It's just a thought...
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Posted by Iain on Feb. 24, 2017, 12:41 p.m. in New Zealand Lifestyle
Most Saturday mornings sees my wife and I at our local Farmers market in Mangawhai buying some fresh produce, the world’s best bratwurst (according to the German proprietor) and yet more native plants for my ever expanding garden.
It is usually fairly uneventful however last Saturday was different.
For the first time in, well, years I got out of the car and didn’t take my satchel (‘man bag’ as my millennial sons tease me). I just slipped my wallet into my back pocket.
At stall number one I got it out so we could pay for some vegetables.
At stall number three I went to get my wallet out of my back pocket and it had gone.
Interesting what you might think had happened if you are from countries like South Africa (or almost everywhere else). I suspect many of you might think I’d been pick pocketed and others (mostly Kiwis I suspect) thought I’d probably just dropped it or left it sitting on some stall holders table – read on for the answer).
So we backtracked but none of the stall holders we had stopped at claimed to have seen it.
A bit of an ‘oh shit...' moment to be sure because it was five days before I was to leave on my next trip offshore and it contained local cash, foreign currency and worse, all my credit cards.
I left my contact details with the market manager in case someone handed it in.
We then decided to head down to the local police station to leave our details there for when someone handed it in. I should be clear I had no doubt I was not pick pocketed and I was equally certain someone would hand it in...but you never really know.
Unfortunately (or surprisingly depending on your world view) this being New Zealand the police station was closed for the weekend. Apparently we only need police during normal working hours (isn’t that just so cute?).
I wanted to report it however so rang the number they had pasted to the front door. Having reassured the police call centre this was not an ‘active crime situation involving assault or violence’ (although I thought my wife might strangle me at one point as she fought hard not to tell me I was an idiot), I logged my report. Once the description of the wallet and its contents were offered the cheery voice on the other end said ‘see ya!’. She may even have been smiling.
We drove home. Not much was said.
Once back at the beach house I got out my computer so I could call the credit card companies and banks and start cancelling my cards and ordering replacement drivers license, loyalty cards and everything else.
I opened the computer and the email program was open.
There was the report from the police quoting my report number.
And there was an email which read:
This is Mandy from the Mangawhai market and I have something very valuable of yours. Call me on 021……’
The one thing I never carry in my wallet is my phone number.
So this angel, Mandy, who has a stall at the market, had apparently been handed the wallet by her son. Realising there was no phone number to call me she saw my Immigration Advisers License card, went to their website, found my email address and sent me the message. She also did something else. She uploaded my photo off their website and went from stall to stall asking if anyone recognised who I might be!
No one did (I have a very bland face perhaps) and she later told me was starting to panic as she thought I might have just been passing through town as many do on their way north or south.
Anyway, in a state of great relief I called her and we agreed to meet about 30 minutes later and she handed back the wallet.
How cool is that?
I swear I never doubted someone would hand it in. It’s the New Zealand thing to do. But given I spend so much time in countries where pocket picking is a national past time I confess to having just the odd doubt.
If I didn’t know so many people that live in new Zealand who could share with you similar tales of honesty involving lost wallets in particular, I might have thought I was just lucky to get it back.
But this is New Zealand – I expected to get it back, contents and all.
Those of you who haven’t yet made the decision to move here and are fearful of what you might find, there couldn’t be a better illustration of what makes this place more special than this.
I always counsel New Zealand is not perfect, we have crime and what we do have is amplified in the media.
This real world experience however I think shows the true nature of the overwhelming majority of Kiwis and just how well our national moral compass is aligned.
So I am about to board another long haul flight to Singapore, with my satchel over my shoulder and all my cash and credit cards intact.
I really love this place.
Until next week
Southern Man – Letters from new Zealand
Posted by Iain on Feb. 3, 2017, 1:06 p.m. in New Zealand Lifestyle
Earlier this week on a cloudless, sweltering summer's day we decided to take our boat out to Taranga Island; a nature reserve of several thousand hectares that sits 15 km out to sea in Bream Bay. This island and five that lie another 5km to its north east are human free and no human is permitted to step foot on them. They have been cleared of all introduced predators (rats, mice, possums, ferrets, stoats and weasels) and like so many of NZ offshore islands are the only places our native birds can live safely alongside the ancient tuatara and many species of native lizard.
Taranga is an extinct volcano rising 500m to its ancient peak, where several ‘plugs’ stand sentinel, slowly weathering. It is scarred from the occasional release of massive house-sized boulders that crash their way through the forest to the seashore below.
The sea was calm and there was no wind. The temperature was a perfect 26 degrees in the shade.
We passed several little Blue Penguins (NZ is the northern most point of the Southern Hemisphere where penguins live permanently and has several endemic species). This island lies at about 34 degrees south which is squarely in the sub tropics. This might be one of the few places in the world where you can be in the water with both penguins and Loggerhead Turtles at the same time.
We pulled into our favourite cove and anchored in 3 metres of crystal clear water. So clear in fact that the many Stingray that call this part of the island home could be easily be seen as they glided effortlessly across and semi-buried themselves in the sand below the boat. Terracotta coloured kelp swung lazily back and forth from outcrops of rock that half cover the seafloor. Small schools of fish darted from sheltered rock to sheltered rock. Larger fish patrolled. The occasional school of cuttlefish came, hovered, reversed and moved on.
The forest on the island lay no more than 30 metres from where we anchored. It starts above the high tide mark and this forest is mature. Huge, towering trees competing for the light and the very little water that can be found on this island. The birdsong was cacophonous.
I was reminded that nearly 300 years ago when James Cook anchored the Endeavour close to mainland New Zealand, his crew begged him to move the ship further out into the bay as they couldn’t get any sleep, such was the noise — both day and night.
This echo of our past can still be heard on islands like Taranga and with setting aside more and more offshore islands as homes for our endangered wildlife, available for more people to experience something hard to find on the mainland these days.
Having snorkelled and swam for 30 minutes or so (yes, with the stingrays and literally thousands of Salps and non-stinging Jellyfish that made the water like a jelly soup) we had our lunch on the boat. And decided it was time for a fish.
We haven’t been out that much so far this summer and we do like our fresh fish.
You only need to travel a very short distance away from the island and the seabed drops rapidly away. Within 100 metres you have gone from high tide mark to 65 metres of depth. Taranga is, after all, the top of a mountain. At 65 meters very big fish lurk and sharks are abundant.
As there was nothing but the gentlest of breezes and next to no current, I turned the engine off and we threw the lines over and into the deep green.
The fishing, it must be said, wasn’t great and it was certainly slow (but who could possibly care?).
We caught four ‘keepers’ (three Snapper and a Blue Cod) and threw back another dozen or so of marginal size (we have a saying here in NZ which is ‘fish for tomorrow’).
As we sat there I noticed in the distance broken water. This far out, huge schools of small ‘bait’ fish are common and they are in turn commonly chased and hunted by larger fish which at the same time are often chased and hunted by even bigger fish, such as Kingfish. So seeing ‘boil ups' - fish jumping out of the water to escape a larger mouth bringing up its rear - is nothing unusual.
I thought these must have been pretty big Kingfish chasing this shoal to be breaking so much water... and they were moving fast toward us.
Then I realised. It wasn’t fish but a pod of Dolphin. Nothing strange about that as they are fairly common around this part of the world, but this broken water stretched over an area of about 1000m. And back behind those leading as far as the eye could see.
Within two minutes they were breaking the water either side of the boat in numbers I had never seen. Mothers and calves. Juveniles. Adults. Jumping out of the water and landing back in an explosion of water. We could even hear their high pitched calls as they communicated with one another.
And then I realised they weren’t all Bottlenose Dolphins but there was second species, also made up of mothers and calves and these were much bigger. The largest Bottlenoses I have seen look like they could be up to 3 meters long. These round headed liquorish coloured animals however were even bigger. The largest I would think would have been closer to 4m (and when you are sitting in a six meter boat, that’s pretty big). There seemed to be as many of them as Bottlenoses.
I don’t know what the other species was but the two ‘tribes’ were clearly travelling together (and it appeared by the speed they were travelling, late for a rock concert or something).
The incredible thing was they just keep coming. Five minutes became ten. Ten became fifteen and still they came. In numbers I have never seen.
The final group didn’t try and give a wide berth to our stationary boat; they came within touching distance and a number streaked past straight underneath us. They seem to have rolled over onto their sides and looked up as they did so, revealing their pale undersides for literally a second, seen and gone in a blink of an eye.
I have no fear of these animals (had I known there’d be several hundred of them going to pass us for so long I’d have slipped into the water with them) but when a 3 meter dolphin barrels under your boat at a great rate of knots...it is certainly an experience.
Within minutes, they were gone. Disappearing in front of a wake of churning water.
No idea where they were going (beyond south) and they clearly weren’t hunting.
But they were certainly on a mission.
Needless to say we caught no more fish. We returned, silent and feeling pretty awestruck (and feeling very lucky we live in this country) to the island for another swim before making the 20 minute journey back to the mainland. In silence for the most part.
There is nothing like an encounter with these magnificent sea creatures to really cap off an almost perfect New Zealand summer's day.
And you know what? In New Zealand we almost take these encounters for granted.
Almost, but not quite.
Until next week
Posted by Iain on Sept. 2, 2016, 2:09 p.m. in New Zealand Lifestyle
A few months ago I was approached as an ‘immigration expert’ by a local documentary maker, Nigel Latta, who does some very solid myth busting TV series, to take part in a programme he was making about immigration to New Zealand.
I was at first a little reluctant and wanted to know what the angle was, given most migrant stories tend to err on the side of the negative - migrants steal jobs, migrants are to blame for expensive houses, migrants don’t like to assimilate, migrants are a net user of health and education services - all the usual garbage peddled by the ignorant and the politicians who pander to that sort of uninformed bigotry. The Americans have Donald Trump, the brits Nigel Lafarge, the French Marie Le pen and we have Winston Peters and his NZ First Party.
I was assured this was not going to be anything other than an exercise in trying to shine some light on these issues.
I agreed to take part.
I have to say if you are living in New Zealand I urge you to watch it. It is on TV One next week but is also available On Demand’ and you can access it here. I am hoping it will soon also be on Youtube because it is, without any doubt, the most informed bit of grown up and dispassionate discussion on immigration to NZ that I have ever seen. It is well worth an hour of your time.
Without wishing to spoil the show, what is quite clear is that New Zealand’s immigration system is carefully targeted; skilled migrants don’t take jobs from locals, demand for English speaking skilled migrants is real and of benefit to NZ (and the migrant), they are not blame for rising house prices, they can be the victims of racism (but thankfully that is happening less and less) and New Zealand needs these skills because we simply are not producing skills what we need locally.
Oh, and the Chinese will assimilate if we let them.
It is often argued that migrants are a cost to the country but this programme quotes some very interesting statistics on the net dollar gain (or loss) of various migrants groups.
Topping the list with a net annual gain to the economy of around $5000 are the British. North Americans come in just behind them at a shade under $5000 per annum, third are ‘Asians’ at around $4500, Pacific Islanders around $2500 and who brings up the rear in terms of their net contribution to the local economy? New Zealanders. At around $950 per year.
Although not quoted I suspect, based on language and culture, that South Africans probably come in at the same level as North Americans.
Nigel Bickle, the head of Immigration New Zealand, does a very effective job of explaining why our system is designed the way it is and it might surprise many that our policies are based on solid research. I have to agree.
All those that think that perhaps we don’t need the migrants we let in or they do not add very much economically or socially should watch this very informative bit of television.
It’ll be a bit of surprise for anyone that has never been an immigrant but less so those of you who are.
Until next week
Posted by danni on Aug. 26, 2016, 3:46 p.m. in New Zealand Lifestyle
To many (particularly those already living in either country) the answer is easy – they’re two completely different countries. It’d be quicker to list the ways Australia and New Zealand are the same than it would be to even contemplate all the ways in which they differ. Or is it the other way around, as many others claim?
Since IMMagine has licensed consultants who can advise against policy for both countries, we’ve recently been thinking a lot about these differences and even more so, the similarities.
This post is going to cover (on a very basic level) what the real differences and similarities are between Australia and New Zealand. It might surprise you to learn that many people actually believe that New Zealand is just a small province of Australia, or, more in jest, that Australia is New Zealand’s "West Island" to accompany its North & South (watch out Samoa, Cook Islands et al, we’re looking for an East Island!).
All a bit tongue-in-cheek, but for the potential migrant with a case of serious indecision, let’s take a closer look.
To begin with, New Zealand was one of the very last places on Earth to be settled by humans, while Australia has a local culture that stretches back over 40 000 years.
The three main areas of commonality between the two countries are:
1. The urban societies of both countries were created by the British over the last 3 centuries.
2. Nearly 30% of each country is made up of migrants.
3. Both countries are fairly close to one another geographically.
I often say that people living in temperate environments (which NZ is more so than Australia) don’t have a clue what it’s like to be really, really hot. Australia is really hot.
Climatically and environmentally, New Zealand is heaven by comparison. It receives good, fairly predictable rainfall, has huge rivers fed by melting glaciers with nutrient rich soils and within short distances provides an array of seasonal activity.
Conversely, Australia's deserts, droughts and leached soils for those in agriculture especially can be hell. NZ land is more productive and reliable and as a result, New Zealanders tend to not have the same ‘struggler mythology’ of Australians who have always had to deal with drought and scorched earth and the agricultural fall out of this.
Most of Australia’s land area just isn’t arable, except by extremely extensive stocking (those famous outback farms the size of Belgium…).
Culture & Indigenous Populations:
The Maori culture is far more prominent in New Zealand society than Aboriginal cultures are in Australian society. For example, Maori is an official language of New Zealand and is taught in schools, used in government departments and broadcast on television. New Zealand also has a Maori monarch and a Maori war dance is performed before rugby games (we all know about the Haka, right?)
Studies also show that in New Zealand, people of Chinese origin tend to maintain an ethnic Chinese identity while in Australia, they are more likely to consider themselves to be Australian in shorter order.
For a detailed comparison between the two country’s economy, click here.
In Australia, voting is compulsory. In New Zealand, it is not. Australia uses preferential voting in which candidates are ranked in order of preference. New Zealand does not. Australia uses a “first-past-the-post” system that gives the seat to the candidate that gets the most votes or preferences. This results in two major parties dominating.
New Zealand uses a proportional voting system which results in some major parties, but also representation from minority nationalist groups, business lobbies, environmentalists and parties aligned with specific races.
Australia has a senate. New Zealand does not. Australia does not have seats reserved for any racial group. New Zealand has special seats reserved for Maori.
The two countries do, however, have a shared military heritage and have fought side-by-side as brothers-in-arms in all major conflict, with none more meaningful to both than the loss of 12 000 men in Gallipoli, 1914 as the united force of the ANZACs (Australian & New Zealand Army Corps).
Australia & New Zealand enjoy playing, supporting and competing in the same variety of sports: rugby, soccer, cricket, rugby league, rugby union, hockey, netball and more rugby. Both countries also really like rugby. Rugby is important. RUGBY.
Overall, lifestyle in Australia and New Zealand is very similar. Work/life balance is important, the transition (especially for South Africans) is equally smooth-with-a-few-bumps (having said that, both NZ and Australia have many similarities to South Africa). The societies are both caring and conscious of its people and share an overall positive outlook; enjoying similarly relaxed, safe and proactive lives.
For the most part, both countries feel like a bit of a haven, avoiding the majority of the troubles of the world such as terrorism, corruption and violent crime.
Just for some laughs, here’s Buzzfeed’s comparison.
-Danni, Marketing Coordinator (New Zealand based!)
P.S. Iain, the Southern Man, will be back home in NZ from next week for at least three weeks before departing again for your shores to do a run of seminars. Visit our Seminar Calendar to register your place.
Posted by Iain on Aug. 19, 2016, 10:06 p.m. in New Zealand Lifestyle
Auckland has long harboured a desire to become the ‘world’s most liveable city’.
It has taken another major step on that path by being ranked at number 8, up from 9 last year out of 140 cities surveyed.
In this year's Economist Intelligence Unit Survey Auckland has pushed Sydney out of the top 10 (always love pushing those cocky Aussies further down the ladder). I’ll take it on the chin however that Melbourne (home to half my colleagues) has held on to its top spot at Number 1. It galls me somewhat to say it but it is a pretty cool place. A bigger Auckland with fewer carparks but in feel, attitude and culture quite similar.
The survey ranks cities for stability, healthcare, environment, access to education, infrastructure and culture.
I know I am a bit biased but I can see how Auckland rates in the top ten and a number of Australian cities also feature.
The threat of terrorism across Europe has seen some of their cities slide in the rankings.
Auckland has gone through some real growing pains as migration has surged in recent years and it has brought problems – more congested freeways, higher cost of living principally through ludicrously high (by our standards) house prices. I’d almost expect it would have pulled us down the rankings but it hasn’t.
I have long questioned what the ideal sized city is and I think it is something between 1.5 – 2 million people. Small enough to still be, well, liveable, relatively easy to get around yet big enough to enjoy the cultural and economies of scale that come with more people. I consider, for example, how until 15 years ago we’d be hanging out for major music artists to visit us and they came infrequently. These days in Auckland hardly a week will pass without some big act in town performing at one of our local 15,000 seat stadiums.
Professional sport now has the financial base to grow and prosper.
Increasingly a global IT hub, Auckland also has a multi billion dollar film, commercial and TV production industry to add to its tourism.
Income taxes flowing to Government has seen major improvements and expansion in infrastructure, in particular the new freeways linking up parts of the network that were planned but never built for decades. The roll out of electric trains on double track railway corridors, the City Rail Loop now being built under our downtown, the green light to affix a walking and cycle ‘clip on’ under the Harbour Bridge which will allow cyclists and walkers to now easily travel the 15 km round trip from downtown Auckland to picturesque Devonport (and perhaps catch a ferry for the ten minute ride across the harbour back to the starting point).
Our Hauraki Gulf and harbour have been declared reserves with limits on commercial fishing to try and rehabilitate a highly degraded marine environment and fish stocks. Within an hours’ ferry ride lie a number of island sanctuaries where Aucklanders (and visitors) can now see some of the world’s most endangered bird species as their island homes have been rid of introduced predators. Next to many of these islands are others covered in olive groves and wineries producing some truly outstanding product and places to eat, drink and while away a pleasant afternoon, day or weekend.
To the west lie the Waitakere Ranges, our own ancient rainforest protecting Auckland from the harshest of the weather that rolls ashore off the Tasman Sea (especially at this time of year).
Downtown Auckland is seeing a huge boost in residents living in the Central Business District. Now more than 50,000 call downtown home. You can imagine, I am sure, the impact this has had on eating out, night clubs, bars and if it is your thing, retail therapy.
We have, touch wood, experienced none of the threats that have dragged many of the top European cities down this year or Sydney where an increased threat of terrorism has seen that city bow out of the top ten.
Sometimes being a relatively small and relatively isolated set of islands with first world infrastructure, wide open spaces, high standards of public health and education and, it must be said, politics so stable as to be dead boring - all helping to make Auckland an increasingly cool and hip place to live, work and play (or just visit if you are not lucky or smart enough to live here).
I have to end by saying if you love Auckland, you’ll love the rest of the country even more. We are a relatively big city these days with 1.7 million people and that has its drawbacks. However there are very few people who could live in a city such as this with our temperate climate who can travel 120 minutes by plane and be scuba diving in the tropics or fly the other way and be skiing on a mountain top. And be home in time for a truly memorable eating experience at one of the world’s top restaurants.
I guess this helps explain why Auckland is now groaning under the weight of several million tourists each year. Traditionally many would fly into Christchurch and head for the hills/mountains/lakes and enjoy those quintessentially New Zealand wild and untamed places. Increasingly however they can spend a week in Auckland and then head for the wilderness and have two very different but equally wonderful experiences.
So watch out Melbourne, we have taken out Sydney and we are coming after you.
Until next week.
Posted by Iain on Dec. 18, 2015, 3:22 p.m. in New Zealand Lifestyle
They say Wellington on a good day cannot be beaten. ‘They’ are usually Wellingtonians - of course - who are understandably biased.
I never seem to be here when the sun is shining, but even on a rainy, cold ‘feels like mid-winter in Auckland’ day as it is today just a week out from Christmas, it is still pretty special.
Down here for a flying 24-hour visit, day one was spent in the bowels of the Immigration Department’s head office meeting with the ‘big cheese’ and his senior team, part of a regular cycle of get-togethers to discuss the issues of the day, ‘progress’ and potential future moves in the immigration space. These meetings are always confidential in terms of what is discussed but it is public knowledge that the Skilled Migrant (points) Category is under review with any changes that might happen being timed for mid-2016. At the same time, the Investment Category is being reviewed and any changes in that space will likely occur during the second half of 2016.
Wellington, in many respects, feels a little like San Francisco to those that have visited that city.
It has a veneer of grunginess to it but it is still hip to its core. I always find this so surprising given it is our capital city and is crawling with state functionaries in ill fitting cheap suits, grey shoes and glum expressions on their faces. The sort of people that never particularly strike me as the trend setting types. I suspect they aren’t. In this city you have a vibrant art and cultural scene and you have the Government. The former I suspect lap up craft ales in the trendy bars and eateries that seem to dominate this town while the bureaucrats sup on mass-produced and mostly vile beer in faceless taverns.
The streets are dotted with public art and sculptures and the waterfront is a constant delight even on a wet and miserable day like today.
At around 450,000 people the city is big enough to have everything you need but small enough to feel like you are part of something real. It almost has a village feel to it and I say that in the most complementary of ways.
You can live, work and play in the central business district and unlike Auckland property developers, here they seem to care about the apartment blocks they put up - tasteful and easy on the eye. Visually aesthetic. Not too tall. No one building dominates. It’s like the ego was left at home.
Today I set aside the morning to visit Te Papa, our national museum to enjoy the much talked about Richard Taylor of Weta Workshop (think Hobbits, Lord of the Rings, Gollum fame) exhibition based on the 100th Anniversary of the Gallipoli Landings in Turkey. April 25th, 2015 is the date that has grown to symbolise the the birth of our modern New Zealand identity, forged under sloppy British leadership and a rain of Turkish bullets. A campaign eventually lost at great cost in lives but etched forever in the hearts of all New Zealanders as the nation’s birthday.
The exhibition is everything I admire about my country and the creativity of New Zealanders. It was far from some dusty old exhibition of photos and memorabilia. The ‘story’ is that it is not just faceless New Zealand soldiers at war but five characters in particular told through interactive displays and giant models. The characters were introduced through giant models, the detail of which was extraordinary.
Nothing quite prepared me for the hairy knees, the sweat on a brow, the runny nose of the nurse upon learning of the death of her brother. Or the pain etched on the face of the medic looking down upon a (giant) lifeless body at his feet. It takes your breath away that these models which are probably three times life size seemed so utterly real - the expressions on their faces somehow made the telling of their experiences utterly, viscerally real.
These individual stories were told without self-indulgent glory. It is so ‘now’ to label such people as ‘heroes’ but the word was noticeable by its absence. How terribly ‘Kiwi’. A whole lot of guts, plenty of flies and lice but no glory. A gritty tale of young men living, fighting and dying in what was in the end pointless battle after pointless battle. Nothing heroic about it. Very human. Very sad. Very pointless.
As people streamed out of the exhibition a small number were openly weeping and I confess to a rather large lump in my own throat.
A very fitting end to another year in which the efforts of those who are part of the IMMagine team introduce a few more lucky migrants and help them join the ranks of we New Zealanders.
So the year draws to a close.
It has been another busy one which has seen us add more staff, expand the operation in Australia, seen several hundred more clients secure their resident visas and settle in New Zealand.
The economy seems to continue creating the jobs our clients need to secure those precious resident visas and 2016 looks like it is going to be another of modest economic growth and more skilled jobs being created than can be filled locally.
We will be closing for our Christmas Holiday at midday on 23 December and re-opening with a skeleton crew on Monday 11th of January. The full crew will be back on the 18th of January.
I want to thank you for your support and your comments after each of these blogs. I hope that the insights, experiences and explanations I offer each week is of some benefit whether practical or emotional in the difficult process of emigration.
For some of you this will be your last Christmas at home before joining us here in New Zealand in 2016. Enjoy it, stay safe and we look forward to helping you make 2016 something special.
To those of you already here, if it is your first Christmas - get out and enjoy everything this country has to offer you - the sun (possibly even in Wellington), the beaches, the fishing, the vineyards, cafes and restaurants. Leave those shopping malls behind and get those kids out into the parks and beaches and live that Kiwi life.
Until next year
Posted by Iain on Dec. 11, 2015, 4:01 p.m. in New Zealand Lifestyle
A well intentioned colleague asked me a few days ago if our Christmas message to clients should drop any reference to Christmas given many of our clients are not Christian and we look after a fair number of Muslims, Jews, Agnostics, Buddhists, Atheists and goodness knows what else.
The concern was that we might perhaps cause offence to those that are not Christian.
She received short shrift (in good humour).
I had only a few days before mocked the utter stupidity of the Auckland Regional Migrant Services Trust (ARMS), an organisation known less for its services to migrants but more for one of its former leaders having a well publicised affair with the Mayor of Auckland, over their instruction to staff about Christmas.
These lunatics had sent out an edict to their staff telling them to drop any reference to Jesus, Christmas or Christianity in the ‘Seasons Greetings’ message. Didn’t wish to cause any offense or alienate any of the people who had chosen to come and live in our (historically) Judeo-Christian nation.
I am not a Christian (nor anything else) but Christmas is a Christian festival. A day when Christians historically celebrated the birth of their main man, Jesus. Whether you believe in all that or you don’t makes no difference, it is still a Christian festival – so why deny it?
This PC rubbish was brought home to me even more as I wandered around the shopping malls of Singapore last week. Where the Christmas decorations and the mind numbing Christmas carols are being pumped out from 1 December. Ad nauseum. You can’t move without tripping over tinsel and Christmas trees. I doubt most Singaporeans are Christian and I doubt in Singapore Christmas has much to do with Christianity, rather rank consumerism at worst with a touch of spending a day with friends and family at best. Singapore’s God is ‘Work’.
Fast forward a week to Kuala Lumpur.
Last night I was sitting in a night market enjoying cheap street food and reflecting on this PC nonsense in countries like New Zealand when in the heart of Chinatown in a city of several million Muslims I was forced to listen to old Frankie dreaming of a white Christmas (in 33 degree heat...).
Malaysia is a Muslim country! Very Muslim. Everywhere I look there are mosques. From my hotel room window I can count six! Yet no one seems to get more into Christmas than Muslim Malaysians.
They lap it up.
When discussing this with a few potential Malaysian clients they just laughed and said like all these festivals in countries like this it is more about having a good time and getting a break from work. It ain’t any different where I come from. Or Singapore for that matter.
We don’t need to forget nor be offended by the historical basis of the festival do we? Surely it is important that as the mighty dollar muscles out the raison d’etre of all these major festivals it is still nice (not to mention appropriate) to acknowledge that countries like mine are more interesting for the various belief systems and religions that the people who live there hold close.
Who that has moved to New Zealand is going to be offended if they are wished a ‘Merry Christmas’ anyway? No migrant I have ever met.
No one ever apologises to me at the end of Ramadan. Nor should they. Eid is Eid. Hari Raya is Hari Raya. Chinese New Year is Chinese New Year. They don’t change the name or reference its origins in order not to cause me offence (I’d be offended if they did).
No one should forget what Christmas is based on – whether it is your religion or forms part of your belief system or not.
New Zealanders should never apologise for remembering Christmas for what it is meant to be (rather than what it has become).
There is much I love about New Zealand but this ‘PC’ stupidity is both shocking to me and also a bit frightening. It disrespects every migrant that has chosen to come and live the New Zealand life - whether they have a God in that life or not and whether they believe or they don’t.
Until next week...
Posted by danni on Sept. 4, 2015, 3:58 p.m. in New Zealand Lifestyle
Last week, New Zealand rock radio station The Rock completed their annual “Rock 1000” countdown, a list of the top songs ever according to voting Kiwis. These 7 days of New Zealand radio have become world famous with people from all corners of the globe tuning in to listen to the vote-based, week-long countdown.
Back in South Africa, Radio 702 ran a similar countdown annually but on a much smaller scale. Procol Harum’s Whiter Shade of Pale and The Eagles Hotel California featured in the top 3 every time the countdown was held, both each winning several times respectively. Whereas in the last 5 years that I’ve been living in New Zealand, the Rock 1000 top 5 songs been fairly random. In fact, hearing the winning song announced last week - Thunderstruck by ACDC - was where the idea for this blog post came from. The winning song choice was strange - ACDC had never featured in the top 5 before and only very rarely the top 10, and never with that particular song. Why and how did the NZ public vote for them this year? It’s not that I disagreed with the choice but I wondered what prompted the song’s resurgence.
The answer became pretty clear when I remembered that ACDC were about to embark on a massive world tour, visiting New Zealand in December 2015. (The last time they did so in 2010, a crowd of 60 000 people appeared to support them.) Phil Rudd, the troubled ACDC drummer, lives in Tauranga and has been in the Kiwi news often recently thanks to his excessive rock-star’ing. It wouldn’t take a brain surgeon to draw the connection between ACDC’s quick shot to the top of the Rock 1000 and their presence in the collective Kiwi-conscience over the past year.
You may think it strange that a connection to immigration could be made here, but bear with me...
It came to me then that when the New Zealand public want to make a statement, it’s possible to do so and be heard. It’s that last bit that’s the clincher. Everyone in the world makes a noise. But where are you most likely to be heard and why?
Coming from South Africa, protests against poor service delivery or worse form an actual hum you hear in Johannesburg CBD when you pass through. Sometimes these protests turn violent and are almost never successful in prompting change. Things that South Africans were making noise about in 2010 are still being fought about in courts, on the streets and in homes (Julius Malema and the EFF, Jacob Zuma and the cost to build Nkandla, the ever-present utilities issues and so on...) with not much change effected. The problems seem too big; the relevant cheeks turned.
Conversely, New Zealand’s population of around 4.5 million means that problems can be more easily dealt with. In fact, as the point of this article suggests, simply bringing about the awareness of a problem in New Zealand is far simpler. New Zealand’s establishment of a strong, stable education system results in a demographic that is, for the most part, intelligent. We grasp technology, we’re into our high-speed internet connections, our innovations in science and our business leaders are some of the best and most experienced in the world. We have all of these features of a cosmopolitan first world environment, but we’re not just noisy cogs in a massive first-world wheel like London and Hong Kong. We can and we do regularly effect change in New Zealand as a people.
When we decided to move to New Zealand, this ability to make a noise and be heard was one of the most appealing and unique aspects of the country to us. In South Africa you could spend your entire career trying to garner the same type of industry recognition as you could gain here in a far shorter period of time.
We speak up in New Zealand - like many do - but our industries, our government, (our radio stations...) and our mostly captive countrymen can actually hear us. Even though as a nation we have a giant’s mindset in many ways, we’re not giants. We’re smart, well-equipped and prepared enough to make a big bang on the world stage, but we’re a small enough nation that our individual bangs are heard too.
When I heard Thunderstruck had been chosen by the Kiwi public as the top rock song ever, I quickly realised how typical (and how possible!) it is for New Zealand to welcome ACDC back to the country in December by placing them squarely in that top spot. A more idealistic view is that the Kiwis are thanking them for coming and I wouldn’t put it past them! They’ve done it before with the Foo Fighters - New Zealand’s favourite band - by welcoming them onto stage with the loudest sound Dave Grohl admits he’s ever heard. Grohl has spoken about this at interviews since then and about how New Zealand is the “little country that could”. At the time, Geonet said that seismic stations in Herne Bay and Eden Park recorded vibrations from the concert at Western Springs across the entire set, 12 km away. The shaking was in time to the rhythm of the music, with lulls between songs.
The only other time such man-made seismic activity has been recorded in New Zealand was during the sound of 80,000 fans cheering the All Blacks' Rugby World Cup victory at Eden Park. I think that says a lot about the world-shaking power of our little big country.
- Danni (Marketing Coordinator, IMMagine)
P.S. I wholeheartedly respect New Zealand's decision this year. Here's the song in case this post has made you need to hear it: ACDC Thunderstruck
Posted by Paul on Aug. 21, 2015, 9:40 p.m. in New Zealand Lifestyle
Several weeks ago we began IMMagine's first photo competition in an effort to gather together pictures from people just like you, showing ‘your’ New Zealand. A pictorial homage to life and living in New Zealand from people of all shapes, sizes and walks of life including those who were born in New Zealand and those who migrated here.
We did this so that we could paint a picture of New Zealand to our clients in the most genuine way with a collection of real life imagery that best depicts New Zealand in the eyes of the people that have made it their home. We, over time, want to use these to show those yet to join us what life here is really like.
What a response we have had. Families at the beach, babies with new NZ passports, people hiking, fishing, walking or just relaxing in the pristine clean air in the middle of a lush green paddock. Some really amazing stuff from the absurd to the sublime.
Having watched the competition evolve, it has given me a very unique insight into what makes New Zealand such an attractive destination for so many people. We spend our lives travelling the world, talking to would be migrants about the ups and the downs of moving to another country. We don’t sell New Zealand; it sells itself. What we impart is a view of the world down in our little patch of green.
That view however is always biased because what New Zealand means to me might mean many different things to many different people.
Right now I am two thirds of the way through a seminar tour, starting in Singapore, stopping by Malaysia and ending in Hong Kong. I have been battling through angry hordes of impatient passengers at airport gates and baggage carousels. I have fought my way in an out of lifts, which in some of these parts is akin to competitive mixed martial arts. I have stood in some of the longest queues on the planet, dodged and dived through surging train station crowds and listened to more people clear their nasal passages than I care to mention.
So to me New Zealand a means quiet, peaceful and somewhat more patient existence. It means clean, fresh (cooler) air and living without air-conditioning. It means home.
Without giving the game away as we will be selecting a winning entry next week from the hundreds we have received, there have been some common themes and some more slightly unique perspectives, all of which have shown a really imaginative and very ‘real’ feeling of what New Zealand represents.
For some New Zealand is a place of opportunity, a place where things can and do happen. Summed up beautifully by one of our participants…
“One of my dreams became reality after graduating from Waikato Institute or Technology and becoming a NZ registered nurse.”
For others the importance of living in a country where children can flourish and grow is at the top of the list. Of all the entries we received, children were a common theme, whether at the beach on a summers day or pulling beetroot (at least looked like beetroot) out of the ground.
Work/life balance also features heavily with photos of mums and dads spending quality time with the nippers in all sorts of family activities (mostly outdoors) and away from the maddening crowds.
What is apparent from the sheer variety of the entries so far is that New Zealand is what you make it, but more than that it is a place where you can make things happen. Whether that’s by building a safe and secure life for your family, gaining an education or retiring gracefully on the beach, the opportunities exist for those who put in the effort. Your effort also pays off. All of that shows in the photos we have received. No matter what your motivations for relocating are or the particular aspirations you have for when you arrive, New Zealand can be a place where all of things (and more) can happen.
When I meet people considering making the move, I often talk about the realities of migrating and not just from the application perspective but once all of that is over. Once the dust has settled on the process, the Visas are done and the honey-moon phase is coming to an end. The gloss and shine of living in a new country is slowly starting to fade and the reality of normal life starts to set in.
For some that honey-moon phase lasts a long time, for others it’s a fleeting experience but for all, there is the inevitable realization that life goes on. You still get up every morning and head to work, you sit in traffic, or on a train or a bus, you pay your bills, you raise your children. You do all the things you have always done, just somewhere else.
What this competition and the photos and comments we have received so far show me is that that for many who have moved from countries without the same security, pace of life, social values and equal opportunities that we surround ourselves with in New Zealand, that daily grind is a whole lot easier (and more enjoyable) over here.
As someone who has always lived in New Zealand (excluding my stint in the UK), the entries we have received from this competition make me sit up and realize that the things I often take for granted are cherished on a daily basis by those who have moved their lives here. That’s a good thing. That’s a thing we want to tell the world. Forget about the glossy tourism brochure, let’s see New Zealand from day to day through the eyes of those that live here, there is no better way to understand what it can mean for you.
So if you are here and want to share it’s not too late. The competition ends on Sunday and the prizes are superb. But aside from the prizes it’s a chance for you to show us, what New Zealand means to you, what it means for your family. You can enter by clicking here.
Posted by Iain on May 1, 2015, 5:36 p.m. in New Zealand Lifestyle
Is it just me or do you also wake up and say ‘My goodness, it’s Friday again?’
I know it is a tired cliché but I swear it is true – the older we get the faster time seems to fly. And my world seems full of Fridays.
Here we are again – another one and I have gone another week without playing any golf!
I am a bit luckier than most though because Friday represents two things for me – on the one hand a feeling of mental exhaustion after a week advocating for the visa rights of migrants and defending clients against what seems at times an unfeeling and inconsistent immigration department that so often seems to act without any concept of the legal niceties of legitimate expectation.
However Friday also means I get to spend another couple days out of the city and up at our beach house.
Leaving the city for that two nights I find is the tonic I need to get ready for another week of battles and frustrations.
As regular readers know my family has a large safari lodge tent on our piece of paradise 150 km north of Auckland. Part of the reason we love heading away is spending time in that tent – close to nature.
Many people we know find it odd that we spurn the beach house in favour of sleeping in that tent through summer. The Queen sized bed helps…but drifting off to sleep to the sound of the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean, the Ruru (night owl), crickets and the rustle of leaves is a tonic for a tired mind. How often do you ever get to drift off also smelling the earth and two pet sheep (our neighbours…)?!
With autumn upon us the nights are drawing in, the temperatures are falling and we are seeing the return of more regular rain showers – something absent for the past four months.
The water in Bream Bay has fallen to about 21 degrees Celsius which is too cold for me to swim in and we are starting to get the occasional storm but we still get to enjoy the beach.
The fishing is still good but we are less inclined to head out and sit on the water for hours when the air temperature gets down to around 20 to 21 degrees. Not cold for sure but not high summer either.
By this time (mid-autumn) we also see a return of fresher winds meaning sleeping in the tent can be somewhat akin to try to rest inside a paper bag as some giant sucks the air and out of it, making for a noisy night’s sleep as the tent flutters and flaps in the wind. So for the next few months the tent will stand empty on the hill as we enjoy the winter to come and savour the summer to follow.
Walks along the beach are no longer just shorts and tee shirt – the sweatshirt is usually on standby. The fine golden sand will be blown up and down the beach covering one set of rocks that lay exposed all summer while another will be exposed for the first time possibly in years.
The stream that empties into the bay will likely be forced to cut a new pathway to the sea as a result.
Plants that were trampled by summer feet will get the chance to re-stake their claim as the crowds disappear for the next 3-4 months. In fact we will often get this 1.5km beach all to ourselves some days.
The migratory birds have left for warmer climes and we are left with a mix of squawking seagulls, Pied Oyster Catchers and Plovers that remain all round in this temperate part of New Zealand.
The fish will head out into deeper water where their appetites will diminish to the point that fishing becomes too sporadic for my wife’s enjoyment (so we won’t….).
The vegetables and fruits in the local farmers market have now changed from peaches, nectarines and plums to feijoas, apples and oranges. Summer veges are now being replaced by winter ones and the smoothie and ice cream cart will be less busy while the coffee caravan will ramp up. The German migrants will do a roaring business with their bratwurst rolls to warm chilly bodies.
I love the seasons in this part of New Zealand – we almost get an equal spread of summer (hot and dry), autumn (warm and changeable), winter (cool and wet) and spring (warm and changeable).
You get to enjoy leaves falling from tress at this time of year but still sunny warm days after cool nights and mornings. As if everything is slowing down and getting ready to rest for a few weeks through winter. Thankfully winters are both short and mild but cold enough that you appreciate spring and always look forward to the return of summer.
This weekend I have plans to spend much of it cutting through 2000square metres of thick pads of Kikuyu grass. Those of you not from Africa probably don’t know this species of grass but let me tell you it grows thick and fast into mats a metre thick. Triffid springs to mind. Grazing animals don’t like it very much and it smoothers everything. This particular patch that will be getting my undivided attention over the weekend hasn’t been cut for about six years.
So I will be up to my eyeballs (and sinuses) in great swirls of flying dust and shredded grass. It will be hot and tiring work and the most wonderful antidote to five days deskbound in downtown Auckland.
I am hoping we can squeeze in a bit of fishing while we are at it.
And sundowners on the deck.
Until next week
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