Kristen: The Bike Wife
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to New Zealand, etc.
My name is Kristen Fellers. I am an American expat living in Christchurch, New Zealand. I am a registered nurse, novice blogger, and cyclist by way of marriage. I’m an enthusiastic yet dreadful gardener, although I love the idea of growing my own food. I am passionate about living a healthy life, and for me that means lots of traveling, writing, cooking, and yoga.
I moved to New Zealand with my husband, Scott, in December 2012. We planned for over a year, said goodbye (for now) to our friends and family, rented out our home, packed up our bikes, and moved across the world in search of a slower, simpler, sweeter way of life.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started a blog called The Bike Wife in 2010 when I really started mountain biking with my husband. We would have these “adventures”, and I would find myself at the bottom of a canyon with no food and almost no sunlight left... or 10,000 feet up a mountain, staring at a waterfall of rocks that I was somehow supposed to ride down on my bike. I used to think, “If only people knew what I did today. I almost died!!” So the blog was born.
When my husband and I decided to move to New Zealand, I wanted to use blogging as a way to keep our friends and family (ok, really just our moms) updated on our adventures. My original blog was pretty rough around the edges though, and probably had too much swearing. I created The Bike Wife 2.0, started proof-reading my writing and toning down my language. I tried for a month to think of a better title for the new blog, but in the end, I liked my original title. Obviously I dropped the 2.0, and just about nobody knew there was a first blog... until now!
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I can look at the statistics and tell you the readers’ favorite! I wrote a post about being a nurse in New Zealand which has by far received the most hits. If this interests you as well, you can check it out here!
My favorite entry is actually quite personal. When my grandfather passed away last fall, I sat down and just started writing. After a full day of typing, reminiscing, crying, laughing, and editing, I ended up with a piece I am very proud of. For me, this is really what writing is all about.
I know this is a lot, but I do have another favorite! This one chronicles our “Adventures In The Dark”... I won’t tell you more here. Intrigued?
Tell us about the ways your new life in New Zealand differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
The way that New Zealand differs the most from back home is also the thing that I love the most. Life here is so laid back. A few minutes late to work? It’s ok mate, that’s life. A dollar short on your takeaway order? No worries friend, just get us back next time. It may not be this laid back in Auckland, but here on the south island, life is a little slower and the people are so friendly. I love it.
There have been adjustments, of course. My husband’s biggest adjustment is living life without normal drip coffee (crazy, I know!). Groceries here are a bit pricier, and grocery stores are fewer and farther between. We have rewired our brains to drive on the left side of the road, and we have (easily) adjusted to life without pennies. Despite numerous small changes in everyday life, I don’t think we’ve truly experienced culture shock. Our basic needs are still the same, and we have no problem meeting them. Also, we didn’t have to learn a new language, which I’m sure is the biggest challenge for many other expats. We’ve just had to learn a dictionary’s worth of Kiwi slang!
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in New Zealand? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I don’t think you can be fully prepared for an experience like this. And that’s part of why you do it. Adventures. The unknown.
We have also been so very lucky in our move here. We found good housing, good jobs, and good friends reasonably quickly. You can never have too much money saved up before a move across the world, but we did alright with a modest amount. I suppose I may have shipped even more of our belongings from back home (we shipped a ton!), as it is pricey to replace things here, and frequently they aren’t quite the same as thing you are missing anyways.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
One of the things that New Zealand prides itself on is their pies. When we first arrived, I was so excited. I have a sweet tooth that can’t be matched. Apple and berry pies are my favorite, but I’m open to just about any. For example, recently I found out that rhubarb is actually a tasty thing and not just a silly name for red celery. So... imagine my shock, my horror and my disdain on the day that I found out New Zealand’s famous pies are meat pies. Chicken. Venison. Mince. I was crushed. I actually boycotted trying the impostor pies until one day after a treacherous bike ride when I was so exhausted and starving that I had no willpower whatsoever. I gave in, and cautiously bit in to a chicken pie. Fabulous. Annoyingly fabulous.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in New Zealand?
Oh man, just three? Ok...
- Plan financially. I know I said we didn’t bring a lot of money, but we did bring as much as we could. Every little thing adds up. If you’re like us, and require cell phones, bank accounts, and cars right away, there may not be a lot of spare cash for groceries and petrol. Moving costs add up quick! Let’s just say, our Visa Card company won’t be dropping us anytime soon!
- Send your belongings before you go! You can’t bring much at all on the airplane, so you’ll need to ship most of your things. And you’ll want to- replacing clothes, cooking utensils, linens, etc. is very costly! We shipped our belongings 3 weeks before we departed and still had to wait 7 weeks after arrival, so the sooner you ship, the better! When it arrives, it feels like Christmas!
- DO YOUR RESEARCH. I hate being told to do homework- but it’s true. You wouldn’t want to get into a situation that you don’t like. Read the pros and cons about New Zealand. Are you outdoorsy? Can you cope with older cars and poorly insulated housing? Do you like multiculturalism? If the answer to these is “no”, perhaps there’s a better expat country for you out there.
How is the expat community in New Zealand? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
There is no shortage of expats in New Zealand! It actually feels like New Zealand is a safe haven for outdoor enthusiasts from around the world. The other day, a new friend and I went to dinner and met up with two other ladies. As we were sitting there, chatting about kite boarding and mountain biking, it occurred to me that we had 4 ladies of 4 different nationalities sitting at this table. It was such a neat moment.
I’m sure there are plenty of expats who feel differently than I do, but so far I feel like I’ve met very like-minded folks. I suppose it has something to do with the laws of physics- like attract like... (right? I actually did quite poorly in physics). But seriously, all of the expats I’ve met are just hoping to make friends and have some fun. Each is on their own adventure, and everyone has their own stories to share. It’s great.
How would you summarize your expat life in New Zealand in a single, catchy sentence?
Mountains, beaches, new places, new people... you have to get outside to find out who you are on the inside.