Best and worst experiences in NZ

Arthur Schenk, an American-born New Zealander with an involvement in politics, answers a question about his best and worst experiences living here.

AmeriNZ Blog: Arthur Answers 2017, Part 7: Bonus questions

What was your best – and worst – experience since arriving in New Zealand?

…the best experience I had, overall, was my participation in Labour Party politics at the local level. That has nothing to do with party or ideology, but about the things that are still great about New Zealand.

What I found in my years of volunteering was that there are people who care passionately about their community and their country, and who want to make both a better place. They are people who are willing to give freely of their time and energy and talents to make that possible, and, with effort, they may even succeed. It’s an ethic that seems to have been lost in my homeland.

The other thing is that it’s very easy for an ordinary person to become friendly with politicians, local or national, and friendly enough that the politician will recognise them and they can have pleasant conversations. That’s happened to me many times over the years, and there’s just no equivalent in the USA, at least, not for national politicians.

New Zealand is a small country with relatively easy access to the country’s leaders and politicians across the political spectrum.

In fact, the truly worst things were all personal, having nothing to do with New Zealand (the usual sorts of things—death in the family, sickness, that sort of thing).

But that gets at what I’d consider the worst: The realities of being an expat, specifically, the personal toll that time and distance can take. For example, my good friend’s mother died, a woman who was very important in my own childhood, and I couldn’t go back to the USA for the funeral or to be a support for my friend, nor more recently when his dad died. Some of my family members were in a serious car accident, and I couldn’t go back to support them in the immediate aftermath.

That, too, has nothing to do with New Zealand as such, but it’s about the reality of living so far from my native land, as this country is.

I think that many New Zealanders will empathise with this, given that a quarter of us were born in distant countries, and many of us have close relatives living overseas. All three of my children now live elsewhere in the world, and I have other close relatives on the other side of the planet.

But, while expensive, it is easy to travel to most parts of the world quite quickly now.

It’s hard to imagine what it was like for ancestors who left everything behind, including family, and sailed around the world to start new and very challenging lives, and for many a return visit would have been out of the question and out of the budget.

International distance from New Zealand can still be a bugger but air travel and Skype make things a lot easier than 4 month trips and mail – and the advantages of our distance can also be a major plus.

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