Saturday, December 4

On the brink of fear and hatred: the vitriol directed at returnees is heartbreaking

By Angus simmons

Opinion – I go back to my favorite country, but why am I not excited?

International arrivals airport sign

Some expats are unsure of the reception they will receive when returning to New Zealand. File photo.
Photo: 123RF

When the world came to a stop in early 2020, my wife and I wondered if our plans to come to Europe should be postponed indefinitely.

The development window for opera singers is small and improving ourselves in Europe was something we had wanted and needed to do for years.

September had always been the month we intended to go to and we couldn’t wait any longer. It was 100 percent the right decision and we have never regretted it.

We have spent the last 12 months in Germany and Italy pursuing our passion.

We have had an extremely beneficial time working with great teachers and coaches and have developed our craft to the point where we have even surprised ourselves.

Europe is where we need to be and we will be back as soon as possible. To make a long story short, visa problems have forced us to return to New Zealand for a short time.

I know that our circumstances are not even close to being as dire as those faced by others. I feel guilty about going back and for months I have helped dozens of people get a place at MIQ and their stories have been hard to hear.

I can’t imagine what they and so many others are going through. I am not interested in being told that we should not have traveled or that we are not worthy of a place at MIQ. We decided to pursue our passion and for that I will never apologize.

We begin the long journey back to that little slice of paradise isolated at the bottom of the world. To see again our parents, brothers, nieces, nephews and our dearest friends whom we have missed so much. So why, as I sit on this train to Frankfurt airport, do I feel dread instead of excitement?

The truth is that the comments and attitudes of those within New Zealand’s borders to those outside have tainted my love for our country and our people. It hurts a lot to admit it.

It is a strange feeling to be returning to the place you adore more than anywhere else in the world, the place that houses the most precious people in your life, but you are not convinced that it is where you want to be.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not lost on me how lucky we are to have an MIQ position and yes, we are grateful. However, I always thought New Zealanders were the empathetic, compassionate, “put yourself in the other person’s boots” type.

The vitriol directed at New Zealanders abroad has been nothing short of heartbreaking and, at times, vile. There seems to be an unwillingness to listen to our point of view and this is often accompanied by a fierce and holier than you defense of New Zealand’s handling of the pandemic. New Zealanders abroad have been told or called the following on social media.

“Traitors”; “plague of rats”, “I hope you get Covid and die before you get home”; “Do we have to get sick because you are selfish?”; “go back to the place you came from”, “burn your passport, you are not a real Kiwi”; “You are an accomplice to bury a generation of old men”; “My social life is more important than seeing your dad die” and “letting them travel by boat to an offshore island, as far as I’m concerned.”

These are just a few of the toxic comments New Zealanders abroad are getting and trust me, there are dozens more. For a country whose mantras are “Be nice” and “Team of 5 million”, where is the kindness and inclusiveness?

Why are there no official voices asking for this kindness for the team of one million New Zealanders abroad?

I would like to take the moment here to point out that of course we know that these comments reflect the attitudes of a small percentage of the New Zealand population and I am not grouping all New Zealand-based people in this group.

However, hateful voices are the loudest voices and the voices that cause the most damage. I have no doubt that this comment is the result of fear and blissful ignorance of what life is like for New Zealanders abroad.

A fear that I believe has been trickle-fed from the top and permeated the country through daily Covid-19 briefings and incessant pessimistic and pessimistic media coverage.

Each citizen or resident has their own valid reason to return to the country. We are not “just coming back from vacation.” If you think the idea of ​​any vacation is to pay more than $ 3000 for 14 days in a hotel, then I think you should reconsider your definition of the word “vacation.”

The MIQ reservation system is beyond words. Until a sufficient percentage of the population is vaccinated, I agree that MIQ is required.

It is a lottery and instead of balls with numbers and cash, you are playing with people’s lives. We have heard all the comments saying “you’ve had 18 months to go home” or “now you want to go home when you realized that abroad is not all that it seems.”

These comments only highlight the ignorance of the fact that New Zealanders, many of whom still pay taxes in New Zealand, have families, businesses, jobs and homes abroad and it is not always possible to leave things and go back to one another. country side. the world.

The classic tall poppy syndrome, or as Grounded Kiwi Shane Lust aptly renamed it, the “bitter and mean” syndrome, is another driving force behind these comments. How dare New Zealanders seek brilliance abroad and wish to see their family again after two years? London-based New Zealander Nicola Vandermeer noted that it is particularly painful when family members direct feelings of “you made your choice, now you suffer” towards those living abroad.

For those in New Zealand, please try to see things from the point of view of the father separated from his young family, or the daughter whose elderly parents are only a few months old, or the mother who has lost her job. and you can’t support your family much longer on severance pay.

It is not black and white; in fact, it is many, many shades of gray. We know you want to keep the country safe, we all do, but we are not an alien race of people who are positive for Covid-19 and who come to infect you. Most of us have experienced the pandemic abroad and have now been “living with the virus” for at least a few months.

Anyway, I’ve strayed a bit. It is disappointing not really looking forward to going to New Zealand and instead I feel sad to have to return to our beautiful country. I don’t know what reception we will receive from those who see us as “dirty expats”, but I just hope that the perception can change, and that it changes quickly.

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