Widening his horizons

Moving from Argentina to New Zealand has helped Jose Bignert learn new skills and explore our great outdoors.
Widening his horizons

Sometimes, moving to another country does not mean you are unhappy with your life in your home country – it just means there are other opportunities to explore. While Jose Bignert enjoyed living in Mendoza, Argentina’s fourth-largest city, he also wanted to discover new places.

“Life in Mendoza is calm and relaxed. It's a nice city, very dry and very warm in summer. Living beside the mountains gave me the chance to go hiking a lot,” he recalls.

“But I always wanted to have an experience overseas: for personal and professional growth, and to meet new people and see new cultures. That motivated me to start looking for opportunities.”

Trained as an electrician and a systems engineer, Jose also worked as a software developer before moving here in 2014. A friend already in Auckland told him about a job at SKY TV New Zealand, and after a series of video interviews, he got the job.

At first, he thought he would live here for 1-2 years, improve his English and visit new places, then return to Argentina. Three years later, Jose is still here and a New Zealand resident. “I really like the lifestyle, I really like the outdoors and nature.”

He lived an outdoor life in Argentina too, but says here it is easier to go away for weekend trips. “If you compare what you're spending in New Zealand with the money you make, it's much easier to go away. In Argentina, the cost of living is higher in comparison with the average salary. Also New Zealand is a small country, and there is so much to do in a very small area.”

Once Jose had the job offer, getting a work visa was straightforward. SKY sent him “a big envelope with all the immigration forms and the job offer”, which he filled in and sent to the New Zealand Embassy in Washington DC, United States. Three weeks later, his visa came through and he bought a plane ticket.

For the first year, he lived with an Argentinian friend in the beach suburb of Kohimarama – which he describes as very nice, but also expensive. So he moved to Hillcrest, on Auckland’s North Shore; it takes longer to drive to work each day, but he can afford to live by himself.

“I really like it because I have my own space, and because it is a house [compared to an apartment], I have privacy. I have space to grow some vegetables in the garden, and there are parks and natural reserves everywhere.”

As a software developer for SKY, Jose works on applications (apps) for mobile phones and television. The working environment is relaxed, both in terms of the clothes he can wear and the friendly environment – though there is still pressure when projects are due. He works in a team of 15 people, and many of them are also from South America.

“I didn't expect to meet so many people from so many different countries, and of course I didn't expect to have a group of colleagues where many of them are from Argentina,” he says.

“Working with people from different places, you are learning and improving your communication skills all the time. But working with people that are similar to you, it takes you back to your comfort zone – and that's really good when you are having hard times, you can go and talk with someone in Spanish.”

Once he gets away from the computer, Jose likes to keep active. He lifts weights at the gym, goes to boxing class, and likes to play table tennis with friends. Running takes him across many landscapes: the beach at Mission Bay, up One Tree Hill, or cross-country runs in a park.

Being so far away from his family and friends is the most difficult part of living here. They would drink a South American tea called mate, which is a social drink to be shared with friends. Jose can find mate in a few shops around Auckland, but few people drink mate here. As for Christmas, Jose alternates going home to Argentina with exploring new parts of New Zealand.

It has taken him a while to get used to how the Kiwi accent sounds. “You speak fast, and the pronunciation of the vowels are a little different from an American or a British accent, so that surprised me.”

Still, Jose loves how Kiwis often walk around without wearing shoes, and their friendly attitude. “People in New Zealand don't seem to be in a rush, so if you grab a coffee from a cafe or when you are on a trail somewhere, they will start a conversation."

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