Top 5 lessons I learned about emigrating

1 It takes 3 years to feel at home

I honestly thought that settling into New Zealand would take about 6 months but it took 3-4 years. My experience was a honeymoon period for about 6 months (everything's new, lots to see and do), then a year of slog (everything's different, how do I earn money, finding a house) then a whinging pom year (monopolies, price fixing, poorly made houses, no central heating). Then one day, you realise nothing fazes you and New Zealand is your home.

2 If you want to buy a house asap, resist the temptation!

For me and my wife, buying a house and laying down roots couldn't happen quickly enough. We wanted a sense of stability, security, and our own home.

In retrospect, I think that led to us buying too quickly, buying the wrong house and spending too much money. Even if you've lived somewhere all your life, buying the right house in the right area is difficult. When your an immigrant, there's so much to learn: you don't know the suburbs, you're not familiar with the housing and you're not familiar with the process of buying a house.

My advice is don't even look at houses in the first 12 months. And rent in two different areas before buying a house.

3 Emigrating can be a huge emotional strain on a couple

In the first 4 years in New Zealand, I've seen several immigrant couples split up, while back in the UK none of my friends have split up. Before emigrating, it never crossed my mind that starting a new life in an a new country would put huge pressure on my marriage. We separated 2 years after emigrating, when our daughter was 1 year old.

In a period of just 5 years, we'd got married (which was surprisingly stressful), emigrated to the other side of the planet (that's a biggy), bought a house in a new country (tricky, especially when you learn of tsunamis, earthquakes and leaky home syndrome), began new jobs in a new country, started a family (with no support network), separated, and sold the house (at a massive loss and huge real estate agent fees).

My advice is classic lifestyle stuff - Spread out major life changes - If you decide to get married and emigrate and start a family within 3 years, you might be in for a rough ride.

4 De-clutter before emigrating

Kinda obvious really. But with the demands of emigrating, de-cluttering may drop off the bottom of the to-do list.

If you can sell / give away / recycle / trash half your stuff you'll save yourself lots of money (smaller shipping container to transport & store) and time (quicker and easier to find what you need when you need it).

5 Many people who emigrate later move back to their original country

Ping Pong Pom: an expression used in New Zealand to describe Brits who emigrate to New Zealand, move back to the UK and then return to New Zealand again. Also called a Boomerang Pom in Australia.

A surprisingly high percentage of people move back to their original country. I'm sure I read somewhere that 30% of immigrants migrate back, but I can't find the source. In my experience of my immigrant friends, more than 50% moved back within 3 years.

It's tempting to think that those who emigrated and then moved back to where they came from, as having somehow "failed". But emigrating is a great life experience, even if you decide to move back to where you originally came from. It's all about grabbing life by the horns and making the most of your opportunities.


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