Not happy here? Goodbye, good luck and good riddance

by Stephen Ross
First Published: New Zealand Herald, Mar 15, 2005  READ

I overheard a conversation in a cafe this week. An angry young man was ranting about the constant rain and wet of New Zealand. It’s the middle of summer and there had been a morning’s worth of rain – the first in a couple of weeks – and it had set this agitated, eyebrow-pierced man off on a right table-thumper of an argument.

He had endured enough. He was off to Australia, he said, because in Australia they knew how to do things right. Apparently, they can also influence the weather.

Well, good riddance to him.

It wasn’t really the climate that was crawling underneath this angry young man’s skin, it was that tendency a lot of New Zealanders have to believe that somebody, somewhere is doing it better than we are.

Be it prices at the supermarket, pay packets, healthcare, taxes, or the number of advertisements on the television, somebody, somewhere is doing it better than us. They must be – or so some people think.

I grew up in Auckland, and lately it seems most of the people I grew up with are not here.

If they’re not dead, in jail or have moved to Nelson, then they’re living overseas.

An extraordinary number of my friends from my high school days are living either in England or in Australia. Many went on an OE but after 10 or 15 years you really can’t call their extended absence from the country an OE any more, it’s now a permanent relocation.

My family are no better. There’s been a steady mass emigration to Australia by aunts, uncles and cousins over the past handful of years, with only a few pockets of resistance left.

Friends and family alike, they’ve all left for different reasons, but the underlying principle is the same – they’ve all gone thinking they’ll be better off. And maybe they are. They probably think they are. There is also the fact not one of them has yet come back.

Well, good riddance to the lot of them.

According to the old proverb of discontent, the grass is always greener on the other side. The disgruntlement, it should be noted, is always in the eyes of the beholder.

There are thousands upon thousands of people living overseas who look to our small part of the world and who are green with envy.

Make no mistake about it, we are a popular place. New Zealand is a perennial top holiday destination in overseas magazine polls.

Billy Connolly’s World Tour of New Zealand, which is screening on local television, had a regular viewing audience in excess of four million when it screened in Britain at Christmas time.

Honestly, there are people abroad who would surrender sizeable portions of their anatomy to live here, and I don’t mean pseudo-refugees who might think we’re a soft touch on the immigration front. I mean regular people – decent, hard-working folk looking for a better life, wherever they might come from.

Ironically, these people regard their respective home countries in the way those who choose to leave here think about this one. The grass is greener for them, too, only in this instance we’re on the other side.

When it comes to the crunch, no place in the world is perfect. And ruling out genuinely unsafe places to be, such as, say, downtown Baghdad or the Congo, anywhere at all is probably all right to live.

What it boils down to is this: what do you want? What are your priorities? Money? Fresh water and clean air? A better nightlife? The weather? The right to bear arms?

Every country has its pros and cons. It just depends what pros you’re looking for and what cons you’re prepared to put up with.

For this reason I don’t really begrudge the people leaving this country. Let them go. Besides, they’re only sitting around moaning and thumping tables in cafes.

It’s their choice to go, and best of luck to them.

Let those who live in this country be the ones who truly want to live here.

Anyway, I’ve been to a few other countries in my life, and if it weren’t for the several months of summer sun we’ve been enjoying since the New Year, the grass would most assuredly be the greenest here in New Zealand.