It is very easy to take where we live for granted. Two of Tauranga’s newest residents, Alex and Kseniia, tell us about how it feels to move from Moscow to Tauranga for a year.
WORDS KSENIIA SPODYNEIKO PHOTOS ALEX SPODYNEIKO
Waking up at 5 am and walking 3 km to do some cleaning in a restaurant (yes, including toilets) before our study classes. That is exactly how my reality looks after moving to New Zealand this winter. And you know what? I have never felt happier!
Not that we struggled back in Moscow. I was Editor-In-Chief for Cosmopolitan Russia online, and my husband was a photographer, shooting editorials, and making videos for big brands. On the weekend he was a DJ. No matter how incredibly beautiful our home country is, how unusually beautiful the architecture is in Moscow or how inspiring the history, you never have enough time to enjoy it in a city with 25 million inhabitants. Career and money are always at the forefront. Crazy, I know.
It’s hard to overestimate how lucky we were to have a chance to travel as journalists and photographers. Constantly getting in touch with new people, new destinations and new mentalities really makes you more openminded, easy-going and brave. Honestly, I’m pretty sure we would never have dared to book a flight to New Zealand without that amazing experience. But that experience also gave us a real hunger for more travel.
We were travelling lots, but always sorry to leave another new and incredibly interesting country without getting an opportunity to experience it as locals, instead of working tourists zooming through. So we decided to move to New Zealand and enrol at the Ntec for a year. As part of our course, we had two weeks of accommodation at the Harbourside City Backpackers in Tauranga, to give us some time to find a home.
My main worry about moving to New Zealand was that I would be disappointed in the country – it looked like a pure fairy tale from the pictures we had seen online in our Moscow apartment. How could it possibly be that perfect?
The moment Alex and I sat on a bench in front of Auckland airport just after landing, we fell in love with ‘the land of the long white cloud’ (oh yes, that was the first thing we were taught at Ntec). I remember our attempt to live in America: we always felt unwelcome, disconnected from society and anxious.
But all we face here is the most welcoming attitude and the kindness of everyone we meet. Even while staying at the Harbourside City Backpackers without any place to move in to, job offer or even a city map, we were already calm and confident that things would work out.
In Moscow, our lives were ruled by suspicion. You had to suspect that everyone was out to get you or trick you in some way. It has been very hard for us to get used to living in a society totally built on trust, which is full of surprises for foreigners like us.
We can’t believe that you can buy a car online! Or that people fix their cars before selling them! During our first week, we had a police officer come and chat to us in our orientation class at Ntec. His main piece of advice was to make sure we lock our front door when we leave the house. Alex and I nearly fell about laughing. In Moscow, most people have a front door with deadbolts and padlocks, plus another steel door for security.
In Russia, there’s an attitude that it’s cool to break the law. Drink driving, running red lights, swearing at the police – they are the expected behaviours. We love that in New Zealand people are honest, supportive, relaxed and treat others as they’d like to be treated.
Since we arrived I feel inspired by everything that surrounds us: those spectacular views from The Mount; our cosy home; openhearted tutors; giant portions in restaurants; people thanking the bus driver; Bounty Bars actually being stuffed with coconut; and, of course, that funny tiny space you call Red Square!
Our region is called the Bay of Plenty for a reason. I hope I never get used to the scenery outside my door and that I treasure every day I spend here.
For the first time in my life I don’t feel jealous when I see all those colourful travel photos on Instagram.
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