Baby is napping, the house is tidy so I’ve found myself with an inch of time to quickly type out my thoughts about my trip home to NZ in July/August this year.
Firstly, words really can’t describe how it felt to see my baby in the arms or homes of my nearest and dearest. The closest thing I could use to describe it are heart warming feelings of wholeness or contedness, like all is right in the world. Which, toward the end of the trip, made it harder than ever for me to leave.
Returning ‘home’ to France has also been a bit confusing for me. So I’ve been in a sort of contemplative mode over the last week.
To start, I’ve never felt comfortable to ‘go there’, since it was very personal and quite problematic, but to be frank, I didnt ever want to move to France. I didn’t feel like I had much choice in the matter, other than the fact I wanted a future with my husband. Which was the only choice I had. But one of those reasons I didn’t want to move was because at the time we’d planned to leave New Zealand, I was already feeling the chimes of my biological clock. But despite wanting to travel the world my whole life, I’d NEVER envisaged raising a family in a country other than New Zealand. I have such a strong relationship with both sides of my family, because of that I also have a strong sense of where I belong, as well as a strong network of good friends too. I believe in the idea that it takes a community to raise a child, and thats what I’ve always wanted for my own child/children. To grow up with the safety and support of my family, my friends, my community.
So yeah… leaving home was hard in that sense.
But, and this is a big ‘BUT’, at the very beginning of our trip, I found myself a bit overwhelmed with reverse culture shock!!! Who would’ve thought? This country, my home, which I’ve yearned for, and still do, was giving me feelings that were very new. As a couple of my French friends have put it, I’ve become more French and I was seeing New Zealand through my French eyes.
New Zealand’s customer service has always been of such a high quality that France just can’t compare. I’ve always known this on an intellectual level and its something I’ve often complained about here in France. But on experiencing NZ customer service after 4.5 years in France, I felt harrassed… even aggressed. In many instances I simply wanted to purchase an item and didn’t require discussing my day, my mood, or become best friends with the cashier. I really found myself feeling annoyed… forced into this false relationship for no good reason. I had such a limited supply of time and energy and I just couldn’t see why I should waste that on the salesperson.
By the end of my trip there, I’d re-adapted to life back home and was able to partake nicely in these irrelevant conversations. But at the beginning it was just annoying, like they were holding me hostage because they have a need to pass the time (there was literally an incident where the transaction could’ve been done in a heartbeat but due to the chashiers need for some kind of human interaction or intimacy, held onto my goods for so long I wanted to pry it from their hands just to end the interaction!).
Then there’s the housing crisis, which has affected my family and friends in such a way that their stories are heartbreaking. Not being able to buy in our own neighbourhood because its in the process of gentrification. It just pisses me off. The worst part is that I know of several families from middle to upper-middle class backgrounds who’ve bought in our neighbourhood, a traditionally low socio-economic community aka ‘the hood’, and thus taken part in keeping my family out of the housing market.
Then those that are able to enter the market are having to slave their butts off at work to pay ridiculously inflated mortages. Which is a scary prospect for my hubby and I to have to consider, given that we plan to return to NZ at some point for schooling and acculturation. If we were to consider moving back to Auckland, where my hubby is more likely to find work, then we’d have to consider a mortage of c.830,000NZD, which is just unfathomable for each of us. Thats not the kind of life that we ever envisaged for ourselves, being locked down with debt for the rest of our lives. So then we’d have to consider living out of Auckland, which equates to a life of commuting and traffic jams, which is far from the quality of life that we currently have here in Albi.
Then there was the Metiria Turei saga. Mon dieu, it highlighted a very ugly side to our Kiwi culture. Where we often say the French are arrogant (disclaimer: we could say many things of the French, but I have to say they aren’t actually guilty of this! Its all just one big cultural misunderstanding), but at least we can say that at a collective level, they understand the need for a social safety net and as such, they’ve created a compassionate system. It might not be the best there is, and the French tell you this til kingdom come, but it is there and most people accept that there is a need for it.
I’ve now come to believe that we Kiwis are the opposite. Where the French are said to be arrogant, Kiwis are said to be some of the friendliest people in the world. But maybe thats only at face value these days? The kind of superficial friendly where a cashier wants to get all up in your business just to pass the time. Coz what I witnessed through the whole Metiria Turei saga was a nasty, mean spirited side to our country. One which lacks empathy and compassion for those less fortunate. What does this say about our society? Perhaps it validates what I was first shocked to hear from some French friends, that NZ is a superficial society… coz the debate around what Metiria did, lacked any real substance or profound discussion on the whole ethics and morals of our broken welfare system. The vitriol that was aimed at Metiria Turei was ugly. Thats the only word that keeps coming back to me, ugly.
Finally, during a trip back to my marae, we drove from Porirua to South Taranaki. For the first time in my life I became aware that we passed farmland after farmland for that entire journey. At an economic level this concerns me hugely because climate change is going to impact on the worlds consumption of meat and dairy, and it really dawned on me that we are far too reliant on these industries to power our economy. Living in France I already hear the discussions about changes in consumption (small scale farming is best; meatless meals; alternative sources of protein), and if NZ is behind the 8 ball on this, who knows what damage this could do to our country? More importantly, how is this going to impact on our communities if we just haven’t prepared or adapted to a world impacted by climate change?
So anyway, here I am, all confuddled. I want so desperately to raise my baby surrounded by my friends and family. But for the first time ever, NZ society as a whole, doesn’t actually seem very appealing. I’ve always loved Ackland city, but in fairness, it could just as well be any other cosmopolitan city in the world. Other than the natural beauty that comes with being squashed into an isthmus, it doesn’t really have an X factor, does it? So what I’ve realised I love about home, are the people, my community, the untouched and especially virgin landscapes, the plentiful beaches and feeling of peace that I get from visiting the countryside, and especially my marae with Pukehaupapa in the distance. At least Wellington city is still cool little city, and I will always LOVE brunches and mochas with marshmellows, but jobwise I’m not sure it’ll be a possibility.
All in all its made me realise that the quality of life that we have here in Albi just can’t be beaten, not unless we have a radical change in lifestyle (or win the lotto). So I can’t help but think that life would be perfect if all my NZ peeps moved here! Alas, that aint gonna happen any time soon. So for now, I’ll try harder to appreciate the good life that we have here ❤