Men, Mars, Women & Venus – Part 2

September 6, 2013
Iain MacLeod

Last week we brought you Melanie’s story and I promised you, if we could drag it out of him, her husband’s Dewald’s story on their move and how he felt about it.

I thought, after Mel shared with us her reasons for wanting to come here, her fears, motivations and experiences it would be good to hear from Dewald.

I confess I could have a field day analysing the two descriptions of this couple’s experience of the move.

If I have learned anything in a quarter century of helping migrants it is:

  • Men and women are different (surprise!!). Women are more complicated (that’s a compliment …) and men more simple (that is not a compliment).
  • Women often drive the migration process – it seems the maternal instinct is stronger to get their babies (be they human or dogs) somewhere ‘safe’ or where they believe their future will be better.
  • Men are often reluctant participants in the process
  • Men get to NZ and love it. Never want to leave….
  • Women get to NZ and miss their social networks, friends, family, etc and talk about going home because they get homesick
  • Men go nuts.
  • Tongue out of cheek, I accept the Visser family is a little different in that Mel has been happy since day 1. But in that respect I have to say she is a bit of a rarity. Women generally get ‘homesick’ to a greater extent. Give men pay, TV Sport channels, a good job, three square meals a day and a bit of ‘how’s your father?’ and they could happily live on an iceberg in an igloo floating around the frozen wastes of the Arctic. Women need a bit more…..

While there is no one size fits all I can say that there are real and identifiable patterns that cross cultural, ethnic and religious boundaries – common to all migrants from one place to another and how they receive and experience the move. It all comes down to XX chromosomes that drive one and the X and Y that drive the other.

So on the Women are from Venus and Men are from Mars theme, let’s get Dewald’s side of the story.

I think my wife Melanie was fairly accurate in describing how I felt about immigration initially.

Since I can remember meeting Mel, she always spoke about NZ being her dream destination. Not long after we got married (and just after her best friend applied for residency in Australia), Mel started to harp on about moving to NZ ourselves. I was not at all interested. I was a typical patriotic South African male believing in my home country and vowing to remain there no matter what ever happened.

It is true that after our family, and co-incidentally a good mate of mine at work was affected by horrifically violent crime, my mind set started to change. I remember asking myself all the time ‘what if that was my wife?’.

After meeting with Paul Janssen from Immagine and finding out that our chances of getting into NZ were good based on our experience, we decided to visit NZ to check the country out and see if we could fit in. There was a real part of me hoping we would have a terrible time so that I could get the idea out of both of our heads, but that did not happen.

We were blown away by what we saw. I caught up with many of my mates and after hearing about the life they were living, I knew we could easily fit into this life style.

Once we got back to South Africa, we shifted all our thinking and energy into relocating.

This entire process is a mind game. Not only are you fighting the opinions of people around, but you are also fighting your own mind all the time. I kept on asking myself ‘are we doing the right thing?’ but I just needed to work through that and focus on the end result.

There was a brief period where we decided that my wife would come over first as she was in IT and the IT market is very active here, but I was not comfortable in sending my wife over to a new country all on her own. It just did not feel right.

In January 2013 I notified my employer that I was going to be resigning and coming to NZ to look for work. They were very kind in offering me a 3-month sabbatical period where I could come back if things did not work out, but I turned that kind offer down. I knew if I had a back door open, I would not be 100% committed to finding work in NZ.

I applied for several positions via the internet before leaving South Africa, but had no luck there. One of my mates sent me the contact details of a recruitment agent whom I called and he actually arranged a Skype interview with a company before I left. The interview went very well and to be honest with you, I thought I was going to land in Auckland and sign my offer of employment. Unfortunately, this was not the case. I met with the company 3 times before they told me the position has not been approved as yet.

This was a HUGE shock. I felt that I had wasted a whole week on something that did not materialise. I immediately started applying for every job I could find and managed to meet another agent who was extremely co-operative and actively started looking for opportunities for me.

I cannot tell you how humbling this experience is. At my previous employer in South Africa I was widely regarded for standard of work and I had built up a very good relationship with very senior executives. Now suddenly from being this hot-shot project manager to being nothing in a foreign country – I felt like a really small fish in a really big ocean.

For the first three weeks I almost dreaded speaking to my wife because I did not have any good news to tell her. I knew she put everything into this move, and I could not bear disappointing her.

The hardest thing like I mentioned before is fighting the demons in your own head. After receiving a few responses from job applications stating that I do not qualify, broke my confidence quite badly. Fortunately I did have my wife picking me up (even though it was from thousands of miles away) and good mates to give me a kick up my ass when I needed it.

I relentlessly applied for every job I thought I could do, and then one day got a call from a company asking me to meet with them.

The interview went remarkably well and when leaving their offices I went straight to a car dealership to look for a car cause I knew the job was mine.

I got my offer of employment and took it straight to Paul. Between him and my wife, they had sorted all the necessary paper work out and I got my visa within 2 weeks.

There are so many things I want to say but don’t quite know how to. This process is the hardest thing I, as well as my wife and I have ever embarked on.

The first three weeks were hell. Being told that I did not meet the requirements of a few positions, having to rely on public transport to get around, walking around with a GPS and map book to find my way – all of it was so humbling.

However, when I got my job offer – I felt I could concur the world.

The advice I want to share with anyone considering this process is:

1. Once you decide to immigrate, don’t let anyone talk you out of it. Cut all negative forces out. There are many people who don’t want to see you move on.

2. Believe in yourself. No matter how many no’s you get, just keep pushing on.

3. Use Immagine to assist you in this process. (Ed note: No money changed hands in the prompting of that piece of advice – Iain)

The process of immigrating is stressful enough. You don’t need the additional stress and hassle of applying for visas and talking to immigration services yourself.

It is such a surreal feeling knowing we have our residency and have achieved our goal.

NZ is a magnificent place. Not once have I been treated as an outsider or felt like I did not belong here. NZ has embraced us and given us the opportunity to live here”.

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