After reading Sara Akkad's piece on Auckland, I am compelled to share my own story. Like Sara I spent some formative years working in London, England before moving to Auckland. I lived in Ealing Common and on the Isle of Dogs, in London's East End. Despite the latter having rough edges, I have many fond memories.
Since 2004, I have enjoyed two stints in Auckland. During my first innings I lived in Newmarket and Onehunga. By changing postcodes you invariably see more of a city, which makes for a varied and interesting life. This is probably a luxury that is afforded by having few roots but it is one that allows you to break often-mundane habits and explore a little more.
About a month ago, my wife and I returned to Auckland and we are living in Pukekohe which reminds me of Somerset in Southwest England where I grew up.
On the downside, food in Auckland is somewhat expensive, however, I have been told to watch out for seasonal pricing peaks (and to stop thinking in Ringgit). We have also noticed that meat, fruit and vegetables are very fresh which is something that we appreciate all the more as a result of having lived abroad.
Like Sara, I was immediately overwhelmed by the friendliness of Auckland residents. Auckland is notable for the musical array of "good morning" greetings that are offered when you leave the front door. Being reasonably familiar with your neighbours is unusual in a city. At this point, I am quite sure that any readers who grew up in other urban centres in New Zealand are raising their eyebrows. After all, everything is a matter of perspective.
Upon my return to Auckland, I took a stroll up Queen Street in the CBD and was rather taken aback by the number of familiar faces. I am convinced that if you walk up Queen Street in the CBD once a day you will facilitate a reasonable amount of business networking. After living in the engine room that is Southeast Asia for the past four years this "big village" experience was somewhat refreshing.
By now you will have gathered that I have had the good fortune to live in a variety of villages, towns and cities. Over the years I have learnt not to compare them directly. I simply aim to celebrate each place for its particular (and sometimes peculiar) characteristics.
My wife and I have returned to Auckland for the birth of our first bundle of joy later this year. This speaks volumes about New Zealand, its people, values and culture.
However, it should be noted that New Zealand experienced a net loss of migrants in the year to August and a record number of people left these fine shores for Australia. Given this, I do have concerns that views such as mine are often overshadowed by economic realities, which is a challenge that needs to be overcome.
* Leon Hudson is a media intelligence consultant. You can follow him on Twitter @leonhudson