Speaker by Various Artists

The Expat Files 2

by The expatriates

I have just finished my Masters in Applied Cognitive Psychology and I am looking to do my PhD overseas, and once over there I am sure I may never come back.

The number one reason? Student loans ... I know, it's a oldie but a goodie. My student loan is around 40ish grand - I am really not sure anymore as a little while back it reached such a high number that it almost seems to have lost meaning apart from it being this huge thing that is ever so often brought up.

I go into the bank, and they ask me to full out one of those asset/liabilities forms and in other liabilities I enter my student loan amount, and you should see the looks on the faces of the bank employees! "What is this $40,000?" they ask with shocked expressions ... just a student loan I say ... that seems to calm them down some, but its still there ... nagging ... growing ...

Many of my friends, especially at the post-grad level have the same feelings as I, but I have found that there is some reluctance to talk about it. It's an old issue. Just something that students always complain about, the drunk buggers...

Of course the student loan also has knock-on effects. As you say, NZ isn't really the place to gain wealth, but that also means it isn't the place to be paying off loans in a hurry. Oh, and then there is the dating scene. You try this one out "hey baby, want to get close to me and my $40,000 debt?" and see how much luck you have! Or even better "how about me and you come together and owe the country $80,000 between us...".

On another note, last time I read the student loan form I was signing, I noted that it was the Queen that was leaning me the money. I hear she has heaps, perhaps if I write her she will forget about my trifling sum?
Ben Lewis Evans

If the Herald is only going to print the opinions of those engaged in the IT- and software-related industries (bar one headhunter), then what's the point? I would imagine that there's just as many English teachers flung around Asia who swear by the NCEA and its emphasis on critical thinking and freedom of expression.

If there's anywhere that the NZ education system falls short, it's in languages. Where the rest of world strives to be bilingual/trilingual, most NZers can barely recognize Maori, let alone converse in Chinese, French or Spanish. If NZ's becoming "increasingly diverse," in a cultural sense, it's going to rely on a lot more than "let's all get along" pleas and lunch at the noodle bar.
Jim Cathcart

I'm currently looking for full-time employment, but as yet have been unsuccessful. One of the main reasons why I haven't been successful is my lack of direct commercial experience. Now how am I supposed to have experience when no one will give me the opportunity to gain experience? This is a problem that many people I have spoken to have. Now, I'm just an ordinary guy - there's nothing extreme about me that could concern a potential employer - so why is it so hard to get a job?

I want to work; I want to do something to benefit NZ; in the end, I want to do something for the good of all people; and I know I'm capable of doing all this, but when no one will give you the chance, what are you to do? In the meantime, I'll keep trying different methods to get the job I want, but if it doesn't work out I see myself going overseas. Although I may face the same problems overseas, I reckon it's better to do a crap job overseas than be under-utilised at a crap job at home. I just wish the Government would do something to help get people into the right jobs instead of just thinking about it in terms of monetary value. I think I've said enough. If you've read this far, thanks.
Andrew Zen

While I wasn't actually born in NZ, having been brought here as a 10-yr-old from Scotland, I identify first & foremost as a New Zealander. I was fortunate enough to be schooled up to graduate level before tertiary fees were a major concern. In those days a bursary & boarding allowance covered most expenses, fees were pretty much all paid by the government and students generally got holiday jobs to put some money away for 'discretionary spending' (read 'buying booze') in the next varsity term. I was certainly blessed by the timing of my father's decision to emigrate here.

I have been back to the UK on a number of occasions - OE, love-sick, job seeking - but always regard a return to NZ as coming home. Most recently I spent 3 years based in England earning comparatively big money in computing, basically to pay off our mortgage as quickly as possible. But by the end of 3 years I was gagging to get back to NZ. I found England to be very negative & backward looking and, despite having some very good friends there, I would be quite happy never to return there. I might miss a couple of the good beers, but that is another story.

Sure, we don't earn as much money here in NZ as might be available overseas, but the overall quality of my life is immeasurably better living on a bush block in the Waitakeres than if I had stayed where the gravy runs deep in the trough. (It is the only time I am likely to agree with self-styled 'bishop' Tamaki when I say that, as far as the earning overseas is concerned, 'enough is enough'.)

If the expats who so casually deride the place from a distance, while lining their pockets, can shed some of their prejudices & see NZ for what it offers in terms of lifestyle and all-round happiness they will be happier to return if & when they choose. I feel that many kiwis don't really appreciate this country because they have no external frame of reference - no claw setting, as it were, to enhance the jewel that is Aotearoa. Some people get it after living away for a short while, others will take longer, but I fervently hope that they will all come to realise what a treasure it is to have a kiwi passport & right of abode here.

I know the place isn't perfect - we've got some dodgy political scenarios, dodgy business dealings & some very bigoted attitudes amongst all our diversity, and a media that is so frantic to chase ratings that I am moved to answer back to the vacuous ramblings I often hear on tv. But that is all just context to the fact that we live somewhere really special.

We have plenty to be ashamed of, like most plaes, but we also have more than our share of things to be proud of. I may not have been born here, but I am abso-fucking-lutely proud to be a New Zealander. And I hope all your readers will be, too.
Stewart MacGibbon

Thanks Russell for putting all this brain drain thing in context. My young family are about to depart for England, where (thanks to Grandad) I'll work and together we will explore the history, culture and sights of Europe. This is simply a good time for us, the kids are small, we are not hung up on home ownership and lots of our friends are there already doing more or less the same thing. One side of the family thinks it's a great idea, the other half think we are nuts. We know the weather will be crap sometimes (it is further North than Invercargill is South) and sharing with 65 million others is bound to be a squeeze at times. But to live in a house that predates the discovery of our country, to walk through so much history, to be a part of what is - for all the dreary stereotyping - an incredibly vibrant multicultural society, that's well worth a risk.
Mike Stead

I am currently living and working in London, 3 years now and likely to be a few more before my return to NZ.

Couldn't agree more with your comments - there is no way I could do some of the work and earn comparative money back home. Having said that I have every intention of returning - there is no place like home. We do have an un-rivalled quality of life and I can't even imagine raising kids in a place like London.

In the meantime I plan to enjoy the rich culture that Europe has on offer and to save hard in order to get a foothold in the Auckland property market!
Ben Norrie

As I'm sure countless others are also writing to tell you, not all expats feel as negatively towards their homeland as those quoted in your latest post. In fact, experiencing a London winter while family and friends at home are in the midst of a glorious NZ summer - enjoying Pasifika festival, WOMAD, bbqed green-lipped mussels etc - is guaranteed to make you homesick.

I have been amazed by the sheer numbers of expat New Zealanders in London- I can go to a NZ event and bump into several people from my high school. But most people I meet regard this as a temporary adventure away from their homes in nz. Young people move here for the same reasons provincial nzers move to Auckland- more jobs, more pay, more excitement, more like-minded people of all descriptions. New Zealand is merely a victim of its small size when it comes to attracting young people.

Whatever opposing politicial parties might say about each others' policies it is nonsensical to talk as if Labour's latest minor adjustment to taxation policy is the reason for a mass exodus in the age group (I'm guessing here) least likely to understand or care about such things. New Zealand's small population is also the reason for its high standard of living and comparatively clean, unspoiled environment. What has shocked me more than the number of nzers overseas is the number of overseas people who have travelled around our country- and they all tell us how beautiful it is. Don't we know it. I believe the vast majority of my peers will be back, no less valuable to the nz economy and culture for our overseas experience.
Eloise Gibson (25)

I am an Aucklander living in London (for some reason I don't like the word "expat") that reads your columns for a roundup of the issues at home. I am a NZ qualified solicitor working at the Office of Fair Trading (similar to NZ's Commerce Commission) I was rather surprised at the Herald newspaper's slant on Kiwis overseas. I enjoy London and the opportunities provided, but look forward to coming back to New Zealand one day (although currently faced with the difficult prospect of convincing my Aussie girlfriend). I get quite homesick when the Kiwi summer rolls around.

One of the main draws is being back with my family, but I agree with you that Auckland (as the example I know best) is a vibrant, ethnically diverse city that has a lot going for it and is a place where I would enjoy living again. Good food, good wine, and It's also small enough to have a bit of a community feel.

In my experience some Kiwis abroad do have a slightly slanted view, either because of the length of time they have been away, the (sometimes) negativity of the media, or because they left New Zealand before they had the opportunity to experience living with disposable income (and the opportunities this provides).

As with any unsolicited survey, I think that the Herald's request for feedback is more likely to encourage the disgruntled than the positive (I didn't respond) and that kind of feedback makes better headlines I suppose.

Complaints about taxes, student loans and racial issues all seem a bit hollow to me. All these issues are equally (if not more) an issue in the UK.

Without wanting to sound to much like a superior Jafa, perhaps those that come from smaller cities with less diversity and opportunity could have a different view (i.e. if they have obtained the type of skills that require them to live in a big city, I would imagine that moving back to Auckland/Wellington for them would be no different than moving to Sydney/Melbourne).

Today, again, I swam in the Upper Harbour on the flood tide, which was a whopper. The beach is about two minutes stroll across a little park. I had the beach to myself. This in the largest city in New Zealand.
The OECD seem to leave out The Cultural part of their name and only measure the Economic bit, sad. I certainly would not want to swim in the Seine or the Thames even though I might be on my own.
John Shears

I am glad that you have commented on the Herald's Brain Drain article. I was staggered at the overwhelming negativity of many of the comments, which left me wondering what country they were talking about.

I came to New Zealand in 1993 to follow the last Lions tour and when the plane landed at Auckland I burst into tears. I don't know why that was so but I did and I concluded that I was meant to be here even though my family has no previous connection with the country. I've lived here ever since and am married to a fifth generation New Zealander. (In case you're wondering I'll be backing the All Blacks this time.) Anyway one of the odd things I've noticed about New Zealanders is that they are too often ready to castigate the country or people for what they are not and too readily ignore the positives. Judging by the comments of the expats that habit isn't left behind on departure.

New Zealand is not Sydney, New York or London, nor should it pretend to be and those who lament it for what it isn't seem to be missing the point hugely. FWIW I have a better standard of living now, with better food, better weather and a very peaceful environment (I was born in Northern Ireland which I left as an 11 year old in 1971 because of the Troubles). Yes, opportunities are more limited because of the smaller size of the economy and I don't know how that can be easily fixed.

I also know that the ties of family are strong and it is difficult to be on the other side of the world so I suspect that many of the same expats will come back, particularly when they have young children. The advantages of a safe country with a good education system will soon be a large factor in their thinking.
Terry Baucher

I think the end of your post summed up the attraction of life in New Zealand for me - space and time. Space to live and breathe, and time to get things done at your own pace.

After three years in the UK, I realise this is what I miss the most about New Zealand and in particular Auckland.

On first arrival to the UK I was able to compensate for the loss of some things - the purchase of a Gaggia Classic so I could have a half decent short black, cable TV for the Tri-Nations, and the Herald on-line, but nothing can get you away from the crowds and queues on this side of the world.

I have watched people queue out the door onto the footpath at our local post office, have had to stand ten deep to buy paper and milk Sunday morning at 9.00am and the choked footpaths are a nightmare.

You mentioned plenty of room to play - I long for this room.

This is what will bring me home.
David Voisin

I spent 4 years in Germany in the mid-90s and am living in Kuwait now, both times courtesy of my wife, who's a scientist (I'm a librarian, not much international headhunting of those going on so far as I'm aware).

Both times I moved overseas I ended up making a lot more money than I would have been able to make in NZ (right now I'm getting paid about double what I was getting in my last job at Massey University Library, for a job that's simpler and has less responsibility), but that wasn't really what prompted me to agree to go, it was more like an added bonus.

When I'm living in NZ, much as I love the place I can't shake the nagging feeling that I'm at the arse end of the world and everybody else is thinking of us as some kind of international Hooterville Junction (particularly the Aussies, but what the hell, they need something to feel good about).

Most of the people I met in Germany were astounded that people from paradise, their dream emigration destination, would sign up to move to crowded, freezing, rat race Deutschland. It was kind of hard to explain that Hamburg, with the red light district, the anarchist slum projects, the rival ethnic criminal gangs, the smuggled Russian military supplies, the tours by bizarre old dinosaurs like Jethro Tull etc, etc was an amazingly interesting and exciting place in comparison to that "paradise" Palmerston North. I finally met one who said the German equivalent of "New Zealand - shit, that'd be a bit of a dead end, wouldn't it?" and I felt like saying "Thank you for your perception and insight!" (but didn't, because it would only have sounded sarcastic).

Judging from things I've read, I'm not the only one to feel that way. But of course, once I'm outside NZ I start to really appreciate all the things I took for granted there, so getting back to the arse end of the world again is always the end point.

You're right about the lifestyle - despite the extra money we were making in Germany we could never have bought a house and garden like the one we have in PN, and certainly never one designed for the sun with decks and terraces and big windows, for that kind of thing you have to be seriously rich over there. Also, I can't decide whether there's a remarkable lack of social regulation (not sure how to describe it, a lack of formality or general uptightness) in NZ or whether I'm just comfortable with the familiar, but NZers seem to me a much more relaxed bunch than anyone else. I think we care a lot less about what other people might think than most cultures, which makes it always nice to come home.

I loved Germany but loathe Kuwait. I started out with fond ideas about introducing the kids to foreign cultures, learning new languages, seeing a part of the world we'd never seen before etc, but now I just think of the money! And most definitely, I won't hear a word against NZ schools after putting my kids into an expensive school teaching the UK curriculum here. We are good at education, and anyone who thinks otherwise is as you put it, talking through his expatriate arse.
Tim Darlington

I'm over here in London (does London even count in all of this?) working in the voluntary sector for a major (as in huge and attitudinally corporate) charity. My employer is sponsoring me to stay for as long as I wish. Nice work if you can get it. I still love the access that London provides me but even now, after only two years, all I am doing is desperately stuffing the pounds into my pocket so I can see some more countries before coming home to buy my own piece of land and feel as though I belong. To feel as though I matter in the scheme of things. For someone working in a charity, I've never felt more like a number and less like a member of the human race. And I worked in banking back in NZ.

Or maybe it is just logistics. Most countries are shutting down our visas by 30. Even if they aren't it is the time we generally tend to grow up, stop the traipsing around with a too-heavy backpack, quit sleeping in dodgy hostels and think about having a family. Few hippies amongst us brave the more sordid travellers' trails with a baby on our back.

We still don't have the view that the world is easily accessible for us. It's a long-term choice, not a weekend break. The general feeling seems to be that when we go home, we are going home for good. So we better do it now and we better do it properly.

I moved from New Zealand to Perth for various reasons, one of which was to go somewhere else for my postgraduate degree. No reflection on Auckland Uni, it's just unhealthy to spend 10 years in a single academic culture.

I won't stay in Perth - I'll take my Australian government funded PhD and sod off to the States or Europe - or even back to Auckland. At least I can go to the bloody supermarket on Sunday in New Zealand.
Matthew Leigh

Currently I am studying for my MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. I defend my thesis this Friday. You mentioned in your last blog that you wanted to hear from some people overseas and I thought I would throw my two cents in.

I live in Alabama. And, jokes aside, this state is fairly backward. I wish it weren't that way. In some respects racism is less present than I would have ever thought but driving through the South it doesn't take long to see that highways, interstates, etc were often constructed following desegregation. Tuscaloosa can be easily divided by I-69: Black Tuscaloosa and White Tuscaloosa (the side the university is on). And school boards and counties are giant bureaucracies designed to stymie development.

Recently, at the national election, Amendment 2, which would remove racist language from the state constitution and also the phrase (and I paraphrase) "that NOT all children are entitled to an equal education" from the state constitution failed. That is, rather than say all children in Alabama are entitled by right to an equal education the state voters instead decided to keep the old phrase which said they are not.

Now you might think several racists sponsored this. Not so. Roy Moore, of the 10 commandments in the state court house fame, and also preacher, said that this law change should not pass because the state should not be required to give everyone an equal education. And this is a man who says God wanted him to put the 10 commandments in the court house.

Thus segregation-era laws remain.

I remember my time living in Wellington in 2000 when I would be down by the Beehive and pass Nandor on a skateboard or Ron Donaldson on a bike. I also remember a small function in which I met Helen Clark and her minders were well out of sight. That doesn't happen here, as you know. New Zealand is a real democracy because our degrees of separation from power are relatively short. In New Zealand I truly feel that I can make a difference or leave a mark. I can't say that about America.

Also, recently a local state senator, Gerald Allen, has sponsored a bill in the Alabama legislature that would ban any books that promote, contain or a written by homosexuals. I might point out that this would ban such books by luminaries like Shakespeare, Marlowe, Alice Walker (who visits campus this week), Oscar Wilde, etc. It's ridiculous. Allen literally wants to remove these books and have them destroyed. What's crazy is not that there is someone whom I consider crazy saying this ... it's that this bill might actually pass.

Finally, to critics on the NCEA system, come teach freshman composition at the University of Alabama and tell me that New Zealand's system is broken. Without a uniform system here there is such a disparate group of people entering university: some that can't even write a sentence. The SAT, until this year, and ACT exam systems don't require any essay and little written work. I know in New Zealand that despite the failings of this year's exams, the system can be re-configured to work. Alabama's system, on the other hand, is in dire straits and no one wants to even try and fix it.

I know New Zealand has its problems, and its fanatics too, but nothing like here. I came here for an experience and there are some good things here too, but sometimes I find myself saying "Thank goodness I'm from New Zealand."
Tim Croft

I'd just like to say that leaving NZ as a young professional was almost done with NZ in mind. I had begun a professional career and wanted to a) progress it, as any motivated 24 year-old wants to and b) couple that with sampling other cultures etc.

I'm now doing that, having lived in Ireland, and now London for the past 20 months.

My career has advanced quite nicely thank you, and at the same time I've done some wonderful things in places 'you only read about'.

And when I feel the time is right and I would like to 'nest' where do you think I'll be? Yep, NZ.

I think the point I would like to drive home, specifically to the annoying Singapore based web-technician-chap, when you think NZ you have to re-evaluate what floats your boat in life.

I was sitting with a friend in my spanking South London flat last night (as I was plotting my upcoming three week holiday to NZ in fact!), discussing why NZ was so damn ace. We decided that what we have in NZ simply is not replicated anywhere else in the world.

Sure you may not get paid the biggest cheque in the world, but where else can you roll out of bed and get to work in a nanosecond, see the sights we have - let's face it, even the bad ones are great - and thrive in amongst such free-spirited, talented caring people? Noo Bloody Ziiland. It rocks. Quite simply.

The people are great. Kiwis work hard, don't moan, are honest and even work mates can be great mates. That's not the case everywhere.

So SS that's Singapore Sling ) if you're interested in lotsamoney and not much else, then go for it. Stay there. Bring your kids up in Singapore. Go on, dare you.

I know I'll be having a great time in New Zealand while you're raking it in and bemoaning the education system in your old, tatty, tired little native-town.

There is a certain kind of ex-pat who will always find a reason to not return to NZ. The current hot topic is the NCEA furore, last year it was the race debate stirred up by Brash, any year it could be about lower wages.

The truth is NZ is a brilliant place to live and it's a place that I will return to (when the time's right) to settle down and raise a family. As much fun as London is, from a lifestyle point of view, it will never be home.

The point is that many young NZers want to see the world before they 'grow up'. It's no disrespect to NZ to do this; not only is it part of the kiwi psyche, it's also a fantastic way to enrich our country's knowledge base. When we travelling kiwis do fly home, we return with a greater wealth of knowledge than when we left; knowledge that will help NZ compete even more effectively on a global scale.

As sad as it is to have some ex-pats bad-mouthing NZ, we're better off without them.
Sarah Newcombe

You are absolutely right about the comments re. NZ's education system. We have lived abroad since 1994 apart from 2 years spent back in NZ. During those 2 years our eldest started school, and we found the school system absolutely fabulous. In comparison, in Ontario Canada, the primary school curriculum and set-up leaves a lot to be desired. It was really hard on our daughter when we first arrived here as she was way ahead of her classmates and completely bored silly.

We are expats because we are academics, and the University system in NZ is in really really bad shape. But that is another story. It was really hard to leave NZ after returning, because we thought we were returning for good. But the experience was so unpleasnat (for a variety of reasons) that we had no other option than to leave. This has literally cost of thousands of dollars because we have had to repay our relocation costs to the University for whom my partner worked. We are still, nonetheless, financially much better off here in Canada, and much better off professionally.
Anne Lyden

Interesting what you say about leaving London due to a baby - exactly my experience, a year ago. I would have loved to have stayed longer but didn't have a job paying enough, whereas I could get enough to get by here (Wgtn).

However, one really big reason I would have loved to have stayed in London, assuming I was actually an accountant or banker or lawyer rather than just scraping by as I did, is the way I, and many others of my age (32), got shafted with student loans.

It isn't so much a sense of greed that propels this feeling of wanting to take the high end money, it is just that if you are consistently told that education has a primarily private benefit and you must pay for it, it doesn't engender much of a sense of obligation to come and contribute to the workforce here in NZ.

Instead, you stay where the money is best to get rid of the monkey round your neck (and considering that when I was at Varsity, 1991-1995, was the depths of the depression and there were next to no in-or-out-of-term jobs to be had, that monkey is more like a gorilla!).

Anyway, there are lots of other reasons my friends are still away - travel opportunities, partners who don't want to relocate to NZ, lack of football (!), too much rugby back here ... but actually I think the loans thing is probably just one piece of evidence for a case that I think can be made for NZ becoming, contrary to its view of itself as generous and open (and on a personal level this is still true), quite a mean-spirited place at times.

Lack of willingness to invest public money in proper infrastructure projects (Auckland and national public transport eg. state highway 1, is a joke), ongoing Treaty- and beneficiary-bashing, are other things that depress me just a bit about being back. Plus the fact that the home ownership and beach lifestyle dream is rather a fading one for those who missed out through bad luck, timing or simple inability to stump up the cash (student loans again?).

Well, just some thoughts there. Generally, it's good to be back, but I do think that it is sometimes underestimated that there's an underlying low-level resentment towards NZ because of some of what happened in the 1990s, financially speaking.
Ed Siddle

I spent 5 years in Melbourne a few years after graduating from Auckland Uni. My reasons for moving were opportunities and adventure.

The opportunties flowed, I was paid well to work in ozzie despite my tax bill being 47.5% income tax, 2% medicare levy, 10% GST, 7% super, plus all the taxes that are not easily seen, like trade barriers to cheap cars. But I never grudged the taxes because quality of life there was high, probably as a result of massive infrastructure spending.

As for adventure, that was by far the biggest factor for me. Exploring a whole new continent, facing the trials of starting a new life, meeting thousands of interesting people, marrying one of them, etc etc etc.

I think the simple desire for adventure in kiwis is left out of the discussions of people's reasons for leaving. And there's nothing wrong with it - I see it as an admirable quality in us, and all the more poignantly because it was so much less common in our closest foreign ally, the ozzies.

People talk up the brain drain like it's the only facet to our unusuallly large expat community. They fail to see that going out and exploring the world, then coming home a more worldly person actually increases NZ's potential, making it less inward looking, and providing it with skills that simply can't be fostered here as easily.

And people that never return are still valuable assets too. They provide bases for other people's adventures, they are continual ambassadors of NZ abroad, and they provide us with perspectives that we can't make ourselves. And if they simply hated NZ, then it's probably best they've gone somewhere that suits them better.

Despite thinking Oz is a great place, and having a lot more time for ozzies than I used to prior to leaving, I eventually returned to NZ. As you pointed out, it's also a great place, and for me, it's home. My family and old friends are here (despite almost all of them having had extended OEs at one time or another).

The lifestyle is wonderful in its own way. Beaches on your doorstep, affordable real estate, less of a rat race. Cheap muscle cars, nice climate, racial tolerance, the list goes on. My wife also loves it. For her NZ is the OE! She particularly enjoys not spending 2 hours a day commuting and just laughs at our whining about Auckland's traffic problems.

I have always found the whole brain drain worry pathetic. NZ still has more than enough brains. Every person here has a brain that vastly outstrips the next creature down the evolutionary brain chain, and it's an affected arrogance that says the tertiary educated have more brains. They simply have different uses for their brains, and one of those uses is often to explore the world.

Sure, there's a tendency for the tertiary educated to travel, but perhaps the tendency was innate anyway. As my favourite philosopher Bertrand Russell noted (I summarise): The two things that expand our minds the most are education and travel.

So my conclusion is that people who want to expand their minds have a natural tendency to both, and this is actually one of the things that NZ kicks arse in - maximizing the education and worldliness of those who have a tendency towards it. The lost taxes for a few years are a small price to pay, especially when you remember that people abroad are also not using any NZ resources.

The hostility towards the OEers is simply provincial small-mindedness. I felt quite moved by the ending of Jackson's Return of the King where the hobbits who had conquered evil, saved the world, and been honoured by the kings of Middle Earth, giving their tiny country and people great renown, returned to the Shire and were met with scowls. They sit in their old town bar and clash glasses, remembering their adventures, and saying nothing. That was a comment on NZ if I ever saw one. It didn't mean the hobbits hated the Shire, far from it. Their adventures were as much for the Shire as for themselves, however little the Shirefolk knew or cared about it.

In conclusion, brain drain be damned! NZ's tradition of worldly exploration is one of its greatest strengths and a defining point. Only the some of the much beloved but frustratingly shortsighted stick-at-homes, and the disaffected permanent expats fail to see this.
Ben Wilson

In the 20 years since 1985 I've been away for 13 of them, 5 in England, 6 in Sydney, 2 in assorted countries, I've been back in NZ for almost 3 years. Based on my experiences and those of my ex-pat friends (three who have returned and nine who are still away) I feel I can categorised their various reasoning for returning or staying away. (You may note that none of them include specious bullshit like the NCEA or political correctness - this guy isn't the same prick who took that ad out in the Herald some years ago is he?)

Reasons for staying away:
Work experiences:

- Niche - If you're a rocket scientist or a nuclear physicist (one is at Nasa the other at Rutherford Labs in Oxford), you're just not going to find equivalent work in New Zealand.

- Opportunity - one of my friends has a software start-up in San Jose that I would doubt he would have got off the ground in NZ. The availability of a large market, readily available expertise and venture capital makes for incredible opportunity.

- Family - You've either married a native of the country you live in (who has strong family ties) or you have a child from a relationship in that country. Interestingly enough family in New Zealand can also keep folk away (difficult mothers-in-law seem to be a common theme...)

- Culture and other undefinable things - Some people thrive on the availability of gigs and other arty shows in places like London (some, usually those without children, even go to these things).

There's something to be said about the feeling of being in the centre of things that you get in Europe or England, where you can see trends and fashions forming before your eyes.

There's also something about being in an industry hotspot. For instance as a computer geek whenever I am in Silicon Valley I get an enormous buzz from being surrounded by famous names (companies and individuals) and by a common drive to make "insanely great products" or at least a whole bunch of money ... So much so that I'm interviewing before I realise that I'll have to move the family and live in George Bush's America.

Reasons for returning:

- Family - Children arriving who you don't want exposed to concrete playgrounds or junkie needles when they hit school. Giving parents and grand parents the opportunity to see the grand kids grow up. Health concerns for the aforementioned parents and grand parents. My mother died suddenly last year, surrounded by her family. Even living in Sydney I wouldn't have had the chance to get back in time.

- Lifestyle - When my son gets to Standard 4 or whatever it is called now (Year 7,8?) he gets to go sailing in an Optimist as part of the primary school's phys-ed program - how cool is that?

- Sense of belonging - When I was away I came back to NZ on holiday at every opportunity, silly really as I had Europe on my doorstep for a great deal of the time. But as soon as Northland hove into view outside the plane window a massive feeling of relief would sweep over me that I was finally home.
Chris McKay