of the thinly veiled racist nonsense that has been a blight on the NZ landscape since the gold rush.

I figure that they should stop whinging and start enjoying the country. Otherwise go over to Brisbane like the rest of them.

- Rhys

Anonymous said...

If you are interested in the views of three ex-UK expats now living in NZ, then check out

It's billed as :

"The casual observations of three kiwis returning to New Zealand after a few years in the UK."

richard said...

Interesting. I'm planning a visit home in September. The first one in three and a half years. I wonder what it'll be like for me. In many ways I'll be quite content if it's just as I left it. in true utopian idealism, I saw whale rider the other day and I had visions of the south pacific paradise I left.

Now, who is the anonymous mister k? I just wonder if he might happen to know me as mr b. And i wonder how freaky he's keeping it...