My name is Daniel Fernandez and I’m from Madrid. My wife Sarah and I arrived in New Zealand in 2012. Until then I mainly lived in Madrid. Five million people live in Madrid; it’s the whole population of New Zealand in one place.

Madrid a very dynamic city and I’m a ‘city person’. I have roots in the south of Spain and it’s a beautiful part of Spain; it’s close to Africa, Morocco, so we had a lot of influence from the Arab Empire when the south of Spain was part of the Arab Empire.

I’ve been in New Zealand for four years. I met my wife, who is Kiwi, in Thailand. I visited New Zealand with her but she came to live in Spain. When we started dating she told me to come to New Zealand but I wasn’t ready.

I said to her, I’m not ready to move. I have my life and you have to come to Spain and see Spain and then you decide. And then she came to Spain with her five-year old daughter. We were in Spain together for almost three years.

We came to New Zealand in 2012. We always had a plan to come to New Zealand and the situation in Spain was frustrating with the economic crisis. In that year, we got a conservative government and it was going to bring more austerity. The results now are very obvious. So, I said to Sarah, I don’t want to go to New Zealand when I am depressed. I want to go now. I quit my job, I went back to university and did a Masters in solar energy and thought, ‘now I have to find my future.’

It was a new beginning.

When we arrived, we were seven months pregnant and we thought we would settle Wellington as my wife is from there. But then I started looking for work and I got a good opportunity here so we decided to stay in Auckland.

We have found Auckland a little bit tricky because it’s a very disconnected city. It’s very spread out. We were used to connecting very easily with the community. Having kids in that time, having to deal with prices, getting a house in New Zealand and getting used to having to commute with a car was hard.

In fact, the only thing I brought with me from Spain was my bicycle because I used to go everywhere on it. I’m not a car person. It was tough to change a lifestyle that was important to me. For me it was one of the basics of my life.

I was used to going to the local market, not the supermarket, and talking to people, having a real connection with people. So, everybody would know you. You would go to the butcher and he will say, ‘hello, what are you going to have today? I have something special that I have here, you want to try it?’ And we might talk about recipes.

I find the American model of residential areas in Auckland tough because it’s hard to connect with people. I remember the first days, I was taking a walk and for me it was claustrophobic to walk and see nobody on the streets. It was very disconnecting for me.

It was the first time that I had to get fully immersed in a place and it was tough at the beginning getting used to the Kiwi accent. One of my big challenges here has been just trying to get the language. So, I have been making a lot of effort just trying to talk the language. Over four years of living and working here, I have learnt to speak English fluently. I make an effort to speak as clearly as possible.

I am a Solar Engineer now. After working in telecommunications for several years in Spain, I felt that I wanted to be able to contribute more constructively to the environment. I work for a company that develops solar energy products in New Zealand. It’s becoming more popular here, although hydro-power is the norm in New Zealand and they’re quite proud of being dependent 80 percent on renewable energy. Solar energy will take a bit of investment. Outside of my day job, I’m an actor.

The journey of being a migrant is a painful process adapting to a new place with no family. Your family is so far away so it was tough for the first years.

It’s hard to make friends and my impression is I’m a very easy person, very social.  I connect with people very easily. When you are suddenly in a place where it’s difficult, it’s an even harder realization, like something is wrong. There is nothing wrong with you and with time you realise it’s the place. The Spanish community is not very big here in Auckland.

My experience with Kiwis is similar to what my wife experienced in Spain. Spain is a very mono-cultural place. There are a lot of different people here from all over the world but the reality is that that Kiwis are very mono-cultural. They stick to their culture.

On the other hand, Kiwis are very friendly, so it’s quite contradictory. To belong here, you have to become a Kiwi. And it’s difficult when you have very strong roots.

In my experience, Kiwis have a kind of interest in other cultures, but just an interest. They are not used to other cultures. New Zealanders who have travelled, they appreciate a lot of diversity but the ones that haven’t travelled, don’t always. Kiwis who have grown up here have their friends from school, the same beaches and the same experiences. So, by default they are not going to make an effort to include you because you are different.

If you don’t like rugby, for example, what do you talk about? I suppose it’s the same when you go to Spain and you don’t like football or food. My wife says, ‘You Spanish - half the time you are eating and the other half talking about food.’ You know?

For the first two years, I was looking at all the negative things, and all the things that I didn’t have. Once I started to appreciate what New Zealand had to offer, I started to enjoy this place. I also started to connect with other people, not necessarily with Kiwis, but with people like me who had moved here. I realised that every foreigner will have the same experience and it’s an experience that you share.

One issue common to all Aucklanders is housing. The houses in New Zealand are of very poor quality. The Auckland prices mean you cannot afford access to proper housing according to the standards that I was used to. It was shocking for me and also for my wife being in a place where the windows would leak and with poor quality finishing.

The amount of money that people spend on renting is ridiculous. You know, with my salary in Spain I would be totally relaxed and here I spend a lot of my salary just paying rent in a place that I feel lucky that we are in.  It’s a huge problem that I see, especially in Auckland.

This city is expensive. You just live where you can live and we are always looking for the opportunity of one day finding our own place. We might but at the moment I don’t think that it’s going to be possible. That’s something that’s very sad because you see that there’s no possibility to access to a house where you can do things your way.

When we came to New Zealand, we left everything behind because it was a very long trip. But my sister-in-law knew that I was a good cook so she bought me this pan. It was for Christmas. She said, ‘Oh, for Christmas Santa Claus is going to bring you a paella pan but we’re going to do a lunch at Christmas at my house. Guess what you’re going to do?’ I said, ‘Okay.’

 

It has been with us four years and we use it for every family event. You know every time we do a family thing it’s, ‘let’s do a paella!’ It’s not the easiest dish to make. It’s a long process. But if you know how to do it it’s quite simple.

 

Paella is like the symbol of Spanish cuisine so almost everybody in Spain knows how to do paella, in one way or another. It is something that we are all proud of it, so we take pride in making good paella.

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