Finding a home in Wales

Last updated 05:00 08/09/2013
Cardiff

LOVELY VIBE: Cardiff Bay at night is a lively urban centre.

Cardiff
HOME AWAY FROM HOME: Expatriate Kiwi opera singer Shaun Dixon enjoys living in Cardiff.

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Shaun Dixon has found a home away from home in Cardiff.  

Why did you move to Cardiff?

I was offered a contract in 2009 to work with Welsh National Opera who are based in Cardiff and have been there ever since. An added bonus was the fact that my older brother Jason lived in the city so it allowed me to be closer to him.

What do you do there?

I use the city as my base for freelance work as a professional opera singer throughout the UK and parts of Europe as well as working for WNO on a regular basis.

What do you like or dislike about it?

I like that Cardiff is very similar to Auckland, being a harbour/bay city. It is small to get around but has everything you require. Cheaper than London yet is commutable in 2.5 hours - perfect for auditions and concert work. People are really friendly and love Kiwis as rugby is their home sport too. I'm not sure there's anything I dislike really.

How does the cost of living compare to New Zealand?

It is generally much cheaper for accommodation, food and entertainment. The internet virtually costs nothing, too, whereas in New Zealand it's terribly expensive. The only thing more expensive maybe in Cardiff is the cost of petrol, but not having a car is a bonus.

What do you do on weekends?

I like to play golf with my brother if the weather permits. I love to go cycling along the Taff Trail as the scenery is beautiful, and spending time with my beautiful girlfriend Stephanie, who is also an opera singer at WNO.

What do you think of the food?

The food is variable with many different international style restaurants. My favourite by far is Cote Brasserie in Cardiff Bay where I love having the moules frites (mussels and fries).

What's the best way to get around the city?

Walking or cycling.

What's the shopping like?

Stephanie says "amazing". I tend to use my mouse.

What's the nightlife like?

Interesting and vibrant. It is a very young, student-based city so every night is party night.

What is your favourite part of the city?

Cardiff Bay - it is really beautiful and has a lovely vibe to the area.

What time of year is best to visit?

Probably the spring and summer months (April-August) as the weather is slightly better then. The other time to visit is the autumn when the All Blacks come to play at the Millennium Stadium.

What's your must-do thing for visitors?

Definitely go to the Bay. The Wales Millennium Centre is the main attraction there with many shows going on (also home to WNO). There are also plenty of restaurants and activities around. The Doctor Who experience is also a must-do as Cardiff is the home of the series. The walk along the Barrage is also incredibly beautiful and there's a new rent-a-boat option that allows you to take your own power boat from the Bay up the Taff River.

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What are your top tips for tourists?

Same as above plus perhaps rent a car so you can visit the outlying villages and other parts of Wales. The Brecon Beacons is a fantastic mountainous region for tramping and the Gower has amazing coastline and beaches all within an hour of Cardiff.

How easy is it for you to get back to New Zealand?

Not very easy as time and cost don't really allow so I am greatly appreciative to be working on The Flying Dutchman with NZ Opera as it is giving me the opportunity to see family and recharge my Kiwiness.

Shaun Dixon sings the role of the Steersman in NZ Opera's production of Wagner's The Flying Dutchman, opening in Wellington on Saturday, September 14, and in Auckland on Saturday, October 5. See nzopera.com

If you know an expat who wants to share the inside knowledge on their home away from home, email escape@star-times.co.nz with Expat in the subject line.

- Sunday Star Times

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