Free health care and bad Mexican food…?


“…what life is really like for American expats in New Zealand” is the full title of the article in the Guardian.

It’s a good article, as Guardian articles usually are. The title is light, but the subtext of the article is – for me, an American living in Aotearoa/New Zealand – terribly sad and upsetting.

The reasons why people immigrate here from the United States are many, but if you have been following recent events in the United States, you can guess which are the most important.

It is not my purpose here to encourage you to move here, although if you choose to do so it would be (to me at least) understandable. The truly upsetting thing in all of this is, needless to say, the appalling condition of what is in fact a wonderful land full of wonderful people – the United States – a condition attributable to hate, bigotry, white supremacy /”Christian” and fascism.

The idea that 6 very powerful and very hateful men – 3 of whom were appointed by a clearly criminal “president” – can overrule the will of the people and the mandates of our elected officials is horrifying and baffling abroad.

I moved here with my wife and daughter over 15 years ago. Our reasons and our process were complicated. Migrating to a new country is, at least for many of us, a difficult and trying experience. It took me several years to come out of depression and find my place here.

Most of what’s available in the US is also available here, with a few exceptions. Some things are much better here, as mentioned in the Guardian item: health care (it’s not completely free, but a lot of it is), lack of firearms (other than shotguns or target guns allowed, never legal in spaces public), government officials are easily accessible (as in, they show up at the local farmers’ market), indigenous peoples enjoy increasing land rights, and are relatively well represented in many government positions and offices. Aotearoa recently declared its first indigenous national holiday, Matariki.

It’s true that food is often very different – who’s ever heard of putting scrambled eggs on toast? – and that most cafes show an unimaginative similarity in their offerings. Very few houses have central heating; imagine that on a snowy day in Christchurch in the Deep South. Mammals, other than marine wildlife and native bats, pose an invasive threat to native wildlife, which consists primarily of birds. The solution is a constant regime of trapping and poisoning, without which beloved native birds do not survive. You can’t buy graham crackers, albacore tuna, or Rollaids; challah and matzoh are rare, and there are no authentic New York-style delis.

But all of these differences are important mostly as reminders of the great things you can’t have here.

Childhood friends and family are far, far away.

There are no raccoons, squirrels, hummingbirds, orioles, cardinals, foxes, beavers or sugar maples. People don’t understand what we mean by “real” Mexican food, because Mexico and its people are, unfortunately, as far apart as the rest of North America. Kiwis tend to love African-American music and films – the Black Lives Matter rally in Auckland a few years ago was impressive – but unlike the United States, African-American culture is far from fundamental to the kiwi cultivation.

To be an immigrant in another country like Aotearoa/New Zealand is in some ways to pass one’s initial and painful homesickness into the category of lifetime loss. And seeing one’s homeland undergo terrifying spasms of intolerance, despotism and hatred provokes feelings of heartbreak and helplessness. This is at least one thing that we know and that we share with our fellow citizens.



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Right now, my feelings about leaving the United States are


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Right now, my feelings about leaving the United States are

I stay here and I fight

I thought about it but it’s very unlikely

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I’m actually thinking about it and New Zealand is at or near the top of the list

I’m thinking about it but I’d go somewhere else (use comments)


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