Record numbers of Kiwis are settling in Australia, but Life & Style Editor Nicky Park has gone against the grain and moved the other way.

When my former employer asked me to shift to New Zealand I was reluctant. It seemed small and cold, I didn't know a soul and they said "jandals" instead of "thongs". This small island nation was backwards.

But I was baggage free - no man, kids or mortgage - and the opportunity to become a foreign correspondent was too good to refuse. So I sucked it up, packed my life in to a 30kg suitcase and flew to Auckland.

I'd barely touched the ground before I fell in love with the place. I found friends while flat hunting, the bus drivers were so chipper and most people I met were willing to take me under their wing. Sure, I copped a bit of Aussie-hate, mostly regarding my nation's tense history with Aboriginal people and the sledging Australian cricket team, but in general, the people here were a pretty friendly bunch.

The Kiwi can-do attitude began to bring out the best in me. While Sydney folk dream of all the things they'd like to do after work (if peak hour traffic, failed public transport and over-time didn't get in the way), New Zealanders were actually doing it. They'd go fishing after work and catch a couple of snapper for dinner. They'd get in the car, throw a tent in the boot and camp for the weekend on a whim. They would invite you in to their home for smoked kahawai and kumara chips without knowing your surname. I embraced this kind, laid-back nature. It was as if Kiwis were everything Australians claimed to be, but weren't really, genuinely, pulling off.


After 12-months of living in Auckland and travelling extensively around NZ I was greeting people with "Kia ora," wearing a pair of faded Barkers circa 1990 and was the proud co-owner of my very own boat (an inflatable kayak, but a vessel nonetheless). When my work contract ended and it was time to go back to the big smoke Sydney rat race I was so sad. We held a hangi on the metre-square of lawn in the backyard of our inner-city Ponsonby house and I wept as my new Kiwi friends drank a crate of Bushmans beer and did the haka.

There are more than 400,000 Kiwis living in Australia, an exodus that is at record highs and set to continue. And I can see the allure- like the GC expats say: "money, sex and the aunties" are aplenty. Sydney is my hometown. It's a beautiful harbour-side city (though I wouldn't call it a bigger version of Auckland as some do). And I spent almost a quarter of a century building a life there. But returning from Auckland, I found it hard to settle. I was over-whelmed by the pace of life. It felt superficial, judgemental and highly strung. I was clinging on to my chilled out Kiwi life.

After eight months back in Oz I was ready to come back across the pond. I was lucky enough to land a job at the NZ Herald and be back in the country that has brought out the best in me.

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