American student considering studying in Auckland

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American student considering studying in Auckland


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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 26th August 2013, 05:48 PM
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Hi everyone,

Well, from the title, obviously I'm not an expat, but I'm coming here to get some honest perspectives on your experiences in New Zealand as resident foreigners.

To give you some background on myself, I just completed three years at a university in Wisconsin during which time I finished a BA in history with a minor in physics, and I'm currently slated to go on to do another bachelor's in computer science as part of a dual degree program that some universities over here have, in which you do three years at a liberal arts college, complete a degree in whatever you'd like along with whatever prerequisites you need for the second segment, which involves two more years at an engineering school. (Keep in mind that the normal American bachelor's track takes four years, unlike in most other countries.)

However, over the summer, I decided to contact the University of Auckland and see if there were any options for going there for the second part of my undergraduate education. They were fairly receptive and directed me to their Graduate Diploma in Computer Science program, with the option of finishing a Postgraduate Diploma afterward. That seemed fairly appealing to me, and the CS people at Auckland were very friendly and encouraging, but as I started looking into what it would mean to go, I started to find some less pleasant stuff from expats living in the country. This is to say that I discovered entire support forums dedicated to the apparent emotional trauma of living in a false and hostile form of paradise.

From such sites, I learned that:

1. The entire country is xenophobic and full of hypernationalists.

2. The vaunted natural beauty and ecologically-friendly policies are nothing more than the illusions cast by a nationwide greenwashing campaign.

3. The value of cleanly grown produce is virtually unknown.

4. New Zealand is the most consumerist and materialist country in the world. (Hard to believe, given what I've seen in parts of the US.)

5. If you step onto a road or highway in New Zealand, you will be killed instantly.

Now, of course, this is hyperbolic and I'm simply putting these out there as examples of the kinds of criticisms I've read. I'll admit that I was under the widespread impression that New Zealand is a laid-back, environmentally-sound, and overall lovely place, but I'm always willing to smash rose-colored glass wherever and whenever they're found. However, I realize that I'd be acting just as rashly if I took all of this at face value and simply scrapped the whole thing on account of some disgruntled internet communities, though the "if you don't like it, you can leave" response in most of the would-be rebuttals was hardly inspiring.

So I turn it over to you to help me get a better sense of things, or at least to take a stab at doing so. Is there some validity to these claims, or are they the rantings of an embittered minority who simply didn't find their expected heaven on earth when they arrived?

Some things to bear in mind:

I'd only be there as a student, so my experience would likely be different than that of an expatriate, and I imagine that like elsewhere, student culture can be fairly diverse and there's often a niche for most interest groups. High property costs likely wouldn't be an issue either.

I'm from Oregon originally; for those of you unfamiliar with the US, the Pacific Northwest tends to be pretty left-leaning, with a strong environmentalist movement and with healthier eating habits on average (which is not to say you can't find heart attack-inducing junk there or that there's a fresh fruit deficiency everywhere else) than much of the country. In general I try to stick to support sustainable production and eat right.

I wouldn't be looking to stay long-term.

Anyway, I'm very interested to hear what everyone has to say, and I'd like to thank you in advance for your help!

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Old 27th August 2013, 03:08 AM
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Hi Foxyj - and welcome to the Forum.

And wow! it looks like you've come across one of those websites that is (to put it mildly) slightly biased! I think I know which one it is - and the fact that it has now closed down shows you how successful it was. Also bear in mind, its mission statement was (in their own words) to ...'lay out the downside of emigrating to New Zealand....'. Now how one sided is that?? No wonder everything on there is negative!!

I'm not even going to bother to answer your individual points. I'm sure you'll agree that in any country you'll find the odd zealot that answers to any one of those points.

Your final point says it all.... ' If you step onto a road or highway in New Zealand, you will be killed instantly.'.

Really? Who are they kidding? That on it's own should make you question the reality of the forum. Whoever wrote those words has never really been in any major city in the world. Even Auckland is a doddle traffic-wise.

Anyway - all I can tell you is that this forum tries to be balanced. We don't delete the bad any more than the good. But we do expect our http://www.expatforum.com/expats/gen...rum-rules.html to be followed.

So please feel free to browse our forum, and get a more balanced view of New Zealand than these other charlatan forums give you.
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Old 18th September 2013, 10:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FoxyJ View Post
Hi everyone,

Well, from the title, obviously I'm not an expat, but I'm coming here to get some honest perspectives on your experiences in New Zealand as resident foreigners.

To give you some background on myself, I just completed three years at a university in Wisconsin during which time I finished a BA in history with a minor in physics, and I'm currently slated to go on to do another bachelor's in computer science as part of a dual degree program that some universities over here have, in which you do three years at a liberal arts college, complete a degree in whatever you'd like along with whatever prerequisites you need for the second segment, which involves two more years at an engineering school. (Keep in mind that the normal American bachelor's track takes four years, unlike in most other countries.)

However, over the summer, I decided to contact the University of Auckland and see if there were any options for going there for the second part of my undergraduate education. They were fairly receptive and directed me to their Graduate Diploma in Computer Science program, with the option of finishing a Postgraduate Diploma afterward. That seemed fairly appealing to me, and the CS people at Auckland were very friendly and encouraging, but as I started looking into what it would mean to go, I started to find some less pleasant stuff from expats living in the country. This is to say that I discovered entire support forums dedicated to the apparent emotional trauma of living in a false and hostile form of paradise.

From such sites, I learned that:

1. The entire country is xenophobic and full of hypernationalists.

2. The vaunted natural beauty and ecologically-friendly policies are nothing more than the illusions cast by a nationwide greenwashing campaign.

3. The value of cleanly grown produce is virtually unknown.

4. New Zealand is the most consumerist and materialist country in the world. (Hard to believe, given what I've seen in parts of the US.)

5. If you step onto a road or highway in New Zealand, you will be killed instantly.

Now, of course, this is hyperbolic and I'm simply putting these out there as examples of the kinds of criticisms I've read. I'll admit that I was under the widespread impression that New Zealand is a laid-back, environmentally-sound, and overall lovely place, but I'm always willing to smash rose-colored glass wherever and whenever they're found. However, I realize that I'd be acting just as rashly if I took all of this at face value and simply scrapped the whole thing on account of some disgruntled internet communities, though the "if you don't like it, you can leave" response in most of the would-be rebuttals was hardly inspiring.

So I turn it over to you to help me get a better sense of things, or at least to take a stab at doing so. Is there some validity to these claims, or are they the rantings of an embittered minority who simply didn't find their expected heaven on earth when they arrived?

Some things to bear in mind:

I'd only be there as a student, so my experience would likely be different than that of an expatriate, and I imagine that like elsewhere, student culture can be fairly diverse and there's often a niche for most interest groups. High property costs likely wouldn't be an issue either.

I'm from Oregon originally; for those of you unfamiliar with the US, the Pacific Northwest tends to be pretty left-leaning, with a strong environmentalist movement and with healthier eating habits on average (which is not to say you can't find heart attack-inducing junk there or that there's a fresh fruit deficiency everywhere else) than much of the country. In general I try to stick to support sustainable production and eat right.

I wouldn't be looking to stay long-term.

Anyway, I'm very interested to hear what everyone has to say, and I'd like to thank you in advance for your help!
As a fellow American, I will give you some feedback based on what I know our culture to be like compared to here, and I will answer point by point if I can to address the criticism you read about.

1. The entire country is *not* xenophobic or hypernationalist. However, there is absolutely a thread of casual racism here that the average left leaning American would find odd and unnecessary. I am from California, married to a kiwiguy. He occasionally makes race based comments that in my old life I would never see as necessary: it's a bad driver, not a bad <insert race here> driver... stuff like that. And, you will find that compared to the average American leftie, there is a degree of pride about NZ that can seem a little over the top ... like, people *really* cling to national figures with vaunted reputations ... kiwis will all talk about Sir Edward Hillary, Kate Shepherd, how Phar Lap was stolen by the Aussies... stuff like that. So, on the one hand it can be unusual if you are from a place where history is thought of more globally and in a vague manner. Here, because their history is new, and comparatively small, people with feats of greatness are held to high reverence.

2. The natural beauty is not over-hyped at all. It is *the* most beautiful place I have ever been to. What is not adequately addressed here is the fact that NZ is on target to destroy their natural beauty faster than any other modern nation if they do not get a handle on the consumer industries polluting the environment. This is something that is slowly being addressed, but it's going to take a lot of pressure from the public to change the current mentality on how we are impacting the environment here.

3. I'm going to mostly disagree with this. Many, many, many people grow their own gardens here, and most people appreciate organic style gardening. Large businesses are less inclined to be careful, but I honestly don't think it's much different than what we find in the US.

4. There is a peculiar regard for money here, in my experience. Whereas in the part of the US that we are from, we would give our extra fruits and veggies, plant seedlings away, instead here, people often put stuff on the roadside in bags and list them for $2 ... I find that kiwis are not ungenerous, but wages are historically low for the average person/job and the cost of living is very high--so, they don't share or "give away" like we would be used to coming from our part of the US. Your circle of friends would not be like this, but I was used to anonymous generosity from where I was from, and it's not quite like that here. I would say that more than loving "stuff" like we do in the US, kiwis prefer having the *cash*.

5. There is a different style of driving here compared to the US, although I've never had even one near miss since moving here several years ago. In the part of NZ where I live, they do not utilize many stop signs, and instead most travel is managed by way of round-a-bouts. This keeps travel speeds mostly up at all times, since you don't stop to enter the round about (unless you don't have the right of way). So, on the one hand it can made driving more complex for people who are used to specific directions from road signs, but it also keeps traffic flowing smoothly for the most part, and makes getting to places on time much more likely.

Those points being addressed, I will add this: come for a visit if you can. NZ is going through a growing phase, and fresh blood is precisely what is going to get it back on track--young, new eyes, fresh opinions. You might not stay, but your visit could positively influence someone you meet who goes on to do grand things here in NZ. It has for a few decades stagnated on the coat-tails of its former glory from the 50's/60's eras. People are beginning to see that now, and are sounding the voice for change here. It is still a new country, trying to find its way, and at times vulnerable to feeling inferior because of its size and remoteness. You will find that this is likely the reason behind the "big for their britches" attitude that turns some people (ex-pats) off. I have found that if you keep that in mind, it's not hard to understand why a good number of kiwis have trouble accepting any criticism of the country--and, truthfully, we have the exact same sorts in the US. When someone is still trying to define themselves, it smarts being criticized for the mistakes made along the way. I personally believe there to be more goods than bad here: the landscape and geographical history is achingly beautiful; the people are polite and friendly--not warm like what we're used to in the US, they're more formal than that, but still very welcoming and friendly! You can absolutely have a great life if you come prepared, one where you can join a soccer, rugby, gardening club... whatever, and meet people quickly who will want to help you settle! The integration of Maori heritage here in everyday life sets the bar that every other country should use. It is amazing. And, although there are segments that grumble about it, by and large, even Pakeha enjoy the pleasure that comes from how Maori heritage has put NZ on the global map. I came from a well rounded, very comfortable upper middle class life in California, and would never return to it, such is how happy and content I am here in NZ. I don't have a pool in the backyard like I did in California, but I do have bee hives and a kick-ass garden!

Cheers,
Kim
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Old 18th September 2013, 11:15 PM
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Yep, what Kim said!
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Old 20th September 2013, 01:51 AM
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.....
4. There is a peculiar regard for money here, in my experience. Whereas in the part of the US that we are from, we would give our extra fruits and veggies, plant seedlings away, instead here, people often put stuff on the roadside in bags and list them for $2 ... I find that kiwis are not ungenerous, but wages are historically low for the average person/job and the cost of living is very high--so, they don't share or "give away" like we would be used to coming from our part of the US. Your circle of friends would not be like this, but I was used to anonymous generosity from where I was from, and it's not quite like that here. I would say that more than loving "stuff" like we do in the US, kiwis prefer having the *cash*.
Kimbella, I loved your post. It gave a really good insight into the Kiwi life.

I agree mainly with your point above too - but I have also found Kiwis to be fantastically generous to strangers too. I'll give you our example:

We were new to the country, and were taken to a local amateur theatre group by my cousin. There we met my cousin's boyfriend's daughter's schoolfriend and her husband (the point being they were not close friends!). We mentioned that we would be going travelling to the Coromandel the next day, and without hesitation they offered us their holiday home for the duration. No cost, nothing expected (although we did take them out for a meal later).

It turned out it was a brand new three-bedroomed house in a very smart seaside resort (Pauanui).

Now that's what I call generous!
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Old 20th September 2013, 02:15 AM
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Kimbella, I loved your post. It gave a really good insight into the Kiwi life.

I agree mainly with your point above too - but I have also found Kiwis to be fantastically generous to strangers too. I'll give you our example:

We were new to the country, and were taken to a local amateur theatre group by my cousin. There we met my cousin's boyfriend's daughter's schoolfriend and her husband (the point being they were not close friends!). We mentioned that we would be going travelling to the Coromandel the next day, and without hesitation they offered us their holiday home for the duration. No cost, nothing expected (although we did take them out for a meal later).

It turned out it was a brand new three-bedroomed house in a very smart seaside resort (Pauanui).

Now that's what I call generous!
Thanks muchly for the compliment! I agree with you on that sort of kindness, generosity if you will. I find there to be a *wonderful* sort of naivety here that lends people to being generous even if they barely know you. My comments on the subject were mainly about little things that people elect to sell rather than just give away. In fact, I think you are totally on track--kiwis would be more apt to be generous about something large, and surprising!

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