The Long Goodbye

A few people have been asking me how I feel about leaving New Zealand and our move back to Germany. Many have been surprised when I respond with excitement, knowing how much I love this country and how hard we've tried to make it our home for the third time in the past eight years.

Choosing to move back to Auckland, with two little ones, certainly wasn't an easy decision. We gave up everything, and used everything we had to move from Europe to New Zealand early last year, simply because of how much we love this country. I'm not ashamed to admit that of all the countries I've lived in, I've favored New Zealand the most. This is where I really discovered who I was all those years ago, where I built my passion in food and wine writing, where I met my husband, got married, planted seeds of a dream of a lifetime together. This country will always be special to me.

And so we followed our hearts, as they say, only to find upon our arrival that the New Zealand we love and remember when we were living here before, doesn't quite translate into our lives here now as a family of four, and with a child with a disability.

While we still think this is a wonderful country and a wonderful home for many, it hasn't been so wonderful for us. Of course, a lot had to do with having to fight a system that would not allow our three-year-old to be with his family who are all entitled to live here, simply because he has a disability and would be a burden to the healthcare system. This is wrong on so many levels, and yes, we could probably have kept on fighting, we may have won in the end, but deep in my heart, I no longer wanted to live in a country that rejected my child on that basis. But that's for another story altogether.

Beyond that, there were also other truths. Life can be really hard here if you do not have ample financial resources. Cost of living is extremely high. Housing prices is extremely high. Food is expensive. We both had to work full-time in order to live comfortably, which is not an easy thing to do when you have two young children. I will never forget that nightmarish two months when both kids were sick one after another with contagious childhood illnesses and weren't able to attend their respective daycares. We had to keep the kids home while still paying exorbitant childcare fees, and had to take time off work week after week without being paid our regular salaries, resulting in me finally quitting the editor job I had just started because it just wasn't sustainable.

It's taken Liam nearly a year to get an appointment to see a pediatrician in the public healthcare system. We are still waiting for an appointment to see an ENT specialist at the children's hospital for a surgical procedure to clean his ear and have a proper hearing test done. At this point, I highly doubt this appointment will happen before we leave. When I think back to how easy it was in Germany once Liam was diagnosed, how much support he received, how quickly he was seen and therapies put in place without us even pushing for it, I realise how much I took for granted back then.

I'm not saying Germany is a better country. In a lot of ways, it will still be much harder for me to be independent there, to adapt and to fit in, because it is culturally so different from Malaysia and New Zealand, because I don't speak the language, because we still don't know where we'll end up, and the family and friends we do have in Germany are spread all over the country, which potentially mean having to build up a social network from scratch, or live in a place where we know no one.

Nevertheless, I'm excited, and this time, I'm finally ready to say goodbye to a country that's meant so much to me for most of my adult life. For after all's been said and done, there are no regrets. If we hadn't moved here last year, if we hadn't at least tried, I would always have had New Zealand on a pedestal in my head. I would have always wanted to come 'home'. I would have kept on resisting and sometimes even resenting being in Germany, without giving it a proper chance.

And now I can finally close this chapter of my life and leave it behind me. I can finally focus on Germany and on making it my home, simply because we have no other choice. I have to buckle down and learn the language. I have to try harder to fit in. To make friends. My children and my husband are German citizens, and that is where they belong, that is the country they will grow up to know as home, and so I will learn to make it my home too. At the end of the day, I'd rather be in a country that accepts my children without prejudice, than one that doesn't. And sometimes it's as simple as that.

My memories of New Zealand and all my years spent here will always be there, and they will be mine to love and cherish. We have gotten to know some wonderful new friends over the past year, and rekindled friendships with old ones, who we will always hold dear in our hearts. We've spent some amazing moments at the beaches and at the local playgrounds. We've eaten plenty of wonderful food and drank plenty of delicious wine. I've completed my WSET Level-3 course. I went to work full-time again, albeit briefly, and was offered another editor's position, which has renewed my confidence in my ability to still have a career in publishing, even though I had to turn it down. Liam went to a proper daycare for the first time and loved it. My boys have had a happy year and have grown and thrived and been such troopers through each change in our circumstances. They won't remember this time, but I hope one day they'll be able to return on their own accord to a place that's meant so much to their father and I.

I know there will be moments in the future when I will miss this place so much that it'll hurt deep in the darkest corners of my heart, the way you miss a loved one who's no longer in your life. It almost feels like I'm breaking-up with this country, this process of saying goodbye. And like every relationship that ends, sometimes you get back together for awhile, for the memories, for the hope that it hasn't truly ended. Sometimes it takes more than once to move on.

But I can let go now, because we tried, and dammit we tried. But in the end, my children's lives and their security and stability are more important than my own wants. Liam's healthcare is more important than my need to live by the water. Our ability to provide for our kids, to create memories, to travel, to live without being in fear of being in debt, or kicked out of a place we call home, is more important than the beauty and my memories of this place.

It's nearly time to say goodbye. But I'm okay now. I really am. Germany awaits, like a new lover, and I can't wait to see what the future holds.

We've had some wonderful times NZ, you and I. 


  1. Beautiful photos! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

  2. Wonderful! I hope you find an awesome place to live in Germany!


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