migration generation new zealand

Laetitia – Building a new life in New Zealand

This is the first interview I’ve done for my Migration Generation Podcast. In it, I interview Laeticia Corder, a South Africa mom of one who immigrated to New Zealand in 2019. When I met Tish, and for some time after, I thought she would be one of the last people to leave South Africa. But I was wrong. Obviously. In this podcast, I ask her what it was that made her want to leave. She also had a fairly unusual route to her new home in New Zealand. She touches on the aspect of how they left South Africa, the paperwork, and visas etc. This is her story of how she left to start a new life in New Zealand, and why.

You can listen to the podcast here!


Introducing Laetitia

My name is Laetitia Corder. I was born and bred in South Africa. I have also lived in the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Kenya and Chile. Now I am now building a new life with my family in New Zealand. My husband is originally from Zimbabwe and had successfully immigrated and integrated three times respectively before I met him. We have one daughter who is 3 and lived in 3 countries by age 3. My husband and daughter are citizens of New Zealand and I am a resident here. We are kiwis now we are building a stable life in NZ. We are firm believers in the grass is greenest where we water it. And we are keen gardeners of our own destiny.

I’m a Marketing Manager and currently work as a Marketing Consultant. I’m a freelancer in Digital Communications and Social Media Marketing Management, and I’m a lover of writing with a passion for language and literature. In my spare time, I love, nurture, read, and work on our personal brand. I like to consume coffee, do research and enjoy showering myself in an information overload before choosing which opinions and values are aligned with my own.

The big question: why did you leave South Africa?

There were two main reasons which both contained push and pull factors:
The first reason was related to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs when it comes to safety and security. However, for us, it related to financial security. Not so much the threat that comes with the physical South African rate of hate crimes.

We loved life in Johannesburg. We stayed on the stretch of William Nicol between Fourways Mall and Diepsloot. The crime never bothered me too much. I didn’t feel threatened. I was never afraid of driving at night. We accepted the fact that a red traffic light didn’t necessarily mean that it signalled red to everyone and adapted to driving accordingly. We chose a
happy life.

Dullstroom, South Africa

We were part of the “woke” South African population that understands that our thoughts become our reality. We never watched the news or bought the newspapers. I was never part of the community’s Facebook groups that would tell us what colour backpack to look out for after every high-jacking. Instead, I chose to follow the groups that spoke about upliftment and improvements in the parks. I followed comedians like Suzelle DIY and pages like Good Things Guy. Those were some of the influences I purposely chose to keep my own head buried deep enough in the sand for me to manifest the abundant life we had. I lived in a bubble I created that aimed to protect me from my government.

What were the Push Factors?

Although I never watched the news in South Africa, I’ve always been watching the exchange rate. I looked quite closely at what the South African economy was doing for me personally.

One day I looked at the value of the South African Rand over a longer period and I realized that when I was born 36 years ago the Rand was equal to the US dollar. I started calculating some of my tax contributions to SA. Then I looked at what I had been getting in return for my taxes and investments.

The push factor came when I did a genuine calculation of my astronomical tax contributions, which I always paid twice at the minimum. I paid for public schools, but also private schools; Then I paid for a public healthcare but I also had to fork out for private healthcare; I paid for a welfare system but also helped the poverty-stricken people at every corner; I paid for municipalities to look after cities but I also cleaned up the beaches.

It became clear that I was part of my own problem. I was enabling my already incapacitated government. I started looking at the things that I could change within my control.

What were the Pull Factors?

The pull factor came when I took a closer look at the value of my time in South Africa and started calculating how much money I could get in return for my time in New Zealand. My mindset started shifting.

The act of leaving suddenly looked like the greatest investment. Moving to New Zealand simply looked like it could yield great returns for low risk. It happened as if I just turned into a low-risk investor overnight. I realized that I was investing way more than money. It was about investing in human life and human lifetimes yet to come.

The second reason was from a basic psychology point of view.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy, our family members are self-actualized people and we felt it in SA. However, due to the fact that the second most basic human need of safety and security is compromised for all who live in South Africa, physically and financially, we ourselves had no further room to grow as individuals if we chose to stay.

We often found ourselves in a situation of frustration because we felt that all our needs were met but yet our second most basic need that we had no control over, made our future personal successes unnecessarily vulnerable to failure. The lack of those very basic needs made living in the present moment very challenging at times, for us. Considering our personal economic situation and how volatile things were for us there was no denying that we were fooling ourselves by believing that we ourselves were achieving a self-actualized life.

I also decided not to get caught up in the current ideas and trends about South African migration and chose to take a holistic approach.

We get fed a lot of content about The Brain Drain and we get overwhelmed by current stats. I chose to simplify it for myself. So I turned to the birds, the wild animals in the Serengeti, international history and The Great Depression.

Migration is, in fact, an ancient, worldwide phenomenon that stretches across all cultures and walks of life. The act of migrating is nothing short of human nature and instinct. We are mammals and it is simply the frequencies and cycles of migration that are different for us.

If we do not emigrate we can be rest assured that someone in our family has done it before us and somebody will be doing it again down the line.
If we ourselves are part of the generation that goes through the relatively short period of suffering, sacrifices, successes and joys of the migration process it was simply meant for our journey here. Because, for some of us the grass is always greenest where we water it.

Was the immigration process to your new life in New Zealand quick and easy, or long and drawn
out?

Leaving South Africa

Nothing about immigration was or is easy, for me.

The South African side of the process was especially drawn out, ineffective and challenging for us. We even had a spelling error on my unabridged birth certificate. It was frustrating to face the challenge of trying to coordinate the timing of documents to be ready at the same time with little to no communication from South African government departments. Police clearances and respective documents have expiry dates. Sometimes one document can expire while you’re still waiting for another one to be processed. Or we needed to reapply for documents that were simply never processed or went missing.

New Zealand Immigration

Dealing with Immigration New Zealand was a very pleasant experience but it still didn’t make everything easy. In our case, we had to jump through all the hoops to prove that my husband and I are in a stable and committed relationship. This took some time to achieve since my husband and I don’t share any assets or expenses. We had to comply by using different motivations and other ways to prove the legitimacy of our partnership. I must say that during the whole process I felt supported by INZ. They never made me feel like they were questioning my honesty. It simply felt like they were being thorough and diligent.

I am also very grateful for the strict immigration laws of New Zealand because I do realize how it benefits me once I’m done with the process for myself. There are also delays in Immigration New Zealand due to the high volume of applications at the moment. The waiting period was not pleasant. However, they were extremely responsive. Work was always delivered before their estimated delivery time. They were very friendly, efficient and approachable.

Tell us what your new life looks like now?

The Cost Of Living In New Zealand

We are definitely better off financially. Our assets are secure and our money is in hard currency. We were fortunate to buy property right off the bat and we’ve already gained more in the property market over here than we did over many years in SA.

People say a new life in New Zealand is so expensive. I myself thought it would be. And it certainly can be. It’s really so different for everyone. The new cost of living is extremely individual compared to one’s old expenses at home.

For us, two of our biggest expenses back home were medical insurance and the cost of private preschool. We no longer have those expenses.
World-class healthcare is practically free now and we don’t pay school fees for an education system that didn’t even exist in my wildest dreams.
There are other expenses we no longer have, like employment of help around the house that we personally used to pay more than double the industry-related compensation but I won’t go through the entire breakdown.

Ortaga, New Zealand

One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure

I love op-shopping. I’m not ashamed to say that I don’t mind buying clothes, toys, books and pretty much anything second hand from the “op-shops”.
New Zealand government have just passed legislation of Zero Carbon emissions by 2050 so life is just so different here when it comes to the culture of consumption.

A very large part of the community in NZ supports the Red Cross, Salvation Army and other charity organizations. That’s the reason why these businesses thrive the way they do. One can even buy a perfectly good lounge suite from them for $50 – $150 if you’re into that. For some, the charity industry is about more than keeping the expenses down. New
Zealanders are very passionate about the environment and support the causes to eliminate unnecessary waste. Perfectly good used items that are one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Right?

Over here people are very much into donating their unwanted goods by themselves for free, more so than in any other place I’ve lived.

In all the suburbs that we’ve driven through one can sometimes see that people have left an item on their front lawn with a “Free” sign on it. That’s exactly how we picked up Sidney’s perfect bicycle. The beautiful goosebump stories of how people look out for each other, physically, financially and emotionally is a way of life and not the exception to the rule. After 3 months here I no longer felt suspicious about this phenomenon.

Spending Out & About in New Zealand

There is an abundance of children’s entertainment, live shows and events that are funded by the government and supported by the New Zealand wellbeing budget.

Play areas and parks are public and I no longer have the expense of going to a restaurant or paying for entrance to a privately owned farmyard or play institution while eating and drinking there. We pack our own basket when going to the play areas.

Most of the markets we’ve been to have not had an entrance fee. The municipality carries that expensive and they often look after things like access to free filtered water and fruit or something for kids.

New Zealand government is currently extremely serious about:

  • Making this the best country for kids to grow up in.
  • Becoming the most sustainable food producer in the world.
a new life in New Zealand

Honesty and Integrity

People leave their surplus fruit from their trees on tables outside their homes. There will be an honesty box on the table that indicates the price that’s lower than the Supermarket’s price. In some cases, it will be marked “donation” or “free”.

People don’t ask you what kind of work you do when they meet you. Doctors, lawyers and engineers drive the same cars as supermarket workers and forklift drivers. Families from all income brackets travel to Fiji and Australia and enjoy a lifestyle that can afford international travel and a general sense of wellbeing. It’s simply hard to spot huge gaps between rich and poor. Life is not status-driven in NZ. People who suffer from what we call “Tall Poppy Syndrome” quickly get brought back down to earth. We have a different set of values and a culture of accountability that is based on a foundation of respect.

I haven’t heard congratulations to people who acquire new homes or cars. Congratulations are more in order for catching a big fish or achieving something related to your lifestyle.

High-Cost Expenses

There are of course many expenses that are huge over here compared to back home. It very much depends on your personal lifestyle, the changes you’re prepared to make and what you’re prepared to sacrifice. For us, we used to go out for meals and drinks quite excessively back home. Dining out and drinking in pubs on a regular basis is no longer worth it for us. We do that less often now.

We use some of that saving for doing cheaper things with more value, like going to the cinemas and supporting the arts. In South Africa, I used to go to the hair salon every 4 weeks and have my nails done every 2 weeks.
I don’t have my nails done anymore and I have my hair done every 3 months. It’s really all about personal priorities.

For some people, the cost of living in NZ is hardly attainable.

All the free stuff and the way of life comes from our taxes, from where the government chooses to impose higher tax and from where the government chooses to invest.

For me, I reckon the living wage here is very comfortable. It is, in fact, more comfortable than anywhere else I’ve lived when I look at what brings comfort to me and how this journey has changed the individual me.

How did your daughter adjust to the move? What route of education have you chosen for her?

On route to New Zealand we stayed in Chile. Our daughter is 3 and adjusted very well. We explained everything about the move to her and she seemed to like all the new ideas but she did hit a big wobble.

During our third week of travelling, she went through 5 days of some serious acting out. It appeared as if it took 3 weeks for her to truly realize that we had taken her home, her school, her grandmother, her toys and everything that was familiar to her away from her. We worked through that patch quite well and we chose for her to attend a school in Santiago for 4 weeks. She seems to be very adaptable when given the opportunity to work through her problems.

In our new life in New Zealand, she now goes to a New Zealand kindergarten that has exceeded all my wildest expectations. She is benefiting from the New Zealand wellbeing budget and all the investments the government is making in their attempt to become the best country in the world for kids to grow up in.

snow in New Zealand

What has been the hardest part about your new life?

I never thought that I would find it hard to settle into a culture of accountability but after a couple of weeks in NZ I realized that the way I trusted society had been turned on its head. It was hard for me to settle into the way people treat each other in New Zealand, mutual respect and looking out for each other as a way of life. At first, this phenomenon made me feel really suspicious. I realized that I grew up in a culture of trusting nobody until proven otherwise and then I suddenly found myself in an environment of trusting everyone until proven otherwise.

Although I knew that’s what life is meant to be like, it didn’t quite gel with me at first. I kept feeling like something was wrong like there was going to be a catch somewhere. It was a very unsettling feeling. I felt very vulnerable. I used to beat myself up for feeling suspicious. At first, it was hard for me to keep sharing my personal journey on public platforms.

When we share how different life has become for us there is this defensive notion from South Africans. It’s something that remains unexplained because I don’t understand why South Africans will read about someone’s new lifestyle or comparisons between lifestyles and choose to take it as a personal attack on themselves or their country. I have not personally experienced this when people migrate between Australia and New Zealand or from England to Canada.

The Mentality of South African Expats

I understand why South African expats need to create groups for the people who choose to stay and I am in support of that but they can be really aggressive towards those who choose a different and difficult path. People seem to forget that I also once chose a beautiful life in South Africa for my own personal reasons and I can’t possibly judge people for choosing the
same thing.

But, I guess people like to take my honest accounts of where I am at right now and take an opportunity to become argumentative about it. Some people have been really nasty to me and I did have days where their backlash and resentment got me down. In the end, that in itself was a growth opportunity for me.

What do you miss about Africa, and what don’t you miss about Africa?

New Zealand Resience - Laetitia Corder

This is the most difficult question for me because it makes me feel like I don’t have a heart. Africa was a spectacular chapter in my life. I’m grateful for that part of my story with the good and the bad parts and it’s completely done for me now.

There are many things that are truly African but I don’t miss a single thing about Africa. Most African expats feel that Africa is still in their bones and always will be so I thought it would be the same for me. It turns out I don’t feel that way and it can make me feel odd sometimes. I just feel so at home in New Zealand and overwhelmed by gratitude for a home that delivers everything that I was only ever promised in South Africa.

Of course, I miss my friends and family but that goes without saying and they are “global citizens”, they are not South Africa.

Sometimes I miss connecting with bloggers, my clients and other like-minded business people and attending events together but those are also connections to people that I’m missing and nothing that is unique to Africa.

Reflection

I loved reading and listening to Tish’s perspective on this issue. I’ve lived through all the same things as her, yet our individual experiences and our sentiments are so different. However, we can both agree on so much and see things from each other’s perspective without condemning each other’s viewpoints. That’s all I want to achieve with The Migration Generation podcast – an understanding and acceptance for everyone’s individual life choices, because, at the end of the day, it’s their life to live. Who are any of us to judge them.

You can follow Tish on her blog, Candid Corders, and her social media as follows:

Wherever you’re reading this from, I hope you have a lekker day!

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