When home is like a holiday

Rafael Barbieri and Amanda Santos never dreamed weekends could be so relaxing when they moved from Botucatu, Brazil to the Wellington area.
When home is like a holiday

Living on the Kapiti Coast, north of Wellington, means Brazilians Rafael Barbieri and Amanda Santos often leave home quite early in the morning to drive to work – the commute to Wellington takes 45 minutes if the traffic is good. But it’s always worth it when they get home, says Rafael.

“When you leave the city and go to Kapiti, you are disconnected from everything. You clear your mind. When you are back to work on Monday, you are invigorated,” says Rafael.

“It’s like a holiday. You have walking tracks, you have the beach, you have nature all around you. It’s just fantastic.”

Rafael has a keen interest in nature and bugs. After finishing his Master of Science in entomology (the study of insects), he came to New Zealand to do a PhD at Victoria University.

The research institutes here are well known for excellence around the world,” he says.

It has been nearly seven years since Rafael and Amanda left Botucatu. They arrived on student visas with very clear goals. They would stay for three years. Rafael would complete his PhD; Amanda would improve her

English and gain experience in the Pilates exercise method, so she could open her own practice in Brazil. But seven years has passed, and they are in no hurry to leave.

New Zealand has given them both the chance to grow professionally. Rafael already spoke some English, but studying in that language was another matter.

“That was a challenge, and if there is no challenge then it’s boring. This is one of the reasons to choose New Zealand. I saw that as an opportunity for me and for my wife to improve our English skills,” he says. “It was just a matter of time to gain confidence to speak without thinking of what you are saying.”

Amanda spent five months studying English when she first arrived.

Some Kiwis have an accent that is quite hard to understand at the beginning. When you’re listening all the time, you get used to it,” she explains.

In Brazil, Amanda had studied physical education for four years, and spent another year specialising in exercise training for elderly people. She began her Pilates training by learning from a mentor for one year, before starting to build up her own client list.

“The next stage is to open my own practice, but I’m waiting for the right moment. It’s different when you start your own business and family is so far away, it makes it harder to go back and visit them.”

Rafael now works at the Ministry for Primary Industries as an advisor for agricultural compounds. He works to build trust in New Zealand’s regulatory systems and ensure that food produced here is safe.

Initially the couple flatted (shared a house) in Churton Park, an outer suburb, with a Kiwi couple.

“It was really positive because we were not only speaking English when we were outside, but when we were back at home we had somebody to speak in English with us. This is part of the package: to improve your English, you have to be immersed,” says Rafael.

Two years later, they moved into the central city, to experience living close to Wellington’s cafes, nightlife and the harbour. But they wanted to buy a house, and real-estate prices were unrealistically high – so they began looking up the coast.

“The market at the moment is quite insane, and it took us about one-and-a-half years to find a place. Going away from the city allowed us to have a lifestyle that is more connected to nature,” Rafael says.

Last year, the Kapiti Coast became their home. Living outside Wellington means they carefully manage their time to avoid being stuck in traffic, and make the most of being in Kapiti. They often leave home early in the morning, and sometimes return home late in the evening.

But once they are home, there is a lot to enjoy. They go cycling, walking and fishing, and are doing some renovations to their house and the land around it.

Amanda loves being near the sea. “It’s so peaceful, especially for us, people who used to live in such a big country with so many people and cars,” she explains.


 “We have a vegetable garden and it’s going really well. It’s amazing having everything fresh from your own garden.”

“Here, it takes more time for people to open up. But once you get to know them, it feels pretty much the same.”

Both agree that coming to New Zealand with a clear goal in mind is the best way to make the most of it. “You have to be determined and diligent, stick to your targets, and try to achieve it,” says Rafael.

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