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  • Writer's pictureMichael Roman

Lessons for New Lives in New Zealand

Jane added that it's essential for newcomers to learn the laws of New Zealand. For instance, it's mandatory to have a car seat for kids, which Joe had, but a confused policeman still gave him the ticket. "In Kiribati, we don’t have car seats; maybe our bicycle baskets, but that's all," she explained. "There are so many laws here that are different. We don’t have traffic lights or lines on the roads like here. The ocean would wash the paint off the roads. We just know to stay on the left side of the road. There's so much new and different culture too, because we're in Palagi's country now."


There is a significant emphasis on money and work here. New migrants need to understand that. They should be prepared to work hard because good references are crucial when they seek other jobs, and their work ethic will influence the opportunities available to future migrants. If we demonstrate diligence, employers will recognize I-Kiribati as valuable workers, potentially leading to more sponsorship opportunities for our community in the future. This applies to everything—time management, budgeting, saving, understanding Palagi culture, and mastering English. When we arrived, we lacked knowledge in many areas because they differed from what we knew in Kiribati. Budgeting and saving weren't common practices back home. If we spent all our money, we could simply ask for more elsewhere. Money wasn’t as central to life in Kiribati as it is here. In New Zealand, people are accustomed to this lifestyle. They know how to compare prices, wait for sales, and plan ahead, unlike us, who often only consider the present.

Indeed, it's not just about securing any job offer but finding one that provides a livable wage. Rent is exorbitant here, and a job paying only twelve dollars an hour would make it challenging to sustain oneself, especially with a family to support. While it might seem like a decent wage to us coming from the islands, it's quite meager in New Zealand. I used to earn seven dollars an hour in Kiribati, and I was considered one of the top earners in my government position. Many others earn even less, perhaps around one dollar an hour, in various service jobs and stores. When I compare my wages there to what I earn here, I realize how small it was back then, yet it went a long way in Kiribati. Unlike in Kiribati, where we had access to land for coconuts and the sea for fish, money is essential to live here.

It's fascinating how Palagis meticulously plan for various aspects of life, even beyond the realm of the living. Take, for instance, the concept of life insurance, which covers funeral expenses—an idea that might seem foreign initially. But here in New Zealand, funerals indeed come with a price tag. It's a stark reminder that financial preparedness extends even to our final moments. This emphasis on planning for the future, including the provision for families through initiatives like KiwiSaver for children, showcases a level of financial stability and foresight that may not be as prevalent in other cultures. Despite having been here for a significant period, I continue to encounter new facets of life in New Zealand regularly. Given the complexities of this environment, I believe a preparatory course could be immensely beneficial for those considering a move from Kiribati. It would equip them with the awareness and readiness needed to navigate the nuances of New Zealand life successfully.

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