When Lisa Berndt first encountered New Zealand, it was as a young arts intern seeking experience in an English-speaking gallery. Lisa had approached galleries around the globe before securing a role at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth’s contemporary art museum in 2003.
Lisa arrived in Taranaki not knowing what to expect, and quickly discovered that despite being on the edge of a small country on the edge of a big world, the Govett-Brewster’s connections proved an excellent launch pad for a career in the global arts industry.
It was during her time in New Plymouth she met Anton, an engaging figure in the city’s contemporary art scene.
Since then Lisa, Anton, and son Monty – now three - have written numerous chapters of their lives in both Germany and New Zealand. In January 2016 four and a half years after leaving for a stint in Germany the Berndt family returned to Taranaki, a home-coming of sorts as Anton grew up in the region, and Lisa re-joined the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, bringing her international experience to managing the gallery which now includes a world-class Len Lye Centre addition.
“Having a family really made us think about what we really wanted in terms of lifestyle and ease of living,” Lisa says.
“We were looking to come back to New Zealand, and when the role at the Govett-Brewster arose it was a perfect opportunity. The gallery is internationally renowned, as is demonstrated by the fact that I’m meeting almost as many German media writing stories on it as I am New Zealand journalists!”
Shifting a young family around the globe wasn’t without its challenges, particularly after spending five years establishing a home and life in Germany.
“It was a drawn out process, in terms of both recruitment and all the usual tasks associated with moving a family. In Germany you must give three months’ notice to landlords, employers, and even day care.”
Once the landed in New Zealand they had to set up a household all over again. A number of aspects of Lisa’s life are similar to life in Germany: she has been able to retain a 15-minute walk to work, she’s remained in the cultural sector and is continuing to build her skills in this dynamic industry, albeit with the challenge of working exclusively in English.
The biggest change has been the lifestyle opportunities.
“Being close to Anton’s family in New Plymouth and the lifestyle advantages that New Zealand offers were major drawcards,” Lisa says.
“In Germany we lived in an apartment, so any outdoor activity took place at a park or playground – the house and garden that we wanted just weren’t an option. It was amazing to be able to buy a house just 10 minutes from everything, with a garden, outdoor living, a sunny deck and sea views.”
“We love being able to look at the window at the real ocean, rather than an ocean of houses,” says Lisa.
The Berndt family love spending time at the beach and most weekends that’s where you’ll find them, or they’re catching up with family and friends at one of the region’s many free family friendly venues.
Lisa’s advice to other families moving from Germany is to research what’s available for families before making the move, as the lifestyle benefits will outweigh the inevitable challenges that moving internationally will bring.
“We’re now looking forward to our first summer in years,” Lisa says. Due to a visit home the family experienced a number of winters in a row.
“Monty got used to wearing socks all the time. When we first came back to New Zealand we had to pry the socks off him and encourage him to play bare foot on the lawn. Now we have to really coax him into wearing shoes!”