A year ago, today we landed in Auckland to start a new family adventure. It wasn’t easy to leave our home in Miami, but we were excited to explore a new country. I still can’t believe we made the international move with our two kids under four, with less than a month to plan it, and living as far as possible from everything we know.
For perspective, New Zealand has 4.8 Million people, that’s the population size similar to LA or half of NYC in the entire country. It’s far. From everything. It is truly the land down under and middle earth. New Zealand’s beauty is attributed to its people and the amount of care and respect they have for their land. I always describe it as “The Good Place”, because it truly feels heavenly.
We arrived to Auckland, nervous and excited to explore our new home. I had never been to New Zealand prior, it was my first time and my only knowledge of NZ came from movies like Lord of the Ring and Narnia. We didn’t really have time to research NZ as we had a month and a half to get our life in order for the big move. Get out of our apt contract, cars, get the kids out of school, our phone + bank accounts, orchestrate the packing of EVERYTHING and the cargo shipping, and endless loose ends that would deserve its own blog post. (I am aware that everything about this paragraph sounds crazy)
When we hopped into the Uber, it was clear, this isn’t just a trip – it’s a move. I will have to learn how to drive on the opposite side of the car, on the opposite side of the road, and learn it quickly. Not just that, but adapt to a new culture, a new way of doing things, while making sure my two toddlers were adjusting adequately.
We arrived to our awesome Airbnb downtown with beautiful views of the Sky Tower. Our first order of business was to hit up the local super market to stock up on food.
When we got to the grocery store, I felt my cheeks get warm. I made the decision to move to a new country, and totally glazed over the fact that there would be dietary changes. I have moved to the United States, I have moved to Italy, this is my third international move, this is a rookie mistake. I should have planned for the culture shock. Instead I was staring at a handful of cereal options, when we were used to an entire isle dedicated to it. The food was an adjustment and a learning experience. It also highlighted my lack of culinary skills.
I didn’t prep for the culture shock, I didn’t mentally prepare for it at all. Despite having had two previous international moves under my belt, I honestly completely forgot. Maybe it’s like have a baby, you totally forget the pains of labor. It’s also different moving alone, versus with two small children.
Everything felt different, and since I wasn’t in the plan of being a tourist, I couldn’t enjoy New Zealand right away. I was more focused on settling down into a new country I have never been before, where I know very little about, with two toddlers. Every change was very much felt, especially with the kids. I barely knew where I was standing most of the time.
The food tasted different, so from a dietary point it took us a hot minute to find the right substitutes. Of course, the food tastes different because the food is much fresher, little to no preservatives, and a lot healthier than what we were used too. It was a much-welcomed culture shock that took use a trip or two (or maybe 3) to the grocery store to get right.
It took a few self-pep talks, to build up the courage to drive on the opposite side of the road. I now only turn the windshield wipers by mistake weekly and get on the wrong side of the car monthly. A large improvement from the first 6 months where I would do those things daily if not every car trip.
The kids have picked up on some of the Kiwi words. They no longer say trash, but “rubbish”. They don’t say that something is going to take a long time, but that “it will take ages”. Babies don’t wear diapers, they wear “nappies”. They don’t find a lot of things, but “heaps” of things. It’s quite sweet to hear to be honest. I especially enjoy the Maori words and songs they have picked up as well.
Sofia one day came home from Kindy, telling me something about a “guurl” at school. “Girl?” I responded to her unsure. “No Mamá, “guurl” that’s how they say “girl” here in New Zealnd, and sometimes I am going to say things like they say them here.” I remember being her age and learning English. I understood her.
Our move has been short of amazing. Once the culture shock wore off and we settled into our routines, our lives have improved tremendously. We are so much healthier as a family. We are a lot more active and eat healthier than ever. We have made wellness and work / life balance a priority in our lives.
We have made the most of our past year here. We have traveled near and far. Learned so much and got to show the people we love, where we live. We have settled in nicely. Made some incredible friends. The kids are in school. G is loving his career move, managing a major media firm down town, and I am enjoying my work life balance, working from home on the things I love while spending time with my family. We travel when we can, and enjoy exploring New Zealand.
We hope this next year we can continue our adventures and create more memories.