In part four of Coming Home, hosts Duncan Greive and Jane Yee find out what returning to New Zealand this year was like – and why it didn’t always go as smoothly as anticipated.
Everyone we spoke to for this episode had a very different experience of moving back to New Zealand this year, but they all had one thing in common. In every case, the landing back into New Zealand society was quite a bit bumpier than expected, on both an emotional and professional level.
Part of that was to do with the heightened sense of fear and uncertainty brought on by the pandemic. Jane’s family arrived back before the introduction of managed isolation, and anticipated being welcomed back with open arms – instead they were met with hostility from a community understandably fearful of anyone who might be carrying the virus.
Since then, tens of thousands of New Zealanders have had the experience of returning to two weeks of mandatory managed isolation. Some were able to put a positive spin on it – Mahoney Turnbull compared it to a two-week meditation retreat – while others found it more of a mental struggle.
But for many the biggest challenge has come from readjusting to the culture here, especially in a work setting. “I miss the freedom to be myself,” says Julia Arnott-Neenee, who came back from the US buzzing to explore new opportunities. “I’ve felt like I’ve had to shrink myself to fit in here”.
What does all this say about us as a country – and about those who’re returning to find the reality doesn’t necessarily match their expectations?