As this year draws to a close and the new one begins you might be starting to reflect on whether this is the right time to make the move back to NZ.
Perhaps there has been a shift in your personal life, or your professional situation has changed, prompting some soul searching in relation to where next? Maybe your visa is due to expire so you’re steeling yourself for the inevitable need to leave? Or, perhaps it’s the promise of a different lifestyle - more relaxed and way more fun than the existence you’re trudging through right now.
As NZ winds down for the year photos of friends and families enjoying the classic Kiwi summer can lure you in, prompting a spur of the moment decision to chuck it all in and head south for what looks like a much easier life. But before you make any rash decisions, take some time to ponder the wisdom of those who have done just that. In this blog, I’ll pull out some of the key insights from the Happy Homecoming blog to give you some questions to contemplate before you decide whether or not to make the move back.
Is it what you want? What you really, really want?
What NZ offers you is unique. NZ isn’t the UK with better weather, Australia without the bugs, Asia or South America without the language barriers, or a safer version of the US.
In order to appreciate its unique offer, you have to actually want what NZ provides. A distinctive culture, unique opportunities and, a lifestyle unlike that anywhere else in the world. It’s also, quite possibly, the only place in the world where you have close family and friends who have known you since playcentre, making certain aspects of living in NZ impossible to replicate elsewhere.
But is that what you actually want at this point in your life? What is the real appeal? And do you actually need to move back to benefit from your NZ connection?
A pause, a change or a rethink?
At this time of year a lot of us are physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted and the idea of leaving our current life and moving somewhere else can take on enormous appeal. Leaving behind an unsatisfying job or a complex personal situation may seem like the easiest, or at least quickest, way to deal with the parts of your life that aren’t working out.
The power of the pause
But will this ‘emergency evac’ back to NZ actually solve more problems than it creates? In hindsight, a number of interviewees said no. What they really needed was to give themselves a break, to press pause and put some distance between themselves and the situation that was causing them so much angst.
If this sounds like you, an extended holiday in NZ, staring at the ocean and tapping into the wisdom of those playcentre friends over coffee, might be what you actually need to help you figure out the true nature of the problem and how best to address it.
In some cases, the rest will be as good as a change and you can go back to your ‘life as usual’ refreshed and much clearer on what you actually, really, really want.
Change where you live instead of changing where you live
Are you bored? Frustrated? Feeling stuck in a rut? Despite what your Instagram feed might suggest has the shine of the expat life actually worn off and left you feeling like all that was once new and exciting has become old and routine.
Well guess what, that can happen wherever you are and, wherever you go in the world. And, as a self-confessed change junkie, I can also testify to the fact that change in itself can become predictable and routine if it becomes your norm.
As counter-intuitive as it might seem, boredom is more effectively addressed by adding depth, rather than breadth, to your life. Staying where you are, making a deeper connection to your community and investing in local relationships may not seem like it will deliver the thrill of the constant newness that characterises a life on the road, but you may find it delivers up something more. A sense of belonging, or a feeling of involvement in other people’s lives that goes beyond the superficial exchange of holiday snaps.
Re-examine your assumptions
Have you always assumed that your OE experience was your opportunity to live a looser, freer, more interesting life before you succumbed to the inevitable expectation that you would go back to NZ and resume your place as a responsible, happy to ‘conform to the norm’ citizen of our fine land? And does that thought of actually slotting back into that mainstream, middle NZ life leave you cold?
Many of the interviewees reported feeling a sense of dread brought on by the weight of expectations they assumed others would hold in regards to what they would do, and how they would live, once they got back to NZ – married, mortgaged and middle of the road.
What they found out when they actually got back is that NZ is actually home to people living all sorts of diverse lifestyles, picking their own path and taking the road less followed. Moreover, although every person in NZ will happily voice an opinion, very few will have genuine expectations about how you should live. They’re all too busy figuring out their own lives to be all that invested in yours.
Becoming conscious of, and then letting go of these assumptions as to what your life should be like in NZ can bring about a profound shift in relation to contemplating the move. Once you let go of your expectations, the possibilities open up and can lead you down the path of considering how to create the life that you want, rather than trying to identify a pre-existing space into which you can fit.
And of course, who says you have to come back to NZ just because you have to leave where you are now? Being there or being here aren’t your only options you know!
But, if you do decide you do want to come back…
Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise
If you’ve reflected on your motivations for moving back and are sure that you really, really want to be here, spend some time really figuring out why. Is it to spend more time with family, walk each day on the beach, start a business or something else? Perhaps you just want some time out, or space to reflect, while figure out your next move?
Whatever it is, put that priority front and centre when making your plans to return. This will help you make decisions and allocate time, energy and money in such a way that aligns with what is most important to you at this time.
Making the decision to return to NZ is a big one for many, laden with assumptions, expectations and fear. What I’ve learned from my own experience and those shared on the blog, is that the most important consideration is making the choice for reasons that make sense to you and feel right at the time
The move back to NZ isn’t a panacea, it won’t magically fix all the professional or personal problems in your life or offer a guarantee that you’ll never again want to leave. But if you’re honest with yourself, take the time to truly understand your own motivations and prioritise what you want to achieve from the return to NZ, you can be as happy here as anywhere else.
By Tricia Alach
Tricia Alach is a freelance consultant specialising in leadership development, talent management and OD. She has recently returned to live in NZ after 12 years as a glomad living in the Netherlands, the UK and the US.
Inspired by my own decision to return to live in NZ after 12 years of being a glomad, her blog How to have a Happy Homecoming tells the stories of a diverse group of Kiwis who have lived abroad and returned to NZ.
Feel free to connect via LinkedIn.