Expat Tales: 'It's easier to have the nicer things in life' in the US

Travel News from Stuff - 11-12-2023 stuff.co.nz
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My wife, Michelle – aka “Shelli” – is from the States. We met when I was doing my OE in Europe back in 1997. We stayed friends until the early 2000s, when things got more serious. After a while doing the long-distance thing, she moved to New Zealand, and we were married in 2005. I sold my hospitality business, and we moved to the US since my wife was homesick.

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It took longer than I thought it would. I jumped headfirst into a new business that I started with two new business partners, so that took up a lot of my time. It also made me put myself out there , so it fast tracked me to adapting. I found it a real culture shock for about three to four years, but the people here are really friendly and were mostly very welcoming and accepting. Although the “Are you from Australia?” question gets old after a while.

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When I came here in 2005, I helped start a hair transplantation and restoration company, We Grow Hair Indy, with my wife’s cousin and another business partner.

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The standard of living and access to services. Things are much cheaper, and everything is at your fingertips. Housing, food, and petrol are so much more affordable. From a business point of view, there is much more opportunity due to economy of scale. We live in a really business-friendly state, so that helps with getting ahead.

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1. Being so far away from family. I have been fortunate that my parents, prior to Covid, were able to visit on an almost annual basis, but it’s a long way from New Zealand so that makes getting back there a challenge. 2. The winters – they can be really brutal. 3. I love my Kiwi sports, so I try to watch as much rugby and cricket as I can, but it's not the same as being in New Zealand.

Much cheaper, though things have gotten more expensive post-Covid. It's much easier to have some of the nicer things in life here compared to in NZ. Vehicles, travel, groceries – most things are cheaper. Except red meat which seems to be at least on a par with New Zealand – maybe more expensive.

Traditionally, I would work a lot, so I wouldn’t have a lot of spare time, but in the last year I have cut back a little. I like to work in the garden and on my lawns. We have two sons, so they keep us busy following their sports and events.

We will take a couple of breaks every year and go to places like the beaches of Florida or out to North Carolina where my wife’s family lives. Chicago is only three hours away, so we go there periodically.

Corn is huge here, being the Midwest. Fresh Indiana corn is hard to beat. Sugar cream pie is the state dish. There is a rare type of mushroom, called a morel, that you can only get for a short time every year. Fried in some butter, they are amazing and people go crazy for them here (think Bluff oysters).

Driving locally. Petrol is still cheap compared to New Zealand at US$3.50 (NZ$5.70) a gallon (3.8L) . Americans love to drive and it's super efficient. Driving eight hours on the motorway here is nothing. It’s a far cry from growing up and driving three hours from the Coast to Christchurch over Arthur’s Pass – that seemed like 10 hours! For longer distances, flying is efficient and it’s easy to go places like Europe.

Attending any sporting event. No one caters to sports fans like Americans do. I have taken to college basketball and love those games. NBA-wise, we have the Pacers while, in the NFL, we have the Colts. There are also often concerts since Indianapolis is a bigger city.

Definitely spring through autumn. Stay away from the winters, which can be brutal with consecutive months of freezing weather and snow that may stay on the ground for weeks or months.

Any sporting event here is an experience, but the Indy 500 is a bucket-list event for sure. Try to visit during the 4th of July because the patriotism and celebration is something to witness.

We have great museums here including an art museum within a 162-acre city park with art displays throughout. The Children’s Museum is one of the best in the country and there is also a living history museum. The White River State Park and canal in downtown Indianapolis make the city worth a visit.

I miss the sports and the food (whitebait, good coffee, pies...), and the more relaxed lifestyle. Americans work really hard and there is more pressure here to get ahead. I didn’t feel that in New Zealand to the same extent.

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