Homesickness is natural and it affects different members of the family in different ways.
After the initial excitement was over and I had been in New Zealand a few months, I suddenly realised I never bumped into that lady up the road anymore - the one who had known the children since they were babies and always commented on how much they’d grown!
When the children rushed in from school with good grades I no longer encouraged them to ring Nanny and tell her how well they had done, as it was the middle of the night in England. When my husband went off to work and the children went off to school, I had no-one to phone. When I went to the shops I never spotted anyone I even vaguely knew. I missed the people I had known all my life.
I remember both our children bringing home a box of 24 packets of sweets each, that they had to sell as school fund raisers. An awful feeling of loneliness descended upon me as I realised we knew absolutely no-one that they could sell them to. We ended up buying them all ourselves and strangely enough have since spoken to other immigrants who have done the same!
When a family emigrates, it is often the women who find it the most difficult to settle and that is not too difficult to understand. Once the children start new schools they begin to forge new friendships. When the man finds employment he will be concentrating on the new way of doing things. Meanwhile, it is usually left to the women to keep the contact with those ‘back home’ in the form of letter writing and birthday cards etc. so while the rest of the family are slowly breaking the ties and feeling less and less homesick, the woman has the task of making sure the ties aren’t broken.
For women, finding a job is probably the quickest way of making friends and getting into the New Zealand way of life. Another way is to join a club, perhaps tennis or badminton, or for the non-sporting there are plenty of craft groups or adult education classes. Your local library is an excellent source of information or the Citizens Advice Bureau can be located in the telephone directory.
By holding a ‘morning tea’ (coffee morning) you will quickly learn which of your neighbours (if any) are at home during the day.
Simply drop an invitation in the letter boxes down your street, stating the day and time, you’ll be surprised at the response. Remember it is up to you to make the effort. New Zealanders are mostly polite and friendly so do not be afraid to make the first move.
Voluntary work is another way of making friends and could even lead to employment. The quicker you get involved in the community the quicker you will make friends, and once more you will bump into people you know when out shopping and have friends you can invite round for a coffee.
Bereavements eventually come to all families, and it is at such times that the distance between you and your family is really noticeable. It is a good idea to have a small fund tucked away for such emergencies. Making a pact with a trusted family member to keep you reliably informed of any family illness is a sensible precaution. They can provide you with the information you need make a decision to visit, or prepare you for any inevitable bad news.
For those on a limited budget, decisions about flying back for funerals may need to be made in advance. A degree of flexibility needs to be inbuilt into any agreements, dependant on reactions at the time.