Fitting in as an Expat

navigating moving to New Zealand

“I am not a tourist. I now live here” is something that I frequently thought when I moved to New Zealand. I found that I was repeatedly telling people that I lived in New Plymouth. The reason why was that I wanted to fit in as an expat and not be perceived as a tourist. This was something that I was not expecting before I moved to New Zealand.

It is hard to describe how I felt when I first moved to New Zealand. I felt like I belonged there because I was allowed to be there. I did not feel like I fit in. I felt different. I felt like within 30 seconds people were evaluating where I fit in. At times I felt like I was a tourist.

mountain reflection

Over time many of those feelings went away.

  • My accent did not change, but I noticed that I was speaking more New Zealand English and less American English. I did not think twice saying pardon instead of excuse me or car park instead of parking lot. A lot of things became cool and “adjective” as.
  • I was a tourist at times and still am a tourist at times. There are a great number of things to see and do in New Zealand, and when doing tourist things, I am a tourist. When I am at my local beach or getting a beer at home, I am not a tourist.
  • I still frequently bring up that I work/live in New Plymouth, but the reason has changed. I don’t bring it up, so the person I am talking to thinks I belong. I bring it up to help guide the conversation.
  • When asked by people how long I am in New Zealand for, I still say I have an X long contract, and we are still deciding if we are going to renew or move back to the states.
  • I found it is easier to make friends with work colleges or those with a common interest. New Zealand has a ton of clubs and groups that you can join.
  • I have more friends that are expats than Kiwis. I think that this is understandable since in many places Kiwis are used to a high turnover of expats, and it is sometimes harder to break into their social circles.
  • I am happy living in New Zealand and feel like I belong. I am different. I am an expat. That is okay and great.

What was your experience as an expat in New Zealand?

mountain sunset

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