5 Things you might not know about immigration.
I’ve lost count of the number of couples who’ve come out to New Zealand on immigration visas during our 10 years here and then disappeared off the map in a haze of divorce, separation or homesickness.
When we first arrived in Aotearoa I felt stunned by the lack of interest in us. Employers and people who could’ve been friends seemed to view us as temporary and it was hurtful. We’d sold everything we owned and arrived with only a suitcase each at Auckland airport on 1st February 2006 on a one way ticket. We were here to stay because we’d left ourselves no choice.
I’m always astounded at the couples on trendy ‘better life’ TV programmes who want to emigrate in order to give themselves a ‘fresh start’ after some marital discord. It makes me want to knock on the screen with my face, because emigration is right up there in the stress stakes with having twins, losing a loved one, bankruptcy, divorce and any other examples of not-sleeping-not-eating-kinda worry. If you’re not sure about the person you’re yolked to, for goodness sake stay on home soil with your support network of family and friends holding you up. It’s cheaper and much less distressing.
If you’re still undaunted and New Zealand is the big one on your list of 2016 New Year’s resolutions, then remember this. Disney bought up the rights on skipping off into the sunset many years ago. Swap that image of a rainbow for one in which you and your partner assume the ‘brace’ position. This blog post will deal with children and health, two of the factors which might send you back to where you came from in a straight jacket.
1.Do your research.
Now, we did and still collapsed under the force of the curve balls thrown at us. We thought we knew everything there was to know about emigrating. We didn’t. The first disappointment is Tourism NZ’s best kept secret; it rains heaps. Maori call New Zealand ‘Aotearoa’ and there’s a clue in that. It means, ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’ and we knew that, but didn’t really know that, if you see where I’m going with this. I never understand Kiwis who say they love Spring and Autumn. Who likes to be doused from a single cloud in a clear blue sky and walk into a room to the question, “Oh, is it raining outside?” Prepare to be wet and even on occasion, drowned. If you’ve got small children and no money, that’s a lot of indoor craft, running with scissors and sending people to their rooms. Most importantly, it’s illegal to slap your children. If you have little darlings who don’t listen to a blind word you say, sort it out before you get on the plane and make sure you have other well practiced strategies in place.
2. Decile is important but reputation is better.
Schools cost money, money you may not have after the expense of flying people and shipping furniture. Therefore money will dictate the kind of school your children attend. Enter…the Decile System. Schools are ranked 1 – 10 depending on factors relating to the socio-economics of the surrounding catchment area. A Decile 1 school will be cheaper because the ‘donation’ which I’ll come to in a minute, has to be lower. The families attending the school don’t have money to throw around so the fee could be $80 per year per child, or less. A Decile 10 is the kind of school which parents will move into a catchment area to get their child into. House prices may be dictated by a desired catchment too, so you could pay premium for that move. People will pull all kinds of stunts to get their children on that enrollment list and it can be stressful and entertaining. But just remember, a Decile 10 attracts less government funding so whose ‘donation’ is going to be higher? We paid $1000 for one of our children one year to attend a Decile 8 school. Having said all of that, at one point I had 4 children at 4 different secondary schools at the same time. Yeah. Wonderwoman I am not! A Decile 8, a private Christian school, an integrated school (which is half private, half state and cost us double the fully private school at $8k per year) and a Decile 2 school. We put our daughter into the Decile 2 school which had a horrible reputation, because she insisted. She wanted to study geography and research showed the school had the best geography teacher in the city, a young guy who loved teaching and turned out to be the best thing since sliced bread. We paid $80 per year and she got the best education of the lot and is now doing her masters in geography at university and saving the word one landslip at a time. Decile is important but reputation is better.
3. Donations – when is a gift not a gift? The answer is, when it’s a school donation. You see, it’s not really a gift, it’s a fee. You have to pay it otherwise your child will be the one left behind picking up litter when their class goes on a trip, does something nice or requires the use of a particular resource. Don’t get me wrong, the school will charge for trips and camps too, but if you get behind on the ‘donation’ you’re not likely to afford the luxuries either. School staff aren’t nasty people, if you have financial difficulties there’s always someone you can approach for help, but if you’re in the, ‘I pay my damn taxes,’ camp, then you’re stuffed. Just pay it. The reason it’s called a ‘donation’ is so that you can claim back a third of it from Mr Taxman at the end of March through a glorious tax loophole, because most schools have listed themselves as charities.
4. If you’re emigrating from Britain, take a seat. There’s a shock coming.
We were used to our children’s scholastic items – exercise books, pencils, basic stationary – coming out of our taxes and chosen from a stock cupboard in the back of a classroom somewhere. Not so in NZ. It comes from you, lovely parent. You get sent a list of required items and you go to the shops and purchase it. I purchased it x 4 and that over a few years mounted up into the thousands of dollars. You work out very quickly what a 1B8 is when you’re scrapping over the last one with the other parents who left it to the last minute, cheered on by desperate children pushing a trolley filled to the brim with weird items you’ve never seen before. It’s got so competitive that you can order online through the stationary stores from lists entered by your respective school!
5. Bad health will cost you.
Now, everyone’s entitled to care following an accident. You might pay 20% of the costs but you’ll be ok because everyone’s covered under ACC. However, if you wake up one morning feeling crook and you’re not a permanent resident, you might find it will cost you as little as $80 just to see the doctor. I have known some doctors to waive this if the patient is registered with their practice but it’s worth knowing the finer details of your particular immigration visa status with regards to health care. Even as a permanent resident, it took 3 years of going round the state system like a bee in a washing machine to get a simple gallbladder removal, which was already urgent by the time I paid my $45 and sat my bum down in the doctor’s chair the first time. A doctor at the hospital told me (despite the be-suited individuals there saying otherwise) that I needed to get citizenship as soon as possible. I got citizenship in the November and was finally operated on last February. The official line is that citizenship makes no difference to the level of healthcare, but the unofficial line is that it does and the proof speaks for itself. Now there’s just the two of us, Husband and I dig deep for private health cover for the needing-the-hospital part. Your employer will allow you 5 days sick leave per year. Simple answer; don’t get sick!
Now I’ve hit you with the scary bits, here are some treats to soften the blow. After 10 years, some of which has been pure graft and struggle, I can honestly say we have a good life. Immigration to New Zealand has actually been the best choice we’ve made to date. Our children got to do things not readily available back in the UK. They were part of our settling process and are now fiercely independent young people striving to make a difference in their world. They’re open minded, well travelled and educated, having grasped with both hands every opportunity to explore. They aren’t rich, they have worries and tribulations but they’re out there doing it and we’re proud of them. We showed them how small the earth ball is. New Zealand has been a beautiful country in which they reclaimed their childhood. Nobody in the small towns will care about make up, the latest branded gear or how much money greases your tracks per year. There are palaces built next to state houses and millionaires standing in the post office wearing gum boots with shorts held up by bailing twine. If you’re lucky, they might be wearing a vest. The scenery is beautiful and you don’t need cash to have fun. Beaches, bush walks and mountains are still free and whilst we complain about the cost of gas, it’s not as bad as in the UK.
Do your research, make sure you know what you’re getting into and it will work out. In my next post I’ll tell you a bit more of our story. Until then, get Googling, make lists and above all, be realistic! Immigration is great, as long as you know what you’re getting into.