Culture Shock

Arriving on a cold, gloomy day, after spending four weeks at sea feeling seasick a lot of the time is probably not the best introduction to your new country!

It was the early sixties I was ten years old, and no-one had asked me if I wanted to leave my home, friends and family in Holland to live in New Zealand. One very vivid memory is watching as my cousins visited before our departure and were allowed to make their choice of my toys.

The only person in our family who spoke any English was my Father and we were totally left to our own devices. We eventually moved into rental accommodation, an old villa, huge by our standards, with a garden, something we had never had before.

The landlord, a Yugoslav, suggested I attend the local Catholic School, where he said the nuns would take good care of me. What a shock my first day at school was. Going from a very liberal school environment to one where the nuns ruled with an iron fist, was not easy. The nuns had decided to put me in the new entrants class to help me learn English. There I was, a very self-conscious 10 year old, sitting on a tiny chair, at a tiny table with 5 year olds I couldn’t understand. To make matters worse, I was dressed in my “dutch clothes”, standing out a mile from the other kids who were, of course in school uniform.

Some of my most vivid recollections? The wide, empty streets of Christchurch and the old cars. My Mum trying to communicate with the local butcher and grocer. The children at school and in the neighbourhood who befriended me. Pies in brown paper bags and fish and chips wrapped in newspaper. Our early New Zealand camping holidays. The five of us and our camping gear packed into a Ford Anglia, setting up camp in a dry river bed on the West Coast and being washed out of our tent in the middle of the night.

There’s a lot more support around for immigrants to New Zealand today

Anyone else like to comment on their experiences of Culture Shock?