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Real Talk: On Moving to America

Every week we talk to someone who has had an interesting experience or who is living an interesting life. This week, Djinous Rowling shares her experience of being from New Zealand and moving to the US. Lesson 1: Sarcasm is not a thing.
By Djinous Rowling, 26 Mar 2015
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Real Talk: On Moving to America
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Being the smug owner of a New Zealand and American passport (don't be jealous), moving from New Zealand to America was something I always spoke about doing as if it were inevitable, but if I hadn't had a stressful and grossly emotional breakup, I think I'd still be living in New Zealand, because I was definitely an idiotic "all-talk" teenager. So while a lot of people move overseas out of a sense of adventure and "braveness", I mostly just moved to run away from my emooootions, and it turned out to be the best cowardly thing I've ever done.

The first time I went to New York I was age fifteen with my parents, and we undertook a very basic, uncool, upper middle class holiday. We stayed at a hotel within walking distance of Times Square, went to Broadway shows, Central Park and Fifth Avenue, and never travelled south of 42nd Street. I loved it more than I ever expected to love a place. I vowed to move there and live a busy, important life in midtown Manhattan. Like I said earlier, I was an idiot. The thought of this lifestyle is immeasurably stressful to me now.

Six years later, I arrived in South Williamsburg in Brooklyn, hopefully slightly less idiotic, to my friend's apartment that I was subletting. I sat and smoked out the window and listened to her roommates talk about awful online dates for about two hours and drank a can of beer the size of my head.

Being mostly a regular human being without unlimited money, I lived in Brooklyn the two years I lived in New York, not Manhattan. I don't think I had really ever given Brooklyn a second thought before I decided to move there. In my mind it was about the size of Ponsonby and only artists starving for their craft moved there. I am an idiot. Brooklyn has 2.6 MILLION people living inside it. It is indigent in some areas and disgustingly expensive and bougie in others. It mostly looks nothing like Manhattan. Everyone talks about how pretty New Zealand is constantly, but I'm not sure I completely realized that that statement is not limited to our extensive and lush rural and wildlife areas; even AUCKLAND is beautiful. The streets are reasonably clean, there's greenery everywhere and store exteriors are semi-regularly updated. Brooklyn looked like The Wire to me when I first arrived. Trash spills out into the dirty winter slush puddles, bike frames robbed of anything of worth hang depressingly off parking poles and the barber shops have photos of Rihanna circa 2006 (you know, when she had that awful two-tone long in the front bob) in the window and look how I imagine they looked twenty years ago. All of this isn't without charm of course, I always felt like I was on a film set walking around. All around New York, settings look oddly familiar to you all of a sudden and then you're hit with the amazing realization that you've seen it before, because this is where so much entertainment you've consumed is set and about, and you're living there.

I thought moving to America and wowing everyone with my amazing sarcastic personality would be a breeze. Aside from the obvious differences, our accents, certain words we use, there are some strange subtle yet (I came to find out) very important differences between us. In New Zealand, we consume so much American media that we tend to feel like we understand the culture here, but I came to realize extremely quickly that it is a foreign country, and the way people think, talk and interact is all different. For the most part, my playfully negative and sarcastic sense of humor is not a massive hit here. I have lived in the States for over two years, and I'm slightly ashamed to say that the majority of my friends are still New Zealanders. It's more difficult than I thought making friends here. That in itself is a whole hundred page article and could be more to do with me as a person, so I might just leave it at that.

Aside from the (relative) ugliness and all the people I don't get along with, the tough and unforgiving nature of New York was not as bad as I was led to believe. There were times back home when I would truly struggle to find menial work. In America, something always pulled through, and the options seemed virtually endless. I have worked as a dog walker, a retail assistant, a studio manager, the temporary admin officer for the New Zealand Consulate (no idea how I got that one) and a bartender/server. I'm yet to go full speed ahead with my dreams and aspirations, but I feel like I'm in the right place.

There's good and bad here. There's good and bad everywhere. I've recently moved to California. It is beautiful, I highly recommend it. If you're half as positive a person as I am, I think that coming to the United States is a brilliant thing to do. Enter the greencard lottery, hopefully win and get in touch. We can go get breakfast. Everything comes with fries.

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Liked this? Read these other Real Talk articles:

1) Real Talk: On Being a Lesbian

2) Real Talk: On Being a "Successful Creative" with Kelly Thompson

Have a real issue you'd like discussed? Email us at info@cataloguemagazine.com.au



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