Category: Of Clouds and Kiwis

Of Clouds and Kiwis

9. Summer’s coming

Spring is slowly giving way to summer and with it, the swallows have arrived from wherever they spent their last stint in their quest for the perpetual summer. Sitting like fine little gentlemen in their pointed coat tails on wires, sweeping low and fluttering below eaves, looking for old nests or the ideal site for new ones. More native feathered friends are also waking earlier and earlier – up and chatting excitedly about life around 5:30am at the moment. I far prefer waking to their happy conversation than the sound of the alarm clock, truth be told. Their good cheer seems contagious, the alarm clock, more often than not, has the opposite effect.
So far, I would reckon that the fourth term is my favourite. Things get warmer (well, they are trying too, despite last week’s temporary relapse into mid-winter) and the warmth brings with it the anticipation of long summer school holidays, Christmas and time off work for husband which means lots more family time – just thinking about it puts me in a good mood.
This will be our fourth Christmas in New Zealand. For many, I would hazard a guess that it could be a time to feel sad and miss family and friends in SA (or wherever else they may be scattered across the world). We have created a few new family traditions, which we look forward to each year now, and we have made good friends, some of which are in the very same boat as we are and so, instead of dwelling on what we have “lost” we make plans and an effort to get excited for the season to come. It’s not the same. It could never be the same, as what we enjoyed and treasured back in SA. (I am trying not to say, “back home”, because somewhere along the line a switch needs to take place so that I can absorb the fact that where we are now is home).
No, of all the times of the year, this is not a time to feel sad. It’s not the season to dwell on the things that are behind, but rather to imagine and hope for the seasons and experiences that are yet to come. I can appreciate just how heartsore expats may feel at this time of year – especially perhaps those that have been here just long enough for the initial excitement of the move and adventure to wear thin but not long enough to feel settled and have formed friendships yet. That place in between – perhaps a bit like the spring season – may well be the place where you need to encourage new growth in your relatively young friendships and acquaintances. We decided up-front to make ourselves a little more vulnerable, inviting people around for meals, coffees and afternoon teas. Pressing past the awkward acquaintance to that place were tentative friendships bud and start to blossom. When we moved across, we really wanted to integrate and immerse ourselves in this Kiwi culture. This has been one of the most rewarding things for us. We are now in the blessed position of having a diverse mix of friends – Kiwi and Cape Townian, Johannesburger and Natalian. We certainly are the richer for it.

A few random things to love about Kiwi summers – in no particular order:
Forget “brown-paper parcels, all tied up with string” or “snowflakes that fall on your nose and eyelashes” (for a few moments anyway)
BBQs (must call them that as a braai needs to involve wood, charcoal or briquettes – something other than gas, right?) salads, pavlova and ice-cream with friends
Long, long summer days (the children must think we are trying to hoodwink them into going to sleep before the sun has set!)
Swimming in the sea and eating Mr Whippy in the sunshine
The feeling of sunshine and a warm breeze on your skin
Christmas – such an incredibly special time, wherever you happen to be
Exploring new beaches and places and things to do
Pohutukawa trees – flowering in December along the coastline – real live Christmas trees with nature’s finest adornment
Long summer school holidays – I love school holidays – probably will mean a lot less blogging and writing get done – but there’s a season for everything, right?
Do you think one can include the sound of cicadas and crickets? Surely, they provide the soundtrack to summer…

Of Clouds and Kiwis

8. Grassroots

Last week the weather, as a Kiwi friend of mine so aptly put it, “turned to custard!” It was snowing in some areas of the South Island and hailing in others! Up here where we are, it just got cold and wet. What happened to spring? It was warming up so nicely and then the summer download got “paused”. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, when it comes to NZ weather, things can change quite unexpectedly.
So, I found myself shivering and voicing some complaint about the sudden temperature drop. But I would have done well to bite my tongue, as I need only grab another jumper (to add to my existing three layers of clothing) or flick the switch on the heater and I would be relatively comfortable. I really have nothing to complain about. Moving past my own puny discomfort I turned to think about the poor farmers down in the South, with lambs and calves and spring crops in. How much more they must be feeling it!
New Zealand has a very big primary industry. A large portion of that is agriculture – something the nation prides itself on. Surely all have heard about the NZ dairy industry? What about NZ lamb or wool?
Many Kiwi kids have a wonderful, very hands-on experience when it comes lambs, calves and chooks (chickens) as one of the best days of the school calendar has to be calf-club day (also known as pet day or ag day). From what I can tell, this day is scheduled around the end of the third term to coincide with spring. School kids spend part of the term raising their own lambs, calves or even goat kids. They teach the animal to walk on a lead and come when called when off the lead. They are then judged, perhaps in a similar way to how livestock are judged at an agricultural show (another big thing in NZ – ever heard of Fieldays?) on how well the animal responds to their handler and, of course, export quality (um, whether the lamb will make good chops). The kids (human, not goat) can do other things too, like raise vegetables for competition or show off their chicken’s ability to perform tricks. At the little school our children attend, they have a “create and celebrate” part to their pet day programme. Here the kids work within set guidelines to create various floral arrangements and works of art and these are then judged, and they can win a certificate and house points. Talk about a well-rounded education!

Another good way to get better “acquainted” with (at arm’s length anyway) or appreciate rural NZ living is to watch a local programme called Hyundai Country Calendar, a weekly thirty minute or so TV programme about (you guessed it!) people who make their living off the land or sea. I usually always come away feeling a great degree of admiration for the hard-working Kiwis that love to work their land. They work hard, but still take time to watch their kids’ rugby or netball games on the weekends, even if it means standing in the pouring rain on the side-lines. Others painstakingly plant indigenous plants along waterways (riparian planting), in their own effort to do something to protect rivers and aquatic life from the nastier side-effects of agriculture. From what I can see, Kiwi’s are good at caring – there is something very genuine about them. Of course, this is me generalising, but it is a refreshing generalisation to make.

Other bits and bobs

Hyundai Country Calendar – try a sneak-peek episode?
Calf-club days –
Fieldays is the largest agricultural show in the Southern Hemisphere –
Farmers markets, local markets and fares abound – we have a local Saturday market which takes place weekly – one can buy fresh veg, meat, plants, tuisnywerheid goodies and so forth – Google to find one near you

7. Mark, Mike and the Carpet Tree pic 2 Of Clouds and Kiwis

7. Mark, Mike and the Carpet Tree

This is not a tale about two boys off on an adventure with a magical, carpet-bearing tree. No, it’s more a tale about a Kiwi education, of sorts. You see, we had not been in New Zealand very long and our little ones were fairly new to their respective pre-schools / kindergartens (kindies) when one of the early childhood educators (pre-school teacher) came over to tell me just how much our son had been enjoying the carpet tree that day. I looked at her a little blankly, I am afraid, as I mentally ran through a whole range of possibilities as to what this mysterious carpet tree could be and why it appealed to our boy. I shudder to think just what she must have been thinking as I clearly failed to respond in the way she hoped. I can’t recall exactly, but I guess the conversation must have gone something like this: “Carpet tree?” I floundered. “Yeh, you know, using hammers and nails and building things with wood,” she patiently explained. The penny dropped – ah! Carpentry! Yes, I can imagine that our boy would have loved being let loose with all those things! But wait! They can do that? Safely? My mind baulked at the thought of a group of four-year-olds sawing and hammering away. Building things out of plastic – with plastic nails and things, right? No. Not these kids, they had the real deal. It didn’t end there. They were encouraged to use hot glue guns too. Wow! How awesome! This is the stuff most kids would love to do. A little bit of responsibility and creativity coupled with an element of danger and they loved it! But it became painfully obvious I had some learning of my own to do, too. I was very thankful that while I learned to decipher just what these kiwis were saying, that at least it was with the kind, patient ladies at the kids kindie and not in some fast-paced business environment!

Unfortunately, this was not the case with Mike and Mark. To this day I will listen very carefully when being introduced to a bloke called Mark, as to me, the name Mark sounds like Mike when spoken in “Kiwi”. Even then I will probably double-check with husband – whose ear for this seems better trained than mine – just to be certain I don’t find myself calling Mark Mike or Mike Mark – arrrgghhh! Is it just me, or are there a lot of men that go by this name in our part of Kiwi land!

All that aside, it was a Kiwi friend of Justin’s (thankfully called Rob!) who, after living in SA for many years and returning to NZ, casually mentioned that it is impossible to get a bad education in NZ. Well, so far I have been very impressed. Our kidos are young so we have been through the kindie experience and are now on to primary school. I really liked the free play kids have at pre-schools, supervised (they are well taken care of), but free to play and explore. They are encouraged to bring togs (swimming gear) on warm days to play outside in the mud and puddles. Some kindies have chickens and vegetable gardens and trees to climb. They have playgrounds – but not only the general the run-of-the-mill type (ie. swing, slide and monkey bars) – but also really interesting things to climb up, scramble over, under, inside. Wish we had those when I was a kid. At the lovely kindie where our daughter ended up going before starting school, each day brought with it something new and interesting to try like playing with foam, making playdough, baking, going for outings to places like the library or park. The teachers also document your child’s progress in a fun and personal way – each child has their own folder, with stories about what they did, what they learned, things they really enjoyed and so forth. We could borrow that folder to read through and enjoy or share with family, then give it back for more stories to be added. Then we got to take it home when our children moved on to primary school. Both kindies our kids went to put on a party on their leaving day (around their fifth birthdays) – they were made to feel very special and they really looked forward to their chance to have their goodbye celebration knowing it was time to move on to the next chapter.

For more info:

Other bits and bobs

This link gives a great overview of the school system

Schooling is mandatory between 6 and 16 years of age
School starts on your fifth birthday, or close to it (or the term after your fifth birthday)
Your child will attend the primary, intermediate or high school which you are zoned for – various suburbs fall into different school zones (school catchment areas) – this is something to consider if your kids are of school going age as schools range in size and decile
School deciles range from one to ten – for more info on this

There are lots of schools – including rural schools – and depending on your school and area etc, there are school buses too.

You’ll need to check for yourself what your visa category enables access to education-wise:

Wellington Of Clouds and Kiwis

6. Sometimes it rains

Winter in New Zealand. Sometimes it rains. Well, actually, it may be fairer to say sometimes it doesn’t rain. It will pour for a few minutes. Then the sun will break through and drench everything with light. Of course, the rain will not be outdone by the sun and so it will rain while the sun shines. Then it will cloud over and, living in Auckland, it will pour some more. It’s not raining, you say? Wait five minutes.

The ground turns mucky. Your shoes look horrible and track mud everywhere you go – into the car, the classroom, your home. For some reason I can’t quite fathom, Kikuyu grass is the great grassy nemesis to most Kiwis – they far prefer fine fescue – and clover – which turn to mud the minute you step onto the lawn in winter. Oh, for the spongy layer of Kikuyu to keep mud and feet apart. So, I find myself tippy-toeing over the lawn. Or eying my sheepskin slippers a little dolefully, knowing that it will cause far too much hassle to go get to the rosemary, next to the raised planter box which sits across a small section of clover and fescue lawn. The rosemary can wait. I need new gumboots. In fact, the clever thing to do may be to get a pair to place at each door – that way I can happily go collect mandarins (naartjies) from the trees behind the house – yep, they sit on the other side of the wintery quagmire – definitely not to be attempted in aforementioned slippers.

Now it may seem that I am skating very close to complaining. I am not. You see as a kid growing up in South Africa, I spent many happy hours wallowing in thick Kei River mud. The kind of stuff that you sink to your thighs in and then have to wriggle and slurp out of very slowly, all the while ensuring every other part of your body is thoroughly covered in the goo. Bliss. But somehow, this cold, wet sludge doesn’t bring about the same satisfaction. It squelches through your toes, or seeps into your trainers and sticks to the bottom of gumboots so that every time you go out you gain another layer – which dries a little and creates the perfect place to acquire yet more mud. After a couple of days your find yourself walking on a veritable platform.

The thing is this. I can look at my mud speckled toes, the mud smears all over my kids clothing, the filthy entrance hall to our home and sigh. But I could also look up. If I take my eyes off the mud and look up… I’ll see the green rolling hills that I my eyes can’t get enough of. Leaves sparkling like the finest diamonds ever cut as rain drops quiver and glisten. The clouds are like no clouds I’ve ever seen in Africa. While the land here may be tame, the skies are wild. The clouds shunt sometimes with hard stormy edges, others soft and wispy. Sometimes dark and ominous looking. Other times, especially at the beginning or the end of the day, coloured in every shade of gold and silver imaginable. And if all I could see was the mud between my toes or glued to the sorry soles of my shoes, I would miss out on the fiery clouds. The sparkling webs. The glistening leaves. I look down and sigh. I look up and my heart feels light and alive and full of possibility… Perspective… New Zealand, you are a fine place indeed…


fuel-pump-dollar-sign Of Clouds and Kiwis

5. GST, fuel tax and sales

For some reason, I have been hedging a bit about writing this post. I couldn’t figure out why and then I reread the last and I realised that I had committed to discussing GST. Sigh. Why did I do that? I am not very administratively inclined. My husband is the minister of finance in our home and so these sorts of things come naturally to him – you know, willingly talking about aforementioned subjects. Perhaps this is a good place to introduce him as my co-blogger and let him explain the intricacies of all things financial, business and maybe even political?

I’ll take a small stab at it for now and cover a couple of basics very swiftly before moving on to quickly mention sales, The Warehouse and then, perhaps, we can talk about pav (pavlova) – back to food – a subject I am most happy to scribble more than a few notes on!

In a nutshell, GST stands for Goods and Services Tax which is a value-added tax (i.e. VAT in SA). It is currently 15%. When purchasing goods and/or services in New Zealand you will pay 15% GST.

Which brings me to another tax you should probably be aware of – fuel tax and the Auckland regional fuel tax – a regional fuel tax introduced by the relatively new to office labour government. Now I am no political commentator so I’ll stick to the bare facts and leave it at that: Auckland fuel tax (will obviously only affect you if you are headed to that region) will see you pay an extra 10 cents/litre (plus GST) on petrol or diesel sold within the region – this was introduced on 01 July 2018 to help fund Auckland transport projects. However slow the progress may be, they are trying to address the problem and the only reason I make mention of this is that it has been a fairly hot topic. Especially if you live south of Auckland. First world problems, eh?

From having to spend to wanting to spend – all you shopping inclined people will be happy to know that NZ is big on sales. There is always a deal to be had somewhere. Whether it be something for your car, home, wardrobe or belly, if you shop around, keep an eye on the junk mail in your post box or even on the tele in the evenings you will probably be able to find what you are looking for at a reasonably reduced price. Husband is adamant one should never pay full price for anything in NZ. Of course, this is particularly rewarding for those happy to exercise a little patience, just in case what you need or want does not happen to be on sale at this exact moment. If it’s not on sale, just wait. If you can… I needed some brown winter boots, but I needed them yesterday. So, I bought a comfy pair, full price – from the local shoe store – only to have that ‘oh dear’ feeling when I saw them advertised around a month later at, well, a lot cheaper. Sigh. Planning and patience will save you more than a few bucks. That being said – I did score, on the Briscoes (home store/home appliances – Mr Price Home, Woollies, Home Etc) deal on bedding last month – over $1000 worth of bedding for half the price – sweet as!

The Warehouse is another local store we frequent – kind of like Game / Macro. They too run plenty of specials and one can easily grab a few household essentials for a relatively good price. Yes, you can buy some food stuff there too. Talking of food, I think I may run over my self-induced word limit if I start on that topic at this point so the pav will have to wait…

Bits and bobs:

Scout out some prices – these stores have online shopping too so you can do your homework.

Briscoes – Homeware and home accessories stores

The Warehouse – like Game / Macro – can get just about anything there, often have sales – big post-Christmas sales

Mitre 10 (and Mitre 10 Mega) – similar to Builders Warehouse – good hardware store, also sell some homeware, plant nursery etc

Farmers – a lot like SA Woolworths, I’d say. Dearer (more expensive) but Thursday’s are their specials day – great half-price children’s clothing deals etc

Farmlands – a co-op – rural supplies (stock good gumboots too!)

Postie Plus – cheaper clothing store

Number One Shoes – yep – it’s a shoe shop. Like their buy-one-get-one-half-price type specials – handy when getting kids shoes for the season


Tip – sending postal packages from SA to NZ can be very expensive (on the SA side- just ask my Mom!) and sometimes they get opened and checked before delivery this side (we have experienced this, but beside the packaging being opened, all contents were accounted for) – anyway, we have found that online shopping and delivery is a great way for grandparents to spoil their grandbabies on birthdays and at Christmas, when they are so far away and can’t do it in person.

breakfast-for-1-hamilton Of Clouds and Kiwis

4. Food, glorious food

Well, this morning I took some time out to laboriously draw up a list of some basic food and household goodies and what they cost. As admin is not my strong point this was a labour of love. I think. Or maybe it was just me being a little dumb because, if you really are so inclined, you can pop onto the Countdown website and see for yourself what things cost. Anyway, it wasn’t such a pointless and futile effort as it has forced me to re-familiarise myself with what some things cost, and it also reminded me of a few things I needed to learn about grocery shopping New Zealand style.

For the sake of this article, I am only going to mention two of the grocery supermarkets (there are others) which heaps of people use – namely Pak n Save (NZ owned and operated) and Countdown (Aussie owned, I think – don’t quote me on that). Pak n Save is like a big warehouse, rudimentary merchandising and you pack your own bags (which you can either bring with you or purchase from the tellers). They pride themselves on being cheaper, and often they are, but Countdown has a loyalty card which can make them competitively priced if you shop their specials and use your One Card (loyalty card). Unfortunately, Pak n Save doesn’t have an online shop, so it will be tricky to compare prices, product for product. But Countdown does have online shopping which makes checking out what everyday groceries will cost you fairly easy. And, given that New Zealand is home to countless sales, chances are, you’ll get a fairly good idea, as to what to expect.

Now, when grocery shopping, here are a few things to consider.

Yes, you can buy Freshpak Rooibos, Ouma Rusks, Tennis biscuits and All Gold Tomato Sauce at both Countdown and Pak n Save. Sometimes they have an international section/isle and you can buy your old favourites there, and sometimes those things actually appear on the shelves alongside the Kiwi brands – so at the Pak n Save in our little town, the All Gold tomato sauce can be found with all the other tomato sauces! Mrs Balls is also easy enough to find. If you really are longing for good ol’ SA products, you can also visit the local SA Shop. Our lovely local is called Mama Africa (check them out on FB) and we are quite partial to their koeksisters. SA shops will sell just about anything you could be longing for from SA – from Bisto to Biltong (en droëwors), Cream Soda to samp and Springbok mielie meal. Just remember you will pay quite a bit more, so save the Pronutro and Futurelife for high days and holidays.

Speaking of breakfast cereal. The dairy products in NZ are pretty good. However, you will need to decode your milk by the colour of its lid. Dark blue = full cream, light blue=light, green=trim, silver=full cream non-homogenized (has the cream that floats to the top) and yellow top, from what I can see = added calcium (fortified).  You also get a wide range of dairy alternative milks, so if you prefer soy or almond or rice or coconut, they have something for everyone.

When it comes to bread, well, not all bread is created equal and you’ll have to find the one that suits your taste and health requirements – but the range is wide so there is plenty to choose from. Personally, we enjoy the local bakery over the supermarkets’ offerings, but each to their own. The only thing to remember is whether you want your loaf sliced “toast” (thicker) or “sandwich” (thin) – you’ll see toast or sandwich on your pre-sliced, store bought bread too. Now you know. Oh, and NZ butter is just plain good! Their regular butter is like Woollies butter… Just saying.

So that covers breakfast – moving on to lunch. Just kidding. Seriously, we can’t do lunch until we have covered morning tea (also known by ye old English “elevenses”). Which means we must digress and contemplate coffee for a while. Kiwi’s love their coffee and it’s not uncommon to see people making their way around town with a cuppa something in hand. Perhaps it’s the weather here, but there is something just so comforting about a mid-morning cuppa java (the one that comes a few hours after the effects of your early morning kick-out- of-bed cuppa have worn off). And you can take it with you – kind of like the Americans do on American movies. So, whatever your poison, be it flat white, short black, long black, latte, Americano et cetera et cetera, you can have that with vanilla, caramel and hazelnut flavour and, well you get the picture… For those instant coffee people who prefer Douwe Egberts over Nescafe – you’ll be pleased to know that Douwe Egberts goes by the name Moccona here in NZ. The bottle even looks the same.

This week’s piece on grocery shopping is getting a little long so I’ll split it and next week we can broach the subject of fun things such as GST (like VAT – yawn!), sales, The Warehouse and pav.

Of Clouds and Kiwis

3. One life live it

If you are reading this then perhaps you’ve decided that my last piece was not a load of hogwash (or if it was, it was interesting enough to have you come back to see what else I may come up with).

So, while you are working on your “why”, here’s a bit about ours.

We immigrated to New Zealand three years ago. By we, I mean my husband and I and our two small children (and our two furry feline children). When it came to moving, emigration was one of our options. We considered small-town South Africa as well, as we wanted to find a place with oodles of space for the children to roam and a close-knit community where we could feel a part of something bigger, play a role in other people’s lives and have them play some sort of role in ours. We wanted an adventure. Something different. The big, bold letters on the back of our Land Rover Discovery TD5 looked me in the eye every time I used the rearview mirror or turned around in my seat to reverse – “One Life Live It”. Somehow it didn’t feel like we were really living those words. We believed them. But there was a rift between those words and our reality – living in a little ordinary house, in a little ordinary suburb of the sprawling, unforgiving concrete jungle of Johannesburg. I think that when there is a disconnect between what you believe or dream and how you live it can lead to a gnawing sense of frustration.

So, we considered our options and then went for the one that said husband fell in love with on his look-see-decide visit. The one that ticked all the boxes for us, and then some. In all fairness, we didn’t even get to have a look-see at the other option, Canada. We prayed about it extensively and then had one of those enviable experiences where everything just miraculously fell into place. We ticked boxes, prayed, did admin, prayed, jumped through hoops, prayed and did some crazy things like buying husband’s ticket before our passports had been safely returned with precious new visas safely ensconced (yes, we prayed) because he needed to start work in the new office on a set date.

Just when we got to the finish line – or perhaps the starting line – we were thrown a curve ball. Husband had to go alone for the first six months. At the time we thought this was terrible. But I have since heard of other South African families that have had to spend months apart as one spouse does the move, settles in and then brings their family over. In the end, it worked out well for us. The pressure of new country, new job, new systems, new ways of doing things got worked through before the additional pressure of family arrived.

So, our cats and container arrived just before the children and I, (separately, they arrived separately, of course, cats and container – we did not ship the cats with the furniture!) and we had a lovely, warm four-bedroom home to move straight into and beds to sleep in – bliss. Thank you, husband.

Kariotahi Beach SunsetI remember being woken around midday (I think, maybe, can’t be sure) by one very enthusiastic husband who just couldn’t bear us all sleeping the day away on our first day in New Zealand – we had to get up and drink smoothies, go out for a New Zealand pie (the best pie in my known world) and go to the beach. In my jet-lagged, sleep deprived state I forgot my handbag at the cafe but had it safely returned to me.

The tired haze in my head was mirrored, that first day, by the eerie fog that clung to the mysterious black beaches of Karioitahi. We were actually here. A reunited family warmly welcomed into a beautiful new country. Here our story continues. Here new adventures await.


Useful bits and bobs:

Flight time to NZ via Sydney – there are currently no direct flights between New Zealand and South Africa. The most direct route, and do check me on this, seems to be on Qantas via Sydney (about 11h45m), then connecting flight from Sydney to Auckland – different airlines to choose from (if that’s where you are headed – about 3h5m)

We packed up and stored our furniture and set it onwards with Pickfords . Who then shipped it, delivered it and unpacked some of it in our new home. No breakages, no hassles.

Pets en Transit – emigrating with pets needs to be well thought out and planned. It is doable but allow plenty of time for the vaccinations, blood tests and other veterinary requirements – it’s admin intensive, for you and your vet so don’t leave it til the last minute. I also used Feliway spray to try make the experience less traumatic for our two girls before they left and when they arrived – ask your vet what you can do to help reduce your pet’s anxiety when moving. Too bad Feliway doesn’t work on pet owners…

Oh, one last thing, the whole process takes longer for dogs, I think – and, at the time we immigrated, NZ would not allow certain dog breeds into the country. I think that still stands.

Coromandel Of Clouds and Kiwis

2. Emigrating from South Africa – thinking New Zealand

Righto, so we’ve chatted about the weather – now let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we? So, you and your family are seriously considering moving to New Zealand – or perhaps you know someone who has been making noises about making a move for some time now. Hopefully, I’ll be able to shed some light on what living the Kiwi dream is like. The ramblings, musings, facts, opinions and whatever else this blog draws out of me should be tested and compared with others to ensure that you don’t just “take my word for it”.

As mentioned in the overview – the aim of this is to provide real, and by that, I mean sometimes raw, insider information as to what immigration has been like for us. Some things are pretty normal, standard immigration realities that most South Africans will face when moving here. Others may be a little more unique to our own situation and experience. I guess that, at the end of the day, immigration is a pretty big deal. It warrants careful thought, planning and execution. The biggest question that begs answering, however, before you start renewing your passports and gathering inordinate amounts of documentation, is why.

Why do I want to leave South Africa? Why do I want to move to NZ specifically? Stupid question? Maybe not. Remember, when you move from one place to another you take yourself with you. Duh! Bear with me a minute. Anger, bitterness, hatred… well – that stuff will go with you wherever you move. Those may not be the best reasons to haul yourself out of every comfort zone you’ve ever known and start over fresh. I have heard many sad-as (randomly adding the word “as” into a sentence – a Kiwi thing) stories about South Africans that have sold up, closed up, uprooted and left SA and carried that disenchantment with them and bad mouth the country wherever they go. Some may have to return within months. Jobs fall through and work permits vanish with them, or they just never fully considered their reasons for moving and when things aren’t as they expect or hope for, they do it all over again – pack up and head back to SA. What a waste. Of time. Of energy. Of money. Not to mention the emotional upheaval. If you are serious about emigration – consider answering your why question as the first step in the process – wherever you decide to go. You may just need that answer in the days to come. When you find yourself in the thick of it? When everything seems foreign, its pouring with rain (again), your kids are sniffly, you are tired, your head is throbbing and you find you have little desire, after a day’s work to do the laundry at some awfully late hour because that’s the only time you can get to it… and you miss your family and friends something chronic. Suddenly your why may be rather important…

An interesting read…

Of Clouds and Kiwis

1. The weather waffle

Port Waikato & Sunset Beach It’s winter. So, if we were sitting knee to knee at the little coffee shop on King Street, sipping a cuppa warmth and perhaps nibbling on something, like say a piece of ginger slice or lollie cake, we would probably talk about the weather for a while. Husband, who is a businessman, says that no matter who you phone, up or down the North or South Island, the first thing you’ll talk about is whether the sun is shining. I often find myself chatting to shop assistants (they can be chatty), mums at the school gate or the bloke with the big beard at the fuel station about the weather. In fact, in New Zealand, the weather can be a good way to idly start a conversation with just about anybody, as most Kiwis do the weather waffle rather well. So, I thought that we could gently ease our way into acquaintance by discussing, well, the weather.

I must say that I find the predictably unpredictable nature of NZ weather fascinating. The weather is a constant reminder that we do live on a relatively little island surrounded by quite a bit of ocean. From the generally gentle Pacific on the east coast to the often wildly moody Tasman on the west coast, the weather, quite obviously, impacts all who live in between. The prevailing wind where we are is the south-wester. It can be fierce and often frigid in winter. I have heard this sort of wind described as a ‘lazy wind’ – it doesn’t bother blowing around you, it blows right through you.  Not good beach going weather, unless you are after an invigorating walk to blow the proverbial cobwebs out, in which case, rug up! That being said though, when the south-wester is doing its thing, sometimes, our experience has been anyway, the east coast beaches, if sheltered, are not too bad. When the wind swings to an easterly though, those beaches become a little less inviting. Now I am talking only from my own very limited experiences – speaking for the general Auckland district. As I have yet to travel to the South Island, I cannot speak for them, so if that’s where you are headed, chat to a local or check the weather service and keep an eye so you’ll have a rough idea as to what to expect.

When the sun shines in Auckland, she is breath-taking. Like an already beautiful lady, taking a little extra care with her appearance, she definitely dazzles. In winter, when a high-pressure cell moves in and the sun makes its appearance for a few days on end, everyone and their dog is out and about. It’s like we are collectively appreciative. The weather, wind, rain or shine, or all of the above in a matter of minutes, certainly doesn’t stop anyone from getting on with it workwise.

Don’t think it rains all the time. Not where we are anyway. We get our fair share of rain in winter, but not in that uniform grey, set-in stuff like they get in the UK. In summer, we can go for weeks without rain. And the rain, when it comes, can offer a reprieve. If memory serves, last summer we even had level one water restrictions in place in our area. We were not allowed to water our gardens with a sprinkler during the heat of the day. Rainfall, and the weather in general, varies quite radically throughout the regions, so check out the difference between say, Fiordland / Southland, Canterbury, Bay of Plenty / Hawkes Bay, Auckland and Northland regions (or wherever you are headed).

I remember my husband saying, not too long after we arrived (which was slap bang in the middle of winter), that New Zealand comes alive in summer – it’s like everyone just puts up with winter to enjoy the summer. Now that I have had the pleasure of enjoying one nice hot Kiwi summer (the first two were warm, not hot), I can see why. New Zealand, in the summertime, is especially spectacular. Miles of beaches to choose from, many of which are great for swimming, fishing, surfing, windsurfing, kite surfing and kayaking – or just putting up a brollie, building castles and eating ice-cream. All in very reasonable driving distance from home.

Of course, summer also comes with the added bonus of drying your laundry on the clothesline outside and not in the garage, or the dryer, or the living room with the dehumidifiers sucking and blasting away.

So, I guess, depending on where you come from in South Africa and the levels of humidity you are comfortable with, you may need to adapt a little and embrace the changeability of NZ weather.

I have waffled enough. There is plenty more to say about it, the weather that is. Rest assured, this will probably leak out, here and there, in the pages to come.