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New Zealanders: 'Germans think we are crazy for moving here from paradise’

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New Zealanders: 'Germans think we are crazy for moving here from paradise’
A Māori man in traditional dress at a book fair in Frankfurt in 2012. Photo: DPA
17:10 CEST+02:00
For decades, tens of thousands of Kiwis have walked the well-trodden path to the UK for their year abroad - but now Germany is becoming a hot choice.

Around 3,300 New Zealanders live in Deutschland, which considering the country’s small population and its long distance away, is not an insignificant amount. 

But why do Kiwis swap the Land of the Long White Cloud for Germany? 

READ: New Zealanders in Germany: How many are there and where do they live? 

From the respect for art and creativity to the country’s architectural pedigree - as well of course as the plentiful availability of cheap beer - the reasons for heading north were as diverse as the Kiwis we interviewed. 

'I've got 80 friends from New Zealand coming to the opening'

One of the more unique stories is that of former Auckland lawyer Peter Macky. Macky has spent the past decade restoring the Kaiserbahnhof in Halbe, Brandenburg to its former glory. 

The restored station is set to open on 18th August 2019 and will include a museum, a performance space and an office. 

The building will also include a cafe, which will be built in the former quarters of Kaiser Wilhelm which sat directly next to his private railway track. 

The station, which has been out of use since the fall of the wall in 1989, was originally built for Kaiser Wilhelm I in the 19th century.

Macky noticed its faded splendour randomly while on a cycling trip in 2009. Not knowing its royal history, Macky saw its potential and quickly decided to buy the station. 

“I’ve got a lifelong history with and a passion for urban design - and I just liked the look of the building,” Macky told The Local. 

The New Zealand flag hoisted above the Kaiserbahnhof. Photo courtesy of Peter Macky

The station’s grand opening is set to take place exactly 10 years to the day after the moment when he first discovered it. 

“It’s exactly 10 years to the hour almost to when I first saw it,” Macky said. 

Macky said that the New Zealand Embassy - along with the Kiwi community in Germany - had been supportive of the project. The New Zealand Ambassador to Germany, Rupert Holborow, has promised to attend the station’s grand opening. 

“To have Rupert there, in support of that, is fantastic. He’s been amazing,” he said. 

“The amazing thing for me is that I’ve got 80 friends coming from New Zealand for the opening. I thought maybe eight or ten - but not eighty,” he said. 

READ: Australians in Germany - where do they live?

READ: Chinese in Germany - where do they live? 

READ: Brits in Germany - where do they live? 

Macky told The Local that one of Germany’s major areas of appeal for Kiwis was its architecture. 

“(In New Zealand) one of our major failings as a country is in town planning… We think that they do things much better here. To see what (architects in Germany) have done and the vision they have,” he said. 

“For anyone with any passion for architecture this is like the centre of the universe in many ways.”

Halbe, around 60 kilometres south of Berlin, is only 50 minutes away to the capital by train.

The town is currently better known as the site of one of Brandenburg’s most famous tourist attractions - Tropical Islands resort - but Macky hopes the restored station will give tourists and Berliners alike another reason to make the trip. 

'Respect for the arts that’s hard to find in other places'

Hinemoana Baker, an artist originally born in Christchurch on the South Island, came to Germany in 2015 as part of the Creative New Zealand ‘Berlin Writer in Residence’ program. 

German chancellor Angela Merkel meets New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Arden. Image: DPA

Since then she has written, performed and recorded her poetry across the country. Like many creatives who arrived in Berlin, a short stay turned into a longer one. 

“I had been to Berlin before and was already seduced. For artists, or anyone on a lower income, the city offers a decent standard of living and a respect for the arts that is hard to find in other places,” Baker told The Local. 

READ: Irish in Germany: How many are there and where do they live?

“Prior to this though, I was involved in a project called 'The Transit of Venus”. 

“We wrote towards the subjects of astronomy, the history and violence of colonisation, the global south - many themes. Three local poets were paired up with the German writers and we co-created a body of work that we then read and performed at the Frankfurt Bookfair in 2012.”

Baker said that while her reasons for moving to Germany were clear, New Zealand’s diversity was reflected in the diverse motivations Kiwis had for moving here. 

“I expect every New Zealander has their own reasons for coming to Germany, and most Germans think we are crazy for moving here from 'paradise’,” she said. 

“But for me, Berlin in particular is a welcome chance to live outside what I know, what I'm comfortable with.”

Lifestyle

Shane Mason, a video producer originally from Auckland, told The Local that the lifestyle was a major drawcard - along with one of Germany’s more famous exports. 

““The lifestyle and the cost of living. The ease of living here. (Germany) offers quite a lot and it's a bit more easy going here - or at least in Berlin,” he said.

“Oh and the cheap beer - and being able to walk down the street with a bottle. That doesn't fly back home."

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