I am a Chartered Accountant and do tax work quite often providing services to retired immigrants.
As a relationship develops with a client we have quite personal conversations about their lives. One aspect I would like to touch upon is the loneliness an immigrant can feel and hopefully someone will read this and know the feelings they have are quite normal. I also point out that I was once a new immigrant myself so when I talk to clients the conversation often drifts to how they are coping with the changes in their lives.
Quite often you might have a couple in their 60’s whose child or perhaps more than one child has immigrated to New Zealand. The Grandchildren are on the other side of the world and there is a pull to go and live in New Zealand and be closer to children and grand children.
It all starts off as an adventure and feels like the right thing to do and there is a feeling of peace of mind.
There is the saying goodbye to lifelong friends and other family members, the stress of selling a house, leaving cherished clubs, societies and perhaps the local parish church. There are tearful goodbyes at the airports from friends or perhaps a child left behind. Some people retire from their jobs then emigrate so there is the double issue of coping with retirement and a new country.
Next comes the adventure, perhaps a couple of weeks holiday in Hawaii on the way over.
Then there is the arrival in New Zealand. You have been over before to visit the children, had some great holidays and sort of know your way around.
You have to find somewhere to live. You move in with your child for a few months and sense after a while that you have outstayed your welcome. There can be a bit of animosity, you feel like you have moved half away around the world and you are feeling a bit in the way. So you buy a house and a new car, you enjoy the newness and visiting different places and spending some quality time with your grand children.
You meet new people and they are friendly and nice.
Then there are differences, you might have English as a 2nd language or your accent is considerably different and maybe hard to understand. You have to engage an accountant as your tax affairs are now more complicated.
You have lived through a history of your country and you now live in a country that has a different history. The seasons are back to front. Then you get a call from your best friend back in the home country that her husband has cancer and you feel helpless that you are not there to help.
At the same time there are new friends, the golf club, the book club and family dinners and seeing your grandchildren grow up. Watching them play football and netball at the weekend.
On the one hand you are enjoying your life and feel happy but carry a sense of loneliness. That loneliness may come from a sense of displacement or that there are people you want to see in your home country but can’t.
I think that talking to someone helps such as other people who have also travelling the same path that you are on. The loneliness is that you alone are walking this path when in fact there are lots of people walking the same path.
I am not a councellor so don’t have a solution but I do have a great deal of sympathy for retired immigrants and the struggles they have in building a new life in New Zealand.