Tough in the Tron for immigrants

Last updated 07:12 31/07/2013
Hamilton's CBD
HAMILTON: Some immigrants have found the city less than welcoming.

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I am a 42-year-old South African male. Three years ago my partner - a Kiwi - and I decided to leave London where we'd been living for number of years and head to NZ to start a family.

I'd visited New Zealand previously and we both agreed that it offered a very healthy, outdoorsy kind of lifestyle that we both wanted our child to grow up with. I still agree with that to this day, but to say it was tough to adjust to life here as a foreigner would be an understatement.

What I have to say comes from observations and experiences I've had while living in Hamilton, the place we chose to settle. I haven't lived anywhere else in NZ, although I have travelled the country extensively.

I found the general Hamilton public to be insular at best, and strangely wary of foreigners. I've had genuinely cheerful greetings from strangers become the cold shoulder the instant they hear my accent.

A lot of the disdain for South Africans seems to stem from sport I think, mainly rugby, which dumbfounds me no end. Is it really that important??

I've dealt with vitriolic rants about South Africans being a nation of cheats, amongst other things. So many times a perfectly harmless conversation in a pub has become heated, mainly because I am not prepared to sit back and let someone that's never been to my country abuse it without reproach.

There have also been many instances where people have found out that I am South African and immediately taken it for granted that I must also be some kind of psychotic, neo-nazi racist, and proceeded to involve me in a conversation in which some sickeningly racist comments have been made and received with gales of laughter from the other white Kiwis involved. I was extremely disappointed to discover that racism is alive and well in New Zealand.

I am a social person and I enjoy visiting pubs and meeting new people, and that's why it saddens me a little that even though I'm living in NZ, my close group of friends is made up of an Irishman, a Sri Lankan and a Pom, no Kiwis. My friends (all of whom I've met here in Hamilton) and I have all had similar experiences trying to get on with life in Hamilton. One has to actively seek out places in Hamilton where one will be accepted on merits as opposed to heritage. These places do exist, I have found and enjoy frequenting several now, but it was a rocky road getting there.

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My son is now 2 years old and we are still happy with our decision to let him grow up in NZ.

At least he'll have the right accent when he's older and support the right team, just hope the little guy doesn't take flack because his old man is from another country.

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