‘Pick a date and make it happen’
Marie-Anne Wong returned to New Zealand from London in April this year, bringing with her a husband and two young children. Returning home had been on the cards for some time as Marie-Anne and her husband wanted to be closer to family and friends. But it wasn’t until early this year, that the family booked tickets, quit their jobs and packed up their lives. She shares her story and her advice for other Kiwi who are feeling the pull of home.
Wellington has always felt like home to finance manager Marie-Anne Wong. She left the capital in 2007 to head off on her OE to London, and after several years away she met her British husband and decided to stay a little longer. After the birth of her first child, she started thinking about returning home to be closer to her family, however the years passed and her second child was born and the tickets never got booked.
“Before Brexit and the pandemic New Zealand felt close enough, I used to go home every 12-18 months, and I felt at home in both the UK and New Zealand. But something shifted after Brexit, I can’t even describe it but things felt different, there was a real feeling of division. Then the pandemic hit and the borders closed and all of a sudden Wellington felt really far away.”
Marie-Anne and her partner realised there would never be a perfect time and decided they needed to take the plunge and book tickets.
“We bought flights in Dec of 2021 and the following week and both gave three months’ notice at work. I look back at how quickly it all happened now and I can’t actually believe we did that. But I think the key is to not overthink it.”
Returning to Wellington has been quite the experience. The family packed up their belongings in March, but they didn’t make it onto a boat until September and at present they are still waiting for them to arrive in New Zealand. Upon landing in Wellington they spent three months staying with family while house hunting and have just managed to buy a home. They have moved so many times in the past 12 months that their four year old questioned why they had to live in so many houses. Despite all the challenges and the fact they are still settling in (and waiting for their furniture) Marie-Anne says the family are loving their new lifestyle.
“Wellington is such a fantastic city. I love being back near the water and the hills again, I love the vibe of the place. We are really looking forward to the summer months when we can get out and explore the city properly. The sense of community in our neighbourhood is great. This weekend we dressed up and went down to the local hall where they had set up a haunted house for Halloween. I love the availability and variety of asian food, it’s so easy to get good sushi here. I also love it that not every shop is a chain, there are so many local cafes and small businesses to explore, it’s part of what makes Wellington so special.”
They have also noticed some of their living costs have come down with the move.
“Childcare and electricity are cheaper here and our mortgage is on par with what we were paying to rent in London, but here we have more space and a backyard. But the biggest difference is the commute. We have a 15 min drive to work, in London we could barely get to the end of the road in 15 minutes and our commute was closer to an hour.”
Marie-Anne says she and her husband both were told New Zealand has a buoyant job market and they were lucky that they both got jobs without too much trouble. She’s also enjoyed the ease of setting things up and the lack of red tape in New Zealand.
“I love that you can just call someone if you have a problem or a question and you get hold of them and they help you. In London even just finding the right person to call was sometimes so much work that I just didn’t bother.”
Leaving New Zealand in 2007, Marie-Anne says she didn’t have too many expectations of what she was coming back to, but the one thing she has noticed is the increased use of Te Reo.
“My husband and I are trying to get ourselves up to scratch in Te Reo, because people use so many Maori words in everyday language now, and we don’t know what a lot of them mean. Our four year old has actually picked it up a fair bit and sometimes he will translate for us, he gets a bit mixed up from time to time but it’s great to see him embracing it.”
Marie-Anne’s advice to other Kiwi feeling the pull of home is to just pick a realistic date to return and go for it.
“My advice is honestly, don’t think about it too much. Just go with your gut. If you want to come home don’t wait for the right time because you will always be waiting. Just make it happen, pick a day and make it happen. There is never a perfect time and things will never be exactly right, you just need to take that leap.”