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A long way from home

Monday 16th December 2013

How can you tell a New Zealander overseas?

It sounds like the start of a bad joke. And if you were with a bunch of Australians at the loved and loathed Walkabout Inn in Shepherd’s Bush (before it closed down), it probably was.

Asking a similar question on Reddit, beedee01 was given a range of answers, from a Kathmandu backpack, a Glassons cardigan, and a stiff upper lip (“maybe it’s left over from the British invasion of NZ!”), to someone declaring “international drinking rules” in a bar. On hearing that call, the punter says they wandered over knowing they’d find a Kiwi.

Many New Zealanders leave the country they grew up in, searching for adventure, only to find themselves back amongst mates from home, drawn together by humour, camaraderie and partying.

Statistics New Zealand estimates there are somewhere 600,000 to 800,000 of us living overseas, and we  often stick together.

Stacey Knott went to London hoping to avoid being a “typical” New Zealander. Back home she never would’ve hung out with the type that join the annual Waitangi Day pub crawl.

She had more in common with most of the Kiwis she met in London than she did with most of the Brits. The differences that mattered at home, didn’t matter so much away.

“Once you start hanging out with one Kiwi, there’s ten more that they’re friends with, so your circle grows,” Stacey says.

Moving to London and exploring continental Europe used to be the typical OE, largely because of economic and family ties to Mother Britain.

But in recent years, working visa rules tightened for those without a European Union passport, and it seems more people are searching for alternative destinations.

New York and Berlin are on the radar for those looking for creativity and culture.

And, of course, there’s always Australia, but it’s not really living overseas, is it?

Then there are the New Zealanders who want to go far off the beaten track on individual journeys of discovery.

Attracted to joining the Israeli army and learning about her roots, Tali Vidal, 20, spent much of this year in Israel, trying to figure out Hebrew, and why her relatives prayed so much.

Meanwhile, Lex Edmonds, 19, is harvesting rice for an orphanage in a Nepalese village. That’s when he’s not fearing for his life while travelling the country’s dilapidated roads on jam-packed buses. As Lex says, he’s living every day like it could be his last.

There’s more stories to come this week on The Wireless as we talk to New Zealanders around the world about life thousands of kilometres from home, in places where a jar of Marmite is a rare sight, and more often than not the locals think you’re Australian.