Americans head to New Zealand to say goodbye to 'chaos'

Letter from Australia is our weekly newsletter from the Australian bureau. This week's newsletter is written by our correspondent Pete McKenzie based in Auckland, New Zealand.

In 2022, Lucy Schultz had had enough. She and her husband were traveling across the United States in an RV, and she was working as a wedding photographer. Everywhere they went, communities seemed polarized and the news felt bleak. “Our view of America had hit rock bottom,” she said. “It was a time of endless chaos.”

Later, Ms. Schultz was hired by an American client who wanted to get married in New Zealand. She had been there once before, in 2014, before she met her husband. When she later described the remote Pacific archipelago to him, she said, “He couldn’t hear me because the way I described it to him made him feel like he was in a fantasy.”

This time, after the mission, Ms. Schultz’s husband accompanied her on a drive through New Zealand’s sparsely populated northern region. The country was easy to take in. In a small cafe near a golden beach, he turned to her and asked, “When are we moving?”

As tensions grow in the US, New Zealand has become a priority for many Americans, including Ms Schultz. Jumped 65%. In a 2020 presidential debate, “How to immigrate to New Zealand” Popular Google search. With another US election just around the corner, those who made the move say they have no regrets.

“One of the big benefits of leaving the U.S. is that I can unsubscribe from all the chaotic news,” said Ms. Schulz, 31. “When you live there, politics and elections can get on your nervous system. And I just got away from that.”

Ms. Schultz and her husband settled near the small North Island city of Hamilton and are applying for permanent residency. She is pleased by the country's practicality. “It might be a weird example, but public toilets aren't a nightmare. You can go to the toilet and the hand sanitizer dispenser will actually work,” she said. “Or there will be a public park with a barbecue grill that's actually functional.”

She volunteers at a nearby nature reserve, where she walks through native forest, and she's enthusiastic about the country's friendliness. “I'm probably a little overly optimistic,” she admits, but says she's been struck by the “sense of community that's baked into the culture.” New Zealanders look out for each other.

Other Americans were equally enthusiastic. Sophie Zavaleta, 27, who was studying to be a teacher in Alabama, traveled to New Zealand in 2020 to participate in a study-abroad program. She had planned to stay for two months, but when the coronavirus pandemic hit, she extended her stay.

এছাড়াও পড়ুন  শ্যানেন ডোহার্টি তার মৃত্যুর আগের দিন বিবাহবিচ্ছেদ চূড়ান্ত করেছিলেন

She quickly fell in love with the country. Her host family took her to the beach, and she was mesmerized by the coast. She found a teaching job in Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, and found it much more relaxing than her experience in the United States. Her two-month trip has stretched to four years, and may become permanent.

But there are some downsides. Ms Zavaleta said food and rent in New Zealand are much more expensive than back home, and she misses her family. But with the US election approaching, she said: “I'm glad I live here and don't have to deal with all the political craziness that I know is going on over there.”

New Zealand uses a points-based immigration system, which primarily requires immigrants to have specific skills or work in certain jobs to fill labor shortages. According to Statistics New Zealand, 5,874 Americans moved to New Zealand between June 2022 and June 2023.

Todd Henry, 41, an Auckland bar owner who grew up in Pennsylvania and moved to New Zealand permanently in 2013 after a brief stint there, said the country’s positivity contrasts with the mood in the United States, where “there’s a lot of negativity when you talk to people. It’s hard to describe, but I feel like it weighs on me. Everything is a political disaster.”

During his time back home, Mr Henry found himself becoming more and more interested in the decision to migrate. “I saw people go from asking 'What is New Zealand? Why do you want to move there?' to asking 'How can I move there?'” he said.

He has noticed some familiar changes in New Zealand, which recently went through a divisive election in which several conservative parties ousted the Liberal government. “Unfortunately, New Zealand is also moving in some ways in the direction of the United States. Although not as extreme,” Mr Henry said.

Even so, Mr. Henry and some other Americans who have moved to New Zealand say they are appalled by conditions at home. “It’s so strange to see these things from here,” Mr. Henry said. Few say they want to go back. The United States, Ms. Schultz said, “is so bad it can’t be saved by voting alone. If I thought it could be saved, I’d still be there.”

Here are this week’s stories.



Do you like our Australia bureau's coverage?
Tell us what you think NYTAustralia@nytimes.com.

Like this email?
Forward it to your friends (they might need some fresh perspective, right?) and let them know they can sign up here.

উৎস লিঙ্ক