A breath of fresh air

Mobile application developer Hanson Huang has worked hard to give his family a cleaner, less busy life.
A breath of fresh air

“I was so excited.” Hanson Huang still remembers the day the job offer arrived. “I knew it was going to be the turning point of my whole life.” 

Hanson had been living in Nanjing, the capital of China’s Jiangsu province, for 11 years. He had  a good life there. A satisfying, well-paid job – he is a software developer, specialising in mobile phone apps – and his own apartment, in a densely populated city where owning your own home is a mark of success. But in 2013, things began to look different to him. 

“My daughter Michelle was born. And we looked at Nanjing, and I love the city, but you know, in terms of raising a child... I guess the thing is the air pollution. Actually not only in Nanjing. In many cities in China.” Also China’s huge population places pressures on children that New Zealanders cannot easily imagine. “The competition is very strong. When you have a family, I don’t think it’s a good place.” 

For the next year, he and his wife Helen juggled their options and weighed alternatives. Then, at the end of 2014, the email arrived. An old colleague of Hanson’s was now working at a company called Fiserv, based in Auckland’s CBD. They needed someone for a senior development position. Hanson should apply, his old friend suggested: he had exactly the right skills and experience. “Kind of a dream come true.” 

Fast-forward to April 23, 2015. “I got off the plane and my friend met me. I was carrying two big cases. I went outside and took a deep breath, and – the air…”

Hanson is a cautious, disciplined speaker; he learned English in school, as most people do in China, but before he came to New Zealand he had rarely spoken it. You can hear the concentration and care he puts into each sentence. His voice warms and becomes spontaneous when he talks about his daughter and also when he talks about Auckland’s air. “I mean the air is really fresh!  

I can see very far away because the air is very clean. I remember thinking, the day I came to  the city, actually there is much traffic, but still the air is very clean. I feel very easy just sitting in the bus stop here. I feel I can breathe.”

It had been a long year getting to that point.  The research. “For people who are keen to move to New Zealand, I recommend the official website, Immigration New Zealand. Everything you need, right there. Don’t use other websites.” The job application process, which was intense and intensive. The visa paperwork. “I did it on my own, I never consulted any agent.”

One discovery: don’t expect fast replies from New Zealand officials over the Christmas week. “Though I shouldn’t blame all the delays on the paperwork”. Breaking his life down into something that would fit in two suitcases took some time too.

And then, after he arrived, the very hardest part: living alone in a new country for a year while he set things up so Helen and Michelle could follow him. “That was quite tough. I felt quite lonely – I felt very lonely.  You know. Different country. Everything strange. I missed my family.” 

He found his feet. He bought a house in Torbay. “That took about four months, finding a place. I had to sell the apartment in Nanjing to pay for it, so all of that happened at once.” And finally, in April, the day came when he could drive to the airport and meet Helen and little Michelle and drive them home. “And it’s really our home, it’s truly home, our new home. I was so excited. I cleaned everything. I even rented a Rug Doctor. And then my daughter came into the house, and she just crawls on the carpet, plays on the carpet, what’s the word? Rolls! She rolls and rolls.”

The family likes Torbay. It’s very quiet, the beach is very close. “At weekends I take Michelle to the beach, she really enjoys the playground there, and we can go for a walk, it’s very relaxing.” 

The hard thing is still the language. “At first I would talk to people and they don’t understand me, and I didn’t understand them either.  But now my Kiwi colleagues tell me my English has improved heaps. Though sometimes I still can’t figure out what they are talking about, particularly with jokes.

The thing I’m concerned with now, is when we borrow books from the library and my daughter asks, ‘Daddy, please  read it’, and I find so many words that I don’t know. I have to say, ‘Hey now, I’ll go read it first and we can read it together.’ Picking up a language really takes some time.” 

But this is the life he wants for himself and his family. “I have been here for a year and a half, and I will say moving to New Zealand is definitely a great decision for me. And yeah, for anyone thinking about it, New Zealand deserves your efforts, all your hard work. I love this place.”

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