It is hard to believe that it has been one year since we moved to New Zealand! So many ups and downs and sideways…
The predominant feeling I have about the move is one of gratitude and happiness for having made the leap. It has been an incredibly exciting year, as well as being very challenging, and a year of intense growth and reflection. My life feels so amazingly and irrevocably different from the experience of moving to another country and working there. Even my first job, which in the end, wasn’t the best fit for me, was an incredible learning experience that taught me a lot about the culture and about the public health care system in New Zealand, plus I met a lot of great people. My current job at a psychiatric rehabilitation centre is one of the best jobs I have had in my career and is a place that I can see continuing opportunities for growth.
I feel like I should be able to provide some general statements about my year in New Zealand. I would say that I have a greater appreciation of any culture (US, NZ, and in general) has both strengths and weaknesses. Every culture has different inherent values and once those are understood, the culture makes more sense. US culture values efficiency and consumption, thus banking, shopping, commuting, and work systems run very well, yet the downside is that they can be cold, callous, and impersonal. NZ culture seems to value connection and quality of life, thus relationships, even casual ones, can be more open, nurturing, and personal, however, organizational systems can be disorganized, “unnecessarily” complicated, and inefficient. These are broad generalizations. I can’t say that I have an in-depth understanding of NZ culture(s), but I can say that this appreciation of cultural differences in reference to an organizing value or principle seems true.
I do feel that what I wanted to get out of a move abroad, I have gotten and more so. The process has been uncomfortable and painful at times, but it has also been exciting and rewarding. I feel that I have broadened my view and experience of myself, my practice, and the world, and this is incredibly gratifying. A good decision is one that seems to make more sense as time goes on, and as you live it, and this is how it has been for this move. I do feel that the particular cultural adaptations that New Zealand requires are good challenges for me personally. As my wife and I talk about the future, we really aren’t sure that we know what we will do in 2 years’ time (which is our point of decision for whether we stay in NZ longer, go back to the US, or look at other options), but we both feel that we are where we need to be right now.