Guys, I have some big news. Some major news. Life-changing news over here. No, mom, I’m not pregnant. BUT – I’m officially a permanent resident of New Zealand! There’s no getting rid of me now, suckers!
After seven years of living in and loving the Land of the Long White Cloud, my heart is filled with joy to receive my permanent residency here finally. It means so much to me to essentially be adopted by New Zealand, a place where I genuinely feel like I belong.
I could have never imagined this moment when I bought my very first plane ticket moving to New Zealand as a bright-eyed blogging youth of 25 (spoken in my raspiest, been-around-the-block-a-few-times voice). Ah, life.
A decade of being an expat
The burden of the uncertainty of being an expat here is already lifted. How good does that feel? Really, really fucking good.
Until you try and settle in a foreign land, it’s hard to understand the dread that sits in the deep recesses of your mind – will one day I have to leave? Or worse, be forced to leave? What if I were to get stuck overseas during COVID19?
It’s omnipresent anxiety that you don’t have much control over.
Permanent residency in New Zealand means I’ve done my time here, and I’ve paid my dues. I’ve clocked in my years, and I’ve managed to demonstrate that I’m 100% committed to living in New Zealand. It means now that I can come and go for however long I wish, always knowing I can return here (not that I would ever leave LOL). I believe it’s the equivalent of a Green Card in the USA where I’m from.
Thank you so much for gifting me with permanent residency in New Zealand.
On finding a home somewhere else
Sometimes I wonder if people are destined to belong to a place that’s not where they’re born. Do you know what I mean?
Even since I was little, I had a wildness about me, an urge to roam and explore beyond what I knew. A black sheep, in many ways, I never felt like I belonged in the US. Something intangible called me. No matter where I journeyed, my heart was also searching for a home too. Born to privilege, I’m fortunate to be able to follow my heart.
For years and years, I searched, looking for a place that spoke to my intuition to nest. Wandering the world, I often found myself asking the question – could I see myself living here? For three years, I lived in Spain, a place I love very much but not quite enough. There was always something there that didn’t quite fit, like trying to push the wrong puzzle piece into place.
It was only when I finally stepped foot in New Zealand that my soul sighed in relief – yes, this is home.
Expat versus immigrant
Ah, privilege. That old chestnut. What is privilege? Being white, blonde, and having the choice to move to a new country because I felt like it. Privilege is being called an expat, not an immigrant.
I can remember reading an article once that referred to expats as high-status migrants. Nowadays, we are a global community of people who move around. A staggering 270 million people are estimated to live outside of the country of their birth, me included. Of course, that has all come to a screeching halt in the past six months (fuck you, COVID19). But it doesn’t erase the inherently racist connotations from the prerogative of being able to choose to move from one wealthy country to another wealthy country.
To be honest? I don’t even know where to start unpacking that, beyond acknowledging my privilege from where I was born, the color of my skin, my accent, and my passport. And now I’ve just been granted permanent residency in another post-colonial privileged country which is undergoing its reckoning with race.
PHEW. Heavy. Hectic. Where to begin?
It’s generally accepted that the Māori, Polynesian seafarers, first sailed and settled in New Zealand around the 13th century, from their ancestral land of Hawaiki. For hundreds of years, they dispersed, settled, and voyaged around Aotearoa before Captain Cook arrived in 1770.
What happened afterward is a similar narrative to many colonized nations around the world. White European dominance. The reduction of Māori to second class citizens by Pākehā. Loss. Exploitation. Disrespect. What is due now is reparation and accountability. Am I the right person to tell this story? Definitely not. But I want to highlight it here.
Boiled down, I can’t help but see the irony of Māori land stolen by European colonists once again to be sold to this other modern diaspora of “expats,” searching for joy on their land. The depth and loss here are not lost on me.
As I navigate these new waters of becoming a kiwi permanently, I want to be able to honor and respect the original manaakitanga (hospitality, generosity) here. How do I use my privilege to leave the world better than when I arrived? How to do that? Well, I’m still figuring it out.
Now, I know how lucky I am, but that wasn’t always the case. I didn’t realize how lucky I was until now.
The journey to understanding your privilege is a long, windy one. One that I imagine never ends. As I see photos of children in cages, of migrants willing to risk their lives for just the chance of something better, a rather sick feeling grips me in the bottom of my stomach. What have I done to deserve this freedom and opportunity that millions don’t have? How do I learn to live with myself? What more, how can I be a better ally to those who weren’t born with the same assets as me?
Forgive me as I navigate these new, nuanced waters. I’m sure I’m going to blunder and say the wrong thing, but that is how you learn. I’m committed to learning and always doing better.
Where you come from to where you want to be
As I go through some wild family news that is shaking the foundations of the life I thought I knew, I’m starting to reflect more and more on my past. Now that I grow older, a curiosity about where I came from and the history of my family has taken root inside me.
I hunger to know more.
The other day I was talking on the phone with my mom when she casually mentioned that she never had a store-bought dress until she was 14. Um, what?! Her grandparents immigrated from Poland at the end of the 19th century through New York; their name also indicates they might have Russian origins, which we are still working to decipher.
It’s a journey and a past I can’t imagine, no matter how hard I try. Comparably, I grew up with a literal silver spoon in my mouth and an excellent selection of bellbottoms from the Limited Too hanging in my closet.
I even hate me.
In contrast, my partner Giulio has Italian heritage but was born in Chile. However, his family fled the Pinochet regime when he was young, so he grew up in Ecuador. With his blonde hair and blue eyes, thanks to his Italian grandfather, he also has the unique experience of growing up in a developing country and standing out in the crowd.
Our childhoods were very different, but our desire for a new place both brought us to New Zealand separately before we found each other.
I often forget this fact until he tells me stories like how he would always stick his head out of his door before walking outside in Ecuador to make sure he wouldn’t get robbed, and he always walked checking over his shoulder. To go from zero safety to a place where locked doors aren’t the norm is wild.
Don’t we all as humans deserve to feel safe in the land we call home?
COVID changes tides
In a lot of ways, I want to keep my permanent residency status to myself because New Zealand immigration seems to have come to a grinding halt – before COVID and after as well. I was extraordinarily lucky to get my residency years ago because it seems that it has all but fallen to pieces.
*Just to clarify, getting residency (which I did in 2018) is expensive, hard, and lengthy, but going from residency to permanent residency in New Zealand (which I just did) is not so hard. It was a form and a fee.
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met recently who are in immigration limbo – which I can vouch for is a really shitty limbo to be hanging out in. I’ve met people who’ve been waiting on residency since 2018 (they applied with the application times were 6-8 months). They’ve been told they’ll be waiting indefinitely as the backlog grows and the government pauses plans until after elections. Many people believe that the government is intentionally delaying processing applications in the hopes that many will give up and just leave. Holy shit!
I don’t want to take sides or anything, but this is very uncharacteristic kiwi behavior.
Then COVID arrived, smacking us all in the face, leaving many stranded overseas, while foreign NZ immigration offices closed and setting up a backlog of applications around the 30,000 mark. I believe the focus was on essential workers. Most of these would be job dependent, many of which would have been rocked by the impact of COVID.
Then on top of that, our current Minister of Immigration was just sacked after having an affair with a staffer. Gross.
This is about as salacious as gossip gets here in New Zealand. Just remember I’m a blogger, not a reporter, and I love other people’s drama. Also, just to clear the air, I am in no position to give any sort of advice on immigration to New Zealand, not that anyone can sue me here. So stop asking me, thanks.
All I can say is that things don’t appear to look good. Suppose you’re thinking of migrating to New Zealand. Well, read the above.
Anywho, you can bet your asses I thank my lucky stars every day that I managed to find my dream life, the home my heart was looking for, halfway around the world in New Zealand. To achieve permanent residency in New Zealand is my deepest dream.
For me, it’s such an honor, and something I don’t take for granted or take lightly. Thank you to all of you guys for following me and my journey to New Zealand over the past decade, and who have enabled me to build the life of my dreams. Thank you to all kiwis for welcoming me here. I promise I will always do all I can to help, work, invest, grow, respect, and above all, care for a place that means so much to me.
Ngā mihi nui.
Have you considered applying for permanent residency in New Zealand? Are you someone who has wandered overseas searching for a home too? Spill.