In this post, I explore the themes around what factors influence the decision to come back to live in New Zealand. Often these are interrelated while some can only be understood in hindsight. There was also a shared sense that timing is key. Regardless of what factors are in place, or how sensible the choice may seem, the decision to move at that particular time has to feel right for you.
Tortoises and hares
The time that elapsed between, deciding to move back to NZ and, actually making the move ranged from two months to more than five years. Some interviewees reported preferring to live an impulsive kind of life which meant they made the decision on the spur of the moment without any research, or planning, per se.
Others spent years weighing the options, investigating other potential locations, such as Australia or North America, before concluding that NZ was the best option for them, given their particular circumstances, at that particular time.
Many of the interviewees had moved back to NZ and then away again several times before. These ‘practice runs’ had been a valuable learning experience and provided them with insight into the repatriation process which they used to plan and manage their latest return.
Others had approached it a different way, making the decision over a number of years via a series of extended visits where they practiced what it might be like to live back in NZ before making the commitment to come.
The amount of time spent planning the move didn’t appear to have much impact on the experience once they arrived. That seemed linked to a range of other factors which I will explore in the upcoming blogs.
So why do they come?
The majority of interviewees reported at least one catalyst event that prompted them to make the firm decision to move back to NZ. In several cases, interviewees reported experiencing several of these around the same time which helped them feel that this was the right time to make the move. The main catalysts were:
Getting divorced. This was especially so if the person had been married to a local and, that had been the main reason they had stayed living in that place. The marriage ending provided the person the opportunity, or freedom, to decide what they really wanted to do next, which was to come home.
Being made redundant. This catalyst applied to a number of interviewees, some of whom were made redundant themselves and, some who had a spouse who was made redundant. In some cases this provided the means to take a little life break to come back to NZ and think about what to do next. In others, especially when the spouse had been reluctant to make the move, it provided an external severing of a tie that might otherwise have kept them in place.
Having, or thinking about having, children. For several interviewees the decision to move back to NZ at the time they did was prompted by a desire to raise their children in New Zealand. In one case this also included wanting to have a NZ specific birthing experience, having been put off by stories of what this experience can be like in the UK.
In addition to the catalyst moments, many interviewees reported a number of push factors that helped them make the decision to leave the place they were living. This included:
The cost of living. This was especially so in London where interviewees reported that the rising cost of housing, coupled with stagnant wages in their field, provided a disincentive to staying on for good.
Local school systems or educational approaches. In addition to wanting their children to experience the Kiwi lifestyle, some interviewees also reported not wanting their children to have to go through the local education system, because they disagreed with the educational philosophy in place. This was the case even for some younger interviewees who didn’t yet have children but were thinking ahead.
The lure of travel has gone. Some interviewees reported a desire to leave the place they were living when they realised that their initial desire to travel had all but gone. Often this was replaced by the desire to have a stable base in NZ, from which they could come and go as they wished.
Visas expiring. While the expiring visa only actually necessitated the person leaving the place they were living, rather than requiring them to move back to NZ, many took this as a given and decided to come back home.
The pull factors often worked in tandem with the push factors, meaning that NZ could offer the interviewees an attractive alternative to come towards, rather than just a means to escape where they were. The main pull factors included:
Being close to family. Especially for those who were raising children without any family support, the appeal of coming back to NZ and living close to family was huge. In some cases it meant the person had family support for childcare for the first time ever which meant they could explore employment options for themselves.
For others, the desire to be close to family was so they could support ageing parents who were ill or, otherwise in need. Some reported not fully appreciating how important this was to them until a parent was injured or ill, and they were able to spend time with them with relative ease. This experience often led the interviewee to rethink their priorities in life and, meant that some interviewees, who might otherwise have left again, decided to stay.
The lifestyle. The famous Kiwi lifestyle with its good coffee, relaxed pace of life, appreciation of work-life balance and, access to nature was cited by most as a major pull factor. While some rated this top of their list, and chose to live in rural or coastal locations, even the urbanites reported gaining great joy from being able to easily access bush and beach.
The year round mild weather with its blue skies, fresh air and seemingly never ending sunshine (even in winter) was also cited as facilitating year round access to the outdoorsy lifestyle. Additionally, the spontaneity and informality of Kiwi socialising was cited by a few as a relief after the strict scheduling requirements they had experienced, especially in the UK.
Wanting a base. Many of the interviewees talked about wanting to create a base in NZ even if they expected to spend more time living abroad. There was a sense that this was where they wanted to put down roots and, a feeling that NZ was where they would choose to live, if they had to pick one place in the world.