Monday, April 02, 2007

My fellow Americans

I’ve mentioned or alluded to the fact that in all the years I’ve lived in New Zealand, I’ve never actually gotten to know any American expats. I’ve met some working in shops, and I’ve certainly seen them on TV—some nights it seems as if they’re interviewing a North American for every story on the TV news.

In general, American expats are less visible than most other ethnicities, like South Africans, for example, and I have absolutely no idea why that is. There are a few of us here, after all.

In 2005, for example, 3,587 Americans migrated to New Zealand (out of 79,139 total). That was nearly twice as many as the number of South Africans who arrived that year (1,388), and more than people from the Republic of Korea (1,907), but less than Japan (3,672), People’s Republic of China (4,629) and way less than Australia (13,742) or the United Kingdom (21,573) [Source: Statistics New Zealand, Demographic Trends 2005, Permanent and Long-term Migration By country of last or next permanent residence; Table 5.06)].

Apart from a few years, the numbers of American arrivals have been generally rising since 1979 (when there were 1,916 arrivals). The numbers crossed 3,000 for the first time in the period in 2002 and have been rising since.

So, where are they all?

Part of the answer is that some of these people don’t stay. They go back to the US or on to another country. But where are the rest? Are we Americans just intent on assimilating?

Not all the Americans arriving in 2002 and the years afterward have been refugees from George Bush’s regime. So why do they come here and what are they doing once they get here?

In the absence of any real data, we have to make do with anecdotal evidence. Like blogs, for example. These days, many expat Americans write blogs to make it easier to tell friends and family back home about their new lives. When I run across such blogs that I like, I post a link here (they’re on the right hand side under “American Expats in NZ”). But these so far are just ones I’ve explored; I know there are more.

I hope to explore these questions, probably in conjunction with my podcast. At any rate, this is a topic that fascinates me and so I’m sure to return to it again. In the meantime, explore the expat American blogs I link to. Mine isn't the only perspective, after all.


Spikey said...

I'm wondering if they (we) tend to settle in Wellington.

I've been here about a month and maybe they just stand out but they do seem fairly common.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

I've wondered the same thing, Spikey, since most of the expat Americans I've heard of have been in the Wellington area (again, not counting shop clerks). Or, maybe it's just that Americans don't stand out in Auckland because the city's larger. If I knew of more expat Americans I'd ask them but clearly I don't know where to find them.

Nick Stefanac said...


I just came across your blog and I have the exact same experience here in Australia in regards to other Yanks. Every time my wife hears an American accent she prods me to meet the person. Thing is, I really don't feel that innate need to reach out to other Yanks here in Melbourne. I don't know where they are or where they hang out. I love this country and its people and where they come from is irrelevant. I think it might be a sort of "been there, done that" sort of thing.

Hard to say. Oh well. I've enjoyed reading your blog.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

Thanks for the comment, Nick. I know what you mean--I don't really have a need to seek out other Americans, either. But I do get curious about the others and their motivations for moving away (and by that I mean people who move permanently, not just those who are temporarily posted overseas by an employer).

Having said that, I used to think that every now and then it would be nice to share a Fourth of July, or to be able to talk to people and not have to explain cultural references. But I've been here so long now that I probably wouldn't get the cultural references of more recent arrivals.

As an aside, I've often said that I like visiting Sydney, but Melbourne's a city I could live in.

Thanks again for the comment, and feel free to comment anytime!