“We have a fantastic reputation overseas,” says Matt Monk, communications director at Kea, a business networking organisation which connects Kiwis working abroad. “We’re not clock watchers, we’re creative problem solvers, and we’re full of ingenuity and innovation. So many Kiwis have set themselves up offshore and are doing amazing things – there are New Zealanders at the top of Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, some of the biggest companies in the world.”
It’s vital, he adds, that they maintain a strong connection to Aotearoa so our small nation can mix it with the big guns: “By connecting these Kiwis with one another and with home, we’re setting New Zealand up as the most connected nation in the world.”
Kea currently works with around half of the estimated one million Kiwis who make up our “borderless nation” overseas. “If New Zealand wants to be able to operate like the big guys, we need to embrace our expats and give them the ability to stay connected and to help us back home.” In return, those thinking of “taking on the world” can easily, through Kea, seek guidance from established New Zealand businesses abroad.
Each year, around 45,000 New Zealanders leave the country on a permanent or long-term basis. Verve caught up with a couple of them.
Emma and her fiancé James Wilson both hail from Invercargill and have been living in the UK for the past four years. “We met seven years ago,” says Emma. “I was studying accounting at Otago and James was playing rugby for Southland and the Chiefs.”
Since their move James has played for the Northampton Saints of the English Premiership while Emma has put her studies to good use working as a finance team leader for a smart card programme and software solution company.
“We love travelling and have certainly made the most of being based in Europe,” Emma says. “Last year we decided to embark on a different kind of adventure and launch Tui B, an online store (www.tui-b.com) which sells designer baby and toddler wear previously unavailable in the UK.” The collection includes southern hemisphere labels such as Minti and Huxaby. “We wanted British parents to style their babies in our distinctive brands,” adds Emma, “all offered in unique, reusable packaging. We even send out a small surprise gift with each order for the kids. The feedback from customers and bloggers has been overwhelming.”
As has been their welcome, as so often is for Kiwis. “It’s funny, but wherever we go around the world we are always being told how friendly and outgoing Kiwis are, which works in our favour when abroad. I feel like we will give everything a go and aren’t afraid of a challenge. Growing up in New Zealand gives you a passion to explore so I guess moving overseas is just an extension of that.”
What do you miss about NZ?
“Apart from our friends and family we really miss the great cafés, boutique stores, relaxed outdoor lifestyle and amazing scenery. I popped back home in January for a friend’s wedding and flying into Queenstown is breathtaking. There is something about being surrounded by the hills and lake that is good for the soul. Growing up, it is easy to take it for granted.”
Their favourite British spots include London for the buzz (“such energy and always so much going on with so many places to explore!”) and the Cotswolds for a touch of relaxation. The cheap flights to mainland Europe too, she adds, are a major bonus.
Emma says that the key to succeeding overseas is to make friends and immerse yourself in the culture. “Take every opportunity and give it your all. We have such a great friend base here and it’s rare to have a weekend free.”
They must make the most of their experience, as the move will not permanent.”We do plan to eventually come back to New Zealand at some stage to live,” says Emma. “We don’t have any plans locked in place at the moment but we have just purchased a holiday house in Queenstown so we can have a base when we need a taste of home. New Zealand will always be home but we can’t turn down the opportunities for us here in the UK at the moment.”
Having previously visited South Korea, China and Japan, Julian, from Christchurch, chose to head back to Seoul where he now teaches English at a private language school. “It’s called Chungdahm Learning,” says Julian. “It’s one of the top private companies in the country and takes in students after-school. Teaching English has become big business as many of the universities now expect their students to be fluent to a certain level.”
Julian read ecology and biodiversity at Victoria University, but has since completed a TEFL course and training given by his South Korean employers. He is the first Kiwi that many of his students have ever met, and admits that some — along with even his USA workmates — sometimes struggle with his accent. “It forces me to pronounce things with an American accent!”
Though, Julian says he’s also picked up some Korean too: “Travelling the subway each day, the first phrase I picked up was ‘please be careful of the closing doors’, but that wasn’t much use in general. I have learnt some more since then, and the people really do get a buzz out of seeing westerners speak their language.”
The 27-year-old is now heading into his sixth month in the city and is currently considering going back for a second year, but doesn’t think it will be long-term career path. “It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend time overseas,” says Julian, “and it’s given me a whole new level of appreciation for teaching. You become very committed to the students because so many of them are such nice people.”
Favourite places so far in Seoul?
There are two that spring to mind: Sinsa and Sinchon. I love walking around them both. The first is quite an affluent area with incredible streets to wander down, cool shops and great cafés. It’s very relaxing, with a vibe comparable to Ponsonby. The second place is much quieter. There’s also a river which runs through the middle of the city, and that has lots of wonderful places to walk along with lots of parks and open spaces to sit and relax.”
Julian jokes that just the other day he told his friend he was missing pies, and was recently sent some chocolates and pineapple lumps which he enjoyed sharing with his pals. He admits to a little longing for our legendary scenery too. “As wonderful as Seoul is, in terms of scenery, you have to travel a long way to find somewhere, whereas in New Zealand it’s very easy to find somewhere to park up for the day and have a wonderful time.”