From Ireland to Auckland - a seamless transition

In Auckland Máire Lenihan has found a great job and lifestyle - but it's the Kiwi attitude that she really likes.
From Ireland to Auckland - a seamless transition

Máire Lenihan uses the word “lucky” a lot when describing her move to New Zealand – and how easy it’s been to feel at home here.

Ireland and New Zealand are often compared to each other. For civil engineer Máire Lenihan, the similar language, climate and culture made for an easy transition after she arrived here in April 2013.

Lenihan knew what to expect after backpacking around the country a decade ago. However, after leaving Ireland four years ago to seek new work opportunities, she first went to Sydney, Australia.

“I spent a bit of time there travelling and looking for work, and it just wasn’t really me,” Máire says.

A former colleague from Ireland was working for Watercare in Auckland. He contacted Máire on LinkedIn, sent Máire’s CV to Watercare’s management, and after two days she had a Skype interview.

The job was a great opportunity: being a project manager in the wastewater transmission team, which delivers new infrastructure (physical systems) to process 400 million litres of wastewater every day for Auckland’s growing population. 

Things quickly fell into place. Máire flew into Auckland on a working holiday visa. “I was really lucky to have my job secured, so that was a huge stress off my shoulders.” As a skilled migrant, Máire applied for and received her resident’s visa within a few months. “It meant I was able to really settle.”

She’d already felt more at home here than in Australia. “The weather was a lot more agreeable to my Irish skin, and I felt a lot of similarities with New Zealanders,” she says. “I was very lucky as well when I arrived, I found a really nice flat in Mt Eden, and met some really great people.”

Máire quickly fell in love with Auckland’s many volcanic cones, the urban beaches and Mt Eden’s leafy surroundings. “It’s a really great place to live, lots of good cafés and nice bars,” she explains.

“I was living quite close to Eden Park, so that was really exciting when there was rugby and cricket games. I walk up Mt Eden regularly and I look out at the view and it still takes my breath away, it’s just so stunning. I’m also quite lucky: in the desk  I sit in at work, I have a view of Mt Eden.”

Máire, who is now the tendering manager (looking after how the business gets the  services it needs to build new infrastructure)  for Watercare’s infrastructure team, has also completed a postgraduate diploma in business administration here. 

Ivan Moss, Director of MBA and Executive Education at the University of Auckland’s Business School, says Máire gained useful experience working with real clients during her diploma. “I know she’s taken those skills and employed them in her career,” he says. Local study extends a person’s professional development and networks, he adds. It also helps immigrants understand the economy, and demonstrates their capability to local employers.

LinkedIn and Skype may have won Máire her dream job here, but other online services helped her settle in. Through AirBnB, she found a temporary flat when she first arrived. Friends in Ireland put her in touch with other Irish people in Auckland through Facebook. FaceTime and WhatsApp help her stay in touch with family back home. 

At first she used public transport and walked everywhere, hiring a car when she wanted to go away for long weekends or Christmas.  After a year and a half Máire bought a car, but it stays in the driveway most of the time.

“I like to avoid driving when I can, but that restricts where I live – I’m about to move house and I’m going to be paying London prices to live in Auckland. I have to pay more in rent because I want to live in these areas where I don’t necessarily need to have a car,” she says. 

“If I do drive to work, the road rage (frustration with other drivers) comes in really quickly, because the driving here is problematic at times, with many people on the road. However, public transport is improving rapidly to cater for growth.”

Máire loves the casual nature of Kiwi barbecues, where you can bring along a few uninvited friends and no-one seems to mind.

“There’s no exclusivity and that’s made it really easy for me to make a lot of friends. You keep getting invited to things, through friends of friends with everyone bringing a plate (a Kiwi term referring to a plate of food) to contribute to the meal.” 

Learning more about Māori culture has fascinated her. She’d visited Māori villages in Rotorua as a traveller, and through work has had to consult  on projects with local iwi (tribes). “It’s to ensure that cultural sensitivities are taken into consideration. Often we have a blessing at the beginning of a project; the local iwi will take part in those blessings, and it’s quite a spiritual experience,” she says.

“I do love the way when you go to a conference or a seminar here, there is always a welcome in Māori at the beginning. It’s really unique to New Zealand and really interesting.”

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