'It takes guts to be an expat'

Last updated 14:00 14/03/2014

How does NZ life compare to abroad?

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Home sweet expat home

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We asked expats to share their views on how life in New Zealand compares to life abroad.

I've been living away from New Zealand for 10 years now.

I left in 2004 for the UK without much of a plan. I thought I'd do the usual Kiwi thing of getting a job to fund European travel, stay for a couple of years and then head home.

How wrong I was. London was a phenomenal opportunity for me. Within months I had a brilliant flat in a very cool neighbourhood and a fantastic job. I stayed 10 years.

I fell in love and married, and that's how I've ended up in Albania.

We moved to Tirana in February to take a year out of normal life, so I could learn about my husband's culture and so we could both have an adventure before we settle down and have a family.

It takes guts and an open mind to be an expat. You have to be willing to accept that the way you live now is not necessarily going to be the way it's done in the country you're moving to. The community you will live in is going to look, smell, and sound differently to where you've come from. And this is a good thing.

It's also tiring to have to re-learn all the little things that came easy at home. We are certainly re-discovering this as we settle into Albania.

The basic infrastructure is a long way away from the standard I was used to in London and Auckland. Even shopping for food is completely different - we now visit different shops/markets to buy bread, fish, meat, fruit and veges and then the supermarket to buy everything else. And then there is the challenge of tackling a new language.

I have loved living away from New Zealand - it was the best decision I ever made.

New Zealand could never have given me the professional opportunities I had in London. It's such an exciting, vibrant and diverse city.

And let's face it, I would have never met my husband if I'd stayed.

Albania is a different challenge altogether and I am really enjoying a slower pace of a life, the strong sense of family and the stunning landscapes.

The question hanging over us is should we move back to New Zealand or the UK at the end of this year? It is a hard decision. There are things I love about New Zealand, the fact that my family is there is a big thing. Plus the lifestyle and beautiful countryside.

But there are things I don't like about New Zealand, too. It's expensive. Despite earning a very good salary and saving hard, I am now priced out of buying a house in the city I grew up in. Plus New Zealand feels a little closeted from the rest of the world.

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But the UK is expensive too, and it's a long way away from my family. It can be a hard, stressful place to live. And then there's the weather.

Some top tips for people thinking about the expat life:

- Check with your bank to see if they have a partnership with a UK bank to help you set up a UK account before you leave. It makes life so much easier! Trust me.

- When you leave, take a supply of your favourite toiletries/cosmetics - enough to last you the first month or so. I found that there is something deeply soothing about having familiar shampoo. It just means that not everything is new all at the same time.

- Network: Find a friend or a friend of a friend who is there already to help show you the ropes.

- Pack light: You will never need all the clothes you're packing. But do take one good outfit for job interviews.

- Try to avoid comparing everything to how it's done at home. It's going to be different. Embrace the different!

- Give yourself a break. If it all gets a bit much adjusting to a new country, spend the night at home with the duvet and watch some tele.

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