Hi there. My name is Aileen, I am originally from the Philippines, and lived in Singapore for almost 10 years. I am now currently living with my husband and two girls in Wellington, New Zealand.
1. Why did you move abroad?
My husband and I had been living and working in Singapore for almost a decade. We wanted to make sure we have a good work-life balance in order to take care of the kids that we plan to have at that time, and we knew that the pace of life in Singapore would not be sustainable for us in the long-term. Immigration policies in Singapore were tightening at that time as well, and we were concerned our Employment Passes will not be approved (both our PR applications were rejected), so we wanted to go to a country where we could be permanent residents and eventually, citizens.
We first looked to Australia, but fortunately, the company where my husband worked in Singapore offered him a job transfer to New Zealand, and so this is where we are now.
2. How do you make a living?
I was an IT professional in Singapore. When we moved to New Zealand in 2016, I was a stay-at-home mom right up until 2018, when I went back to the workforce. I now work as a contractor for various companies as Programme Coordinator.
Truth is, it took me a few months of job searching before I landed this job. I even had to attend a job search program (this is free, by the way) in order to learn how to make my CV applicable to the NZ job market, how to answer interview questions, where to apply for jobs, etc. Job searching in New Zealand is quite different than what I was used to in the Philippines or in Singapore.
It can get quite discouraging when you don’t get any calls despite sending out several CV’s. But there are a few programs set up by the government in order to help migrants or their partners to look for jobs.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
Since we are a connected world now, it’s quite easy for us to get in touch with our family back home or in other parts of the world. Almost everyday, the kids’ grandparents do a video call with us to talk, and I do regular updates of our everyday lives via Instagram or Facebook.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in New Zealand?
I love that New Zealand is a beautiful place! Nature is in full display here. There are rolling hills, lush greenery, mountains, rivers, etc. Our kids love playing outdoors, we don’t have to worry about air pollution. The people we’ve met are friendly and willing to help out. We move at a very relaxed pace here in New Zealand, no rushing about and scrambling to get things done, unlike in Singapore or Manila.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in New Zealand?
Well, no country is perfect. New Zealand is quite isolated from the world, geographically. Prices of most goods here are quite high. I was shocked when avocado prices went as high up as NZD6 PER PIECE! Clothes, food, electricity, furniture, housing—these are quite expensive here in New Zealand. So we always watch our budget.
I’ve also got into the habit of checking out op-shops (second-hand stores) for pre-loved clothes, furniture, toys and accessories. I’ve also learned to plan our meals, so that I don’t do impulse buys in the supermarket.
6. What do you miss most?
I definitely miss the food in Singapore, and eating out in hawker centres. When we first arrived here in NZ, I missed going to the malls in Singapore, where I could spend hours window shopping (or actually shopping!). The shopping centres and most stores here in New Zealand close at 5PM, which was quite a shock to me—SG malls close at 9PM at the earliest. But I have made peace with this fact, as Kiwis are not that obsessed with going to malls. They prefer spending time outdoors or at home.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
It is a good thing that Filipinos are everywhere around the world. Although we did not know anyone in Wellington, there were Filipinos who welcomed us, and made us feel part of their families. They helped us with setting up our house by giving us appliances, giving advice on where to buy things, and visiting us at home to make sure we were ok.
We arrived in New Zealand at the start of winter. I had a difficult time adjusting to the weather, and preferred to stay indoors. But I realized that our eldest child—a baby at that time, also needed to socialize with other kids, and so I joined playgroups here in our suburb that allowed me to talk to other parents.
I also make it a point for our family to go to events that happen here in our city. It’s a good way to learn about the culture and also people who live here.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Here in New Zealand, you will see some adults and kids walking barefoot in malls and on the streets. This was quite a shock to me at first, but I’ve gotten used to it.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
I guess because of the way it is marketed to the world, New Zealand has this image of being a clean and green country. For the most part, this is true. But living here for the past three years, I’ve learned that it also has environmental challenges. There are some polluted rivers, recycling and handling of trash is an issue. But I know the government is doing a lot to resolve these issues.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
Cost of living in New Zealand is definitely higher than in the Philippines and in Singapore. As I said earlier, a lot of things are quite expensive here, but we have learned to find ways around it and make adjustments in our lifestyle.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
It is best to do a lot of research on the city or country that you are aiming for. There are a lot of websites and forums that you can explore to see what others are saying about it. If you can, visit the country as a tourist so you can observe the lifestyle of the locals, and see if it matches what you’re looking for. It’s also good if you know how the job market is doing, ie. you can find a job when you move here.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I have been blogging since early 2004, when blogs were literal digital diaries, where everyone wrote about their everyday lives. My blog has captured my journey from being a career girl, to being an expat in Singapore and now, as a wife and mom in New Zealand. The intention, really, was to keep family and friends up-to-date on my activities. It has undergone several name changes, and a move to a different platform.
This latest version of my blog, Notes From our Corner, is still an online journal where I document our family’s adventures in making a home and discovering the beauty of living here in New Zealand. But I also want it to be a useful resource for parents or those intending to live abroad to have an idea what it’s like to live overseas. I hope that visitors to my blog will find my posts useful - from the recipes, to travel tips to home hacks and useful things I find on the Internet.
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