Babette Khilan fell in love first with a Kiwi, then with his home town, and is now fully committed to Taranaki’s legendary lifestyle.
A three-week visit from her native Germany saw her discover the region through a series of daily trips with partner Andy. She didn’t want to leave, so made the move back to Taranaki not long after her visit, in late 2012.
“To be honest, I didn't know too much about New Zealand before I came here, other than it being the sort of exotic island in the Pacific Ocean that you day dream about, or where you go to escape the daily stresses,” Babette says.
“I bought some travel books before my first trip here, and looked at Google, but it was my partner that taught me how to be a Kiwi.”
While Babette came to Taranaki to be with her partner, the ‘perfectly-sized’ city of New Plymouth with its balance between urban and rural and its friendly people made the decision to stay even easier.
“I still tell Andy how lucky we are to be here!” she says.
Babette arrived on a Visitor Visa, which she extended before gaining temporary residency, will soon apply for permanent residency and is looking forward to gaining citizenship when the time comes.
“I didn't find it hard at all to emigrate to New Zealand. I had heard some scary stories - about how tough and expensive it is – but once I had a closer look on the immigration website it didn't seem scary at all. It is manageable and we just took one step after another,” she says.
“I was prepared and I knew about the fees before I applied. Once I made the decision to move, I saved every cent I earned, and sold everything I didn’t need, which helped finance the move, and I did my research from Germany and allowed time to prepare everything I needed.”
“The most stressful part about migrating for me was the waiting. My visa was approved on the last day possible and we felt such a relief when we finally got the call from the officer at the Immigration Department.”
An experienced administrator, Babette is now part of the team at one of New Plymouth’s home improvement stores.
“This is something really different to my previous jobs, but I love it and I kind of wanted to do something different after working in offices for almost 20 years,” she says.
Babbette’s commute is now around five-minutes, meaning more time to enjoy the finer things in life.
“One thing I have discovered to be very different between Germany and New Zealand is that the New Zealander is way more laid back when it comes to living and working. That absolutely does NOT mean they’re not hard working or are lazy – they just seem to take the stress-factor off everything!”
Babette and Andy are living in rented accommodation on the outskirts of town, further easing commute times and offering a wonderfully quiet community with friendly neighbours and great views.
“We enjoy evening walks here - up the hill where you are able to see perfectly to the mountain, or along the Whaiwhakaiho River, or even to the Rotomanu Lake or Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, which is my favourite.”
“I love how houses are generally lower here than in Germany – it makes everything look more open and it seems to be brighter,” Babette says, noting that this applies to the weather as well, and she is yet to wear the thick jackets she brought over to survive the winters.
“Winters are mild here. I sometimes miss the snow a little bit, for some winter fun, but the icy roads weren’t as enjoyable. I can even leave my potted plants outside during the winter time!”
Babette and Andy love New Plymouth’s events calendar, regularly visiting the Festival of Lights in the Pukekura Park over the summer months.
“New Plymouth is very attractive to both young and old and every taste will find things to see and do here. I just love to grab my camera and to go outside to explore and discover. I’ve just read that a carpark will be converted to a temporary ice skating rink - I am looking forward to that!”
“The balance between work and life here is amazing. I just don’t miss the hectic life, trying to rush home from work in a traffic jam,” says Babette.
“On weekends it’s easy to grab my partner and my camera and explore the outdoors. We love going to the Tongaporutu Beach – it’s a magical place – hiking in Egmont National Park, long walks along the beach or just cycling along the Coastal Walkway from one end to the other.”
“The possibilities are endless and the scenery unique! Where else you have a mountain on the one and sea and beach on the other side?”
“Taranaki will make you want to come back. I don't regret my move from the other side of the world to live here. I would do it again!” says Babette.
“Here is my heart and my home now. I feel like I have won the ultimate jackpot!”